Tuesday, August 30, 2016

French AC

It’s sizzling hot here in Bourdeilles. The entire village is shuttered up to keep out the menacing sun. The streets are empty except for the few unfortunate tourists sipping beer in the hot shade of the bars.The river is full of splashing, whooping youngsters. Even the river is succumbing to the long, dry summer with only ankle deep water from one bank to the other. For over a week now the thermometer has gotten to between 90 and 95 degrees by late afternoon.
It’s so hot that when I put the laundry out I set a timer. I’m afraid that if I leave the clothes on the line too long the clothes will be scorched or maybe even possibly just combust. I feel like I might combust if I venture out between 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock.  Just in case, Tom follows me around with a bucket of water.

Happily I haven’t needed to go anywhere in the afternoons. 
The other day I skidaddled out in that midday sun, tossed the laundry in the hamper and hurried back out of the solar oven as quickly as possible. The laundry was low on my list of things to take care of so the basket of unfolded items sat on the bed for a couple of hours. Later looking for a distractions from whatever I was supposed to be doing I stopped to fold the laundry. The clothes were still emitting sun waves and smelled of heat and dryness. I was startled by the contrast between the heat from the sunny outside world and the cool freshness here inside my bedroom. No, there is no air-conditioning here, only 2-foot thick stone walls that act like a summertime ice box. It’s so cool in here that I pretty much have to put on a sweater as soon as I enter the house. Believe me, I do every thing I can to avoid leaving my “air-conditioned” haven.
It’s been a while since I showed you our home. It was built in 1850 by a man that had grown up in Bourdeilles, went off on Napoleonic expeditions into the Middle East and came back with the idea to build a home that reflected the exotic architecture he had encountered there. The idea was easy to execute as the house site is only a few miles from one of the region’s best stone quarries. The entire house is beautiful white cut stone. Inside and out. Thick stone makes a great insulator. Stones are a product of nature. They keep the worst of nature at bay. It makes it hard to imagine living in Vermont with only a few inches of wood and insulation between us and the elements. A wolf could just blow that house down.
Of course there are measures that have to be taken to maintain my icebox. The most important is to welcome in the cool night air. We are extremely fortunate that even in the midst of this heat wave the temps drop down into the 50-60’s overnight. So, the windows are flung open after sunset to let refreshed air pour in. Windows are promptly closed first thing in the morning - not even a cup of coffee before this task is taken care of. Our neighbors close their shutters as well as the windows. I smugly find that there is no need for that. Having grown up in Virginia with no AC I am fully aware that what keeps this system working is the lack of humidity. Humidity in Bourdeilles seems to be running at about 50%. Compared to the steamy, clammy, pearl gray sky summers of my childhood in Virginia, I’ll take the dry heat anytime. 
I hope we will all remember how cranky we were with this heat when the inevitable dreary, rainy days set in. Last winter I was able to keep my promise that I would never complain about the cold weather, but then the weather stayed fairly mild. Here’s hoping that we can keep a little of this warmth in our bones and spirits as the season moves on.

2 comments:

Paula Hunter said...

Your home looks like the perfect French home!

Vicky said...

How well I know how a 95 degree summer feels!! Ours here in N. GA just won't subside - it has been relentless since June. The most miserable summer I can ever remember. But just the word "September" (even though it's one of our hottest months!!) makes me feel a little cooler and I look forward to less humidity.