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Entries from December 2013

choper la creve

Chair looking out to sea (c) Kristin Espinasse
A new year is right around the corner. In case we don't talk before then, please have a seat in this special chair and take a moment to think about what will make you smile in 2014. May you figure out what it is that brings you contentment--and then spread that peace and happiness among friends and family in the coming year!

And now, for a less inspirational topic, today's word...

choper la crève (show-pay-lah-krev)

    : to catch a cold

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A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse


J'ai chopé la crève! That's street French for I've caught a cold. I tried everything to prevent it, including these tips:

Respirer par le nez
Did you know the nose has a powerful filter? When next you travel on an airplane or in a confined space--a bus or a car or the metro--and people are coughing and blowing their noses.... shut your mouth and breathe through your nose!Respirez par le nez! 

Garde tes microbes!
"Keep your germs!" A stunning thing to say to the approaching hackers and the sneezers--but it'll cause an immediate about turn. :-) 

Penser positivement
It helps to think good thoughts, such as "I never catch my husband's colds!" Believe it when you say it, even if you begin to sniffle and the back of your throat seems itchy....

Lacher prise
Let go and allow yourself some needed goof off time. Don't think about the administrative paperwork, don't stress about the perfect blog post, and, especially, eat all the comfort food you want ("feed a cold starve a fever." Thank God you don't have a fever!)

  Vespa in badalucco italy
Leaving you, now, with a photo that expresses what the new year can be about: a journeying out 

Comments
To comment on this post click here. I'd love to read your words--just after I crawl back under the covers with this cold, a warm mug of coffee by my side! What is one of the things you would like to do in 2014? Click here to comment.

Sponsor's message:
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Photos in today's post were taken during family vacations to Croatia (top photo) and, last weekend, Badalucco, Italy. Has a friend forwarded you this French word journal? Click here to receive your own free subscription

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
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"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


A Deeply Meaningful French Word

Provencal shelter (c) Kristin Espinasse
Stripped of decorum, this old shed still offers shelter against the biting wind.

Have you ever heard an old word as if for the first time? Your ears ring and you are seized by meaning--when a humble old mot causes a lump in your throat.

mangeoire (mahn-zhwar) noun, feminine

  1.  trough, manger (animals) ; feeding dish (birds)
  2.  crèche (Christ child's crib)

Audio File 
Hear today's French word and proverb: Download mp3 or Wav

           Cheval affamé nettoie sa mangeoire.
            A starving horse cleans its trough.


 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Reading to my Francophone children in their native tongue is a humbling, sometimes humiliating experience—not only for the "pronunciation pause" (kid-issued breaks in which I must stop reading in order to repeat a French word that I have tripped up on), but also for the words that I still do not know, both French and in English!

Thankfully, not all readings are cause for reprimand. De temps en temps, there are eye-opening moments when suddenly, more than a word making sense, the world seems to take on new meaning as well.

It was while reading a chapter called "The birth..." or "La naissance de Jésus" to my daughter that I suddenly felt a lump in my throat and a sting in my eyes. An English word with which I've had but a yearly encounter—usually during the holiday season—suddenly defined itself as its French counterpart moved up my vocal chords and exited in a French chorus of sound and meaning. The text preceding the word (indicated in bold, below) only served to set the dramatic stage:

Là, dans la saleté et entre les animaux, elle mit son bébé au monde. Puis elle l'enveloppa chaudement et, comme il n'y avait pas de berceau, elle le déposa dans une mangeoire pour qu'il puisse dormir...

"There, in the filth and between the animals, she brought her baby into the world. Then she wrapped him warmly and, as there was no cradle, she put him down in a feeding trough so that he could sleep."

Replacing the word "manger" with "feeding trough", its equivalent, gives the account an even more heartrending effect: "manger" is poetic... while "feeding trough" effectively evokes the brutal bed that was the only resting place for the delicate newborn.

                                        *     *     *

As for those instances of humiliation—whether in fumbling through French text before a ten-year-old... or in the stories I have lived that will never be told—my mind now calls up a peaceful bergerie, wherein an unspoiled baby would come to suffer all humility—this, instead of me.

 

French Vocabulary

de temps en temps = from time to time
La Naissance de Jésus = The Birth of Jesus (from the book "Grande Bible Pour Les Enfants," Chantecler edition)
la bergerie (f) = shelter (sheepfold)
une étoile = star 


Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 

kaki or persimmon tree (c) Kristin Espinasse
The kaki, or persimmon tree, at Cousin Sabine's. We're on our way there now to celebrate Noël.

Peace on Earth--sometimes it seems like an impossible dream. If you are reading this note, join in now to strengthen this universal wish for peace.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


A Christmas story filled with French words

Pointu boats in Bandol, decorated in Christmas lights (c) Kristin Espinasse at French-word-a-day.com

I have a little gift for you today. The gift of language. Today's word of the day--make that "words" of the day, for there are many here--is in the story below. You'll also learn about this photo--snapped December 19th in the town of Bandol.

 


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse


Driving round and round the seaside town of Bandol, I heard a faint mumbling beneath my breath: 

"But of course there's no parking--everyone's set out to do their gift shopping just like you!"

Stalled at yet another crosswalk, herds of shoppers passing by my car, coats and purses scraping against my headlights, I looked up at the giant Santa. He seemed as troubled as I (just look at those eyes!).

Claras war

Troubled and nervous! With the rain pouring down on my windshield, I proceeded to the next stop--and yet another crosswalk. It was tricky to see the pedestrians--given their knack for appearing from behind dark corners and landing in the middle of the street! 

With stress and frustration mounting, I had an urge to peel out of traffic and head for a quiet place to wait things out. I had one hour until my daughter's school bus arrived. Instead of using it wisely (to hunt for presents), I could use it indulgently (to pout!).

Now was a good time for a pep talk!

Look, there's a fishing and tackle store! You'd never have seen it if it weren't for this parking dilemma! You're sure to find something for Jean-Marc in there... One less thing to worry about! See what happens when you consider the bright side of things? GOOD happens!

My emotions jumped from despair to the very heady feeling I had now--that of espoir! Hope born of humility--for isn't that how it works? Put aside doubt (Will I ever find a gift?) and pride (And not just any gift--the perfect gift!) and intolerance (why am I not finding parking NOW)--and experience grace!

