How Hot Was It?

Mid-morning hydration break. I drank all of it and, well, let’s just say I wasn’t running around in search of a bathroom.

We had heard that December through March is the best time to visit Dubai and to avoid going during Ramadan.  July and August have average temperatures mid-30s to 40s Celsius.  We went at the end of June.  Oops.

You can see where the drip irrigation lines are located.

I’d been warned about the heat.  People actually used the word boil.  Knowing about the heat and actually experiencing it are two different things.  It was 48, 45 and 47 (118, 113, 116 Fahrenheit) on the three days I was there.  I melted.

Bus shelters are air-conditioned.

I have run marathons where I hydrated less.   Like Jane Austen, the heat put me in a perpetual state of inelegance (which unfortunately seems to be the status quo for me).  More accurately, I was dripping, a hot mess.  Luckily, I wasn’t the only one.  Anyone I encountered walking around outside was melting as well.

The inside. Not frigid air-conditioning like in the US, but it kept me from melting.

The heat is incessant.  It doesn’t let up.  Even after dark it is intense.  When I went to the airport at 5:00 a.m., it was already over 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) intense, even after dark.

It was so hot that even the wind towers had air-conditioning.

Just how hot was it?

  • It’s so hot, today I saw a chicken lay a fried egg.
  • Birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
  • It’s so hot you need a spatula to remove your clothing.
  • Potatoes cook underground, so just pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
  • It’s so hot that I saw two trees fighting over a dog.
  • It’s so hot the robins are laying their eggs sunny side up.

They joke that at one time, water was a more valuable resource than oil. I believe it. It hasn’t rained there in over 3 years!

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Breaking Wind – Le Mistral

Provence was windy.  I’m not talking about a slight breeze.  I’m talking about a fierce, howling, incessant wind with giant gusts.  Provence is known for its ferocious, cold wind known locally as “Le Mistral” (or mistrau in Provençal).  It blows for days at a time, reaching speeds of 100 km/hr (62 miles/hr).  Some have described it as a hurricane with sunny weather.

WARNING! Please be careful during your visit, particularly if it is windy, especially near the edges of the cliffs, the Sarassine, the Paravelle towers and the Dunjon. Please keep an eye on your children! Culture Espaces accepts no responsibility. – Sign in Les Baux that translates into “if you get blown off the cliff it is your own fault.”

The result of an atmospheric phenomenon, it usually develops as a cold front moving down across France. Winter’s cold air piles up in the Alps before spilling over the mountaintops, down into the Rhône valley to the Mediterranean (towards Marseille).   It works to blows away clouds and moisture, providing towns like Aix-en-Provence with an average 300 sunny days a year. In our two trips to Provence, we experienced two rainy days.  Go figure.

Le Mistral is the single most important factor in shaping the Provence’s trees are  Provençal landscape.  Trees are permanently bent in the wind’s direction.  Vincent Van Gogh’s  swirling landscapes depict the the effects of the Mistral on the countryside.

Le Mistral flattens the grasses in the field, bends the top of the cypress trees and even in knocks over flower pots, tosses patio furniture around, tears the washing off the line, tosses garbage cans blocks away and pretty much sweeps away anything that isn’t tied down.    The howling wind even blows doors wide open and people off their feet!

When the Mistral blows, no one goes out unless they really have to.  People huddle indoors with their shutters battened; the streets are empty.  The wind becomes the topic of every conversation.   Legend has it that the Mistral will blow for one day, three, six, nine or even as many as twelve days.

Like the Föhn, people claim that Le Mistral can cause headaches, restlessness in children and even affect pets.  It makes everyone bad tempered and exasperated.  Some even claim that it causes mental instability, making people mad.  That was probably great for Van Gogh.

Le Mistral’s has positive effects on Provence and not just if you want to fly a kite, windsurf, or sail.  It blows stagnant waters dry and stopping disease from spreading.   Locals call it “mange fange” which translates into swamp eater. The Mistral’s winds drying effect on the area keeps the Rhône vines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape, free of mildew (great for wine lovers).  The humidity in the air is blown away, leaving things dry and the view crystal clear (great for artists).

How Do You Know When Spring Has Arrived In Geneva? Check The Chestnut In Old Town

How do you know spring has arrived?  Flowers, spring showers, sundresses or swimming in the lake?  In Geneva’s old town, there is a tree, a chestnut, that is the official harbinger of spring.  Well, maybe it’s only the quasi-official harbinger, but it’s good enough.  In Geneva’s Old Town, on the Promenade de la Treille, is a tree whose first bud marks the official arrival of spring (Marronnier Officiel).  It’s known as “l’eclosion” which translates as “the hatching” or “the blooming” but in this case means “the budding.”

