Out and About in the Heatwave


The week began like any other week during the summer, warm days and wonderfully long evenings, when I find myself still gardening at 10pm because I’ve totally lost track of time and  because it is still light. I’m accompanied by the sound of birds still singing, doves cooing, chickens clucking and cicadas warming up with the rest of the band. I’ve often thought I should find my EarPods and listen to a podcast whilst I am alone with no one to talk to, but just think what I would miss, this natural orchestra is too precious to block out with modern technology.


To think a week ago I donned a hoody at an early morning Brocante with the girls. The crowds were already out in force, Millie had purchased a brand new, unused, pull along suitcase at the first stand we came across. She is now fully ready for her summer travels, but first it acted as a most useful accessory for purchases. Typically however, because we were so well prepared there was nothing that grabbed my attention and so the bag came home empty!


Wandering these narrow streets you really do get a feel for where you are and you can certainly see why we love our small cars, they are so much more manoeuvrable and so much more practical and that’s before we even talk about parking!



A couple of days later and we were heeding the advice of Meteo France.  They warned of a huge heatwave, due to affect at least 80% of the country, beginning last Tuesday and lasting until the weekend. The Brevet, the National French exams taken at 15 or 16 years of age and before entry into Lycée was actually scheduled this Thursday and Friday. Due to these soaring temperatures, forecast to reach in excess of 40Celsius, (104 Fahrenheit) it has been postponed until Monday.

Don’t forget most of us don’t have air conditioning. It’s not the ‘norm’ in France. What we have are shutters. You know when you drive through a French village and everywhere looks closed and uninhabited, deserted even. So often there is bustling daily life continuing behind those closed exteriors. You see the shutters keep the sun out. It is totally alien to me and most English people who grew up in the UK to shut out the sun and the light of wonderful summer days. You can tell when it is really hot because even I, we, the family, take to closing the shutters and blocking out the fierce rays. Coupled with the very thick old stone walls it is incredible how cool these old houses remain, even in this infernal heat. Windows remain open, so there is a breeze. When the sun moves around so we open them on that side and then close the other side, simple, old fashioned and effective and it makes it bearable without A/C!


The heat however slows us down, we walk slower and this in turn means we notice so much more. Because no matter where you are in France, within reason of course, there is almost always something to look at. A simple door, a wooden shutter,  an old window, ancient stone lintels, it is these tiny intricate details that are so often overlooked, they don’t scream ‘look at me’ and they are not crying out for attention. They are just a part of the make up of centuries old buildings.





Then of course there are the vibrant paint colours, and here in the Charente Maritime we have the hollyhocks. They grow in abundance like weeds. If they are happy they will drop their seeds and reproduce, they demand no special attention, no additional fertiliser, in fact that is a sure way to kill them off. They don’t appreciate excess water either, they might wilt in the heat but they will come back if they are content, year after year rewarding us with incredible displays of bright flowers.P8090137

The vines are sunbathing and the grapes are forming fast and swelling quickly.P8080031

Water; no matter where – a river, the sea, a swimming pool, even a trickling stream -water is inviting in this heat, it makes us feel cooler just to hear it and see it!


It is set to get just a little cooler by the weekend, back to normal hot summer weather, but not insufferable. Life continues and the potager which I have neglected for a couple of days, for it is always demanding my attention, will finally be rewarded by my presence once more!



35 thoughts on “Out and About in the Heatwave

  1. It is now HOTTER in Zurich Switzerland than it is in the Charente Maritime…. This is crazy!
    Also, you are so lucky to be able to leave the windows inside the closed shutters open for a breeze; this is NOT the case in our region in France, nor in Switzerland. All the shutters must be closed from 8am to about 9pm because all that’s coming in is hot, hot air. Sleeping is only possible without any covering up, which of course, gives moscitos access to a nightly feast everywhere! I can’t even go to the nearby local swimming pool, as I’d probably have a heart attack before arriving there. All events planned have been cancelled, we live presently under a stone, alone with iced water and our internet connection plus long, long phone calls as everybody tries to stay at home too!
    The cherries on one of our two trees dried out before ripening, even the birds left them on the branches. The ‘good’ ones are hanging so high that we cannot access them; so we have to buy cherries on the market! Our beloved hollyhocks don’t want to grow here and thus they’ll remain something that’s closely associated with holidays and trips to Brittany, the Savoy Alps, and the South of France. I could however save some roses, going out to cut them at 7am, now their new blooms dry out on their stems and won’t open up. Lavender is plenty and swarming with bees and butterflies, thanks God for that! The birds seem to sing day and night, during the heat however they probably hide in the thicket of the shrubs and trees. To people like me and my family, the beautiful summer season is a season of hiding, covering up, being literally immobile, cut off life as we knew it and our skin is reddening at the mere mention of sunshine. HH was away for a few days and returned with his skin off and bleeding. And yet, he was wearing a sun hat, covered his arms and legs, but his skin came off anyway. Today, he decided to risk his reputation by putting on (fashionable and beautiful) linen bermudas, a very cool city-T shirt, assorted socks and blue suede shoes. He still had his job at lunch time… 😊
    Wishing you a summer as cool as possible, but certainly much contact to the sea which I miss most of all. I can’t even go into town to take a cruise; I’d be dead on arrival! Thanks for the lovely choice of photos, including some of the family members. Very much appreciated! 😉

    1. Ha – oh Kiki, you do not know how that made me smile! It is not quite that bad yet here in the Charente Maritime, but I can sympathise with you entirely. If a stone is required here though, I know just which one I am going to go under – it is not too far from the pool….. 😀

  2. Your photographs are beautiful. I smiled at your comment about small cars – SO practical in those narrow streets. We have experienced the difficulty of trying to manoeuvre a Toyota Hilux through the narrow streets and parking bays of Cape Town. What a relief it is to return to the Eastern Cape with its wide streets and suitably wide parking bays!