Grace indeed! Not only did a parking spot appear, but so did a peaceful and inspiring scene! I locked my car door and hurried over to the dock, just a few feet away, to snap a photo of some old fishing boats. Pointus! Their little masts were lined with Christmas lights.

The scene! And the colors! That blue, that gold. It was right out of a Van Gogh Starry Night painting.

I pulled my new Smartphone out of my coat pocket and approached the line of boats. Clicking on the camera app I knew chances were slim, this time, that a grumpy homeowner would pop out of one of those port windows and scold me for filming

With my umbrella teetering on my shoulder, my hands were free to take several pictures before turning toward the boutique-lined streets, opposite the port.

My former cares had completely fallen away as I marched down the street to collect Jean-Marc's gift. I still had no idea what the gift was, but felt confident of finding it in the tackle shop I'd spotted while stuck in traffic. And to think what a pathetic doubter I'd been! All it had taken was a slight tweak to my attitude. How well I'd handled that! How wise I had become! 

Rounding the corner I stopped dead in my hi-falutin' tracks. Oh no! The tackle store was closed!

C'est pas vrai! Now what to do? That old familiar grumbling returned, a little more colorful than before--as echoed in the words of the grumpy shoppers who passed me by: "@$#! Why are shops closing at 5pm, days before Christmas?!"

 Yes! Dagnabbit! Why indeed? Now what was *I* to do?

As I stared at the cobblestone pavement, watching puddles form where pavers were missing, a little inkling came along--hoppity hop hop--like a one-legged bird.

The little inkling said: "Excuse me, Mam, but maybe you need to retake The Test?"

"The Test?"

"Yes, Mam," Little Inkling said, reaching for the toe of my boot to balance his one-legged self. "See, so far it's been easy. You remembered to slow down, to breathe. You readjusted your attitude. You gleefully snapped up that parking spot and enjoyed the impressionistic scene just beyond it... but somewhere between there and here you--if you don't mind my saying--somewhere along the line you got a little sidetracked.

Distracted?

I thought back to all those shoppers I'd skipped past... and that smug feeling I had at being the one person around here who knew just where she was headed! How impatient I'd become when that slowpoke (the one back there with the sagging bonnet and cane) dawdled in front of the chemiserie, blocking my way to the tackle store! 

A tackle store that was now closed! Shoot! If I'd only sped it up a bit, I'd have made it in time!

"No!" said Little Inkling, hopping excitedly around my foot. "That's not the answer."

"Well, what IS the answer?" 

As Little Inkling and I stood debating, the one towering over the other, SlowPoke--with her saggy bonnet and noisy cane--had eclipsed us! She hobbled up the street, the picture of perseverance.

Looking back down to Mr. Inkling, I laughed. "Well, I thought I'd learned to trust in the outcome. But now that this store is closed, it's true--I'm riddled with doubt again! How will I ever finish my Christmas shopping on time? I guess now's the real test--to trust another opportunity will soon appear."

(Here, Little Inkling cleared his throat...)

"Oh yes," I remembered, "And, meantime, to be patient with others along the way!"

"Très bien!" the little one-footed creature said. And, turning his beak up the path, my eyes followed his gesture until I saw a glowing light in the quincaillerie, or hardware store.

"Aha! I have just the idea for Jean-Marc! Oh, thank you, Little Inkling! Thank you!"

I hurried up the street, pausing cautiously at the crosswalk. As I stood looking left, right, and left again, ever the prudent American, someone leaped off the curb from behind me, landing right in the middle of the street!

I shook my head in appreciation, watching as SlowPoke traversed the rue, just like any French pedestrian worth her salt. Crippled or not, they sure know how to stop traffic!

Post note: the names of the characters in today's story have been changed, in respect of their privacy. But I can share with you their professions:

  • "Little Inkling" is a spokesperson for the non-profit "A Fish's Rights!" (spends his weeknights in front of the tackle shop, distracting would-be shoppers!).
  • "SlowPoke"-- she's a B-movie stuntwoman and a seamstress at the chemisier. 
  • The character known as "Kristin" goes by "The Birthday Girl" in real life--or at least on Sunday--when she'll turn 46! 

All three wayward souls wish you happy holidays--may the coming week bring you peace and joy! Thank you for reading and for all the encouragement you have sent me in 2013. I hope these stories encourage you, too.



Selected vocabulary

la quincaillerie = hardware store
l'espoir = hope
un pointu = classic Mediterranean fishing boat
c'est pas vrai! = No way!
la chemiserie = shirt shop


Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 

1-IMG_20131219_165709

Picture taken up the street from the tack shop. My perfect birthday gift would be for all those chairs to be filled with those who read and enjoy this blog! Let's see about a meet-up here, in the new year!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


laquelle

1-DSC_0460
Holiday progress report: I haven't begun to look for the santons (pictured last year)--and the box of ornaments is still waiting to be unpacked. Doubtful things will come together this season, but I do know where to find the recipe for this cake! Meantime, a story for you today about writing... and how to tell all those stories you've got up your sleeve--in one fell swoop

laquelle (lah-kel)

    : which

  • Laquelle is the feminine form of "lequel."
  • la raison pour laquelle = the reason for which
  • dans laquelle = in which

Audio File: listen to this sentence:  MP3 or Wav

Il faut écrire une histoire--mais laquelle?
(I) need to write a story--but which one?


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Some nights I am badgered by that old foe, Angoisse. I know I'm not alone, that all over the world people are anxious about tomorrow. For some that may be a school exam, for others, a nagging problem at work or a visit with the doctor. For me, it is the blank page. What will I write about tomorrow?

 

I've trained myself to not think too much about the next day's effort. Why cut short today? Tomorrow will take care of itself! This is especially true regarding creative pursuits: best not to plan too much, otherwise you are forcing the scene. For what if--instead of your sled of huskies--a team of reindeer comes dancing onto the stage? IN A SLEIGH!

One must always be open to reindeer!

Still, I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve before firing up my computer and facing a giant and empty screen. So in the middle of the night I sometimes wake up--nagged by my familiar tormentor. Her name is "Laquelle" and her mission is to turn me back into a wall-starer, instead of the writer I've become.