The first bud was charted since 1808!  It has always come sometime between January and the beginning of April, varying considerably (but generally getting progressively earlier).  This year, it arrived on March 13!  It’s official, spring is here.

Since observations began, several trees have been used.  The original from 1818  to 1905, the second from until 1928,  and the current since 1929.  The current tree is so bent over that it has to be propped up with a pole.

In 1808, Marc-Louis Rigaud-Martin began recording the tree’s first bud, likely out of a kind of scientific curiosity.  Since 1818, all the dates have been recorded on a parchment-roll in a special place in Geneva’s State Council chamber.

Workers of the city stroll past the tree over periodically during the key months and even use binoculars to examine the tree in greater detail.  Once, an employee hastily returned from vacation during exceptionally warm weather to avoid missing it!  They know exactly where on the tree to look as the first buds always appear on the eastern side.

The News From Geneva

A month ago, Geneva (and Europe) was in the middle of a giant cold snap.  Pictures of a frozen car in Versoix, Switzerland made headlines around the world (and was featured on this blog).  Waves and spray from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) covered the lakeside with ice.  While it isn’t exactly warm here, it is much warmer.  The owner of the storied car made headlines when he finally retrieved it this week.

The front page of the paper 20 Minutes with the headline “The frozen car leaves without coughing.”

He had to wait for the ice to melt because chipping it off damages the paint.  We still see little bits of snow here and there, but it is melting fast.  Boats are going back into the lake.  I even saw a girl sunning herself in a bikini top.  She had to have been freezing, but no one was complaining.

The title of 20 Minutes article is “My notoriety is to have poorly parked my car.”

Problems with the weather and natural disasters continue.  Sion and Zermatt experienced avalanches.  Luckily, no one was injured or killed.

Also from 20 Minutes

Also in the Alps, a helicopter crashed near Les Diablerets.  The two people on board survived, but were injured.  This is the second crash there in as many months.  As much fun as the mountains have been, there are daily reminders of their dangers.

In other news, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the former Swiss President, received a pie in the face after attending  the opening of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights.. Actually, it was a Black Forest Cake.  She is not pressing charges.

Also from the paper 20 Minutes

a photo of the article in 20 Minutes

A 66 year-old Swiss retiree gave birth to twins. She was artificially inseminated at a clinic in the Ukraine.
In Switzerland, just like just about every other country, women make less than men for doing the same work. Today is Equal Pay Day, the day women break even with men… for the work they did last year. The average woman worked all last year through to today to make the average salary that a man made from January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2011.

from 20 minutes

From 20 Minutes

From 20 Minutes

Finally in sports, Swiss superstar athletes (Roger Federer and Fabian Cancellara) continue to win.  Skiing is big.  Quel surprise.

 

More Pictures of the Versoix, Switzerland Ice Storm

Last week, I posted pictures of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)’s ice storm.  I took them in  the Eaux-Vives area of Geneva, Switzerland.  The post included a picture that was widely circulated (it went viral) of a car covered in ice after the ice storm in Versoix, Switzerland.  Versiox is about 20 minutes up the lake from Geneva.  I couldn’t resist going to see and take some more ice pictures.

Courtesy of the Telegraph and AFP

I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see it.  There were adults with cameras and children sliding on the ice.  Other bloggers have also posted pictures.  Clearly, I am not as talented as the AFP photographer who took the shot above.  Nevertheless, it was impressive.

Car covered in ice after the Versoix ice storm

Apparently, ice storms like this are not a regular occurrence here.  You can find pictures on the internet from one in 2005, but this could very well be the only one we see.

Someone placed a mannequin on the dock

 

Geneva (And Europe’s) Cold Weather

It is the middle of winter so I wasn’t expecting warm weather in Geneva, but I wasn’t really expecting this either.  Europe is experiencing extremely cold temperatures.  The weather forecast: more severe cold.  The bitterly cold weather will continue  through the weekend thanks to a dip in the jet stream that has allowed a large area of high pressure to move west from Siberia.

freezing in Geneva

Cold weather gear, check.  Hats, scarves, sweaters, coats, gloves, mittens, long underwear, wool socks, boots, I have been wearing it all.  At once.  While drinking hot tea.  Sitting underneath a blanket.  With the radiators blasting.

The Jet d’Eau is off until further notice for obvious reasons

This weekend,  it was -12 C (10.4 F) when we got on the chair lift to head to the much colder mountaintop.  While the chair lift wasn’t warm, we are lucky because the cold snap hasn’t created major problems for us.  Others have not been so fortunate:

  • Occupy Geneva has been disbanded, not because the government is broke it up, but because someone froze to death.

A Death In The Stronghold Of Occupy Geneva

An Eccentric Distantly Related to Occupy Geneva Dead At The Camp

Courtesy of World Bulletin.net

  • In Hungary, people combed through a disused mine’s refuse pile with their bare hands to get coal.

