Vague de froid

Snow in Corsica

After two unseasonably mild months, we are having a real cold snap. The north wind that blows across Lake Geneva (‘la bise noire’, explained here in perfect detail by blogger Alpenhorn) blew its evil breath for three days until last night when, lo and behold, the wind dropped and a blanket of the white stuff descended upon us.

Enfin! While it seems a little unfair that winter should make so late an appearance, it is still well within its rights. What seems ironic is that snow has fallen all over France this winter but not in our corner of the Haute Savoie, where it is usually more abundant.

Even Corsica, southernmost Ile de la Beauté, has had snow! Paris, Nice, Normandy, Toulouse…but until now, nary a flake chez nous. At altitude of course, there has been plenty of snow for the ski bunnies and I’m happy for them. This year, for some reason, I’ve been oddly reluctant to leave my hearth.

It seems the wave of cold known in France as ‘Moscou-Paris’ (Russia again) is actually due to global warming. Cold comfort to those who are without heat, or a roof. In the last few days the ‘Plan Grand Froid’ has kicked in, taking over gymnasiums and other unused spaces to ensure there are beds for the homeless. Sadly, such measures are insufficient and limited to times of extreme cold. In most cases the people must leave the premises by eight oclock the following morning, and brave the icy temperatures outdoors until night fall.

A group of elected officials in Paris spent last night sleeping in the streets to raise awareness of the issue. Good initiative, I thought. But this has been criticized as so much ‘coup de théâtre’; people consider their time would be better spent seeking real solutions than drawing attention to themselves in the media.

That’s just how French people see things.

As for me, I am grateful that yesterday’s power cut only lasted for a few hours. It seems that every year just as the temperatures hit rock bottom, the French electrical utility (formerly EDF, now Enedis) either has difficulty matching the demand or decides to perform maintenance on the lines. Last year we were in the dark for almost 24 hours.

Mostly I am grateful that I don’t have to drive anywhere today. As long as there’s an internet connection I can work from home. But I’ll be sure to get out for a walk with the Frenchies and finally have my day in the snow.

P.S. Rumour has it that next week spring will arrive in all its glory. What the weather like chez vous?



  1. francetaste · March 1, 2018

    La bise noire!!!!
    We got a dusting of snow yesterday and I set off to Carcassonne to shoot photos of la Cité in a rare cloak of white. But in town there was nothing. Today already has warmed up considerably and tomorrow we are to have 15 degrees (Celsius).

    • MELewis · March 1, 2018

      I’ll take snow any day over that blasted ‘bise’ — it always feels warmer as soon it snows. Too bad you missed the spectacle of a white Carcassonne but at least we’ve finally had a true taste of winter!

      • francetaste · March 1, 2018

        Yeah, if it’s going to be cold and gray, it might as well include pretty snow.

  2. coteetcampagne · March 1, 2018

    45km south of Francetaste but no snow at all.
    When we drove down to Argeles on Monday there was snow on the highest mountains and we know P.O. have had it bad but at our two places? No.

    • MELewis · March 1, 2018

      Hmm, strange. I get the feeling it’s been very localized. Very heavy snow falling straight down this morning here and for the first time this year it has stuck. Dreading having to take my car out though if it doesn’t melt by then.

  3. Anne Donnelly · March 1, 2018

    I’m over it haha. Even Marseille has succumbed to the Siberian freeze this week ! Unless we turn all our heaters up to maximum, our apartment is at a very cool 16°C….. I’m convinced that the old buildings here remain stubbornly uninsulated because the marseillais just don’t believe it gets cold here. But after multiple episodes of snow just this month, I’m really wishing they’d re-evaluate !! Can’t wait for spring to arrive!

    • MELewis · March 1, 2018

      That’s funny — Marseille can be blood cold when the wind blows. 16 is a bit ‘just’ as the French say. Un bon coup de pastis?

  4. Andrea · March 1, 2018

    I’m a subscriber to your blog and a fellow ex-pat in France. I’m starting a link next week, with the topics covering France. I thought I’d invite you to link up there. It goes live next Friday at midday. If you want to come over to the site and subscribe you should get an email when it goes live as a reminder. Hope you can make it – you always have interesting posts.

    • MELewis · March 2, 2018

      Thanks for the tip and the follow — will check it out!

