“C’est pas Versailles, ici!” (We are not in Versailles!)
How many times did I hear this sentence while growing up in France? Whether it came from my father, my grandmother or any other adult, I knew what it meant: Turn off the lights when leaving a room. Save energy. Be frugal.
It’s a well-known fact Louis XIV (the Sun King) and his successors could afford to burn through thousands of candles each day. Versailles was, after all, the land of excess, shine and glitter. Others, of course, could starve and live in the dark around the country.
As an adult, I lived in an American suburban château for over 15 years (to a Parisian, the average North American abode often feels like a château.) There, in a peaceful affluent neighborhood outside Seattle, few people seemed to mind as lights were turned on daily in the evenings (often set on timers) revealing spacious and comfortable interiors.
At Halloween or during the Holidays, as I walked my dog around the block, I discreetly peeked at neighbors’ extravagantly decorated homes and often admonished silently: “C’est pas Versailles ici!”
The sight of the first water-bill we received after watering our 1-acre yard thanks to a 20-zone sprinkler system made me exclaim once again: “C’est pas Versailles ici!”
My American-born son may have heard me say this on more than one occasion too. I hope he remembers.
This year in Europe, the popular expression has taken on an entire new meaning (and relevance) as the French authorities are asking us to be mindful of our energy consumption.
They recommend most homes are only heated to 19C (66 F) during the day, and 17C (63F) at night. Apparently, it’s good for us.
Oh, and turtlenecks are back in fashion. Several politicians have been mocked mercilessly after proudly exhibiting theirs and trying to teach us a (fashion?) lesson.
The threat if we don’t comply, are astronomical energy bills (not an unusual occurrence in this country) and the risk of power outages in the winter.
Non, c’est pas Versailles ici.
I suppose I’d better dust off my favorite turtlenecks and follow in the Sun King’s footsteps. Let them burn (environmentally-friendly) candles!
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