How to say "cleaning frenzy" in French! + photo vocabulary!

Old wooden boat in Giens, near Hyérès (c) Kristin Espinasse

Gone fishing! I'll see you in a week, when the next post goes out.
Meantime, keep up your French vocabulary by visiting the French word archives. Thanks for reading and for sharing our language journal with friends and family. See you soon--with more photos and stories from a French life! Bisous, Kristin 

la frénésie de ménage (fray-nay-zee deuh may-nazh)

    : cleaning frenzy 

... and if you are one of those loves-to-organize types, here's another term for you: la frénésie de rangement = organizing frenzy. Share this one with a neatnik!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristin Espinasse

The Quirky French Household

After a house full of guests leave today and Saturday, I've got a bit of time to get this boat in shape. My sister is arriving this weekend!!

The past week has been full of excitement, with a lot of bed schlepping and sheet wringing. The flurry began after one of the teenagers (there were 6 sleeping here this week) woke with welts up and down her legs. Next, my brother-in-law complained of the same--only in a different place (he hasn't been able to sit down since.) Mosquitos?

Bed bugs! I tore off all the freshly laundered sheets and began rewashing everything. Saperlipopette! We could have used a machine dryer for once! Meantime, Jean-Marc vacuumed and disinfected the mattresses. Result? Bed bugs were not the problem (for the record: no bed bugs at the Espinasse household! I repeat... pas de punaises de lit chez les Espi!).  The culprit was the mosquitoes, after all. We needed to buy a better repellent for this years invasion!

So much for scrubbing sheets and matelas. Meantime, my sister's visit! The house will get a good dusting and a lickety-split polish. No use worrying about appearances--but I am doubtful about some of the household quirks we have here in France. How will these bizarreries come across to those who are unaccustomed to them? (It's been years and years since my sister came for a visit. And this time she is bringing a very special guest. I don't want to cramp her style; as her little sister, I will be a reflection of her! I wouldn't want her significant other to think we're from the boondocks--or maybe even The Twilight Zone....

Anyone who has seen our new old place would be shaking their heads about the boondocks comparison. The truth is, this is an endearing house--cracks, cobwebs, and all. But back to those quirks... every French household has them. For outsiders like me, French homes take some getting used to. But now, after two decades, I don't notice cultural differences so much anymore. Yet I feel the need to explain certain european idiosyncrasies to my sister and her cheri. I'll list several here, in case my upcomping guests are reading:

That's not cardboard, those are our guest towels.
The upside to drying your laundry on the line is this: the bath towels double as excellent skin exfoliators (it's that sandpaper texture they develop after hardening in the Provencal sun. I hope Heidi and Brian will "get it" and, especially, will go with it. Their tender skin certainly will! 
 
Insecticide? Not!

Here, just a stone's throw from the city, it is normal to find an ant traipsing across your cheek as you slumber through your afternoon nap. I'm used to plucking them off, sending these and other friendly creatures on their way.

And the bees with which we cohabitate are harmless, too. I once had a guest pull back the freshly-washed bed sheets (and the mattress cover beneath them). Her curiosity led to a startling discovery: a row of meticulously formed mud houses. "There are spiders in my room!" she screeched.

"Those aren't spiders," I assured her. "Those are mud daubers. They wouldn't harm a fly. But they might eat one!" As my guest watched, wide-eyed, I scraped away the tiny, hollow mud balls and tossed them out the window.

(Best not to peek beneath the mattress cover when you sleep at my place! But I guarantee freshly washed, air dried sheets--free of bed bugs (I repeat pas de punaises de lit chez les Espi!).

Another concern about my sister's visit: all those spider webs I've grown accustomed to. I take it for granted that not everyone is as blasé as I am about les toiles d'araignées. Apart from an occasional pause--to marvel at their intrinsic designs--I don't even notice them anymore. But spider phobics will! Is my sister's beau one of those? On verra!

French Bricolage or why certain doors and things are off-centered, unbalanced, or defy reasoning

It is definitely a French thing. My friend Cari, also married to a Frenchman, will vouch for this: the French just don't see things "spatially" as we do. That said, most everything in our new (old) house is perfectly balanced (this is thanks to the British family--including a mathematician--who lived here before us). 

