Sunday, August 30, 2009


There has been a severe heat wave in Paris this last week with temperatures soaring to 37 degrees. Similarly to London, Paris is rather landlocked and so, unlike a Mediterranean island for instance, there is very little breeze to take the edge off. During the day I have been taking full advantage of this and have read a great deal in various parks around the city. One in particular is worthy of a mention and that is Buttes Charmont. This is a huge man-made park designed by Baron Haussmann who was a civic planner in Paris in the 1800s. He is widely held accountable for the way Paris appears today and was responsible for introducing the wide, sweeping boulevards that are so common across the city. He also laid out the Bois de Boulogne and made several improvements to the other, smaller parks within the city.

Buttes Charmont is just four metro stops from my apartment. The park is a traditional piece of English countryside located right in the heart of the city – almost like a New York Central Park for Paris. There is a lake at its centre and a huge island in the middle which provides superb views of the city. Emily and I had a picnic here on Tuesday and spent a relaxing day reading, eating baguettes with camembert and aubergine caviar and soaking up the sun from one of the many grassy slopes. I returned, by myself, on Thursday and spent the afternoon reading quietly appreciating once more the distinct lack of screaming children and city noise.

Although the heat was bearable during the day it was another matter altogether at night, especially when ensconced in my 12m squared studio on the fifth floor. I returned home, from a night out with Katy and Emily, at around 5am, and was hit with a wave of hot air as I opened my door. I staggered to the window and threw it open as wide as it would go but there was not a breath of air. I took the duvet from my bed and lay down on the mattress, desperately trying to get cool, but my heart was hammering and my face felt flushed so in the end I got up and had a cold shower. Despite the effect being only very temporary it did allow me to get some sleep that night. However, I woke up frequently and needed another two showers throughout the night in order to get my body temperature back to a bearable level.

I want to, for a moment, return to the topic of Soraya, who lives opposite me. She’s a strange character, I’d say she’s in her 30s and yet she lives alone in an apartment that is even smaller than mine and, in fact, makes mine look like a palace. The walls of her studio are covered in mould and the place is always stiflingly hot with a damp smell about it. She has a huge, imposing, wardrobe made from a dark wood against one wall and a sofa bed against the other. She has a little kitchenette in the alcove where, in my apartment, the shower is located and, presumably, has to use the sink to wash in since there is no shower in the apartment. There are various pieces of mismatched material hanging over the windows making the room rather dark and depressing and a microwave resting on an office chair in the corner. Behind the front door is an electric heater attached to the wall meaning that she can never open the door more than a few inches and, until I discovered that this was the reason, I always assumed she was rather afraid of who might be visiting.

Soraya is an avid fan of DIY and is always changing things round and replacing items with other things she has found on the street. Last week I was coming home from the supermarket and found her on the second floor of the building struggling with a chest of drawers she had found outside. I helped her up to our floor and somehow managed to get it through the minuscule gap in her front door. I have also helped her take her old refrigerator down to the street and carry some carpet tiles up to her apartment. She’s certainly rather quirky, but is friendly enough, and we always have a chat before she bursts into gales of laughter when I don’t understand something she’s said.

No comments:

Post a Comment