Un froid de canard


Suddenly, it’s winter here in France. Which means it’s cold enough for ducks.

One of the eternal mysteries of life is why winter always feels colder here than in Canada. Is it the damp, perhaps, or the fact that we are less prepared for the subzero chill? Could it be because the houses are not as well insulated or our coats not as warm?

All I know is that il fait un froid de canard and – pardon my French – we are freezing our tits off. My own personal theory is that we need some snow. All that bright white will soon have us feeling warmer. Take it from a Canuck.

The arrival of snow in France is an annual event that is almost as talked-about as the great migration to parts south and coastal in the summer. Not of ducks but of French holiday-makers.

I’ve posted before about how snowstorms will trump (pardon my French again!) just about all other breaking news. So far we’ve avoided that disaster but the mere suggestion that a few flakes might be falling this week has required live updates and lengthy analyses by meteorologists. When something happens in France, no matter what the cause, an explanation must be found, and if possible a guilty party. The weatherman shook his head and pointed with consternation to the cold front coming in over the Balkans from Russia. Aha!

To the other burning question: why do the French associate the sudden onset of cold weather with ducks? I am happy to be able to clear up that mystery: it seems that our quacking friends come out of hiding when the temperature drops, leaving the open waters for the hinterland and giving hunters a clear shot.

Poor ducks. Well, at least if they’re out flying they haven’t been confined and force fed to fatten up their livers for foie gras.

You have to look on the bright side.

la neigeAs I write this, snow has finally fallen and, conversely, my mood has lightened. Nothing like a bit of white stuff to keep the cold at bay. And the ducks.

What’s the temperature chez vous?

How do you feel about la neige?


  1. Piddlewick · January 12, 2017

    I did not know that about cold weather and ducks. (So glad ours are enclosed, particularly as we have a lot of hunting around us.)

    We somehow missed that snow here (in northern Bourgogne). Just cold and rain. But looking forward to the sun today! 🙂

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Sorry you missed the snow. Ours is fading fast – it rained last night. There’s more coming in the next week….probably just as I attempt to get in my car and drive somewhere! Enjoy that ray of sun and keep those ducks warm!

  2. emilycommander · January 12, 2017

    Thank you for clearing up that duck thing. I might have known it was something to do with hunting…

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      You had a 50/50 chance. Either hunting or eating. 😉

  3. sunnydaysinseattle · January 12, 2017

    We are having a lower than usual winter here in Seattle. Right now it’s -2 Celsius. I love the snow so we are going to snowshoe this weekend 🙂

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      That’s interesting, so are we. At least up until now…winters are rather unpredictable these days, so I don’t want to speak too soon (more snow is apparently on its way.) Enjoy the snowshoeing!

  4. Rosie (@greenrosielife) · January 12, 2017

    We have snow forecast for Normandy later today ….

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Ah yes, so the ‘alerte orange’ is finally happening in the north of France. So I’ve just heard on the news — at least 5 times on the way home in the car, plus a text message from my car dealer advising me to ensure my vehicle is ready for the winter. Stay warm!

  5. Carolyn · January 12, 2017

    We had an inch on Tues but rain since. Snow announced all weekend so maybe we’ll be snowed in?
    Gone are the days (nights) when I hardly slept, worrying about the horrendous 40km drive into work through snow. Now I’m retired I’ve been looking forward to a good snowfall. Which of course we haven’t had for the past 4 years!
    Freezer is full, heating repaired – bring on 80cm of snow!!

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      A well-deserved retirement after all those early mornings in the ‘bouchons’. Glad the freezer is full and hope you get to enjoy watching the white stuff pile up from your window!

  6. zipfslaw1 · January 12, 2017

    There’s a funny (and surprisingly accurate, to my mind) book called “Stuff Parisians Like.” One of the things that Parisians are claimed to like: snow. Certainly it doesn’t fall here very often.

    In my neck of the woods one says “ça caille,” which I find amusing because before someone explained the expression to me, the only meaning that I knew for the verb “cailler” was “to curdle” (as of milk).

    Also, in America, it’s “to freeze one’s ass off.” Seems less disastrous than the Canadian version, at least unless your life involves a lot of sitting on unpadded chairs.

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Well, that is the first time I have ever heard of the French professing to like the snow – outside of the ski slopes, that is. In Lyon it was always a detested phenomenon, which I enjoyed all the more for feeling like a rebel by loving it. It’s funny – I heard ‘ça caille’ half a dozen times before I understood it. And as far as freezing whatever off – I’m not sure if it’s Canuck-speak or British or perhaps even Aussie?

  7. Osyth · January 12, 2017

    You know I’m a snow baby … I bang on about it all the time! It is so true that it feels colder here (last week in Cantal it was around -10 whereas in New England the year before I experienced -32 which I hadn’t actually imagined could exist in a residential area!) and I have nothing wise to impart. Here in Grenoble it snowed the day before yesterday but it tends not to stay in the city … the mountains are looking pretty and I’m off back to Cantal for the weekend and it looks like those Russians will be sending more our way (I like Russians and I’m very pleased for the gift!)

