Tall Guy and I had four days off. Two extra days tacked on to the weekend. We went to the country house, and it was lovely. I'm even getting the hang of what to pack, and I'm catching on to the ways of local life.
You see, you can't just go to the country and expect to fit in with the locals, immediately finding a simple life of relaxation. There's no point in just trying to wing it, especially in Spain. Here's what you do:
First, you need to pack a down-filled vest. Preferably hunter green or navy blue, and it helps if you've got a matching rain hat. It doesn't matter what season it is; this is part of the country uniform. You will wear your hat rain or no rain, and if you've got knee-high rubber boots (also matching, obviously), so much the better. In fact, the more you can dress like a Tyrolean mountaineer, the better.
Then, you'll need to make sure you've got your pearl earrings in. This is the country but we're not animals!
Now that your wardrobe is taken care of, it's on to leisure time:
Take a stack of books and some knitting or crochet, but don't plan on touching them. You need them to decorate the coffee table while you spend hours lounging in front of a roaring fire. Seeing your pile of undone projects will remind you that you are savouring your time doing absolutely nothing other than being mesmerised by the flames. This is not wasting time: you are being in the moment.
Sleep in. When the church bells wake you, go back to sleep, or at least languish in bed, listening to them count off time until at least 11. Then you can get up, since you'll have taken advantage of the dark and relatively quiet night to get caught up on your rest.
Dress in your mountain gear and go to the back garden for a log or two to throw on the fire. Do you have a special basket for collecting wood? Maybe you could borrow one...
Now it's time to check on the livestock, which you mustn't, under any circumstance, name! Without fail, this morning's Snowy will be this afternoon's stew.
Take advantage of the Spanish tradition of "sobremesa". This means "over the table" and implies spending hours over meals that start and end with wine and cheese. Somewhere in the middle will be a great stew, thanks to Snowy, crusty bread, coffee, and chocolates. (I secretly think it's called sobremesa because you eat until you are so full you just tip over right on to the table...)
You may also get the chance to entertain, so be prepared:
Have on hand your own sausage, made from your own organic, grass-fed livestock, some local cheese, olives, wine and of course a leg of ham. If company comes before their morning hunting excursion, don't worry, it's never too early for ham in Spain, but instead of wine, provide your guests with coffee and anise.
If you're not into hunting, learn! Or at least learn to forage. Finding your own food is an invaluable life skill. Anyway, you could take your guests for a walk on your land to forage for wild mushrooms and asparagus. The fresh air and sunshine will do you all good, and your shepherd can show you which varieties are poisonous. If he doesn't, you can always spice things up by turning the luncheon into a kind of Russian roulette.
Finally, remember that this is quality time: you are getting to know your new compatriots and in some cases, your new family. Talk and make connections through the littlest things; a gifted plant cutting, a city you both know. Go for a night walk through the fields with your husband and remember just how many stars there are. Take a deep breath of fresh country air and thank God for long weekends.