As for "most everything" being in harmony, I'm afraid I have to take the blame for first "off-set" to the natural balance around here. It happened when we renovated Max's bathroom. I suggested we reuse a shower door from our previous home. Only I didn't stay to watch the handyman install it.... And the handyman didn't question the size of the sliding doors. Result: the doors will not open completely.

Jean-Marc doesn't see what the big deal is. (Of course not, he's French!)  And he made it a point to demonstrate that even he, big guy he is, can squeeze through the 31.5 cm crawl space that remains. (Brian, if you are still reading, you're just gonna have to do like us and suck it in!)

I hope these tidbits about our beloved home have not been off-putting. I've got to go now--more towels to put on the line. And, Heidi, if you are still reading, brave sister, I leave you with a warm bienvenue chez nous!

Comments welcome here.

 Today we're talking about from quirky households to insects--to guests! Please jump into the conversation and leave a comment.

When you forward this story to a friend, you open up a whole new quirky world for another to enjoy. And they'll learn a bit of French vocabulary in the process. Thanks for sharing!

French Vocabulary

une bizarrerie = peculiarity

le matelas = mattress

le cheri (la cherie) = sweetheart

une toile d'araignée = spider web

le beau = the boyfriend

on verra = we shall see

le bricolage = do-it-yourself 

bienvenue chez nous = welcome to our place

Exercises in French Phonics: A helpful manual for pronunciation! "Really breaks it down for you on how to properly pronounce French words." (review by New Chic) Read more customer reviews, and order a copy here.

Reverse Dictionary 

spic and span = nickel (nee-kel)

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

Door curtains in Beaumes de Venise (c) Kristin Espinasse
Let's build our vocab with these pictures I took in the Vaucluse. Notice the green volets, a cement banc, white and blue rideaux de porte, the old rusty boîte aux lettres, and the furry chaton noir. See any other vocabulary in this photo? Add it here, in the comments box.

 

Bar toutous
The French word for this yellow object is une gamelle. But don't you love the synonym: bar à toutous (doggy bar). Other vocab in this photo: notice all the colorful affiches taped to the window of the office de tourisme in Sarrians. 

Please forward this post to a clean freak or an animal lover--may it bring a smile :-)

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


convive

Alsace window (c) Kristin Espinasse
A stylish window in Alsace. I love decor... even if decorating intimidates me. Read on, in today's story.


le convive (kon-veev)

    : guest

Audio File: listen to me read the sentence below (I may have made an error, by not making a liason between "convives" and "étaient"...: Download MP3 or hear the Wav file

Nos convives étaient sous le charme de la bouteille de lavande tressée par Marie-Françoise.
Our guests were charmed by the lavender bottle, woven by Marie-Françoise. 

Blossoming-cover-kdpBlossoming in Provence is the perfect gift for a traveler, Francophile, or language lover, and the stories, with their in-context French vocabulary, make learning effective and easy! Click here to buy a book, and thank you! 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Dégage, Marthe! (Move over, Martha!)

After a spell of I suck at almost everythingespecially decorating and cuisine—it was time to snap out of it, to quit wallowing alongside the dust bunnies and get on with the art of living!

An opportunity quickly presented itself when Jean-Marc invited colleagues over for dinner last Sunday. Rather than panic, I looked around the house and realized that, with a few thoughtful touches, our guests could be both comfortable and delighted.

After warming up the foyer—using candles and books and extra cushions before the fireplace—I turned my attention to the dinner table... comment l'embellir? Table artistry is not my strong point, but did it truly take strength to arrange a pretty table? Bien sûr que non! It only took thoughtfulness.... 

I was thinking about flowers when it dawned on me that dozens of deep purple marguerites were blooming in our driveway!

The flowers automatically brought to mind a trio of ceramic "poire" vases that were, thank goodness, unpacked after our move!

I hurried to get the little pears, snipping une poignée of purple daisies, in passing....

"Never throw out your books!" Mom always says, "they're great for decorating!" Good idea, but could you use books as a dinner centerpiece?

