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Staying Cool in Paris

 A big hooray for the first real summer in Paris since…well, 2006. A big boo hoo for those of you not accustomed to hot and humid temperatures in a country that still shuns air conditioning as unhealthy. If you (or the place you’re staying) happens to be climatisée, lucky you. For the rest of you, here are some ideas for cooling off during the hottest hours of the day:

Go to the movies! Most cinemas are air conditioned (but just in case, be sure to ask before buying tickets at the smaller cinema houses), and you can even get discount tickets during the Fête du Cinéma through July 3. Otherwise, try buying booklets of tickets to get a better rate, available at all cinemas. The MK2 Bibliothèque is one of the great modern cineplexes with shops and cafés, and the MK2 Quai du Seine is right on the canal (which may only be cooler psychologically, but it’s all in your head anyway, right?). If you’re a resident, now’s a great time to get a Carte Illimité UGC (which also worls at MK2 cinemas).

Go shopping: Not that you have to actually buy anything, crise économique oblige, but why not engage in a bit of window shopping in the wonderfully air-conditioned grands magasins and shopping malls (with a preference for the one at Place d’Italie or the one at Marne la Vallée)? And since we’re in the middle of the sales, if you do happen to see anything that catches your eye, you might just be able to buy it without going broke. If the crowds scare you off, try sticking to upscale furniture stores or antique browsing at the Louvre des Antiquaires.

Get a room: But not just any room, a Palace Hotel room! Can’t afford a siesta in the Meurice, George V, Crillon, Lutece, Bristol, Plaza Athénée or Ritz? You can always stop in for afternoon tea. Bring a book and something to work on, but don’t just whip out that huge laptop unless you’ve discreetly asked to be seated in an appropriate place for that. After all, not all of us there want to be reminded that we should be working. As an aside, you can always count on restaurants in palace (and most four-star) hotels to have air-conditioning, if you absolutely must dine indoors.

Les Supermarchés: Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette have excellent gourmet supermarkets, and Monoprix is a good backup in a pinch. If the a/c isn’t strong enough for you, the ice cream section is never a bad place to hang out. Take some” to go”, if you think it will stay cold enough until you get it home. In fact, maybe you should just head to Amorino, Pozetto, or any of the other ice cream and Gelato boutiques in Paris

Go for a swim: No better time to check out the Parisian pools than now. Get your speedos and bathing caps at any local sports shop like Go Sport, and try to get to one of the 38 public pools in Paris on weekdays when they aren’t too crowded. The Josephine Baker Piscine is a floating pool on the Seine moored at the Quai François Mauriac (13th), and the historic Piscine Pontoise (5th) is equipped with a sauna and fitness gym (for those of you who really think that’s necessary). If you’re too cool to swim with the masses, hotels such as the Ritz, St-James & Albany, and L’Hotel are just a few that allow access to their pools for a fee. The posh Ken Club Fitness & Spa has a special “journée d’été” price of €85 beginning today for day-access to their pool and facilities.

Finally, in case some of you are from the Arctic or have had your brains fried in this heat, a few reminders from someone who survived 12 Arizona summers: drink plenty of WATER (not just chilled rosé, ahem) and keep the shutters/heavy/curtain/blinds closed from 11am-8pm, or at least as long as the sun is shining through the windows. Even of this means you have to close the window itself, it will make your life more bearable come evening when you can finally open the windows and let the cool breezes in. If you’ve let the sun shine in all day, it will be like a furnace that no amount of French air conditioning will cool off. And go pick up a fan at Conforama or Monoprix. They actually work a lot better than you’d think.

Stay cool!

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  • I live in Sweden and we have a aluminium foil that is used to protect in winter if we get sick and are in a deserted area to keep the body temperature stable until reached by the rescuers. I used that foil used wallpaper glue for bathroom tapestry and glued it on a type of blind that I mounted outside my window (the blind is sold at IKEA cheap stuff) it works perfect just to pull down when the sun is getting to intense. A piece of cloth doesn't keep the heating rays out this do the job and it's almost for free and mounted on the inside it doesn't look ugly if you buy a blind in a colour that match the exterior of the house. It's a cheep way to survive those extremely hot days who aren't that many but can be dangerous for people with week health.

  • If it's extreme heat and you're risking health a way that I have tried was to cover the bathroom ventilation then fill up the bathtub with cold water. When the water reach room temp empty the tub and fill up a new with cold water… I managed to achieve a significant lower temperature at floor level. If you're old or/and disabled as in my place it could mean the difference between life or death – and everyone that has a tub can do it.

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