ravissant

Bignonia (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bignonias always remind me of our home in Les Arcs, where the flowers clambored up and over the metal pergola beside our driveway, throwing shade onto the boules (or "pétanque" or "bocce ball") court just beyond. Our house in Les Arcs-sur-Argens was a 30-minute drive from Bagnols-en-Forêt, where my English friend, Michèle, had a "pied-à-terre", or second home....

 

ravissant

rah-vee-sahn

lovely


At Michèle's home in Bagnols, I am waiting patiently to meet an Englishwoman who has lived through two world wars. It is easy to pass the time, seated here on a lovely terrace beneath the blossoming cherry tree. The picnic table is gradually filling up as Michèle's golden-haired daughters, Violet and Natalie, bring out roasted chicken, a lovely green-bean salad, and baguettes fresh from the local bakery. 

As the girls disappear into the kitchen in search of les couverts, the guest of honor arrives.

"I'm so sorry for the delay," she apologizes. "The workmen are busy cleaning my terrace. The tiles are covered with mold! I told the men to scrub it down with vinegar. Vinegar works best!"

"Hello Bobby!" Michèle welcomes her neighbor, l'invitée d'honneur.  Bobby pauses to admire the cherry tree, which towers above her like a giant floral umbrella. I try to picture this delicate woman giving orders to a couple of burly ouvriers. In my mind's eye, I see the workmen reluctantly setting aside their industrial cleaners for the simple home remedy: le vinaigre—good ol' sour wine! 

As Bobby settles into her chair, Michèle and her belle-mère, Shirley, shake their heads in appreciation of their friend's latest adventure. 

"Oh, they must love you, Bobby!"

Bobby says that's possible, perhaps because of the beer she gives the men at the end of the workday!

The ladies at the table laugh as Bobby explains what happens when she runs out of Kronenbourg.

"I knock on the neighbor's door." We then learn about Bobby's 72-year-old friend. At 18 years her junior, le voisin wears a black toupee and a handlebar mustache, and provides back-up beer for the sour-scented workmen.


Listening to her colorful story, I notice Bobby's charm and how the flowering cerisier frames her beautifully. Its full, white blossoms muffle the rumbling of a thousand nectar-hungry bees. The buzzing causes us to look up through the trees, to the clear blue sky above. 

"When the Mistral wind blows through, it chases away the clouds," Bobby notes. We search the ciel bleu. Not a cloud in sight.

The sky invites our wondering eyes and questioning hearts. I pull my chair closer to Bobby's.

"What brought you to France?" I ask.

Bobby tells me that when her husband died 12 years ago, she decided to come to the South of France and build a summer nest. She was 78 at the time.

As she shares her story, I can't help but admire her. Her eyes are that pretty shade between "steel" and "powder" that some call robin's-egg blue. Her short hair has that quality of white that tips the edges of the blue sea. I notice how it falls back off her face in endless waves.

Bobby is now talking about her 35-year-old granddaughter, an art teacher in Texas. As she speaks, I try to pinpoint her British accent. Just what part of Angleterre has rubbed off on her voice?

I notice her earrings: large pearl-colored disks. I make a note to wear such earrings in 53 years' time, as if boucles d'oreille would render me as beautiful as she.

Bobby tells me that her 63-year-old daughter has a butterfly tattoo on her hand.

"She got it thirty years ago."

"Were you upset?"

"No. But I told her the butterfly might look different when her skin begins to wrinkle!" 

"Does it?" I am curious.

"It's looking fine," Bobby smiles. Her blue eyes deepen as she turns her attention to the saturated sky.

I look down at my hands as I search for words. I want to tell Bobby that she is like that butterfly.

.

Your edits here. Thanks for checking grammar and punctuation. Is the story clear enough? Good to go? Share your thoughts, here in the comments box . P.S. Thanks for checking the vocab section, too!

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.

French Vocabulary

Bagnols (Bagnols-en-Forêt)
a town in the Var, not far from the sea 

le couvert
place setting (fork, knive, spoon) 

l'invitée d'honneur
guest of honor

l'ouvrier (m)
worker

le vinaigre
vinegar 

la belle-mère
mother-in-law 

le voisin
neighbor

le cerisier
cherry tree 

le ciel bleu
blue sky 

 l'Angleterre (f)
England

une boucle d'oreille
earring

 

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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poursuivre

Camaret (c) Kristin Espinasse
The iron campanile in Camaret-sur-Aygues, where the following drama takes place....


poursuivre
(poor-sweevre)

to chase



In the town of Camaret-sur-Aygues, we had found good seats beneath the shady platane at an outdoor café when our luck took a swift turn for the worse.