Pourquoi pas! I sang, running back upstairs, this time for the extra books. The excitement of decorating carried me from room to room, searching for forgotten treasures; meantime those nagging doubts began to be buried beneath all the growing enthusiasm.

Voyons voir... I would need small books... don't want to take up too much space on the dinner table... A stack of missels came to mind. But wasn't that too personal? Too revealing? Too preachy? 

Who cares! Transparency = Freedom! Hallelujah! Let it all hang out! I grabbed the prayer books before taking the stairs, two by two, hurrying back to the dining room.  

While arranging the books and the flowers I remembered the lavender wand that Jean-Marc's aunt had woven for us, as a souvenir from our vineyard in Sainte Cécile (on moving day she and her daughter Audrey came by to help. Noticing that the lavender in the driveway had not completely faded, Marie-Françoise began harvesting several of the flowers....).

The centre de table was coming together naturally, nothing like the designing conundrum I had imagined it to be... and when the guests arrived the "little centerpiece that could" suddenly came to life!

"Do you know what this is?" our French convive asked our American convive as she held up Aunt Marie-Françoise's lavender wand. And so a conversation between strangers began....

Joining in the conversation with my convives, I tell them the story of the bouteille de lavande, how it was handmade by Aunt Marie-Françoise. Pointing to the colorful ruban that held the flowers together, I shared the amusing details of this particular lavender wand.

"You know those ribbon loops that are sewn inside women's sweaters... to help when hanging the garment?" I questioned my guests, whose faces began to light up in recognition.

"Well... one day it occurred to Marie-Françoise to cut out the satiny loops from inside each of her sweaters... She tied all the colorful ribbons together, to make one long variegated strand with which to weave the lavender wand!"

Just like the smooth fiber weaving in and out of those flowers, our dinner guests, former strangers, began to connect in time to enjoy a cozy dinner.

I realized that I need not panic ever again when it comes to creating a centerpiece. Create a story instead. Better yet, put out a few favorite items... and let the story write itself. 

***

Post note: After the dinner party, that centerpiece (pictured below) continued to give off meaning: there was the winemaker's theme that revealed itself (for the little porcelain pears were a gift from a Sonoma Wine makers, Jann and Gerry); the bottle of Domaine Maubernard was a gift from one of our French guests (who made the wine), and our American guests are our friends Phyllis and Tim at French Country wines!

As for the hallelujah books, that theme hasn't yet revealed itself... such is the mystery of heavenly things! 

 To leave a comment, click here. What did you think of Marie-Françoise's creative use of the satin sweater loops? Have you thought of a second life for some item? Does decorating intimidate you? Ever had a small victory, like me? Thanks for your comments.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

comment = how to
embellir = to make attractive, to embellish
la marguerite = daisy
la poire = pear
une poignée = handful
pourquoi pas? = why not?
voyons voir... = let's see...
le missel = book of prayers
le centre de table = centerpiece
le convive = guest
la bouteille de lavande = lavender bottle (synonym for lavender wand, a hand-woven collection of lavender flowers, connected by a ribbon (see a picture of Marie-Françoise making one here)
le ruban = ribbon 

 

 

  Centerpiece

Hallelujah / lavender wand /wine centerpiece. Why not? Have another idea? Share it in the comments box! Also pictured in this photo, a second lavender wand--woven by Eileen in Charlottesville, VA. I love the French/American duo, between the French made wand and the American made wand. One more note: the little plate beneath the candle is a part of a plate set, left to us by Maggie and Michael. The plates come from a Swiss hotel that Maggie's father bought, once upon a time. Maggie and Michael left us several beautiful items when we bought their house, last fall.

Did you enjoy this post? Thanks for sharing it with a classmate or a teacher or anyone interested in French language and life!

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


cadre

Dog in Villedieu (c) Kristin Espinasse
Thanks, Marsha and Dad, for such a nice visit! I hope you will enjoy this story that I wrote about it... (and here is that photo taken during our stroll in Villedieu "Town of God").