Laquelle (or "which" in French--and boy is she ever one of those!) likes to taunt me with her namesake question, "Which one? Which story you gonna tell today, Big Shot?" She snaps her gum and waits for my answer.

And I fall for it every time. "I... well I could tell the story about Sunday's photo outing in the town of Céyreste! I could write about how scary it is to point my camera at the buildings after being chewed out by French homeowners. And how, pushing past this fear--lifting my camera to a decorous second story window--I glanced a scene just beneath it: there behind the glass doors of a senior center, a room full of elderly people were smiling sweetly at me--amused by the scene outside their window.  

 "Cute..." interrupts Laquelle, in her sarcastic way. "Anything else up your sleeve? Haven't you got a better story, Ms. Writer?"

"Well, there's the one I've been meaning to tell--tentatively titled "Five Bucks"--about losing my mouth guard in Phoenix. I was sure my sister's sheepdogs ate it... But, giving the dogs the benefit of the doubt, I offered my niece and nephew "5 bucks if you find my tooth guard anywhere in the house!"

Driving the kids to school the next day, my sister inquired about the hunt. "Any luck?"

Hopeful, I turned to have a look at the little faces in the back seat, but all I saw were shaking heads.

"No worries," Heidi said, a mischievous grin on her face. "I'll check the crottes when I clean up the yard!"

"Ew! Yuck! Beurk!" The kids and I cringed.

"Hey," said my sister. "Five bucks is five bucks!"

*    *    *

"That's a disgusting story," Laquelle says, twisting her face. No one wants to hear it--especially at breakfast time!"

"But my sister was only kidding!" I argue. 

Laquelle points to the clock on my nightstand: 2:36 a.m. "Maybe you'll get your act together by tomorrow?"

"Aha! I know one! I could tell about my 16-year-old's good news! As a part of her fashion school curriculum, Jackie was required to find un stage, or internship, at a fashion designer's--one who manufactures their own line of clothing. What luck it was when a good friend put her in touch with a hip boutique in Marseilles. She'll begin her 6-week training this spring!" 

"Is that all you got?" Laquelle, puffed, blowing on her just painted fingernails--and looking horribly bored.

"Well, it's just a sketch--I'd have to fill in all the details. Like how beautiful Jackie looked in her black and white equestrian themed top (a steal at the second-hand shop!), black pants, a thick knitted scarf--her hair tied up in a floppy bun!"

"No one likes a braggy mom," countered Laquelle, who had quit drying her nails in time to catch a great big yawn.

Gosh, it had to be 3 three a.m. by now. As I tossed and turned in bed, haunted by fragments of stories, an idea came at last.

"Knitting! I haven't yet talked about how I relearned to knit on the cruise last month! Another passenger--Celia--and I stopped into a cozy yarn boutique in Rouen, picked out several skeins and a pair of those circular needles. "These will make it easy for you," Celia said, agreeing to teach me. 

This began a series of knitting sessions--held in the ship's cocktail lounge. Julie and Nan joined us and--while other passengers were toasting with champagne--we were clinking needles!"

"But knitting's not cool," Laquelle said, patting me on the head with her still-wet nails. "Why don't you take up silk-screening like your sister-in-law. Now that's cool!"

 "Cool?"

My questioning put the little devil on my shoulder in defense mode: "Look," Laquelle said, "you want to share a story tomorrow but all you have are a bunch of scraps! Besides, you can't even decide which one to work on. And how do you know that you'll choose the right one?"

For once, Laquelle had a point. Which experience was worth recounting? To answer this question, it would take another, more meaningful question. The Big Question:

Why do you write?

I'm not sure of the answer. For one, I write to entertain--myself and others. In this case, any of the above story fragments could work....

And then I write to record my life. For this, I should choose the story of my daughter's first internship--a milestone! And also the story of "delivery"--in which a room of white-haired spectators smiled and, unbeknownst to them, encouraged a wayward photographer.

The dog-eats-mouthguard and knitting stories are more whimsical. They aren't for everyone, but they are fun and challenging to write. (Yes, for the challenge--perhaps this is one more reason to wake up and face the blank page each day.)

Perhaps it isn't so important to know why we do what we do. What's necessary--truly vital--is to follow that creative urge, to take it to wherever it leads you.

teddy bear window in Ceyreste
What encouraging looks were waiting, inside the senior center just below, as I trained my camera on this window!


Comments
To respond to this story, click here. Can you think of more reasons to practice an art? How do you push past your resistance to get started with a project? Which of the above stories would you most like to see developed? Add to the discussion here.

Selected Vocabulary
la crotte = dog doo
beurk! = yuck! 

 

1-DSC_0052
I'd like to plant some cabbage beneath our window today. Oh, and I'd like the dogs to stop barking at the sheep--they have barked during this entire writing episode! WHOOF WHOOF. WHOOF WHOOF! I can't hear my thoughts! But one more thing I tell myself about writing is this: to persevere amidst the noise and chaos and incessant interruption is a writer's badge of courage! 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


how to say sunset in French?

1-coucher du soleil

Parasol pines and the sunset over the Mediterranean, at Le Port d'Alon in St Cyr-sur-Mer.

coucher du soleil (kew-shay-dew-sow-lay)

    : sunset

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc 
Download MP3 or Wav file

Ce soir à Bandol, le coucher du soleil est à 16h56.
Tonight in Bandol, the sunset is at 4:56 p.m.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I felt guilty taking Smokey for the walk this time--after all, it was Braise's turn. Ideally I could promener both dogs, but golden retrievers are strong engines and it's difficult to control two leashes hooked to that much dog power!

"It's okay, Braise, we'll be back--with dinner!" I say, hurrying Smokey into my car--as though we were only going for take-out food. But Braise is sharper than both of us, she's nobody's fool. Because she is a gourmande, or foodie, she'll turn a blind eye on things this time--just as long as we return in half an hour with dinner!

I feel horrible backing out of our driveway, Smokey by my side. I know it's wrong to show favoritism, and I never set out to prefer one dog over the other. But every since our youngest golden was attacked by two dogs, I can't help but feel for him. Every single time I see his pendant tongue--dried like cardboard from constant contact with the air, I'm reminded of his misfortune. 

Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs
       Braise fiercely protected her son when he was attacked, years ago.

Walking is therapy for both of us. Hiking through the coastal forest we are free to explore our surroundings, both literally and figuratively (Smokey likes to sniff out those "marked" rocks, while I'm busy turning over pebbles in my mind. I know the answers are under there, somewhere. Come here often enough, and I'll find the hidden keys).

Occasionally we encounter another hiker and I automatically call Smokey close, putting on his leash. I wouldn't want the stranger to feel uncomfortable or afraid. Of course there is no reason to fear Smokey, but how could a stranger know that? By pulling my dog close, I can at least put the other person at ease.

But what about my dog? What kind of message am I giving him? Have I only been reinforcing the fear I'd hoped to erase? "Smokey, come here!" I say, chaining him whenever a stranger approaches. I wonder, now, just what kind of message this is to the former victim.

1-coucher du soleil - smokey

The leash-or-not-to-leash question came up several months ago, while hiking my favorite coastal path. Braise (for it was Braise I was walking this time--I assure you it was!), yes it was Braise's turn to walk the day we encountered an elderly man and his unleashed boxer dog.

Noting Braise's excitement, the man offered a solution: "Why don't you unhook her from the leash?"

I watched, amazed, as Braise immediately dropped her intimidating act (restrained while her would-be-foe was free to attack--she had no choice but to pretend to be something bigger than him. In this case she was pretending to be a grizzly bear!). 

The experienced worked that time, but here now--as Smokey and I approached the last leg of our walk, I spotted another leashless dog....

It seemed to be a labrador-boxer mix. Did he or she belong to the lovers who were blocking the trail? I tried to get eye contact, but the couple was unfazed as they stood, bodies entangled, staring out to the horizon.

"Excuse me," I said, getting more nervous by the moment (yet careful not to transfer my emotions to Smokey). "Is that your dog?"

The couple's trance was temporarily broken when the man looked over at the black and gray dog. "No. I don't know who it belongs to." The lovers returned to their peaceful embrace, as they gazed out to sea.

Meantime Smokey and I needed to step past them and that unpredictable dog just beyond! In a ready-set-charge mode I seized Smokey's leash, ready to streak past the catatonic trio (the dog's eyes were trained eerily on us!). 

Suddenly the man turned to me and raised his hand. "Shhh!" he said, putting his finger to his lips.

Shhh? 

Shhh! he repeated, and he smiled as he pointed to the horizon. I turned to see a dark orange disk sinking slowly into the sea. 

"Qu'est-ce que c'est beau!" It's beautiful! said another voice drifting up from the hillside. I looked down to discover another group of hikers, eyes glued to the far side of the sky. They whispered in awe as they, too, watched the sun set over the Mediterranean. 

With everyone standing there goo-goo eyed--bodies flushed with the drug of scenery--I realized, finally, this was no time to be on a mission! My eyes disconnected from the threatening dog, settling instead on the coucher de soleil. I gently turned Smokey's head in the same direction, before kneeling beside him to enjoy Nature's closing act.

When the sun disappeared behind the sea, the strangers began to look around at each other, in unspoken appreciation of what they had just seen. That's when I noticed the "scary" black dog. It had quietly wandered up to Smokey and me, to rest peacefully beside us.

As the strangers dispersed, so did a few more of my fears. Little by little, they are dropping off to sea... one sunset at a time.

1-coucher du soleil

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


Grele: Solidarity during a devastating hailstorm at winemaker Raimond de Villeneuve's vineyard

1-raimond de villeneuve
Un vrai bonnard. Don't miss this inspiring story about a winemaker's comeback following a devastating storm. Pictured: Raimond de Villeneuve. Photo montage from Google images.

la grêle (grel)

    : hail

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Un orage de grêle détruit en deux minutes deux années de récolte de raisins. A hail storm destroys in two minutes two years worth of grapes.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

 

I  have an inspiring lemons to lemonade story for you now. It's about local winemaker Raimond de Villeneuve who came over for lunch yesterday.

"Il est bonnard!" Jean-Marc said of our guest, assuring me not to worry about what to cook. But depending on what bonnard meant, I would serve french fries or soufflé.... I was betting on the first hunch (bonnard = fun-loving?), and that this meant a comfort meal was in order. Nothing complicated.

Coincidentally, the night before, I'd made a dish by chef and winemaker Jamie Oliver. I couldn't remember the exact ingredients, but having made the braised cabbage last year, I winged it (je l'ai fait au pif)--sauteing red onion, one chou rouge, and 3 golden apples....

I had found some dried figs in the fridge and chopped those up, tossing them in, adding salt, pepper, and coriander seeds. The result was encouraging but something was missing. So before our guest arrived, I doctored up the dish with some soft chestnuts (hadn't Jamie added those?), chopped and mixed in for texture and even more comfort.

From the new living room window that looks onto the front yard, I spied our guest, who threw back his head as he laughed with Jean-Marc. Yes, bonnard had to mean fun-loving. Today's relaxed menu would work.

The two men bounded into the house, heading toward the kitchen. As I was on the other side of the door when they entered, our guest didn't see me. Amused, I followed quietly on the stranger's heels, curious to see how long it would take to be found out.

Only a step behind the rugged man with the curly black hair, I could have reached out and tapped him on the shoulder--but resisted. And when Raimond de Villeneuve finally turned around we both burst out laughing.

"So you are the genius winemaker!" I said. "Jean-Marc has told me so much about you." 

Raimond's smile was a mixture of elegance and mischief. His blue eyes twinkled as he considered a response to my greeting, finally settling on more laughter. And then, elegance won over.

"Enchanté," Raimond said, kissing my cheek. 

I was a little star-struck but any misplaced emotion was quickly replaced by steam. My cabbage was on fire! I dashed past our guest, and landed beside the kitchen range--in time to save the side dish.  

Joining the two men at the table, I wanted to hear all about how this young winemaker managed to turn around a natural catastrophy. Raimond's latest vintage, called "Grêle," was thoughtfully named after the devastating hailstorm that stole his future harvest at his Chateau de Roquefort. If that isn't bad enough, it hijacked the next year's grapes as well--for when hail hits the vines its damage affects the vine's constitution.