Our five-month-old chiot, Braise, had curled up beneath the table, her leash attached to the leg of a bistro chair, when our son rose from the same chair, announcing that he and his sister were off to play in the vieux village behind the café.

Our golden retriever's ear trembled as she listened to the kids' voices trail off down the street. Curious, she shot up and set out to follow the children's laughter. But as she advanced, so did the chair to which she was attached!

The grating sound of the chair dragging against the stone path soon distracted our pup. Turning to discover the source of the noise, she was startled to find herself pursued by a screeching four-legged alien!

Braise's eyes shot open as she peeled out of that terrace café, the bistro chair flying off—bumpity-bump-bump—with her! The scene might have been comical if it hadn't been cloaked in what looked to be impending doom.

Braise swung left along la grand-rue, entering the town's ramparts, and continued full throttle down the pedestrian walkway. In vain, she fled the bouncing bistro chair, screaming bloody murder as only a dog can: in a gargle of excited barks. The commotion resonated throughout the town as Braise and the chair rocketed down the narrow street. Windows flew open as villagers poked their heads out of their homes to find out what the racket was about. 

Terrorized by her screeching and bouncing pursuer, Braise tried desperately to outrun the chair monster, but the faster she ran, the faster it followed, menacing and angry in her tracks.

In a panic, I chased after our puppy, screaming her name. When Braise was halfway down the street, the leash snapped and the chair fell away, spinning on its side to a full stop. Braise didn't look back but turned on her paws and headed, full steam, back to  the terrace café and to the busy street beside it!

It was when she rounded the corner, at record speed, that I heard the screech of tires.... 

BRAISE!!! I screamed. BRAISE... With my heart in my throat I raced around the corner. It was her tail that I saw first...

Her lovely wagging tail! Next I saw the sparkle in my husband's eyes, lucky stars of thanks that our dog had stopped just short of the oncoming car. Braise, elle l'a échappé belle.


***
Click here to suggest edits for story! Thanks for your comments and suggestions.



French Vocabulary

le platane = plane tree
le chiot = puppy
vieux = old
la grand-rue = main street
l'échapper belle
= to have a narrow escape (and avoid an accident)


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


Canvas: Toile, carte bancaire, papeterie and belle époque in French

Canvasing St. Tropez
French art and a classic car along the port in St. Tropez


la toile
(twal)
noun, feminine
canvas 


Françoise has not changed much in the three years since Mom and I have frequented her art shop. She still has her ballerina-thin figure and still paints cherry-red streaks through her chocolate-brown hair; the contrast is as stark as her customers' paintings, which line the store's entrance hall and make shoppers feel smug about their own art.


At the cash register, when I take out my carte bancaire, Françoise still picks up the phone to call over to the papeterie, shouting for them to bring back the hand-held credit-card processor (the one the two stores have always shared, never mind the inconvenience).

"Moins vingt... moins vingt... moins vingt...." Françoise mumbles, as she tallies up the art supplies. She still gives my mom twenty percent off all items, and then rounds down the total. This morning she even threw in a freebie.
"Those paintbrushes have been discontinued," she said. "I can offer this one to your maman."

To this day, Françoise listens to my mom's English, only to reply in French. Just how the two women can understand each other is high art to me. The paintings which result from their exchanges need not be translated either. They are, like the language barrier the women have overcome, indeed like love itself, transcendent.


*   *   *

Returning a few years later, Mom and I were shocked to discover that Françoise's shop had closed down. Standing out on the sidewalk, we stared sadly at the handwritten sign in the window; it read "A VENDRE". Our eyes caught on a bold reflection in the window; we turned to discover the bigger, fancier, more deluxe store that had opened across the street.... 

Unlike Françoise's window, which displayed tubes of paint, brushes, and even a few modest creations of her customers, the competitor's windows were filled with a new rage: "scrapbooking"... ink pads, stamps, glue and tiny cutouts crowded the window. 

At the back of the glittery new store, a few paint supplies hung, like the end of a belle époque.

 

Click here to leave an edit or suggestion in the comments box. Thanks for checking the vocab section, below. Note: the story was originally published without the sad post note (about the shop closing). Do you think the postnote should be included in the book? Or leave off the story with the happy ending?

French Vocabulary

la toile = canvas
la carte bancaire = credit/debit card
la papeterie = office/school supply store
moins vingt = minus twenty (percent)
la maman
 = mom
à vendre = for sale
la belle époque
 = beautiful era

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


la frangine

Frangine
Jean-Marc's frangine.

la frangine 

frahn-zheen

noun, feminine

sister (in informal French)
.

CHAPTER FROM BLOSSOMING IN PROVENCE

When Jean-Marc's sister comes to stay with us, the kids want to touch their aunt's pink hair, ride in her orange car, and give up their beds for her comfort. Do you still live in a school bus and can we come visit? they want to know.

