Travel: Autumn is the New Summer
Move your dream trips to autumn when temperatures return to moderate. That is if you are not tied into the school calendar! Women traveling this Summer are meeting a new challenge: extreme heat. These hot temperatures reach as North as the British Isles and Ireland and linger for long times around the Mediterranean. This past July was the hottest on record. More than 23 cities in Italy reached over 100 F. The big question for the travel industry is, “Will summer remain peak season for world travel?” If so, how will we manage it?
There are a few things to know about surviving heat in Europe. If they have it at all, hotels generally offer climate control. Climate control cools but it is not the same as air conditioning. You find the usual controls on your hotel room wall; but you cannot lower the temperature much beyond 70. The wall might say 15C (59 F) but your room will stay around 70. Close your curtains when you leave the room to keep out sunlight. Your mini bar will also be weakly cool.
Hallways, elevators, public spaces in European hotels might not have Climate Control or any cooling machinery. The pleasure of outdoor cafes in extreme heat is unpleasurable. Major venues for ballet, theater, sports might not be cooled. And magnificent church concerts in Paris or London only chill a bit with stone walls and floors. Recently some sites were closed due to the heat: the Acropolis is one which was closed. Do homework to locate the venues that do have a cooling system. My experience in London is most theaters are air conditioned, even to a frigid level, if they are not full. Museums less so, Victorian ceilings and wide passageways are hard to cool. In museums the emphasis might be humidity first, cooling second.
To cool yourself down, here are a few suggestions. Yes, women can wear shorts in Europe, minus churches. Shorts in religious buildings are fine if you cover your legs with a scarf. Skimpy dresses might also be acceptable if you toss a scarf around your neck and shoulders. Loose-fitting cotton and light-colored sneakers help; a hat is a must. And water bottle filled to the brim, a life saver.
Walk in the shade, an obvious suggestion. Not so obvious is to ask politely for your tour guide to do the same while they are talking to you. Guides can get carried away with information and needed speed. Facing a major site like the Louvre, there are plenty of covered ways to dodge into. Standing in the Roman Forum, less so. Stand on grass if possible; concrete retains the heat.
Don’t be ashamed to pop into an air-conditioned store or supermarket, for a breather. Or toss a Renaissance fountain’s water onto your face. As you will be drinking a lot more water, again don’t be ashamed to ask a restaurant if you can a/ use the toilets or b/ just have a glass of tap water. Tap water is the ‘regular water’ word in the UK, for other languages, make your own list, to avoid buying bottled water daytime and at meals. Worst scenario is buy that water. If you want ice, you get 1-2 cubes; Americans are known to be ice fanatics.
If touring on your own, move the itinerary and do the active touring in the morning. Enjoy your long lunch (this is vacation, right?), then reemerge when the sun is lower. European restaurants do not rush you as they do in the US. Linger as long as you wish; rarely will a waiter nudge you to finish up. We had coffee in Milan in a gorgeous coffee bar. We sat for 45 minutes admiring the crowds and street life; no wait staff approached us to move on. We actually had to flag down the staff for our check.
Finally, there is the wildfire smoke from Canada, Greece, Portugal etc. Here your job is to monitor government emergency blasts and your own health. And transportation can be affected. Possibly due to heat, my flight from Pisa to Amsterdam was ‘too heavy’ and 10 passengers were moved to another flight. Train tracks, sidewalks and roads can buckle.
A last note: watch that your smart phone is not in direct sunlight; it too can stop working if it is too hot so you cannot even complain to anyone. And as I found out, my hip money belt with the metallic sheen was in fact woven with metal. It felt like a frying pan after time in the sun in Lake Maggiore.