France is in the grip of a icy spell and will remain so for up to 10 days. In fact next Tuesday, people in Paris will wake up to temperatures that feel like a glacial -13 degrees centigrade with the wind chill factor.
However bad that may seem, it’s a balmy walk in the park compared to some of the frosty temperatures France has recorded over the past 150 years.
Here's a look at the coldest places in France according to the history books counting down from 10 to 1.
10. Nancy (Meurthe-et-Moselle), December 8,1879. −30 °C (−22 °F)
We wouldn’t blame you for thinking that a city in the full swing of industrialization wouldn’t make this list. But the beautiful town of Nancy in central eastern France, famed for its Place Stanislas, recorded a crippling -30 degrees in 1879. According to Méteo Paris, that was one of the harshest winters in French history.
9. Morbier (Jura), January 13, 1968. −30 °C (−22 °F)
Known for once being the production hub of the classic Comtoise clocks, the small village of Morbier in Jura took the crown for the coldest place in France in 1968 with an ear-burning -30 degrees. Ouch!
8. Chamonix, (Haute Savoie) January 1, 1905 −31 °C (−24 °F)
When your full town name includes the highest peak in Western Europe (Mont Blanc) on its coat of arms, it’s perhaps no surprise that you make it onto this subzero ranking.
Chamonix, or Chamonix Mont Blanc, is a picture-perfect commune in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and one of the oldest ski resorts in France. Back in 1905, residents rang in the New Year with a hyperthermia-inducing -31 degrees centigrade.
7. Lempdes (Puy de Dôme), February 14, 1929 −31 °C (−24 °F)
Residents of the tiny commune of Lempdes had even more reason to succumb to a “great depression” in 1929 when they registered a finger numbing -31 degrees centigrade in February of that year.
Just outside of Clermont Ferrand – slap bang in the middle of L’Hexagone – Lempdes is in fact the second most westerly location to make the freeze list.
6. Granges-Sainte-Marie (Doubs), January 2, 1971, −31 °C (−24 °F)
The third place on our list to see the mercury hit −31 °C and one of many in the top 10 located in the the department of Doubs, in eastern France (see map) which we can safely call the coldest department in France.
Doubs, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté is inland and far from the sea meaning it has a what's called a continental climate meaning hot summers and cold winters. It is also fairly elevated which also explains the icy temperatures.
Langres (Haute Marne), December 10, 1879 −33 °C (−27 °F)
Further north in the department of Haute-Marne is the commune of Langres. In the terrible winter of 1879, “where a cold front of polar air turned French cities into Baltic ones” this small commune saw the second lowest temperature in France during that dreariest of Decembers, -33 degrees centigrade.
Gelles (Puy-de-Dôme), February 14, 1929, −35 °C (−31 °F)
Aptly named Gelles or “Freezes” in English (although the French verb has just one “l”), this village in central France registered the coldest temperature in the country during the frosty February of 1929: -35 degrees centigrade. Skinny-dipping, anyone?
Saint Dié (Vosges), December 10, 1879, −37 °C (−35 °F)
The whole of northern France was under snow in December 1879, but Saint Dié in Vosges was the coldest place on the whole map. Does a teeth-gnashing – 37 degrees warrant a day off work under the covers? We definitely hope so!
Chappelle-des-Bois (Doubs), January 17, 1985, −39 °C (−38 °F)
Residents in the tiny village of Chappelle-des-Bois, which in English translates to wooden chapel, may have indeed used the church the commune is named after to take refuge on France’s coldest ever recorded day: January 17, 1985.
Mouthe (Doubs), January 17, 1985, −41 °C (−42 °F)
Just a 20-minute drive from Chappelle-des-Bois is Mouthe, officially the coldest place in France…ever! Known as “Little Siberia” (La Petite Sibérie) to the locals, it registered a truly apocalyptic -41 degrees on that fateful January 17, 1985.
And freezing temperatures are quite clearly not just a once off. The village, a stone’s throw from the Swiss border, is located between two mountains, which means the cold air tends to gather if there's no wind about to push it away.
Residents can regularly be seen on skis or on ice skates as the village lake freezes over.
“It's a dry kind of cold, it doesn't penetrate,” one resident told The Local.
Good at least to know they’re used to it!
By Alex Dunham