Tag Archives: summer

Impromptu Livingroom in the South of France

So your wife has left you and your friend to look after the baby, but it’s a festival day in the South of France and you don’t want to be stuck inside the apartment. What do you do?

You pick up the sofa, a table, and some odds and ends and set up an impromptu livingroom at the edge of all the upcoming action. With the baby safely tucked into a pram, you can sit in the shade and watch the festival unfold.


©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Hot And Humid in Summertime France

Ah yes — another installment of our adventures in ex-pat lifestyles.

Each glass of water slides down easily. Adding half of a lemon is rather refreshing, but truthfully, a quick dip in a cold swimming pool wouldn’t go amiss right now.

Don’t believe that little weather widget on the right side column because it is NEVER completely accurate — but it’s the best I can do since Yahoo removed their weather widgets which were actually quite reliable. Even the MSN weather forecast is quite wrong with their humidity index because the air is like suspended water globules right now.

Record-breaking heat is nothing new to my readers in Australia, the USA, and parts of Europe. But I haven’t felt humidity like this in quite a few years and it’s bringing back hot-and-sticky memories of a childhood in the South of the USA and hot-and-sticky memories of living for 18 months in Brisbane, Australia to blend with my hot-and-sticky present in the South of France. Oh my!

No matter how large their big houses might be, no one we know has air conditioning and, with the exception of the larger grocery stores, it seems to be a rarity here. We all cope through a variety of methods that are interestingly ‘retro’ after years of freezing-then-boiling as I came in and out of buildings and cars in Australia.

Keeping the heat out is the first step so I keep both sets of shutters all but closed in the daytime. The heavy old timber shutters block a vast amount of heat and then the roller-blinds that are right outside the double-glazed windows add another layer of heat blockage. I actually brought the shutters up quite a bit for the picture below so that you could clearly see the two layers of shutters.

Double shutters help to keep the heat out in the South of France

Yes, the rooms stay darkish all day long, but that’s certainly better than the bright and blistering sunlight! And yes, I can cope with that tiny square of light from each window. There is even a roller shutter over the French door to the back garden balcony and I moderate the amount of light on each side of the building as the hours pass.

The bedroom stays especially cool with both sets of shutters all but closed.

I’ve made it into a bit of a game so I don’t find it overly tedious — trying to see just how cool I can keep it indoors so Mark has a refreshing home to walk into at the end of the day after he’s been out in the heat on whatever building site he’s working on. The fan may not be as ice-cold as an air conditioner, but it is my friend and that’s all I have to say about that.

It may not be air conditioning, but it moves the cool air around JUST enough!

My pretty new red shopping trolley is thus far getting NO USE whatsoever because it’s too bl%!@y hot to wheel it down the charming streets of St. Girons right now. Ah well — it will be waiting when I need it.

Bright red shopping trolley awaiting a cooler day for adventures in St. Girons

All in all, sarong-on-body and water-in-hand, I am managing just fine. And thanks for asking!

P.S. Just to add a frisson of ‘How’s that?’ from the heavens, as I was ready to post this, the skies darkened, a rather noisy and fast-moving thunderstorm rolled through, the sun came BACK out, and now the wet streets are steaming below my front window. (groan!)

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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A Glimpse of Cycling Heaven in the Midi-Pyrenees

Almost a year ago, Mark got a chance to fulfil a long-held dream and go to see the Tour de France during one of the stages in Normandy. Little did we know back then that we would end up living in France and Mark would get to immerse himself in Cycling Heaven here in Europe.

It has been a rainy weekend — gray, yucky, not a good set of circumstances for walking around with expensive camera gear — so we’ve just stayed snuggled up in the house. And Mark has been rather run down with a bad case of bronchitis that, in spite of the meds that our new doctor gave him, he’s fighting to shake off.

But what excitement there was in his voice when he got up from watching a movie yesterday afternoon because he heard a lot of honking and noise coming through our teeny-tiny-village and then I hear him say excitedly, “Here they come!” Something made me grab my camera as I raced to the kitchen window at the front of the house and arrived just as the first cyclists were going by.

Here come the lead cyclists as they race through Engomer in the Midi-Pyrenees of France

Zoom! The cluster of men on bicycles was a blur — literally! You can see the sign on the other side of the road that states Salle des Fetes and Tennis Court quite clearly, but the cyclists themselves were a true example of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ action.

A blur of cyclists pass the front of our house in the Midi-Pyrenees of France

They were followed by more police and ambulance services and several support vehicles with spare bikes on top. Then the clump of people and vehicles in this organised racing event wove their way through the valley and were gone in less than a minute.

We’re just entering the beginning of the cycling season and there will be a lot more such events, not to mention the Tour de France, in the coming months. What fun this is for a diehard cycle nut like my darling husband!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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London Police Come Out Again

An English summer brings to mind sandwiches and cold drinks, barbeques in the back garden, leisurely days by the seaside or amidst the green and rolling countryside. And we mustn’t forget the bright pink skin from too much sun on too pale skin. Instead, the summer of 2011 is going to be remembered, particularly in London, for being the year of the riots and for being cold and wet and distinctly un-summer-like.

Emerging from our semi-housebound state (work commitments have kept us tucked up inside), we relished the opportunity to get out into the sunshine with cotton clothing on instead of the cashmere cardigans that have been our friends for months. So on this bright and sunny Saturday, we ventured a few train stops away to go to the markets at Spitalfields and Brick Lane.


Liverpool Street Station exterior on a bright and sunny day.


The sight of London’s police force out in great numbers was a bit jarring as we emerged from the Liverpool Street Station and heard the shouting crowds in the distance. Whole streets were closed off to pedestrians and vehicles alike and we could see — no exaggeration — hundreds of uniformed officers in every direction. According to the late coverage in The Guardian, “EDL London march halted by police”, approximately 3,000 members of the police were in attendance at several key locations in the East End.


Barricaded streets in London during EDL march on Saturday, 3 September 2011.


And the reason for all of this police presence? The EDL — English Defence League, a white supremacy group, was marching in force in the East End and we could certainly hear the roaring and chanting both for and against these people. I lingered long enough to take a few pictures, but we thought it best to keep moving in case the situation degenerated into the kinds of violence that we all lived through in early August.


Strong police presence to deter violence at EDL march on Saturday, 3 September 2011.


Police in London waiting calmly as EDL white supremacy group marches through East London.


There was a calm sense of purpose on the faces of those uniformed men and women — orderly and matter of fact. It’s an odd thing to comment on, but London has been rather turbulent lately so it is comforting to think that there are enough law enforcement folks nearby to keep any potential violence in check.


London policeman quietly watching the streets and people.


Tomorrow will be a pleasant change of pace — a story about the colourful areas of Spitalfields and Brick Lane and I’ll have photos galore to show you that vibrant and fun part of London.

Come back soon!

©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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