As we sat down to eat, Raimond told us the story. "In seven minutes I had lost everything!"  

Facing bankruptcy, Raimond was surprised by a miracle. It began when one winemaker offered him a couple cases of grapes....

Then another vigneron encouraged Raimond to harvest several rows of vines at his domaine, never mind it wasn't in the same appellation (Bandol). Similar offers began pouring in across southern France until Raimond realized what was happening: people were coming out of the woodwork to help. And not just people--extremely busy winemakers who should normally be working round the clock to meet their own harvest deadlines!

With this kind of encouragement and support, Raimond quickly learned not only to accept the handouts, but to encourage them. In order for the gifted grapes to amount to something, he would need enough fruit to fill his tanks so that he might have the chance to entirely replace the lost vintage.

To organize such a feat is one thing--getting it to clear nit-picky customs is quite another. The grapes were rolling in from all over the Mediterranean--and from Bandol all the way up to Chateauneuf-du-Pape! Normally this would be an evil customs' officers hayday (those notoriously strick bureaucrats, in charge of controlling wine production, seem to love to find the glitch. And here, there were enough broken rules to land all the renegade winemakers in the principal's office.)

But an astonishing thing happened. The customs officers closed their eyes on all the grape-schlepping! What's more, they seemed moved by the sweating effort and sacrifice of the winemakers. In what could be a competitive field, winemakers were now sharing more than their grapes, they were sharing their machinery, their cellars, their lunches, and their savoir-faire.

One of the unexpected rewards about this organized effort was the chance for Raimond to work in so many different wine cellars, while accepting all the handouts, and to see how everyone made wine. "It reminds me of how chefs work--each with his own method of cooking a great meal."

As Raimond recounted his story, he paused here and there to pick up the lambchops Jean-Marc had grilled. "You don't mind if I use my hands?" he asked. 

"Bien sûr que non!" I insisted. Still, I couldn't determine whether or not the braised cabbage with chestnuts was a hit or a miss with our guest... And when, finally, he turned his attention to the side dish, shoveling it down with glee, I felt as relieved as the winemaker must have, the day every lost grape was retrieved.  

***

Post note: Hopefully there will be another story about Raimond, who will use his grafting expertese to help us plant our new vineyard this spring! Stay tuned.

 

Raimond de villeneuve3
Another group of empathetic winemakers who contributed to Raimond's "Grêle" vintage. The sign they are holding offers this heartwarming message: "Du Mourvèdre de la Tour du Bon pour Raimond!" (Some mourvèdre from the Tour de Bon for Raimond!)

Comments
To comment on today's post, click here. If you enjoyed Raimond's story, send him a note here in the comments section

You can visit Raimond's website, with information about his Chateau de Roquefort wines, here.

French Vocabulary
bonnard = fun, easy to get along with, cool
il est bonnard = he's a good guy
au pif = by guesswork
je l'ai fait au pif = I winged it
à la bise = in "bise" fashion (la bise, or faire la bise, is to kiss someone on both cheeks)
le vigneron = winemaker 


Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 

1-DSC_0104
You were asking how the dogs were getting along with the cats...

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So I leave you, now, with these photos....

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Left to right: Mama Braise ("brez"), her son, Smokey, and that's Lily the calico.

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You are wondering where Lily's brother, Pancho, is? No worries. He wasn't eaten. 

1-DSC_0125
Pancho was watching the scene from above. Happy holiday season to all! To comment on this post, click here.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


How to say a "check-up" in French?

1-fence
The golden light to the left is the sunset hitting the coastal fence. The golden light to the right is Smokey, enjoying our late afternoon walk.

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une visite de contrôle

    : an inspection, check-up, follow-up visit

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or 

Chez le dentiste, j'ai passé une visite de contrôle.
At the dentist's, I had a check-up.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

 

"Rendez-vous Chez Le Dentiste"

On the telephone, trying to communicate with my new dentist, I was once again at a loss for words.

"J'ai besoin de faire un.... un... un check-up!" I felt confident the tooth doctor would understand my request, seeing how so many English words are smuggled into France.

"Very well," he said in French, "une visite de contrôle."

The dentist's voice was younger than expected and he seemed friendly too. I had gotten his number from a stranger when we moved to town.

"Is he good?" I'd asked.

"Yes, but he's not very personable."

Fast forward to the contrôle. I am lying in the chair beneath a great big plastic bib. Every inch of my body is clutching the seat beneath me. My eyes are watering but I keep focused on the shiny equipment or the popcorn ceiling or the corner of the doctor's mask--anything to avoid an eye-lock with the dentist (which would be embarrassingly intimate--not to mention dangerous). Hopefully the doctor's eyes were trained on that pin-thin drill. Is that what the French use to remove plaque? 

Aïe! I didn't remember a détartrage being this uncomfortable. I thought back to my favorite dentist in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. "Robert" was retired now. But what a gentle manner he had. And I loved how he used a salt-water rinse as he worked. I would close my eyes and imagine the seaside.

But this was not the beach. As the new dentist dug into my gums with the whirling metal toothpick my eyes traveled past the edge of his mask.... Perhaps an eye-lock was appropriate about now? Could Doc read my dilated pupils which screamed STOP!

His soft brown eyes were gentler than his touch. He looked peaceful yet highly concentrated on his task. Assured now, I began to relax. Until it came time to rinse...

Whoah! Ice cold water! If my teeth had not cracked by now from the détartrage, this would do it! I made a mental note to never again visit a French dentist in December, when village pipes were nearly frozen.  

I began to think up a list of improvements for my dentist, whose chair-side manner seemed lacking. In fact, so was his chair! This was the first dentist I'd known who operated standing up. For this, I was kept in an upright position, making it easy for the dentist to dash back and forth.

I wished he'd dash over to my left, to readjust the spit-sucker tube. Presently it was swallowing the inside of my cheek! Shouldn't it be resting on the bottom of my mouth? A pool of saliva was collecting there! Could I swallow it? Or would my mouth contract from the effort, sending that sharp drill toward my tongue. Eeek!

