What To Wear In Winter?

photo: morning r daguerre

Early last Thursday, the weather was like this.
Dress accordingly.

Paris Weather In Winter

Email from Paul Babbitt, writing from Bloomfield, New Jersey. Sent via the Internet: Friday, 19.November 1999:-

Okay, you seem to be a guy who is interested in weather, and thus likely to take my question seriously, even though I know you cannot really answer it.

My wife and I are planning to come to Paris in January -from the 8th to the 15th, to be precise - and I was wondering what I can expect as far asphoto: chestnut roaster weather goes. I've looked at your 'zine for your descriptions of January '99 and '98, and it seems that the weather is quite variable.

Some people like roasted chestnuts. Other people think they smell like buring shoelaces.

But what is it really like? Is it okay during the day, but bitterly cold at night?

Is this winter expected to be colder, warmer, or wetter than normal?

Is it true that Paris is paralyzed by a few centimeters of snow?

And, what are our chances of great weather in Paris, while shortly before we are supposed to return, and major blizzards paralyzes the Northeast US, thus extending my stay in Paris by two or three days? Quel dommage!

Finally, what kind of hat should I wear?

Paul Babbitt©1999
Unofficial Paris Prediction for January

Bonjour Paul -

Paris:- Sunday, 21. November 1999:- I am only 'interested in the weather' on days when I have to go out in it; a bit like a farmer. For 'Metropole Paris,' it can make a difference to the photos - I don't want gloomy photos for a sunny feature.

In the weather predicting department, I say the same things as the professionals in the business - and I don't mean the TV-weather news lady. I say the weather 'will be such and such, plus/minus 500 kilometres.' This is the 'metric system,' but it is similar to the 'free flyer miles' system.

It is good you have asked me about the 'possible' weather in January, because we have this 'possible' weather right now. Last night in Paris, it was below freezing and today's high is expected to be one degree centigrade - which is, of course, also on the metric system.

Taking a wild guess, it might be equivalent to 33 1/2 on the 'F' or 'inch' system.

Snow blew up the Rhône valley yesterday, trapping hundreds of cars, trucks and buses around Montélimar. The autoroute's cleverly thought-out 'snow plan' did not work, so more and more cars, trucks and buses blithely drove into it to get stuck too. As much as 30 centimetres of snow fell.

The good news is, alpine ski stations opened in the Pyrenées yesterday so some people could have a good time. The bad news is, this weather system crossed the area of last week's 'Hurricane Aude,' which is about the last thing needed in that area.

Today's temperature of near-freezing in Paris is probably lower than what is 'normal' for January. Because it is winter, the high-low range is not much - from low to high, you can expect a range of five or six degrees.

The problem arises when the outside temperature is - say zero - and the underground métro or inside temperatures are 20; which effectively makes a 20-degree difference.

If you are dressed properly for being outside in zero degrees, you also need to plan how to 'undress' for being inside.

Normally I would suggest a medium sweater with a wind-cheater coat or raincoat; for 'normal' January weather. Forphoto: metro harve caumartin weather like today's, I would rise the coat factor to maximum. But it depends on how sensitive you are to cold.

If you wear a full complement of hat, scarf, gloves, thick socks and shoes with warm soles, then you can probably get away with a lighter coat.

If the street is too chilly, dive into the underground métro.

Whatever you wear, you will be wearing it in the métro if you use it. Unlike restaurants and some museums, there is no place to hang your coat while underground.

Really cold weather seldom lasts long in Paris; except for the exceptions - and nobody can predict these in advance.

TV-weather news ladies in France now run five-day forecasts; but they often 'hide' France Météo's supplied probability factor, which is usually '40-percent' possible, plus-minus the usual 500 kilometres - which they never mention.

Really long-range forecasting is total fantasy. The TV-weather news ladies often say tomorrow's temperatures will be above or below 'normal.' They never actually say what 'normal' is; and for actual forecasted temperatures, they tend to be vague as well. They are just numbers on a map of France - one without place-names.

And, the TV people never say what the temperatures were or really are. If you don't have a good memory, you never know if yesterday's forecast was correct. Thermometre sales are quite high in France.

January weather is usually gloomy and near freezing. If the sun comes out it can be very bright, but will probably mean colder temperatures.

What To Wear In January

As a visitor to Paris, you will not be expected to run a sidewalk-cleaning machine on the Champs-Elysées. You can instead go into any restaurant, cinema, shopping mall or café to get out of the cold. Museums, salons and other exhibitions are well-heated too.

All in all, cold weather may make long-time, long-distance, strolling around Paris less than perfectly comfortable - but it won't stop you from being able to see a lot of it anyway. Sightseeing buses and the bateaux mouches are available. Concorde's promised 'giant wheel' will have enclosed, heated, cabins.

Snow in the streets of Paris may slow up traffic on wheels but it never hinders métro operations. Snow on irregular sidewalks and cobble-stone streets definitely make walking trickier than when there is no snow. Don't wear very high-heeled shoes.

Finally the hat. I see more and more people wearing Turkish or Russian-style caps, with or without ear flaps. Other people wear various sorts of knitted ski caps, which can be pulled down over the ears.

I wear a '50's style brimmed felt hat or a '20's style wool cap, calledphoto: printemps window a 'casque.' Some people wear berets, which is about the same thing. These soft hats can be slipped into coat sleeves when the coat is checked, or hung up.

Even if this shop is poorly heated, it will have foie gras. 'Since 1936.'

Headgear is better than an umbrella because it does not rain much in Paris and your head carries whatever is on it - leaving your hands free. Not having an umbrella also makes it impossible to lose.

You are right to be concerned by the possibility of paralyzing winter blizzards in the United States - or in Russia! - just as you are about to leave Paris. Your solution to stay here longer is the correct one; unless you can arrange a flight to the Canaries, Brazil or Australia.
signature, regards, ric

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