  5. awtytravels · March 1, 2018

    Been cold here as well! Funny to see how “bise” is similar to “bisa”, a Piedmontese word for “wind”…

    • MELewis · March 2, 2018

      Interesting, maybe the Italian influence in Switzerland? Certainly the winds don’t care about borders — the slap is the same on both sides of the border! 🙂

  6. davidprosser · March 2, 2018

    We generally see very little snow due to the salt in the air this close to the coast but we’ve had it on the ground for thee days now with good flurries Tuesday and Thursday, The wind is Siberian with teeth and the temperature has been below freezing in the main. In places we hear the sea has actually frozen.
    I’m looking forward to the coming of Spring with perhaps a little warmth.
    Take care and try not to brave the outdoors unless you must.
    xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

    • MELewis · March 4, 2018

      Hard to imagine the air so salty with the sea that it prevents snow from falling. Love that. But the sea freezing? That is cold indeed. Hope you are staying safely indoors and keeping that chest of yours clear. Spring is just around the corner, I’m confident. Big bises XX

  7. acflory · March 2, 2018

    The weather is milder at the moment, but I find it hard to believe summer has released its grip already. Swap you some heat for some snow. 🙂

    • MELewis · March 4, 2018

      I can totally relate to how you feel. I’d happily trade for a week or so. In fact, I find the summer weather far more oppressive. But around here, it’s like complaining that you have too much money, or too many holidays. People just love the sun and hate the cold. I think a bit of both is ideal. Let’s flip the sand dial and send you our Arctic air!

      • acflory · March 4, 2018

        Yes please! I think my Hungarian genes are simply pre-set to deal with cold and have never completely acclimatised to Australia’s heat. Or perhaps that’s just my rationalisation for not being a sun-loving Aussie!
        I wonder if your Canadian genes do the same thing to you?

      • MELewis · March 5, 2018

        I don’t know if it’s down to being Canadian but my thermostat is permanently set on high. Never been able to stand the heat, even as a kid. Australia’s heat might just do me in!

      • acflory · March 5, 2018

        Yeah, it can be a bit rough. Aircon helps a lot though. 🙂

  8. Heide · March 3, 2018

    Perhaps it’s <> for the public officials to spend a night outside, but I’m all in favor of *anything* that raises the public’s awareness of how difficult some of our neighbors’ lives are, especially in harsh weather conditions. After all, it’s the people who must eventually pay for and support shelters and social-intervention services! On a more local note, I’m glad your power cut didn’t last too long. After a few hours it becomes a real pain to worry about freezing pipes, dying houseplants, and the like. On the plus side, it sure does help you appreciate the heat when it comes back on, yes? Anyway. Glad to hear you’re in for a warming trend — and glad to report it’s the same here.

    • MELewis · March 4, 2018

      Thanks, Heide! Agree that anything that gets the message across is a good initiative. As for the power outages, people here seem to be more accepting of such things as normal in the face of the exceptional cold and snow. As a Canadian, I remain outraged. Yet grateful that it did not last long…a timely reminder that the comforts we take for granted can easily be removed. Here’s to an early Spring on both sides of the Atlantic! x

      • Heide · March 5, 2018

        “As a Canadian, I remain outraged.” HA HA! From long lines to barely lukewarm water, I join you in astonishment at what the French are willing to put up with. Perhaps it’s because they *have* lost these comforts in the past and know it could truly be worse.

  9. Osyth · March 5, 2018

    We had the barest dusting in Grenoble (the mountains of course were and are blanketed) but as I drove West to Marcolès on Thursday there was lots of snow …. curious, very curious indeed.

    • MELewis · March 8, 2018

      Ah, it’s been a crazy old mixed up winter season this year. Can only assume we are seeing the unmistakeable signs of climate change, even if a part of me wants to put it down to the unpredictable nature of weather. Are you still in Marcolès? What is the weather like now? We are seeing unmistakeable signs of spring — the birds are twittering up a storm, and this morning there is sun and bluest sky I’ve seen in months! Wherever you are, hope you are enjoying it!