"Meet Chief Grape in Copenhagen . He will be pouring his wines at Mansted Wine May 28th, from 5 to 7 PM"

cadre (kadr)

    : frame (of picture, door, etc)

Note: there are more meanings for the French word cadre. Sorry to not have the time to list them here. Dust off those dictionaries and see for yourselves... meantime, a little bit of dust in the following story...


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Framed!

I was driving my dad and my belle-mère, Marsha, home to our vineyard when I realized that the room I had carefully prepared for their 4-day stay had something terribly, embarrassingly out of place! 

Despite the fastidious organizing that took place in the days leading up to Dad and Marsha's visit, I had forgotten all about the oil painting my belle-mère Marsha had presented us years ago. Currently it was missing its frame! More about that in a minute, meantime, there were other glaring oversights that were now coming to mind. For example,  I might have dusted Marsha's painting, as my own mom had, during her previous visit, when we wiped down all of Mom's paintings. I remember being astonished watching Mom wring out a dishcloth and set about scrubbing down all of her own oil paintings before placing them back on the counter tops.

Mom had overlooked the fact that her paintings were not hung properly, but there was one thing that bothered her. "They need frames. Promise me you will frame them!" I nodded my head as we stared back at the paintings, which gleamed. The colors were so deep and rich after the towel bath. I would have never thought to wash a work of art!

It was during that same visit that Mom discovered Marsha's painting.  Mom admired Marsha's rendition of a typical Provençal mas. The shutters and door were beautifully painted and the climbing roses that reached up to tickle the shutters made this an enchanting scene from any Francophile's dream.

Marsha had set the painting into a beautiful wooden frame before offering it to Jean-Marc and me. When Mom saw that frame her eyes began to shine and I sensed, even before the crime took place, what calculations were going on beyond that innocent face.

"No! The answer is NO!"

"But I just want to show you what my painting would look like if you ever got around to framing it!" Mom explained.

Fast forward to the drive home, where Marsha and Dad are chatting about the countryside as seen from the car window. Another conversation is going on in my own head:

I need to get to the room before Dad and Marsha do! But how to switch Mom's painting out of Marsha's frame?—when Mom's painting is in another room!  And what a dope you are to have placed Marsha's painting there—on the ledge of the heater of all places! This is really going to look bad!!!  

True! I should have given my belle-mère's painting a more prominent place than on the heater! But it wasn't the heat that threatened to damage the painting (we never use that heater, which serves more as a shelf for books and artwork).... it was the seeming carelessness that threatened to damage my carefully soigné appearance of a mature, has-it-all-together daughter. As it was the bed was impeccably made and the en suite bath shined, as did the floors. And then there was my belle-mère's painting—which sat there vulnerably, like a beautiful women whose summer hat had just been blown off by the Mistral... or pinched by a rascal! 

Meantime, Mom's painting of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin now boasted a beautiful frame! It would be one of the first things my Dad and Marsha would see when then walked in the front door.

As things threatened to quickly fall apart (we were nearing home now, just one or two blocks away from The Revealing Moment) I made a quick decision to come clean. Experience reminded me that skeletons always manage to work their way out of the closet, "Bonjour! Bonjour!", the moment the guests arrive. Besides, I have learned that the antics involved in covering up an embarrassing faux pas are often as ridiculous as the situation itself.  The skittish and bizarre behavior one exhibits while trying to mask the skeleton only makes the problem more obvious. There was no way to dart out of the car and into the house in time for a casual switcharoo without my behavior seeming weirder than usual.

Often the best course of action is to admit error and, if at all possible, to swiftly pass along the blame... 

"Marsha, there's something I need to explain... it has to do with that rascal mom of mine!"

***

Post note: my Mom and Marsha have an unusually peaceful relationship as wife and ex-wife of my dad, Kip.  You might say the women are as close as a painting and its frame!

Marsha was quick to forgive Mom and to assure me, "It's nothing to worry about! It's not at all important." Admiring Mom's painting, Marsha remarked, "It's just lovely." 

  Marsha_dad 007

No make-up (Marsha, left) and no breast (Mom, right). I hope my moms don't mind my posting their photo, taken in 2003 after mom Jules's mastectomy. Marsha offered a loving ear back then, and the two women continue to maintain a caring email correspondence. Mom always says, of her ex, that Marsha is the best thing that ever happened to my dad. I think he would agree.