I reached up and unhooked the suction tube, using it to vacuum the floor of my mouth. I hoped not to offend the dentist, and acted as quickly and discreetly as possible before returning the tool to its hook--my inner cheek. Where else to put it?

Couldn't he use an assistant? But I remembered that dental care was different in France--where it isn't unusual to have an office of two: the dentist and the secretary. (In this case, my new dentist was the secretary.) 

I began to think about my first visit chez le dentiste--back in the north of France, in Lille--in 1989. I was an exchange student then, used to a rigorous schedule. So when my I realized I was due for a check-up (it had been six months since I'd visited the dentist), I automatically made an appointment. 

"What can I help you with?" the dentist wanted to know.

Well, he could begin by telling me where his office was. We seemed to be standing in his living room. Looking around, there were Persian rugs and antique furniture. The television blared from a far off corner... and was that the delicious scent of pot-roast wafting over from an open door? A kitchen?

I still wonder if I am making this up, or if I really did traverse the dentist's living room to take a seat in the reclining chair (it was an authentic dentist's chair, and how it contrasted with the decor!). 

The dentist fired up his drill...

"But shouldn't I have a shot?"

"What for?"

"To numb my mouth?"

"This won't hurt," he chuckled. 

Amazingly it didn't. Maybe it was a small cavity? I don't know, but the experience remains a surreal memory and I feel somehow privileged to have seen what may have been the end of an epoch: bygone days when dentists did indeed work from home.

*    *    *
Back now in my new dentist's office, I am able to appreciate the modern surroundings. The equipment is clean, the room is tidy. No Persian rugs not even a Persian cat!

I decided to quit focusing on what was wrong with this visit, and, instead, to consider what might be wrong with the patient. I wasn't 20 anymore--back in the days when my teeth were strong enough to chew on beef jerky or tear into that classic French candy le carambar.

If I felt more pain than usual, it might have to do with how sensitive my teeth have become. Worse, after years of nocturnal teeth-grinding, the surface of my pearly-whites were, as the dentist noted, usés.

The good news was, Doc could replace my mouth guard (the one I lost in back in Phoenix). And so I held on tight for the last phase of the visit: the fitting.

The dentist disappeared into the lab behind me. Returning, I saw the gluey tooth mold. It had to be the size of a Smartphone.... 

"Whatever you do, don't bite down!" The dentist said. "Now breathe out of your nose."

...Or gag! I tried to relax as the giant mold--brimming with a thick gluey substance--filled my mouth. The back of my throat fluttered menacingly.

I focused on my breathing but the process ticked on and on. And then... was the dentist's hand shaking? Had I transferred my anxiety onto him?

No, I would not give in to the gag reflex! This was no time to panic or else we would both be mortified. (Just picture the mess!)

 *    *    *

Those last 10 seconds really tested my mettle. I'm stronger than I think I am. I just won't go testing this theory on a tooth-shattering carambar

Comments
How often do you go to the dentist? Or, are you like the French--only going for an emergency? To name today's cat photo, skip to the last picture... Thanks for your comments, here.


French Vocabulary

chez le dentiste = at the dentist's
aïe!
= ouch!
le détartrage = teeth cleaning, descaling 

Window panes
Some of you asked, "How are the dogs getting along with the cats?" Here's a hint. (Note: Smokey is not sticking out his tongue. The hanging tongue is a sequelle or legacy from his accident years ago

  Hat

Here's Poncho and Lily. Want to name this photo? Click here.

A Big Favor...
Would you please keep my book, Blossoming in Provence, in mind for your holiday gift-giving needs? It's:

  • Educational
  • Entertaining
  • And a great way to support this free language journal!

Order a copy of Blossoming In Provence here. Your aunt may enjoy it and so might your colleague at work!

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


how to cheer someone up in French

7-DSC_0304
We weathered the storm in Phoenix. More, in today's letter. (Pictured, my niece "Ray-Ray".)

remonter le moral


    : to lift one's spirits, to cheer somebody up

Audio File: listen to the following words: Download MP3 or Wav file

A Phoenix, je suis allée rendre visite à ma soeur pour lui remonter le moral. I went to Phoenix to visit my sister and cheer her up.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I made a pact with my family when I offered to come to Phoenix last month. I wouldn't tell anyone I was visiting. This way, instead of juggling the where and when and how to meet up with friends--I could focus on just one thing: ma soeur.

I felt terrible about the unfriendly omission, but travelling from Marseille to Paris--on to Dallas then Phoenix--I had one goal in mind: to help my sister during a difficult time. And though I knew local friends would be happy to assist, this was a sensitive and personal time punctuated by delays and changes of plans.

To ease the guilt of not contacting friends, I reminded myself I was on standby--I was here in the desert to stand by my sister. The current situation at Heidi's was stop and go. We'd be headed to the garage, to pack up its contents, or on our way for a needed coffee break when my sister's cell phone would ring again. With it the familiar sinking feeling.... 

I would look over at my sister, watching as her strength kicked in yet again. Clutching her phone, her eyes blinked as she tried to focus. For a moment she quit biting her lips. But when she hung up the phone the latest news sank in, along with those gnawing teeth.

Despite the atmosphere, we laughed as much as we could. Still, it wasn't funny to witness the doors closing all around my sister--and sometimes falling off the hinge!

When the knob fell off the kitchen drawer as I was putting away the silverware, Heidi said don't worry about it. I watched her reach down, pick it up, and jam it back into place before carrying on with dinner, the laundry, and the kids' homework. 

And when I went to step into the shower my sister warned, "That one doesn't work." Then, when I dried my hands at the towel rack, it fell, hitting the tile counter-top with a loud clang! 

I used the powder room with trepidation. The glass wine cooler that was stored there made these menacing popping sounds. I was sure the minute I sat down the ice box facing me would detonate, sending shards of glass flying! As my body anticipated the sharp-edged attack I could feel what it must be like for my sister to live in this constant state of alert, never knowing what was around the corner. 

Driving back from the airport my sister rolled down her window to let in the evening breeze--but we both startled when the glass dropped--right into the door unit below. The cool night air turned into a cold chill that had my niece (in the back seat) asking for the window to be rolled up again. "I'm sorry, Honey. It's broken." 

