Stone stairs leading down to the beach in Rayol-Candadel-sur-Mer
Que nenni? If you think today's expression has anything to do with the following travelogue...que nenni! (Not at all!) It's just an expression that jumped off the page as I sat reading an article on sardines, recently, chez le coiffeur. Speaking of fish, we ate a lot of this when Dad and Marsha visited. We also discovered magnificent places--de beaux endroits--I had never been to before--all a short distance from La Ciotat....
TODAY'S EXPRESSION: QUE NENNI
: not at all
Thanks, Jean-Marc, for your regular recordings, like the following:
(Click here to listen to the French expression "que nenni")
Décidément, cette presqu’île me réservera sans cesse des surprises. Je pensais la connaître par cœur, et pourtant… C’est par faute de l’avoir parcourue, par la mer ou par le sentier du littoral. Mais que nenni, j’y découvre toujours quelque chose.
Decidedly, this peninsula will never stop surprising me. I thought I knew it by heart, and yet ... It's not by fault of having traveled it, by the sea or by the coastal path. Not at all. I always discover something.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
"Bad-wah," my belle-mère, Marsha, giggled, as we sipped l'eau gazeuse at a restaurant overlooking the sea at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer.
Bad-wah? Funny! I never saw it that way before. Eyeing the bottle of popular French fizzy water, I wondered did anyone else notice a small marketing flaw for Badoit? (Pronounced "bad-wah" as you may have guessed).
Good thing it's "good wah", a favorite of ours, as were the Mediterranean waters below us. We had swum all day in the little cove, one reminiscent of a beach in Italy.
De -- pronounced deuh ou der?
A hillside of beautiful stone stairs leads down to the sandy beach. You can see the last section of the escalier above, in the picture of Jean-Marc and my dad. As Marsha and I trailed behind, my belle-mère practiced her French, which sounded good...until it came to "de"....
"Der" she said, as per the pronunciation guidebook she had in her beach tote.
I've seen the pronunciation for "de" written that way, and I know anglophones who pronounce it comme ça, but for me... the French word "de" sounds like "deuh". But who am I to give lessons (I still can't pronounce dessus or dessous--or even truffe--some of The Most Difficult Words in French to Pronounce). Still, I stand by my pronunciation of de (it's deuh!). But let's not waste this travelogue on a debate (let's duke it out in the comments box, instead :-)
The sand at Le Rayol-Canadel beach sparkled and was covered with "agates,"as my belle-mère called them. Holding a palm-full of the amber or black or white stones, Marsha talked about the chance we had to find these pebbled beaches in France.
As we lie there on the sand, chatting, a couple in their 80's made their way toward us, lugging a kayake! Marsha and I looked up, to the mansion above us and realized we'd parked our foutas right before their private entrance!
To our surprise, the man and woman humbly excused themselves and encouraged us to stay put. As they tugged on the two-seater kayak, lifting it three feet, up to its storage spot, we were mesmerized. Gazing up at their white locks and athletic builds, Marsha and I must have had the same thought: I want to be paddling across the sea--in my bikini with my sweetie--when I'm an octogenarian!
Meantime, my dad, all of 76 years young, was swimming like a kid in the gulf. "I love this salty sea--I'm floating!" he smiled, as we joined him for a swim. I never thought about the buoying effect of l'eau de mer, and it felt great to finally let go and allow the sea to partly carry me.
Farther out, beyond the Gulf of St. Tropez, we could see les Iles d'Or (Porquerolles, Port Cros, and Le Levant), as well as the famous mauve hue, which announced the beginning of the sunset. As my dad and Marsha marveled at their chance to be in this magnificent place, their gratitude caused me to polish my own lenses, and see our part of the world...indeed life..."anew."
There is so much to look forward to...like my 80s, my sweetie, bikinis, and nouveaux défis (those bikinis?). And, most importantly, this growing sense of appreciation I have at 50.
At L'Escale restaurant, Dad loved this "aïoli with a twist" (sweet potatoes and beets replaced a few classic ingredients)
Jean-Marc returning from the beach
que nenni = not at all
chez le coiffeur = at the hairdresser's
les beaux endroits = beautiful places
la belle-mère = stepmother (also means mother-in-law)
l'eau gazeuse = sparkling water
l'escalier = stairs
le foutas = popular towel on Mediterranean beaches (photo below)
le défi = challenge
l'escale = port of call, stopover, refueling stop
Me and my belle-mère. Readers of this journal associate belle-mère with another woman dear to my heart. Her story, 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