Thursday, September 9, 2010
Let There Be Light
We've lived in several French apartments and, with one exception, they've been underlit. I've been told that because electricity costs are so high in France people tend to use the lowest amount of wattage they can to light their homes. The number of 25 watt and 40 watt bulbs sold in this country is astounding. Last year we actually had to go out and buy three lamps, one of them a halogen torchére, to get what we considered adequate light to live by. We read, for heaven's sake!
Not only are there a zillion different sizes and shapes of light bulbs here, but there must be an equal zillion different bases. Unlike the US, where virtually every incandescent bulb base fits into virtually every socket, here there are multiple sizes and multiple functionalities. Some are the typical 3/4 inch screw-ins just like the ones at home. Some are thinner, 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch screw-ins. Some don't have screw bases at all and are designed to click-in and twist into place.
When you need to replace bulbs around here it's imperative that you take the old one with you, or you'll never get the right one. Le Bazar de l'Electricité is an incredible resource of last resort for all this that we came across last year on Boulevard Henri IV near the Bastille. I think they have every bulb and lamp base ever produced in France.
In this pretty little apartment there is one good strong lamp in the salon and we switched out the 25 watt bulbs in the wall sconces for 40 watts. We put last year's halogen torchére in the study, where we can now see to read and write. The bedside lamps are now strong enough to let us read in bed, with their new brighter bulbs. The bathroom lights, which were were totally inadequate for putting on make-up that wouldn't scare passersby on the street, have been augmented to the max, while remaining within the safety range noted on the fixtures.
When we moved in we didn't notice until the second night that there was virtually no artificial light in the kitchen. The greenhouse roof leaves little room for light fixtures and the two on the walls had, you guessed it, 40 watt bulbs. Cooking in this shadowy environment wasn't going to be fun. Our nice landlady brought over a couple of lamps which we equipped with 60 watt bulbs and we swapped out the 40 watts on the wall for 60s as well. I can now wield a knife without worrying about losing a finger in the process. We're all set for the dark winter days to come.