Paris in the rain

paris in the rain I don’t think I’ve ever loved Paris in the rain more than I do right now. It’s 6:40am, and I’ve been up since 5am, when I got tired of failing to sleep on sweat-soaked sheets. Last night was one more to endure in the heat wave that has been with us for nearly the whole month we’ve been here.

There’s no AC in our little apartment, as there isn’t in the Paris Metro, the RER (the other main underground train), most apartments, and most restaurants. One of our favorite restaurants has only been making salads and other cold food arrangements, because the heat in the kitchen is unbearable for the staff.

But about 20 minutes ago a thunderstorm rolled through. Bright blue flashes blink down the two shafts that comprise our view (one is a small courtyard behind a library, the other is floored by the back work areas of two restaurants), thunder rolls, and rain plinks on surfaces above and below.

The wind is cool and a huge relief. I’m keeping the windows open (they’re the size of doors and swing open the same way), and covering the sills with towels. Hope it stays cool after the storm blows over. That will make working on a hot laptop a little easier.

I’ve been wondering why AC is so rare here, and I think the attitude is about the same as the one that non-tropical Southern U.S. cities have toward snow-removal equipment. The irony is that it does get hot in Paris, and it does snow in Greensboro and Richmond.

Anyway, the storm is fading now, and I’m going to try sleeping again.

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7 comments

  1. Ivan’s avatar

    <I’ve been wondering why AC is so rare here

    We like it real… glad you like Paris. Head out to Fountainbleau if you get the chance

  2. Eric T. MacKnight’s avatar

    Paris in any weather is still better than any other city in the world.

    Bon sejour!

    Eric

  3. Vincent Eaton’s avatar

    As American living in Brussels, it’s the same here concerning AC (which most Europeans would read a Alternating Current, and reply, “What’s he talking about, we have Alternating Current in Europe?!”). Up in these northern European climes, before climate change, heat like this was maybe 5% to 10% of the season. The expense wasn’t worth the actual time of discomfort.

  4. Jan Searls’s avatar

    Why is there no AC in Paris or most other northern European cities? Because they’re smarter than we are. AC has driven us in doors except for that short period before it goes on the first warm(ish) day in spring and goes off the first crisp fall day. Imagine a Paris – or any other city in Europe – where no one sat outside? No one lingered because it was more pleasant than going home to a stuffy apartment? Where everyone stayed indoors? Okay, it gets hot for a short period – some days in London I thought we’d cook – but you adjust for a few days and slow down. We’ve been having a nasty heat wave in NC since the beginning of June and yes, I’ve appreciated the AC, but not the indoor nation it has made us. I miss the conviviality of the outdoor, open-window summers of the 50s and 60s. AC at the Wanigan would have been sacrilegious!

    And I envy you Paris, even if it is sizzling!

  5. Bertil Hatt’s avatar

    There’s no AC because Patis was made from the 14th to 19th century! There hardly any building more recent than 1920, and those who do have AC. Many streets are too small for cars and are blocked by lines of parked vehicles for the same reason: when planners can (see Nouveau Quartier Rive Gauche) it’s freeways, AC, and glass sheets tamed by blinds, terasses are still here. The most bearable buildings are those made after 1870, where wind tunnels from the ground up make it easier to have a stream of air by opening all doors.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Good points, Bertil. And good to have the locals weighing in with helpful history and corrections. Still, I have often heard “we don’t need it” a number of times. And in fact we’ve often said the same thing in Santa Barbara. Our house there, which was finished in 2006, has no AC as well.

    And Jan, agreed. For others, Jan is my sister, the Wanigan was our summer home through the 1950s. See here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/sets/314272/

    As a matter of fact, we grew up without AC, in New Jersey, just outside New York. We didn’t have it in our houses, our cars, our schools. (Well, our parents did add it to one room in the house, late in the time we lived there.) I didn’t have a car with AC that was worth a damn until I bought my one and only new car ever, a 1985 Toyota Camry.

    Since then, yes, I’ve been spoiled.

  7. Brian Benz’s avatar

    20 years ago when I used to hang out at the Three Ducks Hostel in Paris (wow – it’s still there! – http://www.3ducks.fr) it was the same thing, so I’m not sure about the global warming factor (BTW, not disputing global warming in general, just saying this instance was the same 20 yrs ago). Many happy memories sitting outside where we could drinking cold beverages and trying to stay in the breeze.

    Its one of those “traditional” things in Europe – a bit of shoulder-shrugging stubbornness, a bit of old wiring that can’t handle AC wattage, a bit of aesthetic laws that don’t let you hang things like window AC units on buildings.

    This is one of the reasons that it’s tradition for Parisians who can to escape to the countryside in the summer, and leave the place to the tourists and those who make their living form them :) .

    And rest assured, those who can afford the whole-building renovations to add modern wiring, insulated windows and central air have done so :) .

    Surprised to hear about no AC in the Metro – that’s just stubbornness. The cars are made by Bombardier from Canada, and similar systems have AC in Singapore, Montreal, DC, etc….

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