      • Osyth · March 8, 2018

        We spent one blistering cold night in Marcolès and then fled south to Albi, Carcassonne, Nimes, Arles (where my parents in law lived for 30 years) and then home to Grenoble. Epic road trip of just shy of 900 miles in 4 days. Here the weather has perked up to greet HB2 who arrived yesterday. Climate change …. best not to get me started. X

  10. Redterrain · March 5, 2018

    There had been times that the power cut out in Toronto when I lived there years ago and while we didn’t have people forced to the frigid streets for lack of housing I did lay awake worrying about the elderly people whom might not have anyone looking out for them. It’s true that while the news can report on the situation you’d hope that officials would be more concerned by problem solving… I can see the validity in the French sentiment about soaking up the limelight and not providing actual solutions. That would be frustrating to see. Are there thousands that are displaced? Seems like a bit of a crisit

    • MELewis · March 8, 2018

      You lived in Toronto? You’ve certainly travelled a long way! 😉 Great point about the elderly. I often think that if I, in the full possession of my faculties, find it so hard to suffer through a power cut, how must it feel for the elderly and more vulnerable, who are often poorly and alone? It’s a reality check for sure. Not sure the numbers of homeless are higher in France than elsewhere, though the biggest cities are definitely where they are most visible. Even less sure about the recent wave of migrants – I think that many still congregate in makeshift shelters near the former Calais camp. No matter how many, it is untenable that people should be without food and shelter, especially in extreme heat and cold.

      • Redterrain · March 9, 2018

        Fully agree – it’s concerning that so many are left without food and warm shelter. I hope the campaigns for awareness have helped people (and the government!) pull together to make something happen. I did live in Toronto for three years (Banff on and off for 5) and Welland is my home town. Mike and I have moved a number of times now but Eneabba/Warradarge is a special area and eventually we’ll be back in New Zealand (I’m a permanent resident now (after several visas!). How was it that you found France as your forever home?

      • MELewis · March 10, 2018

        Well, a Frenchman walked into a bar into Toronto and… 🙂 Congrats on getting your permanent resident status in NZ – it’s a country both my Frenchman and I would love to visit!

  11. Redterrain · March 5, 2018

    Oh also weather wise – we’ve had the mildest summer on record in 20 years. It’s been pretty easy to manage this year. Sometimes it gets to 50 degrees for stretches of a week but that’s not been the case this year.

    Strange things are happening world wide – Canada has had mild winters for what seems like 10 years.

  12. The Laughing Housewife · March 6, 2018

    We had the Beast From the East last week and the country fell apart. I was glad to have central heating and not to have to walk the dogs one day, at least.

    Today it is mild, too warm for heating, and the dogs will want a long walk. I can’t catch a break.


    • MELewis · March 8, 2018

      Dogs do have this way of wanting their walk regardless of the weather, eh? My pair only show signs of hesitation when it is tipping down, and even then… We have our promised spring weather too here, an amazing flip from last week! Happy days!

  13. J.D. Riso · March 8, 2018

    I heard about this vague de froid. I have a place in Anjou and was quite surprised to hear of the freezing temps. Didn’t hear about the politicians’ stunt, however. Ah, Les Francais. Always finding something to criticize. 😉

    • MELewis · March 9, 2018

      The initiative made barely a ripple, I’m afraid. How true about the French! Perhaps why I fit in so well here, ha ha.

  14. Bea dM · March 10, 2018

    Must have been when it also snowed in Rome 🙂

  15. Dale · March 21, 2018

    As a québécoise living on the south shore of Montréal, we cannot help but laugh a little bit at the situation France and England ended up in by being dumped with the white stuff we have been enduring for MONTHS now… However, I am definitely not insensitive to the fact that you are not used to it so, of course, you are not equipped to handle it. That said, power outages are a serious thing to deal with. When we had our ice storm of ’98, it was horrible for so many.
    As for Spring? She’s a b**** who may “say” she arrives on March 20th but we all know, on this side of the pond, that she won’t truly make her appearance till mid- to end-April. Si tout va bien.

    • MELewis · March 22, 2018

      Ha! I saw a FB post where some of my fellow countrymen were openly mocking the French for their hysteria over 2 cm of snow. It was hilarious! So yeah, of course it’s all what you’re used to but. Snowplows, people! Salt the roads! And every winter it gets cold — fix the bloody grid! Thanks for commenting and hope that spring makes an appearance sooner rather than later!

      • Dale · March 22, 2018

        I have a few British friends who were mocking their gang too 😉
        Snow is melting, temps are slowly rising, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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