Saturday, February 02, 2019

Drawbacks of France Life

I know that more than once I have written about the fact that France was so far ahead of the United States during our pioneer days.
I'm always amazed that, as Laura Ingalls Wilder battled wolves and blizzards on the prairie, twisting cornstalks into fuel to keep from freezing to death, Claude Monet was creating masterpieces that we still gawk at today. Who can imagine that those two worlds existed simultaneously?
The mountains in the sun outside our village
Today, although France still has gorgeous art and an admirable lifestyle meant to emphasize the joy of living, the United States may have pulled ahead in some ways.
We've moved into a rental apartment for a couple of weeks until we go to Italy for a housesit. When I walked through the apartment, noting the bathroom, the kitchen with refrigerator and microwave, the closet space, what I did not think to ask was, "Does the apartment have heat?"
That's just not something you would ask in the States. It would be required to have heat. And guess what, the radiators in the main room and the bedroom of this apartment don't work because it doesn't have central heat. Instead, there's a paraffin heater that we can plug in and it will run for about half an hour. The electric heater in the bedroom gives off a bit of heat, but I'm nervous about it being so close to the bed covers since the bed takes up most of the room.
I got up for my classes this morning and asked my husband to get the paraffin heater going, my feet like ice cubes against the terrazzo floor.
The heater worked for about half an hour, nearly making me feel warm, before it just stopped. I was in the middle of a class, so could do nothing but pull a second sweater around me until Earl got out of bed again to revive the heater.
And the bathroom? Not even a towel heating rack, which many bathrooms in France have, and they manage to add some heat to the room. This bathroom has nothing but cold tile. I'm dreading a shower, which is why I have sent Earl in first to steam it up for me.
Maybe we Americans are spoiled, and obviously, we use too much energy heating our entire house, but how nice is it not to freeze running from one room to another. Even our friends' house where we stayed for a week, has heating in the bedroom and bathroom, but not the hall in between. The doors must always be kept shut to keep the heat in and that race from one room to another is invigorating!
I shouldn't complain because the weather is in the 40s and 50s most days, but no one wants to have their indoors in the 40s and 50s all the time.
On top of that, Earl and I are both sick (of course). Whether it's the flight, the change in climate, the change in weather or simply walking in the snow in Paris until our hats and scarves were soaked, 
A walk through the new-fallen snow in Paris. 
we've both been hacking away for more than a week now, so the cold is not appreciated.
The other thing that seems to lag behind in France is the laundry. Now, in the summer, I'm all for hanging the sheets and towels on the line and smelling the sun when I hold them to my nose,
Clothes hanging on the line beneath a gorgeous sky. 
but in the winter, socks and sweaters are draped over make-shift drying racks.
The laundry takes hours, and not just because there are especially long washing cycles in France. After a two-hour wash, then the wet clothes must be pulled from the washer and hung up. Depending on the weather and the heating situation, they might be finished in a few hours, or might still be wet in the morning when I get up.
Luckily for me, since I am teaching these days, Earl handles the laundry, but there is no quick way to get clean clothes. When I realized one evening before bed that I was out of clean running clothes, there was no way to wash and dry the clothes before my morning run. If I'd been in the States, they would have been ready in just a few hours.
The French generally don't have dryers.
My friend Jules has a washer/dryer combination, which is a genius idea, but it isn't perfected yet. The clothes are often balled together after washing, so the dryer tries to penetrate the mass of clothes, baking the wrinkles in. While we stayed with them, we never pulled clothes out that were actually dry. I don't know how much time that would take.
I think both the heat and the laundry come down to the fact that Americans are willing to use extra energy for convenience. We don't bat an eye at a $100 electric or gas bill. The French and the Brits do. They'd rather avoid the high cost of energy and suffer a bit.
I guess if I'm going to live in France, I'm going to have to adopt a different attitude about heat and laundry.
Update: A friend read my blog and insisted we borrow one of their electric heaters. The apartment is now warm enough that I took off my top layer and am down to only two layers of clothes! It feels much better. Thanks for your concern. 


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Yikes, that is roughing it! It sounds painful but then we've had 2 days of below zero nights. My mom used to hang her clothes out to dry (except in winter). Nothing beats the smell of sheets drying in fresh air - towels that felt like sandpaper were another story though LOL

Jennie Thompson-O'Mara said...

Why not take your laundry to the laundrymat (laverie) in the little street behind the Cartier. The fellow will wash and dry your laundry for the cost of the machines and a few euros extra (like a tip) and then you just go and pick it up :)

Hope you're not paying too much for the cold cottage.....

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours said...

Sorry you are going through all this. But that's France all right, the real France, not the touristy romantic happy views

Paulita said...

Diane, Thanks for visiting. Yes, I know the weather is nothing as bad as in the States. I shouldn't complain, but that doesn't stop me.
Jennie, Terrific idea. If nothing else, we could take our wet clothes down to the laundromat and dry them.
Emma, You're right. The life we dream of is never realistic.

De Lemon said...

Thank you, for getting something new and saluting the irrationality of this story, hopefully it will be useful, so that this life is more useful and useful for others.

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