How to survive a Summer Heatwave

Having lived in the South of France for over 15 years and am at last getting the hang of how to survive when a heatwave (fr canicule) comes along and you have no pool.  It has been over 40 degrees for the past week and prior to that it has been in the late 30’s for a month.  The challenge to remain sane is strong.  I am working this summer without a break, however even on holiday one needs help.  Below are some tips as to how to cope:

Early mornings:  This is the only time of day it is cool.  I rise at about 6.30am and for the next couple of hours I remain outside in the garden enjoying the sensation of the cool morning air on my skin.  If it is market day I leap on my scooter and head off to town for supplies.  Oh the joy of feeling the cool air rushing past me as I bolt into town.  Need to be home by 9.30am though.

Next up is to close the shutters and windows on the east side of the house as the sun starts to push it’s heat into my kitchen.  It’s bizarre plunging the kitchen into total darkness but this really helps.  With both shutters and windows closed NO heat gets into the kitchen.  Eating is tricky, the appetite goes and the stove and oven are out of the question. I have just discovered the best ready made cold Gazpacho soup imaginable by Alvalle.  I practically drink it straight from the carton all day long.

The same procedure is done with the windows on the other side of the house once the sun starts beating in.  Thank goodness for a very old giant Murier tree I have in the garden which shades much of the house.  Frequent cold showers are a must, wet hair and all.  I have noticed that, before the cold water has cooled me down, by the time it reaches my feet it is hot!  I don’t dry off and redress damp in the lightest cotton flimsy dress I can find.   For the rest of the day outside is out of bounds. If I get desperate for the lack of air inside I head off to the supermaket for blissful couple of hours in full air conditioning – heaven, taking particular time in the freezer department.  The other alternative is a siesta, which by this time I feel I thoroughly deserve.  I take this in the guest room so I dont have to think about the tossing and turning of the night before and the bed is peacefully undisturbed.

It is not until 8pm that I can begin to open up the doors and windows.  It’s still a furnace outside but I now know it will only going to get cooler.  At about 1am I feel the first tinge of coolness on my skin.  What a relief – I feel normal for a while.  I water the pot plants while it is cool, I would give them a heart attack if I did it during the day.  I then decide to face bed. This is where linen sheets really make a difference.  I dont know why but they just feel cooler.  I toss and turn, bash my head with my lavender pillow and eventually pass out to the sounds of cat fights on the roof tops in my hamlet.  You see even the heat is gets to the them.

P.S.  I hope you have noticed how the ice images cool you down, it really works!  Any tips from you welcome.  Thanks



Drinking Coffee in France

Having been based in France for almost 20 years, and being an avid coffee drinker, I hope I can bring a bit of clarity to this confusing subject.

In France there is not the culture of fresh milk like in the UK and Italy for example.  Fresh milk is always on a tiny shelf in the supermarket and most small shops don’t stock it at all.  A UTH equivalent is sold in great quantities across the country and by English standards of fresh milk is pretty disgusting.  So this is where drinking coffee in France can go terribly wrong.

If a short black coffee is what you are after you are in luck.   Just ask for a café and to the left is what you will get.  This is usually delicious and will give you the caffeine rush one expects.  It is the same as an expresso but many French bar owners have not been to Italy and therefore don’t necessarily understand when you ask for an expresso.  So its a Café, as simple as that.    Or of course a double café for a serious kick of caffeine.

However if you prefer a milky coffee there a various choices.  First if you ask for a cappuccino you are likely to get something that looks like this.  It will have powered milk in it and then topped with fake cream that has come out of a spray can.  For me, being such a milk lover, I find this disgusting.  It does not resemble the original Italian cappuchino at all and is best avoided.  It is sweet and sickly and entirely void of fresh milk or cream.

Or you can ask for a Café au Lait or un Grande Crème (basically the same thing).  Now again 90% of the time in France this is made with powered milk.  There will be no foam on the top and it is sweet without adding sugar.  Such a shame, as again, it invariably is quite revolting and leaves a nasty furry sensation on your tongue.  As with all coffee drinking in France it is totally acceptable to dunk your croissant or toast into the coffee, an acquired sensation and is practiced everywhere.


My favourite coffee is called La Noisette.  This is a café with a very small amount of hot milk added which, for me, takes away the bitter taste of a café.  Due to the small quantity of milk it is usually fresh.  La Noisette is the same as the Macchiato you would find in Italy.  I find this perfect after lunch to give a boost to the afternoon.

It is one of my great regrets that, despite all the wonderful street Cafés, France cannot produce a better milky coffee.  I would go as far to say they make the worst milky coffee in Europe all down to the fact that fresh milk is just not part of their culture.  I am 4 hours from the Italian boarder and I cannot tell you the pleasure I get when I stop at the first service station on the Italian side to divulge in what the Italians do best – the great Cappuccino.



Life with Peacocks

What shall I call them?

Yes I have Peacocks.  I did not mean to.  They belong to my neighbours, however 2 of the offspring have decided to take up residence at my place.

I have to say of all the creatures that could come and visit these are pretty high on the list.  There are some cultures who believe they are evil, thankfully not me.  I see them as good luck.  How could you not.  The blue feathers of the male are so electrifying.  Midnight blue, Mediterranean blue, Jade blue, are just some of the colours I could call them.  Oh yes and of course Peacock blue …..

They come into the house if they can.  I got a real jolt the other morning and woke up virtually face to face with one.  They had wandered into my bedroom while I was asleep!  You don’t want them in the house for long, they are large birds and are not house trained.  However they are quite a site walking around the sitting room.

Yes, they have a large cry.  Only once have I heard this near the house, and it gave me big shock but usually I just hear their parents cry in the distance from a few houses down.  Along with the local donkey they make a great melody at night under the stars.

My peacocks are young so it will be a while before they produce feathers like these but I think its is going to be worth the wait.

There are also dogs in my life here too.  They also do not belong to me either, but that’s another story.  All these animal friends.  I love it.