I listened to my sister comfort her daughter, who now needed a blanket. That missing blanket spoke volumes.

"Here, Ray-Ray. Take my coat." I smiled handing my jacket to my 10-year-old niece. But it would take more than a few down feathers to comfort a family in transition.

Thankfully our Aunt and Uncle arrived, bringing with them good cheer. Next, Marsha and Dad came to offer long walks and funny stories for my niece and nephew. And, last but not least, Brian was there-- having been there all along.

***

Post note:

It's tricky to tell a story without telling the story. I hope I was able to update you, all the same, on last month's "sabbatical." I'm happy to say that if all those doors were closing behind my sister, a great big door has opened before her and, with it, a soul-mate to carry her over the threshold.

Comments
To comment on this story, click here.

 

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At the Camelback Inn, Phoenix. That's my nephew, Payne. But we call him Blurr--that's how fast he is on the football field! There's my niece Reagan--and that's me, left, and my sister, right. Hugged in between us are Marsha and Dad. 

10-photo

With my niece. Brian calls her "Small Fry" and she loves the French translation Petite Frite. Hello Petite Frite, are you keeping up with our French Word-A-Day agreement? Love, Big Fritte.

(Maybe you are wondering "Why the black down coat in Phoenix?" That's because we were also in Denver... Denver friends, I promise to meet up next time. Thanks for your understanding!)

With brian

As you can see, my sister is surrounded by support. But wishes of bon courage never hurt anyone.... (That's Brian, right, and Luci and Linus, Brian's sheepdogs, front.) 

 

French christmas music
Everyone loves this holiday CD! Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


What is "miaulement"? + a new Paris tip on what to see in the city!

Ile st. louis in Paris, at the fleuriste's (c) Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the generous "welcome back" following Wednesday's post. I am touched to the core--or coeur--by your encouraging words and warm reception! These flowers are for you, en vous remerciant! Picture taken in Ile Saint Louis, Paris.

Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France. Click here for pictures.

le miaulement

    : miaowing (or le cri du chat)

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download MP3 or Wav file

Depuis le couloir, j'ai entendu le miaulement des chatons.
From the hallway, I heard the miaowing of kittens. 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"The Scoop"

Before I tell you what happened during my one-month sabbatical, I should tell you what happened just before it.

Cat litter. Cat litter happened.

Three days before my one month departure we were a family of 6: four humans, two dogs. But in the early hours of November 4th--when the moon was high over the Mediterranean Sea and all the valley lay sleeping--our son smuggled home a kitty.

As I lie there in bed oblivious to the goings-on, Max came into my room. Speaking in hushed tones he informed me he had a Christmas present for Papa.

"But it's November, Max! Noël is next month."

"Yes, but they'll be out of stock by the holidays..." With that our 18-year-old motioned for me to follow him up to his sister's room.

Opening the bedroom door I saw my daughter's tousled hair. The rest of her was hiding behind a sheet. As Jackie lowered the drap I saw a second outline: that of a perky-eared interloper. 

kitty, bowtie, white socks, minou, kitten (c) Kristin Espinasse
Meet Pancho...

"You guys, no! No, no, no!" This was no time to take on a cat--not even an especially cute one with its natural bow-tie and white socks.  No.... But the miaulement of the fragile creature had my heart saying YES.

Meantime, three precious days remained in which to check off my To-Do list. There were a lot of loose ends to tie up before my one month absence. Already I fretted about household management--how would the kids and the dogs fare while we were away? And now a 6-week-old kitten!

True, Jean-Marc would return the week after the Seine to Normandy cruise--but I would be away for the month. Sure, my husband could take over on his return, but would everything run smoothly without the woman with the measuring stick? (Who would correctly measure the dog--and cat--food? Who would verify water bowl level? "You know," I kept reminding everyone. "An animal can go without food--but NOT without water!" I said this just to drive home the point--of course an animal needed la nourriture, too!)

"Look, I think it is best that we take the kitten when Papa and I return from our trip. Besides, it is only 6 weeks old--it needs another two weeks of mother's milk!"

Alas, it was too late. The kitten's mom had washed her paws of the responsibility. She was already out hustling on the streets again. And this was out of my control--but I could take responsibility for a kitten. It would need to be neutered, for one.... 

My pre-sabbatical To-Do list grew. Only now priorities were re-arranged: instead of a suitcase belt (sorely needed for my torn valise), "kitty milk" now topped the chart.  As count-down to departure loomed, I could be found whiling away the minutes in the supermarket Pets aisle. We needed infant formula for chatons and  kitty litter. But which kind of each? (There were several to choose from!) It was easy to linger among pet paraphernalia when my eyes caught on non-essentials like the jingle-bell collar (the green one or the red one?), or the jouets (the felt mouse or the plastic jingle ball). I didn't dare consider the cat skyscraper. Gosh no!). I grabbed the inexpensive toys. Tossing them in my caddy, I told myself I would deal with my husband's reaction later!  

Though I wanted our kitty to feel comfortable and to meet all its needs, I had my doubts about how this would all work out. Sure, the kids were motivated now. But would they really keep up their end of the kitty-litter/feeding agreement? And what about family vacations--already a tricky situation when it comes to pet care.

Mostly I wondered if we were capable of giving another living, breathing soul the attention and care it deserved. And what about the little creature's safety? After posting a photo of our adoptee on Facebook, a commenter wrote in: Please make sure he's an in-door cat. You will triple his life-span

Could we make sure? Were we willing and able to watch all the doors and windows... when in summertime we live les portes ouverts, or "doors open"? Besides, did I really agree with indoor cat philosophy? It had a kind of Stepford Wives feel about it: eerie and unnatural. To never feel growing grass beneath one's paws--to live in a contained world--that's no life for a cat!

But what do I know? Inexperienced, I would have to develop my cat philosophy and opinions along the way.  

And it looks like there will be plenty of experience to be had. Returning home from my sabbatical, groggy from jetlag, I tripped over a basket. 

"Oh, hello you!" I said, greeting our little minou.

That's when I heard not one miaulament.... but two!

(To be continued)

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here.