  3. We are lucky to be a foxglove area – they have spread like hollyhocks there and have lots of color to share. We live near Seattle Washington. Also, I came across the program Escape to the Chateau and we have been enjoying the regular episodes as well as the DYI programs – what creativity and can-do attitude those “new” chateau owners have to bring back lovely neglected Chateaus all over France!

    1. It’s one of our favourite programmes too – that man creates miracles and makes it all look so easy too. I have a list of projects that Roddy deliberately keeps losing, I think!

  4. Looking at your photos is like taking a mini vacation. We heard about your heat wave over here and it sounds miserable. Of course in my part of East Texas, summer is always hot and humid and we leave our air conditioned houses and jump into our air conditioned cars. I joke we always live in a perfect 72f degrees.

    1. Ah – fear not. It is all bearable with heat management and fans at night. Cutting out the sun from the house is a prerequisite for a good night’s sleep though.

  5. As always Susan, a most evocative post. Reading of your heat leaves me happy for the rain that’s falling today. We can relate to the dryness and the parched ground. The photo of the three of you tells a beautiful story, three beautiful women going on an adventure.
    We carry on here, dreaming of our next adventure in France, and next year towards your way.
    Ali xxx

  6. Oh do I enjoy your pictures and I feel right back in SW France w/you all & this lovely landscape. I am wondering how Gigi can train & practice tennis in such hot weather? Keep yourselves well, and don’t try to garden until evening. Wishing you all happy summer memories inspite of the hot temps! . . . . . and keep the pictures coming! Lovely greetings to your family!

  7. I agree with automatic gardener. Your photos are a vacation!! When I come to Paris, I never get past Paris because I am so attached to her but just seeing your photos is a mini without leaving my chair. Thanks for your wonderful talent!

    1. My pleasure Jenni – you really should get out into the country if you have time though – there are a thousand more parts to France than Paris and doggoned pavements, LOL (pun intended, as i suspect you know) XX

  8. I had hear about the heatwave engulfing Europe. My parents live in Germany and are having similar high temps. Here in Alberta we are in Mosoon June, so sunshine would now be more than welcome, but perhaps not to that high a degree. Coming from the UK we also had to learn about the shutters, although here in Canada we use blinds to the same effect. We turn them one way in the summer to keep the house cool and another in the winter to keep the heat in. I love the photos of the shutters by the way, always intrigue me, wondering what life is taking place behind them!

  9. The heat of Europe is so different to the heat of Australia. Im so glad we headed advice on not visiting Portugal and Spain in summer. Yes it was wet hail snow etc while visiting in April this year but we could walk for ages without dying in the heat. We visited one place and it was only about 16 deg but the sun was quite warm…couldnt imagine doing it when its 45 in the shade. We close our windows and curtains and blinds during the day in the summer here in Australia. To keep out the heat. It also saves on air-condition if you have it. Windows are then opened once the sun has gone down.

  10. What a wonderful read. I didn’t think Europe experienced temperatures like we do here in Northern Queensland. I was so surprised.
    I have always wondered the purpose of the shutters (always thought they were just decoration!) and now I know, thank you for explaining this so beautifully.
    I love reading your blog, it is my favourite, you keep it real, thank you Sharon.

  11. Also coming and laughing from Australia ! Have never had AC and 40C+ is nought out of the ordinary here – it certainly does not stop any ordinary life or exams . . .I believe past 43C people doing physical labour in the sunshine are directed onto lesser activities !! Why stop ‘life’ at the most delightful time of the year . . . absorb the very necessary Vit D , have fun in the sun . . . OH: at 45C+ I may sit down and read a book 🙂 !

  12. This post is a true gem, Susan! To appreciate all the beautiful details, even in extreme weather, is such a gift, and reminds us to take a closer look at the little things we might otherwise never notice.

    As for the terrible heat in Zurich, good grief! I hope the weather improves greatly for Kiki, and soon!

  13. OH Those poor cows!!!I hope they have SHADE!
    YES< those shutters do a GREAT JOB at keeping the SUN OUT!
    10 o clock at night and still light out!I cannot imagine that!
    Leave the earphones behind!I'm with YOU listen to the wildlife that surrounds your domain!

  14. It is so interesting to learn what summer is like in other parts of the world. Here on the Cape(Cape Cod Massachusetts) daylight ends around 8:00 pm or so. We have had no 90 degree weather yet. We have had much rain however. My flower containers are saturated. Hope the heat wave is about over for you.

  15. Love your pictures of the buildings & shutters. Have always been intrigued by shutters! My husband loved hot summers but I’m not a fan & we learned at an early age to follow the sun around by closing blinds, curtains, whatever to help keep house cool. No air conditioning where I grew up! When you are young though you don’t notice! Love the hollyhocks & my Mom had planted them on farm & kittens played in them. They are so bright!! Thanks so much for pictures!! Have a great day!!

  16. Lockdown.. makes life so different.. we love to holiday in France but this year that’s not going to happen so I have been searching out French Lifestyle blogs… so many are bland unlike yours… I read a few current posts but have skipped back to last year around this time when things were ‘normal’….. who would have ever guessed where we would be now !

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