Grignan Roses (c) Kristin Espinasse
A rose-lover's Shangri-la: the village of Grignan. (Just don't steal the flowers... or the sweetness.... read on in today's story column. 

choper (sho-pay) verb

    : to steal, to nib; to catch

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Il a chopé un rhume / He caught a cold.
Elles ont chopé le sucre du bistro. / They nabbed the sugar.

Les Synonyms: dérober = to purloin chiper = to swipe, filch piquer = to pinch, to nick

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

When your aunt and your uncle are in town for under a week... you've got to be picky and choosy about just which postcard pretty places you'll take them to see.

Grignan was a must! Its chateau, overlooking the vine-flanked valley, and its perched, rose-petaled village, were once the residence and the stomping grounds of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote prolifically to her fille. Picture so many words showering down from the chateau, falling like tears of joy, watering all those heirloom roses, from "Autumn Sunset" to "Gipsy Boy".

The flowers steal one's attention making it is easy to be attracted to this rose-rampant "rise" in the French sky. Their colorful petals pull your eyes up the narrow paths or calades, past the boutiques and the art galleries until you are overlooking the patchwork paysage of Provence. After your eyes expand over the valley, they are drawn back in to the skirt of the citadel, which bustles with café life.

There, at the Brasserie Le Sévigné my aunt, my uncle, and I sipped caffeine from colorful tasses de café. Feeling that after-lunch slump, we were content to let our ears do the walking and we listened as they bent here and there capturing the various conversations, most in French, though some were accented in English "city" or "country." I wondered if the two ladies at the next table were from London? Then again, what do I know about the topography of talk or "accentry"?

Finishing our cafe crèmes, we stood up to leave.  I called over to my aunt, motionning to the sugar packets before her (we were each served two packets with our cup. Having only used one-half of a sugar envelop I was slipping the rest into my purse. I had seen my aunt do the same at the previous café.... "Waste not, want not," she had explained, offering another of her affectionate winks. I figured I could give my aunt the extra sachets de sucre for her train trip to Paris the next day. (It is always good to have a little blood sugar boosting sucrose on hand when traveling.)

"And take that one, too!" I encouraged, pointing to the unused sugar packet in front of her. 
Just then, I caught sight of the English women at the next table. They were watching wide-eyed.

Caught red-handed, I had no choice but to finish shoving the second packet into my purse and I cringed when I realized the sugar envelope was open and showering down granulated sweetness, mixing with the contents of my purse.

My dear Aunt, her back to the would-be whistle-blowers, was unaware of our unseemly circumstance. "Here," she said, handing me her unused packet of sugar. Meantime my uncle voiced our actions, as my uncle is wont to do: "Oh, what's that? You are taking some sugar? I see."

The problem was, others were seeing too! And, what with my uncle's commentary, we were a terribly conspicuous trio.

"Put. It. In. Your. Pocket!" I snapped at my fellow sugar-snatcher. But my aunt stood there, her arm extended like a red flag, sugar packet waving like the drapeau of death. It seemed to take hours for that sugar packet to reroute itself into my aunt's pocket and I stood startled-eyed until the lightweight loot disappeared.

As we turned our backs on the café, my aunt overheard the condemning comment at the next table as one woman spoke in a disapproving tone, pointing out our petty theft to her table-mate. "They've taken the sugar," she reported.

Half-way to the getaway car and my aunt and I were giggling, "They've taken the sugar!" we laughed, lacing our voices with disappoving English accents. My uncle got into the back of the car, scratching his head in confusion, having missed the episode completely. Meantime, I started the engine and my aunt hopped into the passenger's seat and when she did she winked at me:

"I've got the sugar," she confirmed. "Hit it!"

With that, we peeled out of the pretty postcard town, bidding goodbye to a proper Madame de Sévigné and leaving, in the sugar dust, the would-be whistle blowers with their cups of unsweetened tea.

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