  DSC_0286

I temporarily moved Marsha's painting to my desk, for inspiration while I typed today's story. Click on the picture to see a close up and to read the other inspiration (Flaubert's words) just above.

DSC_0277-001
Here's Mom's rendition of Le Quartier Juif à St. Maximin. Mom can tell you stories about one of her favorite places. Maybe check the comments box later on.... Meantime, I need to learn how to drill a hole and hang some of these lovely paintings!

Comments Corner
Corrections and comments are welcome and appreciated. Click here to leave a message.  P.S. no vocab section today. Sorry about that!

Thanks for forwarding today's story to an artist, a stepmother, a daughter-in-law, or to someone you secretly admire! C'est l'amour qui fait tourner la terre (is that how to say "Love makes the world go round?")

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


chambre d'amis

Sunflowers (c) Kristin Espinasse
One of the photos featured in our Saturday edition "Cinéma Vérité". Find out more about it, and how to help support this free word journal, here. Thank you for your consideration :-)

***

One meaning of "host" is "lord of strangers". How's that for mystique? As well, hosting another person is considered, by some, as mystical, even sacred! And guests, in some parts of the world, are considered gods (or angels), who have been sent with messages. That ought to teach us to see visitors in a new light!

How do you feel about hospitality? Are you a thoughtful or absent-minded host? Is hosting something you look forward to or shy away from? Why? What are your best tips for welcoming a guest to your home? Do you offer friends a fold-out couch, or chambre d'amis? Or do you give up your own bed for a weary traveler? For how many days is a guest welcome to stay, chez vous? And what about offering a room to a complete stranger? Thank you for sharing your thoughts, here, in the comments box. Now for today's word:

la chambre d'amis

    : guest room, spare room


A favorite quote written (in English) on the wall of a favorite bookstore in Paris, Shakespeare & Company:

Ne négligez pas de pratiquer l'hospitalité. Car plusieurs, en l'exerçant, ont accueilli des anges sans le savoir. Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.

Thank you, George Christian, for pointing out that the original quote is from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 13, verse 2:
.

    Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
    for by doing that some have entertained angels
    without knowing it.

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

Lord of Strangers

When a friend offered a room for us to stay in, on Saturday, her son's wedding night, I wondered if my husband had not dropped a hint first.

"Are you sure you didn't say anything? You didn't tell Anne-Marie we were having difficulty finding lodging nearby?"
"No," Jean-Marc insisted. "I think she has reserved rooms for many of the wedding guests."

This was another concern, and so I voiced it: "But the groom's mother has other things to do than to worry about where we will stay! We can't trouble her with this detail!"

"Don't worry! I think Anne-Marie has rented a grange next-door, and we will be in a studio there."

My mind immediately conjured up a B&B, or a kind of rural gîte, and I pictured several chambre d'hôtes. I began warming to the idea of accepting another's kind offer. This was, after all, la campagne, and there were, beside vineyards, many old farmhouses that doubled as hotels. As long as we wouldn't be putting anybody out... and as long as we wouldn't be staying chez elle, with Anne-Marie, where there must be enough activity already, what with the wedding preparations.

When Jean-Marc and I drove up to the neighbor's lodge to get a key to our room, I noticed we were entering some sort of equestrian park. There were a few beautifully manicured arenas and neat stables at the top of the drive, beside a newly planted oliveraie. I figured that the owners had two businesses: rooms for rent and horse riding lessons. Speaking of the owners, there they were now, walking toward the car to greet us, along with three barking dogs (two Jack Russells and an épagneul).

The couple was striking; the woman might have been a sosie of Katharine Hepburn and, from her energetic manner, she seemed to share the same character. I watched as she signaled, briskly, for us to pull up closer to the garden gate. We rolled down the window in order to hear her instructions. "A little closer. There you are. Just mind the dogs (she pointed to the small Jack Russells), who have a tendency to slip under the tires!"

Jean-Marc got out and shook the our hosts' hands. I waited in the car, figuring that the lodge owners must have received many of the wedding guests by now. We would simply collect our key to the studio and be on our way to the wedding dinner.

