Open house

Open the window in the village of Limeuil

“Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash” are words that we generally associate with a Christmas poem so this may seem an odd time of the year to mention them. They describe, however, exactly what we’ve been doing at the house all summer long. Sunrise is around 6:00 AM and by then we have indeed “torn open the shutters” and opened all of the windows plus even the doors that give access to the courtyard. While we are both fans of the light that has famously drawn artists to the south of France for centuries, in this case we are seeking something else: cool morning air. We can let in this genuine breath of fresh air and thanks to thick masonry and stone walls, capture it to keep us comfortable for the rest of the day. Free air conditioning!

The shutters are open at Chateau Hautefort

When we lived in Atlanta, for most of the year there was not a moment during the day when we were not surrounded by mechanically-chilled air. From the house to the car to work we were always in a cocoon of comfort. It was from that mindset that one of the first questions I posed to former Carcassonne residents Tracy and Alan was how they were able to cope in their apartment without air conditioning. Their simple answer was “fans” with the humorous addition of knowing which supermarkets kept their thermostats lowest and which cafés served the coldest beers. 

We concur and the climate here makes all of that a possibility. Historically the months of July and August have had identical average normal daily highs of 28C/82F with nightly lows of 18C/64F so you can see why we like to open up in the morning and close everything back by midday.

Because there are several small shops (bakery, fish, wine, grocery, etc.) in our neighborhood, many of the nearby residents walk there which takes them right past our house. With our windows open it’s the ideal opportunity to chat a bit, catch up on the latest family news, and practice our French. Although screens exist, almost no one seems to use them. We do have one on our bedroom window, just in case, but otherwise the bugs seem to fly in and then fly right back out without being much of a nuisance. The bedroom is upstairs right under the roof, so we did finally buy a portable air conditioner for only that room, but even there we seldom need it.

A half-timbered house with working shutters in Bergerac

We had shutters on our house in Atlanta but they were merely decorative since the windows looked naked without them. Here, I don’t think I’ve seen a house without working versions whether they be manual, electric, or even solar powered as the new ones we had installed. No matter the type, they all do a great job of blocking out the sun and keeping in the cool. Double glazed windows and a glass of chilled wine at the end of the day help a lot too!

4 thoughts on “Open house

  1. Just enjoying a bit of relief here after the week or so of canicule we’ve just had. We do the same, but close the shutters early, too, on the hottest days. Our French neighbors have strict routines about this and have questioned us several time already on how we control the shutters in our house – we find this very amusing!

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    1. Well, it’s almost happy hour on Sunday here and the popcorn is popping for something special. 81 F here and 31% humidity so just about perfect.


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