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The pillow reads "Love you more." It's a gift I brought back for Jean-Marc. That's Pancho (beside ol' Mr Sacks), and do you see something under the couch? Surprised me too! Meet Lily, Pancho's sister. She's a calico.

Comments
To leave a comment, click here. I love to read your messages here in the comments box.

Do you have any cat tips for me? Any ideas for a waste management system for those kitty crottes? How to control litterbox odor? Is your cat an indoor or outdoor cat? Declawed or not? Homemade cat toy ideas? Click here to answer or to see other cat tips.

French christmas music
Everyone loves this holiday CD! Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 

If you liked the LOVE YOU MORE pillow, pictured with above, you can order one here (great gift!)

French Vocabulary

le coeur = heart
la nourriture
= food
la valise = bag, suitcase
le chaton = kitty
le jouet = toy
le minou = kitty

Ile Saint Louis and a brasserie (c) Kristin Espinasse
More photos of Paris, where our cruise began. This is the entrance to Ile Saint Louis.

Shakespeare and Company bookshop (c) Kristin Espinasse
I took my friend Linda to a favorite Paris haunt

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You don't have to be fancy or elegant to fit in in Paris. You'll still look charming.

street scene in Paris 5th arrondissement (c) Kristin Espinasse
Something about this soft-spoken bouquet, set on a modest table with its own cloth. Can the eyes ever tire of these scenes? To comment on this post, click here.

What to Do in Paris? I don't want to forget this latest tip by Lanier. This one's going on my bucket list!

They are now offering a guided tour of the kitchen gardens at Versailles which are run by the national School of horticulture. There aren't nearly the crowds you find at Versailles and you will see possibly every form of espallier known to mankind. It really is a worthwhile outing made even better by the lovely folks at la Cuisine Paris.  Posted by: Lanier Cordell

Thanks, Lanier! And for more tips on what to do in Paris, click here. (There are two pages of comments, so when you get to the end of the first page, click the link beneath the last tip to get to the next page.)

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


Bonjour. It's good to be back!

Near Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Last month's sabbatical began in Paris... More in today's letter.

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.

 


We will be back to the regular format of French Word-A-Day soon. Meantime, there's a letter waiting for you, just below, and a few ways to say 'hello.'

You know the word for "hi" in French. Here are some other oft-heard salutations. Have fun changing up your greetings next time you see a friend.

  • salut (hi!)
  • coucou (hey there!)

Bonjour!

When last we spoke I talked about a one month sabbatical. What I didn't tell you was how nervous I was about taking it. There was that risk of never coming back....

For decades (since young adulthood) I've lived with this belief that I am an all or nothing person. That, for example, if I dared keep this gig as a writer, I'd better keep on track--or veer off to The Land of Flake forever. (Flake--flakiness...).

But I have also secretly suspected that, deep down, I'm NOT an all or nothing person. That there is a resilient, flexible, can stop and start again soul at the helm of my personcraft, or being. Sometimes we just have to throw off our life jackets and test the waters. Thank you, dear reader, for waiting there on the raft for me! You promised to be there when I swam back. If you are reading now you can see my outstretched hand. I'm ready to get back on dry ground. Are you still ready?

One, two, three... heave

Before setting off for a new season of writing, I'd like to take a moment to thank those readers who joined me on the one week AmaWaterways Paris to Normandy cruise last month. What a warm-hearted and fascinating group you were.

Thank you Joan and Glenn, Jean-Marie and Mark, Chris and George, Celia and Martha, Julie and Brad, and last but not least, thank you Nan and Tom and Charles and Martha (these two showed up for a surprise visit when we docked outside of Paris!). Thanks also to readers Julie and John (who were on the cruise just before us, and who took the time to leave a message in my room. I was delighted to read it!). 

I would also like to thank my best friend Susan Boehnstedt (aka "Rouge-Bleu") of Critics Choice Vacations. Susan invited Jean-Marc and me to host the cruise, after highly suggesting our candidature to AMAWaterways! (Thank you Denise, at AMA, for making this possible!)

Going on this cruise was the best chance to see a beautiful part of France. And while it is hard to pinpoint a favorite endroit, or place--or a favorite thing about the cruise--I will share a comment by Jean-Marc, one that wonderfully captures the gift of cruising with AMAWaterways:

C'est bien reposant! How restful this is! (This, coming from an overworked winemaker and business man, is the best compliment one could give. So thanks to the hardworkers at AMAWaterways for keeping an impeccably run boat. We enjoyed our chance to travel with you!

I leave you now with a few pictures from our cruise along the river (more photos to come). I hope these images will inspire you to travel the waterways of France. For more information, contact Susan at Critics Choice Vacations: Susan@CriticsChoiceVacations.com  Phone: 480-831-9076


Comments
To respond to this letter, leave a comment here in the comments section (rather than by email). I love reading your notes!

Thanks for visiting our longtime sponsor:

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet
. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.   

  Les andelys

There were so many breathtaking landscapes along the waterways. We stopped in Les Andelys for a view from above.

Joan of arc rouen
In Rouen we stood where crowds witnessed the demise of Joan of Arc (flames once went up where now you see the plaque on a bed of flowers.)

  little boy in Normandy
I didn't get a picture of the irises that grown on these traditional rooftops. But I did get a snapshot of this little Norman boy as our tour bus cruised past.

3-susan honfleur
Taken with Susan's camera (that's her, left, me, right). I think Linda took this photo. Linda is Susan's longtime friend from their days in Douglas, Arizona. It was a pleasure to meet Linda and spend pre-cruise time together in Paris. I especially enjoyed our lunch together in Île Saint-Louis where we chatted about Susan (were your ears burning, Rouge-Bleu?). The picture was taken in Honfleur, where we froze. Thankfully Celia (mentioned in the Thank you section, above) had this handmade bonnet on hand. 

Linda and susan in honfleur
Here's Linda with Susan, in Honfleur.

Omaha beach France

The most touching moment of the trip was our visit to Omaha beach. I leave you with this image (more to come). This is Janet, whom I met on the cruise. I found her all alone. Lowering her umbrella, she spoke to the lost heros. Her gesture puts words to the gratitude in all our hearts. To comment, click here.

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French christmas music
Everyone loves this holiday CD! Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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