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The South of France and Weather Wimps

July 26th, 2016 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, France, Languedoc

We expected “warm” in southern France.

We did not expect “hot”.

We thought we had left behind “hot”, back in Abu Dhabi. And in a sense we did. No highs of 118 Fahrenheit with high humidity, here in the Languedoc.

However, perceptions of heat are impacted by considerations we had not necessarily considered.

To wit:

—France, even the south of France, is not really made to handle heat. Air-conditioning in the north is rare, as visitors to Paris during August might be able to confirm. AC is more common in the south, but in commercial buildings more than residences.

—In a brutally hot environment, like the UAE, no one builds anything without AC. Every closed space has AC. Commercial, residential, public. A person gets through the six months of summer by moving about in bubbles of cooled air, and it is not difficult to find those bubbles. In your home. In your cab. At your office.

That is not the case in the south of France.

—France heat is sneaky because of the time zone the country is in. Most of the country is directly south of England, and ought to be on Greenwich Mean Time, like Britain. It is not. When it is 10 in London it is 11 in Paris. And then, the French go on daylight savings, so that 10 that is actually 11 becomes 12.

So. You get up at 8 a.m., and it seems like a fine day — but that is because it’s really only 6 a.m., as far as the sun is concerned. By 2 p.m., clock time, the sun is finally overhead, and ticked off about your time zone being screwed up. And, it gets you at the other end, too. The sun isn’t well and truly down until 9:30 at night, and cooler air is not noticeable before midnight, when you are sweating in your apartment.

—The French tend to be suspicious of AC, which influences its availability in the south, I’m sure. It seems to come down to “we don’t use it all year, then we turn it on and out blows a lot of junk from the other nine months”. The notion is that people often get ill when the AC begins to blow. From dust or dirt or mold or whatever.

—Which may explain why … unless your home is new, you likely do not have AC. Not only do you absolutely not need it, nine months a year, the French also believe it is not good for them.

—If you are a freak, and insist on AC part of the year, feel free to go out and buy a little air-chilling unit. A portable AC unit costs $300 (and up), and probably will do a pretty good job in one room — though it will do a better job if you have an “exhaust” vent, to expel the hot air outside, via wide-mouth hose.

—A person can look for weather information in this region of France, broken out by month, without really grasping the ramifications. You see “average high, 84/85” in July and August, and you think, “I can stand 85; I lived in Abu Dhabi; 85 is nothing!” But that is the average high. A day with a high of 80 could come along. But then you could have a day of 90. The “average” doesn’t help you when the the warm extreme comes along.

—That is where we are now, in the Languedoc. Our nice, temperate region is in the throes of a heat wave, and anything over 80 is quite noticeable, and anything over 90 is pretty much miserable.
 (Yes, mock me, UAE residents.)

The apartment we are in does not have AC. It also does not have a freezer that can actually freeze anything. It is one of those half-size Euro fridges, about two-and-a-half feet tall, and this time of year about all they are capable of is keeping butter semi-hard.

As we entered a full week of suffering, in our third-floor apartment, we came up with some coping methods that would make people laugh in the UAE, or even the Inland Empire.

—We are taking mid-afternoon drives, just to sit inside the car’s AC. No, really. It is a tiny car, but the AC may have been lifted from a huge sedan. We also are doing more afternoon shopping than normal, driving to the nearest supermarket and taking a very long time to buy a handful of things — and cool off.

—Cold showers! If you get past the first shock, it’s quite soothing, and will reduce your core temperature for about 30 minutes.

—We have purchased a fairly large plastic cooler. The kind you typically take to the beach. In our case, it sits in the living room. We are buying bags of ice every second day, to keep in the cooler, along with various bottles of drinks. We may even use some of the big pieces of ice to wrap in plastic and place in our laps. No. Really.

So, this will not last … we’re pretty sure. We prefer to believe some days in the 70s (which is perfect here) are due to us — if we’re going to hit that summer average of 85.


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