When the greeting lingered I realized I needed to get out of the car and say hello."Why don't you have a look at the room?" the couple offered.

Jean-Marc and I collected our bags and followed the woman up a dirt path, onto a small patio, and into what seemed to be a private home. We passed by the kitchen, and walked through an informal living room. Gesturing toward the hallway, our hostess pointed out the home's private quarters: "This is where we stay," she said, referring to herself and her husband. On the way down the stairs, she warned us to "mind the bannister," which was wobbly.

On the lower level, the tour continued. "And this is the buanderie," she said, pointing to the closed door beside our room. I appreciated her taking the time to reveal this room, as I might have wondered, through the night, just who or what was behind that door. 

"And here is your bathroom." Again, more rooms were thoughtfully pointed out, so that we were familiar with our surroundings. This is when it occurred to me that we were the only people she was lodging. What Jean-Marc had guessed to be a many-roomed B&B was really one room in a private home. We had been in similar one-room-only B&B's, though I had never travelled through so many private spaces to get to the chambre d'hôte....

Once in our room we were given a few tips: "There are mosquito nets on the bathroom window, feel free to leave it open for some fresh air. Help yourself to the shampoo... and there are fresh towels and gants. I heard the concern in our hostesse's voice. It was clear that she wished us comfort. "Beware! In the morning, this one (here she pointed at one of the Jack Russells) might run in and pounce on your bed! The little Jack Russell's antics broke the ice and we felt more at home than ever.

"Is there anything else you might need? How about an extra pillow?"

"Oh, no, thank you! This is just perfect!" I thought to tell her that we would be back very late. Given that this was a French wedding, chances were we'd return in the early morning hours. 

"Pas de souci. I will be here, in my bathrobe," she chuckled, "to let you in". With that, our hostess offered another welcoming smile. "Don't worry, I will hear you -- the dogs are sure to bark. Oh, and sleep as late as you like. And when you wake up you might like to go for a swim," she said, pointing out the pool area.

True to her word our hostess greeted us at 2 a.m., our presence being announced by a trio of yapping dogs.

"Hey-oh! Taisez-vous!" she warned the dogs and she guided us to the front porch, lest we miss a step in the dark night. Passing by the kitchen, she reached for a bottle of cold water for us and, at the top of the stairs, she wished us a good rest. I hoped she had had a little rest of her own, but imagined she must have waited up for us.

Several hours later we awoke to the screeching of cicadas and the early morning heat of summertime. The bright sun filtered into the room from an opening along the sage green shutters. I could hear commands out in the garden and wondered if the hostess was taking care of the animals.

We appreciated all of the items left for us in the bathroom--including a comb!--for we had forgotten our trousses de toilette. And we were careful to share one towel, not wanting to trouble our hostess with more washing, after the sheets that she'd need to change from one nuitée.

At breakfast, in the cozy kitchen-living room area, we were joined by our hosts, who I imagined had been waiting dans les parages, or in the wings, for us. Over coffee, croissants, and fresh peaches from their verger, I learned a little more about this gracious couple. Horses are their passion, not their business. The beautiful stables and arena are for their pleasure, which they take on the weekend after a hectic week in the city, where each is kept busy Monday through Friday with a demanding work schedule.

I realized, then, that this couple had only their weekends to enjoy their horses and to care for their property. We didn't want to take any more of their time, and so we finished our coffees, savored a little bit more enriching conversation, and returned to "business mode" -- by asking for l'addition.

"But you owe us nothing!" the woman assured us. And, on seeing our hesitation, she clarified, "I am doing a favor for my friend," she said, referring back to the groom's mother, "by offering a room for someone in need."

It finally dawned on me that Jean-Marc and I were the strangers in need...

Suddenly another's generosity and humility deeply touched me. I thought about all the little comforts the couple had thoughtfully provided us, right down to the earplugs and the eye-mask on the nightstand! How their morning had been interrupted, so as to be present when we woke up, not knowing whether that would be at nine or at noon! In my mind's eye I saw the couple rushing home from work to get the room in order and to make sure there would be something for breakfast.

