19 August 2009

Hot weather and 2003 memories

Today is supposed to be the hottest day of the year so far in much of France. The southern half of the country is under a severe heat warning. People are being told to stay inside if possible, to drink a lot of water, and to avoid physical exertion. Temperatures are 20ºF/10ºC higher than "normal" for this season, and will hit 100 in many places.

Here in Saint-Aignan it's a pleasant morning, with a temperature in the upper 60s F. But MétéoFrance is again predicting that our temperature will go as high as 95º this afternoon. Remember, we don't have air-conditioning. Our house is already warm, and it takes the full brunt of the afternoon sun. We will be keeping still later today.

A typical day in the summer of 2009: the vineyard
with our house and hamlet in the distance

This kind of weather makes us all think back to the summer of 2003, when the hot weather started in early June and lasted into September. I have lots of memories. For example, on about June 3 Walt and I drove from our friends' house in Rouen up to Etretat, on the English Channel, and had lunch outside on the boardwalk there. It was already really hot, and that's unusual in that part of Normandy — especially at such an early date.

And a 2009 close-up of our house,
the newer one with the brown roof

When we arrived in Saint-Aignan on June 7, 2003, it was burning hot here too. We had no furniture or appliances, and the grass had grown up to knee-high (and waist-high in spots) during the two months since the house had become ours but we were still in the U.S. Walt had to cut all that down — half an acre of it — first with a brush-cutter and then with a mower. I was busy scrubbing walls, floors, and windows in the house. We were suffering from the heat but excited about getting our new house whipped into shape.

What our back yard looked like when
we arrived in Saint-Aignan in June 2003

This morning I started looking back at some e-mails I sent to people that summer of 2003, mentioning the weather:

June 20 It's supposed to be in the upper 80s or even lower 90s for the next three days. We're going to take it easy. The grass is brown now, because it's been hot and we've had no rain in two weeks.

2003: our dog Collette enjoyed the cut grass and
didn't seem to mind the heat. She was 11 then.

June 25 It's real hot again this afternoon.

June 29 Il fait chaud aujourd'hui -- 31 degres en ce moment. Nous avons 28,2 degres à l'intérieur. C'est l'enfer.

Again June 29 It's supposed to hit 95 degrees here again today. So we're not planning to be very active in the afternoon. No such thing as air conditioning here. This weather is pretty unusual.

July 1 The temperature hit 90 F on Sunday, but it's been much cooler since then.

July 15 Il fait trop chaud aujourd'hui...

Walt taking a break from cutting the grass in June 2003 —
it was so hot that first year

And so it continued through most of August. We had come from San Francisco, where hot weather is a rarity. We were not expecting to arrive in France in the middle of a long-lasting heat wave. We had rented a car in Paris in June, and it turned out not to have air-conditioning. I told Walt that we needn't worry about it, because "it never stays hot in France for long stretches." Boy was I wrong.

2009: the grapes are happy

We started getting used to having 95º and even 100º days. In early August, we finally found a car to buy, and we made sure it had A/C. We would go out for drives in the afternoon just to escape our oven of a house and enjoy an hour or two of "conditioned" air. We got to see a lot of the surrounding countryside that way. By then we had survived the worst of the heat.

Grapes leaves in August 2009, starting to look autumnal

Our friend Cheryl came to visit in September 2003 and the weather was still hot, though not quite as oppressively so. It was very pleasant by then, actually — kind of like this summer's weather. We can't really complain. It's going to be hot today, but it's supposed to cool down drastically by Friday.


  1. First - I like the new banner.
    Now, for the heat, lessons learned over the years:
    Close the windows and shutters on the sunny side of the house before the sun hits. As the day progresses, you can open up when the sun moves on but then close the other side.
    Hose down the walls of the house - the evaporating water pulls the heat from the inside. That's very refreshing in the evening. Doesn't last long, but is nice while it lasts.
    When you go to bed, cover yourself with a wet towel (does not need to be cold) and let your body cool. Eventually you get rid of the towel.

  2. Holy cow, that picture with Walt sitting on the curb in the yard really contrasts with those beautiful, manicured-lawn yard photos we usually see of your place! Man! That heat would have done me in-- I just can't STAND it. I'm glad you've got a cool down in sight.


  3. Hot here, too! We're just going through our first real hot spell of the summer...several days of 90+ degrees with 90% humidity. We have AC only in one room so we hang out in there like prisoners.

    We do have the beach just a couple of miles away but it's of little help. Still hot and the water is too cold to go in. Maybe a good day for a nice long tour in the car.

  4. Thanks for including the picture of Collette. She was such a good girl and Ithought she always looked like a puppy.

  5. I remember that summer of 03 in France as well as in England. Not much fun!

    One way of cooling the house without A/C is to put something frozen (like a 2l plastic bottle of water) in front of a fan on full blast. Like this the fan not only moves air around the room but cooled air! Wonderful! Otherwise all Ellen's advice works very well too. I have used every suggestion other than hosing down the outside of the house.

  6. On the plus side, the heat increases your metabolism to keep your body at the same temperature.
    It will cool down soon enough.

  7. Hi Nadège, coming from North Carolina and having lived in Washington DC, it is hard for me to complain about the heat here. There isn't much humidity, and the hot spells never last very long. It's supposed to be hot again tomorrow -- 90º -- and then rain tomorrow evening. The temperature is supposed to drop to 75 or so for a few days. This is a normal summer for our area, I think.


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