The Heatwave in France

The temperature in my apartment hit quite a high during the heatwave (canicule), climbing to almost 110ºF (40ºC.) People don’t like to use fans in Paris, and air-conditioning is even more suspect. So windows stay closed, and we are slowly simmering, and broiling, if you’re anything like me and live in a rooftop apartment, where the temperatures climb higher and higher than the rest of the city, you do what you can to survive the chaleur.
A number of people passed away in France in 2003; according to France24, the official news outlet of the country, the number was between 15,000 and 19,000. It’s a reminder to drink plenty of water, go swimming if you can, avoid alcohol (although it’s tough to endure this heat without icy glasses of rosé…), and check on any older neighbors, so we don’t have any repeats of the past…

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  • Lu
    July 28, 2006 7:39am

    Are you sure you’re not a comedy writer? I hope she listens, but don’t count on it!

  • July 28, 2006 8:16am

    Ahahahah my poor David! It is funny to read your post. I have “just” been writing about it for one of my next posts! You and I live in opposed worlds. I used to complain about AC annd also fans here in the US (des courants d’air or it is winter in the middle of summer when you are in an office all day) and now I am so so converted. My husband P actually just told me last night he should not have waited for 8 years until I accept AC. It was insane. And now, when I call my parents, I am shocked to hear that they hardly have a super super mini mini fan. Isn’t it a weird thing? You should know by now that it is hard for the French to change anchored habits! Good luck!

  • July 28, 2006 8:59am

    David, this entry placed me in the position of snorting my iced coffee as I read! I especially liked the part about La Poste. Are you ever tempted to give out sample toiletries to people? I have to say though, the same thing exists here in NYC. I do love my air conditioning. Thanks for another great read!

  • July 28, 2006 9:29am

    Too cute… way too cute!!!

  • July 28, 2006 9:38am

    I was desperate enough to take the metro to BHV Rivoli to get my sobertiere last Wed, the hottest day in Paris… and almost passed out in the metro from the combi of heat and BO from everyone else! When I related this to a colleague with French in-laws, she told me that French people don’t take showers every day, not even in the summer. Urmmm… Ils se lavent au lavabo avec les gants de toilette. ie they clean themselves with the little square cloth gloves over the bathroom sink. Some may use l’eau de cologne naturelle and others dowse with perfumes. It’s their French idea of not removing natural oils from their skins and not wasting a precious resource. Maybe we can start bringing a bottle of brumisateur or spray around?

  • Gail
    July 28, 2006 9:41am

    When did you say your vacation starts…………not soon enough, I’d say. You are taking one, aren’t you?

  • July 28, 2006 11:10am

    Oh you are always so good for a laugh–even when you are dying of heat. (And I hear you there!) Regarding fans: I (as you know) live very near the Middle Of Nowhere, right next to the Backwoods. Nothing high tech, high class, highly sophisticated around here. And yet we have–at this very moment–TEN fans (of various sizes, speeds, styles, etc.) going nonstop, 24 hours a day. There may even be one I’m forgetting. There are even two in the sheep barn. I’d definitely be dead without fans! : )

  • July 28, 2006 11:55am

    What a laugh! You’re such a good writer.
    As for the friendship between french people and fans, i’ve never understood. I have to go to my british boyfriend’s house (i mean the one in france) to finally find relief – fans, air conditionning…

  • Tana
    July 28, 2006 2:09pm

    You get funnier and funnier, David.

  • janet
    July 28, 2006 2:46pm

    Mr L. you and your “compatriotes” are so American!
    how can you imagine us “taking to the streets” in zat sort ov weazer……
    it would mean having a shower instead of washing with our beloved “gants de toilette”, using “déodorant” and living in “courants d’air” when we come back to our homes (?)
    how “décadent”!……

  • July 28, 2006 3:32pm

    i’m with the french on this. fans are for whiny babies (yourself excepted, of course) who don’t understand the process of acclimation. (i’m especially annoyed by those idiots that have to carry around little portable fans to blow into their faces.) Mind over matter!

  • gladys
    July 28, 2006 4:01pm


  • Ron Snow
    July 28, 2006 4:33pm

    Ah yes. Her posting can be found at:


  • april
    July 28, 2006 7:14pm

    David, even if they find you one day, liquified from the heatstroke or asphyxiated by the perfume of some Parisian’s “natural skin oils”, be happy with the knowledge that you will live on in your fabulous recipes, for example the dulce de leche brownies which I just tried today and were so fantastic all the boys were swooning at me. Also, you can join all the other great wits (Dorothy Parker, Wilde) who become more famous after death anyway. See? Optimism!

    PS: Isn’t the Levi’s store air-conditioned?

  • July 28, 2006 11:31pm

    You evidently have not been to the Levi store lately or you’d be in far finer spirits. I think another visit may be in order.

  • Jeff
    July 29, 2006 1:07am

    After this week, you deserve a trip to the Medi. Hop on the TGV or whatever it’s called and head to Marseille. 3 hours in First Class, with your laptop, inspired by the lovely French countryside, and you’ll be basking in the ocean breezes in no time. I think it’s time you write a book for your fans on the gastronomie of Provence as seen through the eyes of an expat pastry chef. It’ll be a sacrifice, sure, to leave your beautiful rooftop terrace, but if not you, then who?

    I’m yearning to live vicariously thru you, dear.


  • July 29, 2006 9:28am

    Oh man, do I hear you! Spending a month in France each year has seemed like a dream to others but oh the reality of it. My blessed F-I-L with his A/C for the room is wonderous as is the restaurant we visited the other week with A/C (they actually do have all the doors and windows closed!). They are the exceptions though. Thank God the heat seems to have backed off for now. I actually danced in the rain when it hit the other week. It felt so good.

  • July 29, 2006 12:33pm

    David, you are truly too funny and this posting is great, entertaining and wonderful!

    I’m sorry there are no fans.

    Wait, there’s Alphonse, he’s a fan, no?

  • July 29, 2006 1:29pm

    My biggest fear of traveling in a foreign country is the possibility of rampant, mutant B.O. It brings me to my knees, and I know my traveling experience would just be ruined.

    We had French exchange students who stayed with us when I was in high school. Most of them bathed once or twice in 8 weeks, and several of them didn’t bathe AT ALL. Deodorant was out of the question. It scarred me for a long time, to say the least.

  • Mary
    July 29, 2006 4:47pm


    I found your blog looking up info about France as I will be there in a few weeks on vacation. You are too funny. Keep up the spirits, and keep writing.

  • Rob
    August 9, 2006 2:04pm

    yeah, yeah, great post as always. But ya gotta tell me where you got that fabulous thermometer!