Courtesy of MSNBC/AP

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

There have also been some more (and some less) humorous stories about people’s experiences with the cold.

  • Our friend from Poland told us that they are leaving their cars running overnight because temperatures are so cold that they won’t start.
  • Bosnian snowboarders took advantage of a record snowfall and snowboarded down the streets of Sarajevo. People also snowboarded next to the Colosseum.

  • When I opened the paper yesterday, I saw a story about someone who went swimming in Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)!

courtesy of You Tube

  • In Belgium, temperatures of -10 C kept intoxilyzers, machines to test motorists’ alcohol levels, from functioning.

    courtesy of BBC and AFP

  • Cars parked by Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) have frozen in place.  They are stuck because scraping ice off can take the paint with it.  Today, someone told me a story about this happening to an expensive sports car.  The owner elicited professional help to melt the ice so he could get his baby to a garage.

 

Snow Report Geneva

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie Dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”- Buddy the Elf.
They don’t have Tollhouse Cookies here, but we finally have snow!  It was our first time seeing snow in Geneva.  Winter in Geneva, it is grey and cloudy.  The beautiful snow was a welcome change and no one seemed to mind the mess it made.
I didn’t bother getting dressed or putting on makeup, but downed a quick cup of coffee, put on snow pants, tied up my snow boots and ran out quickly with my camera.
Severe snow storms covered southern Europe and extremely cold temperatures are forecasted in the upcoming days.  North and east from where we are, people have gotten stuck in cars.  A few have actually frozen to death.
There was already a good amount of snow in the mountains, but it’s always nice to have more when you are skiing.  It snowed into the afternoon.  We got quite a bit, but I’m sure the Alps got even more. Unfortunately, they have also warned of strong avalanche danger in the alps.  Last week, someone was killed by an avalanche in Chamonix.
Today’s newspapers did not make it into their boxes.  At 8:00, the boxes were still empty.
Genevans were sledding, having snowball fights, and walking their dogs in the snow.  I didn’t see anyone on skis.
The city busily cleaning up the snow (a nice change from cleaning the streets) and by mid-day, the worst of the mess was over.  Although I didn’t see a single snow blower, people were out with salt and shovels, clearing the walks in front of every building.
 

Rain, Rain, Go Away And Take Geneva’s Cloudy Skies With You

We love it here.  It’s a wonderful place to live.   For good or bad, Switzerland is full of microclimates.  We had heard that the fall and winter here is very cloudy.  Geneva‘s winter grayness has arrived.
That’s not the lake, it is the cloud’s covering it and everything else at a lower altitude.

Twice over the past couple of days, we left cloudy Geneva to show our guests some cool things that were only an hour away.  Each time, the clouds miraculously ended a few miles outside the city and we enjoyed bright, sunny days!

The Sweetest Girl in the World described it as a dividing line.  The clouds didn’t peter out, just abruptly stopped.  One time, we entered a tunnel on the sunny side and exited into clouds and fog.
A sunny day not far over the border in Annecy

Now, we understand why people who live in Geneva are such skiing enthusiasts.  They want to get out of the city and onto a mountain where they can bask in the sun.

 

Thar She Blows – The Föhn

 

Föhn – (foen) n. a German word for a warm, strong and often very dry  wind that often blows off the north slopes of the Alps, but can also be at other places.

Here are ten Föhn facts:

10. The Föhn can raise temperatures 30 °C (54 °F) in just a matter of hours. As a result, it can melt snow rapidly and can cause major problems for mountain climbers here.

9. The Föhn are incredibly dry. As a result, the views are especially bright and clear when they blow.

8. The Föhn can last from less than an hour to even several days.

7. They reach all the way to Munich and beyond to central Europe.

6. The Föhn occur when the moist air blows off the Mediterranean Sea, drops its moisture on the southern side of the Swiss Alps, and is then, transformed into a dry, warm wind, that careens down the northern slopes of the Swiss Alps into Central Europe.

5. Parts of Switzerland enjoy a warmer climate because of the Föhn bringing moist winds off the Mediterranean over the Alps.

4. The Föhn arrive suddenly. They change a brisk, fall morning into a summery afternoon.

3. The Föhn are problematic for some people. A study showed suicide and accidents increased by 10 percent during Föhn winds. People complain of  sickness, have sleepless nights, dizziness, irritability and/or a lack of concentration.

2. The winds can have disasterous effects for farmers.  Feed that is put out for stock can be blown away. If there are too many Föhn in the spring, it will be too dry for grass to grow. When they occurr in the summer, they bring a risk of fire.  They can also spread fire very quickly.

1. Föhn is similar to the German word for hairdryer.