Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Canicule

Paris hit 97 degrees Fahrenheit today, or 36 degrees Celsius.

Back when we were living in the US, this was really hot, but we really didn't quite "know" what it was like. Our grandparents remember the days before air conditioning, but for us, all we had to do to escape was head to the grocery store, the mall, the movies, work, home or our car and we would be in the cool, dehumidified canned air.

Not so here.

As I've said before, France doesn't have A/C. They'll say they do, but it really isn't used until it's nearly unbearable, and the system isn't built to handle the need we have right now. Already, people have have died. Local restaurants post specials of cold soups, cold salads and cold sandwiches, because even eating something warmer than you are is unwelcome. Local laws forbid A/C units that jut out into the street or courtyard, and 300-year old buildings just don't have it in the infrastructure to accomodate central air. There is still a belief that it is unhealthy, so when it is turned on, it's not cranked up--if you are sitting completely still, drinking a cool beverage, you just maybe, if you are really, really still, you may not be sweating. That's French A/C.

We dress in the lightest clothes we have, everyone wears sandals, and carrying a water bottle is no longer considered a "faux pas". The latest fashion statement is inexpensive "éventails"--or hand-held fans, from the Quartier Chinois, in the southern 13th arrondissement. (I have 2.) Ponytails and braids are de rigeur, and even the older ladies go without stockings.

Today I spent with my girls, making our usual Wednesday lunch, taking C to the dermatologist, and sitting as still as possible reading a magazine and then a book, to avoid the heat. The lunch made me a bit sick to my stomach (I do not handle heat well), so I spent most of the afternoon drinking water and sucking anise candies to calm my tummy and for the perception of coolness when I breathed in quickly. Every little bit helps! We ate "glaces"--popsicles, for a snack, and opened the windows, hoping for just a bit of a breeze.

As I headed home, the bars on the bus felt like hot water pipes, but since it was either hold on or fall down, I had no choice. I stopped into our local Centre Commerciale, to see if I could quickly find something for a dear friend whose 2-year wedding anniversary celebration is this weekend. I am heading to Champagne with two other friends, to whoop it up in honor of Vivi and Steph, and was hoping to score some cool wedding gift-like thing on the top floor of Printemps. But, I had 10 minutes, so my chances weren't great. Nevertheless, I stood on the escalator, making my way up to the home section. The store was nearly deserted, so I was surprised when I heard someone coming up behind me.

I turned just as I was about to step off the escalator, when I realized that the guy behind me was touching my butt.

And this just goes to show how the heat is scrambling my brain.

I was more angry at him for adding body heat to my already intolerably feverish temperature, than for touching my tush.

They say it is supposed to rain in the next 24 hours.

Dear God, I hope so.

_________________________________________________

10 Comments:

At 4:55 PM, July 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the weather we had when we last went to Paris and Provence on our biking trip. We spent 5 days in Paris in the sweltering heat with an AC room (as you say there really isn't AC in France--the mgr came up to ck it and said oui monsieur it is on---Funny think it was on and no cool air!!) Many p0eople all over Europe were dying from the intense heat wave. Do you remember Nanny and Grampa B's 60th anniv at the old lake place with no AC?? It was in the mid 90's and no air. Those of us sleeping there about died---it was so still. The weather here has been ideal lake weather. In the 90's since the beginning of July. With our central air at the new place we don't mind at all. Last wkend it was 100 in Bemidji(103 in FArgo!) We were either parked in the water or in the shade of the trees with a cool drink. We had a ball. So nice to have great lake weather. Last summer was kind of a bust with a rainy, cool June and only 3 wks of heat in July and a cool Aug.
Here's hoping you survive the heat--try to stay cool. Bobbie

 
At 11:11 PM, July 19, 2006, Blogger flav said...

hmm 36C is not pretty but that's just a regular summer day in Sydney for us Aussie folk! but drink heaps of water and stay in the shade..it's crazy about the french and no air con..
i hope it gets cooler for you! :)

 
At 8:36 AM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Roxanne said...

Hope you survive the heat, Ronica! Popsickles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! The lakes of Madison will welcome you and Lucy when you get back :)

 
At 10:35 AM, July 20, 2006, Blogger ~steph~ said...

oh man! here's hoping for some cooler temps for ya! it's brutal here too. the humidity is what kills us. but, we have a/c. Ethan now asks for some "cool air" mommy! I'm taking him to see Thomas the Tank Engine in St. Thomas, ON so, hopefully its not as hot.

 
At 11:31 AM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi R...Was thinking of you while watching the BBC news report on the European heat wave. It's been very hot and humid in the Toronto area as well. Weather forecast is for a thunderstorm this afternoon or evening, but that usually makes it even more humid. I empathize with you. I am not a hot weather person....spring and autumn are my favourite seasons. Try to keep cool....hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! auntie v.

 
At 2:11 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger bani said...

Never mind the heat - what an arse of a man (no pun intended)! :-O

 
At 2:13 PM, July 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does that mean that there is no air conditioning in the major department stores like Printemps or Gallaries Lafeyette?
Just curious...Margarita

 
At 2:40 PM, July 20, 2006, Blogger Chelee said...

I get sick when it's too hot too. Blah

Put ice cubes in your bra or better yet, bathtub.

 
At 8:07 PM, July 21, 2006, Blogger Uranus said...

Don't complaint! It was only 4 weeks ago that we were still wearing coats and scarves!

 
At 8:13 PM, July 21, 2006, Blogger NeverEnough said...

Hope it rains for you! I would die without air conditioning...

 

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