Jean-Marc was equally touched. "But, we don't even have a bottle of wine with which to thank you!" he said. 

"It is our pleasure!" our hostess assured us. And, just in case we were feeling indebted, she offered: "It is a honor to help another in need. I am sure you would do the very same."

These words echoed in my mind as we drove off, in a cloud of gratitude, touched by the kindness of strangers, who we risked never to see again. We were left with only a lesson: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Could it be that simple? These "others" sure made it seem so.

***

Post note: I doubt our hôtes are reading, but just in case: MERCI BEAUCOUP!!!

Le Coin Commentaires

The meaning of "host" can be read, according to Wikipedia, as "lord of strangers". What does hospitality mean to you? Is it your strength or weakness? What are your best tips for welcoming a guest to your home? Do you have a guest room, or chambre d'amis? Or do you give up your own bed for your guests. Will you be hosting over-nighters this summer? What about offering a room to a complete stranger, as our gracious hosts did? Comments are welcome here, in the comments box.

French Vocabulary

une grange = a barn (sometime re-structed into living quarters)

le gîte = self-catering cottage

la chambre d'hôte = room in a B&B

le gant de toilette = wash cloth

taisez-vous! =quiet down!

la campagne = country

une oliveraie = olive grove

un épagneul,e = spaniel

le sosie = one's double

la buanderie = laundry room

la trousse de toilette = makeup bag, travelling necessities case

la nuitée = (tourism) night (ex: deux nuitées = two night's stay in hotel)

le verger = orchard

l'addition = the bill

 

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Mama Braise, teaching three of her six pups a lesson in hospitality: "There is always room for another!" Mama Braise says. "And, remember, warm affection not perfection!" Photo taken in 2009. Read some puppy stories!

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

 

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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--Melanie


inhospitalier

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 I would like to be more welcoming to strangers. And you?

inhospitalier (in os pih tal yay) adjective

    : inhospitable
 

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

The French have a synonym for ingracious. They call it "uninhabitable" ("inhabitable") and I guess that sums up the way I seem to be: resistant to anyone taking up residence inside of me... which may explain the pains I take in putting up so many boundaries. But God gave me a hospitable "habitable" husband and a semi-public farm in which to daily test (or, rather, stretch) me. Only, progress is slow and I wonder when will I be able to offer an unexpected visitor a warm hello?

***

Seated at the picnic table under our shady Mulberry tree, I was eating lunch with Lou and the harvest crew when I noticed a car inching up our driveway.

The Unexpected Visitor! Who could it be? What do they need? And why haven't they warned before they've come calling? 

A warning... It is now with ice pick eyes that I glare at my husband. There must have been advanced notice! Surely there was a warning! He just forgot to share it with me! Calm down. Never mind. The lesson is the same. 

I felt a familiar inward growl growing from deep within: the piping up of my inner territorial troglodyte. Oh, cave dweller, it is so hard to learn lessons!

I hear the car door slam shut and gravel crunching beneath the unfamiliar one's feet.
"Who could it be?" my mind murmured on. There it was again, that grievous gargouillement... It wasn't my empty stomach smarting: it was the howling of an inhospitable house mouse, the one who'd rather run and hide, slipping through a crack in the wall and over to the quiet, predictable other side. 

There, inside my little comfort cave I stare at a poster on my wall. It reads:

Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.*

Dutifully, I recite the sage words over and again.

Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.
Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.

It's no use. It is only in the doing and not in the "drilling in" that one begins to overcome.

The little house mouse inside of me turns and faces the entry. She stares stubbornly. Outside the crack in the wall there is light. It sends reassuring rays into her space. She can feel it on her timid toes. It is pulling her outward. To where? Heaven knows. 


 

French Vocabulary & Notes

le gargouillement
= gurgling, grumbling

*"Be not inhospitable to strangers" is a message found on the walls of the famous bookstore in Paris Shakespeare & Co. It comes from Hebrews 13:2:
Ne négligez pas de pratiquer l'hospitalité. Car plusieurs, en l'exerçant, ont accueilli des anges sans le savoir.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie