What's up with the people dropping like flies in the heat wave a year ago? A thousand people died, and it was only 90 degrees. I heard there was an ice shortage. Aren't freezers as common there as here?
I can give you a little first hand experience about the heat wave from last year, since I was here for a visit for a week in August. And let me tell you something, it was freakin' hot.
After I arrived, we headed into Paris, to do a little sightseeing. After lunch in a rare air conditioned restaurant, we hunted around for something cool (temperature wise) to do. We first headed to Notre Dame, thinking it wouldn't be so terrible inside. Wrong. I never imagined that huge stone cathedral could be so hot and oppresively humid. So we went straight to The Catacombes, where it was nice and cool. I could have stayed down there all day. Except for, you know, all the dead people.
Meanwhile, out in the country, the temperature rose to an Help me, I'm melting mind numbing 115°F (I think that was with a thermometer in direct sunlight, but you get the drift - it was freakin' hot!). We found a little relief in a local lake, but other than that, it was "suck it up and deal with it."
While I got to go home after a week to my air conditioned apartment, the vast majority of French people didn't have that luxury, as air conditioning - especially in private homes - is extremely rare. Normally, the temperature tops out at about 80°F and it's quite a bit cooler at night, so there generally isn't a need.
According to this article, nearly 15,000 people died. The majority of people that died were elderly. Clearly somebody dropped the ball in looking after these folks.
Oh, and the freezers? Also, more rare than you might think. Here is a picture of the fridge we bought last month, which is considered pretty large here. Many folks just have what we Americans would consider a dorm-sized fridge, because of the preference to buy fresh food.
The government responded to the crisis by handing out Evian spray bottles to all the elderly to keep cool, in case of another heat wave this year. As you can imagine, the French responded with a "Hey, yeah, thanks" eyeroll, and the issue was lambasted on the political satire tv show, Les Guignols de l'Info.
So, there's your answer in a nutshell. I'm sure I've left a lot of points out, and maybe some folks who were actually here for more than a week last year can weigh in?
As for now, I've got to go run my cold cold fingers under some hot water. I had hoped talking about the heat wave would warm me up, but, alas, no. It's freakin' cold here!