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      It must cold indeed in Cantal, and as for Grenoble, it will be interesting to hear how you transition there. If I recall correctly, my husband once said it is one of the French cities with the greatest variations in temperature. I’ll take the snow over the heat any day. Enjoy those Russians – white are the best! xx

      • Osyth · January 13, 2017

        I like the heat but only in small doses. I think your recollection may be right – certainly Grenoble has a reputation for being very stuffy in summer but we aim to be out of here early July so in theory we should get the best of it (if you are a snow-bird that is!) Hugs to you and I forgot to mention I was very interested in the origin of the duck thing 🦆

  8. acflory · January 12, 2017

    Hot, hot and more hot. Send some snow down our way please!

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      I’m afraid it’s melted for now – but more is on its way. Not sure how it will travel, though; will try to at least breathe a few cool thoughts your way. 😉

      • acflory · January 12, 2017

        I think it must have worked because we had some rain this morning and it’s lovely and cool [for now]. Keep breathing!

      • MELewis · January 13, 2017

        And we awoke to heavy snow. Yeah!

      • acflory · January 13, 2017

        -cough- You don’t know your own strength. :p

  9. francetaste · January 12, 2017

    We rarely get snow in Carcassonne, and even when it falls, it doesn’t last. Which is fine with me. Last week was cold, with lows around -2, but very sunny days around 8-12. Rain has come back, and that means higher lows and lower highs–it all stays between 3-8. When I lived in the U.S., such weather would have been occasion for getting the car washed (get that salt off!) before freezing temps returned.
    I think the cold feeling is partly the damp and partly the lack of insulation. We changed to a heat pump from a gas furnace a few years ago, and cut our costs by two-thirds while finally feeling warm. And that was after upgrading to double-pane windows. I also notice a big difference by closing the shutters–more insulation. And we enclosed our front porch to create a “sas,” which further insulated the front door.

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      All those things sound smart and practical. We have double-paned windows everywhere but no shutters as our house design is modern and they abandoned such practical features in favour of massive windows. I love the look but we sure pay the price in terms of greenhouse effect in the summer and chill in winter!

      • francetaste · January 12, 2017

        Aren’t there electric shutters or awnings that can help? Our shutters are just as crucial in summer as in winter. Some of the electric ones are pretty discreet when open.

      • MELewis · January 13, 2017

        Yes, there are, at a price, and we have added an awning out front and several sun-blocking shades to south-facing windows. Nothing like wooden shutters though, and they do add a rather ugly, if discreet, box to your facade above the windows. If I had it to redo I would have integrated exterior blinds from the outset.

  10. coteetcampagne · January 12, 2017

    I look forward to full time climate control via our shutters. Despite the age and provenance of our French house, it is, even in it’s current half finished state, neither cold nor damp.
    It will be interesting to see how we feel after our first full time winter there, though we have visited during the winter many times.

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Shutters are perhaps the best ‘green’ way to air condition and heat your house. And those walls are probably very thick indeed. Hope you enjoy your first winter there – next year?

  11. Charlotte Graham · January 12, 2017

    I learned something new today about cold weather and ducks! Nashville got hit with a decent amount of snow last week, but it was coincidentally timed around my recent holiday to sunny Florida. 😊

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      ‘Quel timing!’ as they say in franglais. 😉

  12. Suzanne et Pierre · January 12, 2017

    It has been cold here for a while though the last few days have seen above freezing temperature with lots of rain. As the temperature will go down again tomorrow, we will have a skating ring instead of sidewalks and roads…Ah, the joy of winter in Canada – ups & downs that are very unpredictable. We have heard about the cold front in Europe and the snow in Athens & Istanbul…quite unexpected. Keep warm! (Suzanne)

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Winter everywhere is becoming rather unpredictable, I fear. I remember winters in Montreal always being much colder and snowier than in Toronto. Now it seems they are often quite similar, although I think you probably do get more snow and colder temps than in TO. After our first true cold snap of the winter last week it has been up and down – raining at the moment here but temps are definitely dropping and they are warning of a bad storm with very high winds tonight. Snow in Athens! What next? xx

  13. George Lewis · January 12, 2017

    Two days of rain in TO and all our snow is gone.Ski hills to the north are open but snow conditions do not sound encouraging. Forecasts are for alternating cold then mild and rain. Crappy winter!!

    • MELewis · January 12, 2017

      Hmmm….time to plan a Caribbean vacation? 😉

  14. doodletllc · January 13, 2017

    I had no idea it snowed in France. Our first trip to France is this June. I keep thinking it will be hot…Now I’m not so sure. Paris and SW France. I’m excited no matter the weather. 🙂

    • MELewis · January 13, 2017

      That’s a great time of year to visit France. Snow is rare enough in the winter – you can be sure there won’t be any in June (unless perhaps on the highest alps!). Prepare for warm or cool temps, possibly some rain and in southwest France, hopefully plenty of sunscreen!

  15. Alpenhorn · January 13, 2017

    Europe always feels colder than North America. I will never forget my parents visiting Amsterdam at a warm 10 degrees Celsius from Alaska with its cold -20C. They thought spring coats would suffice. Boy were they wrong. There is something to be said about the damp, overcast winters here.

  16. midihideaways · January 16, 2017

    I always feel colder in Languedoc than I do in deepest Bavaria, where it really is much colder!! The upshot is that in Languedoc we have more sunshine, even if I do feel cold 🙂

  17. TechBook · May 17, 2017

    Now it seems they are often quite similar, although I think you probably do get more snow and colder temps than in TO. !

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