The bus has been sold, she tells them, but there is plenty of room in her two-ton camion. The home being of a mobile nature, such a visit might be in Normandy or Paris or even Africa—wherever work or wonderment might take her. Aunt Cécile has worked as a mime, as a circus-tent technician and, most recently, as a driver for a punk-rock band—she even holds a poids lourds license.

Aunt Cécile with the pink hair drove up in an orange station wagon this weekend. She is taking the clunker to Africa. Her mission is to transport English books to a bibliothèque in Gambia. For cash, which she calls flouze, she will sell her car along the way, in Morocco perhaps, where station wagons are used as taxis. And while she is there, she—and the friends with whom she is traveling—will get the shots they need for Africa. Immunization, Cécile explains, is less expensive in Morocco. For the price of one French injection, she and her potes can each get vaccinated before venturing south along war-torn roads that lead to hungry villages.

Along our manicured driveway, our family gathers for the bon voyage wishes. But before she goes, there are so many things I want to ask my sister-in-law about her life, one so different from mine.

"We don't ask these questions," my mother-in-law sighs, wanting to ask them more than I. 

After my belle-mère kisses her daughter goodbye, it is my turn to say au revoir.

There we stand, side by side, my frangine and I—I with salon highlights in my hair, my sister-in-law with Mercurochrome streaks in hers (the dark red liquid stains it radical pink), I with diamonds on my finger, she with jewels in her soul. She is a French Robin Hood and her treasures are the cast-offs that she spirits away from the privileged. I am the stable, square, secure sister-in-law, still searching, longing to be spirited away with those old clothes and books of mine that are headed out the door, to Afrique.


.

*     *     *

 


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French Vocabulary

le camion
truck

le poids lourd
heavy goods vehicle

la bibliothèque
library

le flouze
(or flouse)
dough (argot for cash as are le fric, le pognon, le blé, and la thune)

le pote

pal
bon voyage
have a nice trip
la belle-mère
mother-in-law

au revoir

goodbye 
 
l'Afrique (f)
Africa

DSC_0057
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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


cafard

Serignan_christmas
In the town of Sérignan (Vaucluse)


cafard (ka-far) noun, masculine
  1. cockroach
  2. melancholy, blues (depression)

Chaque minute de cafard vous prive de soixante secondes de bonheur.
Each depressing minute deprives you of sixty happy seconds.
  --Blas de Otero

In books: Provence: The Collected Traveler: An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource by Barrie Kerper
.

Column
Chocolate cake. It is one of the things that springs to mind when I think of my belle-mère. I see her cautiously stepping off the train. In her right hand there is a plastic Monoprix sac; in her left, a small overnight bag.

"Attention!" she warns, as I reach for her sacoches. "Le gâteau..." she says, indicating her bag. Knowing her, she's wrapped that cake with a few rounds of aluminum foil before balancing it on top of the few personal items in her carry-on. In the shopping bag she's got the latest editions of Voici and Elle, magazines which she'll hand down to me when she returns to Marseilles after her weekend stay. She's in good form when she's reading gossip and looking at the fashion magazines, and when she's baking cake.

As for the chocolate cake, she's not sure if it will be any good. She's still building back her confidence after quitting cake completely, or the baking of cakes, I should say. At one point in her life, making chocolate cake was akin to climbing Kilimanjaro: a seemingly impossible feat. That period, which
Jean-Marc respectfully refers to as "her tired moment" was, truly, dark as the chocolate in her famous gâteau and minus a merciful dose of sweetness.

Around that time we were organizing a joint baptism/birthday party for our daughter (her older brother, by 2.4 years, was about to turn three). The food was to be catered... except for the dessert. Jean-Marc planned to ask his mom to make her chocolate cake.  

Given my belle-mère's "fatigue," this seemed a cruel request. "Are you sure we can't order the cakes from one of the dozens of bakers in the area?" I asked. "Ne t'inquiètes pas, chérie," Don't worry, Jean-Marc assured me. It would make his mother happy to make the cakes.

When Michèle-France learned that her son had "ordered" from her three chocolate cakes--THREE!--she all but fled under her unmade bed. She had no proper cake pans, for one. For two, three, and four, well, let's just say that there began a scramble--a veritable scurry--to get the cakes together in one blues-busting hurry!

One week later the cakes made it across the French countryside, to the vineyard in Trets-en-Provence where the festivities had already begun. Jean-Marc greeted his mother, helping her out of my brother-in-law's car, and paused to inspect the cakes. Their undulating chocolate surface only hinted at the transformative effort involved.

Later, I noticed Jean-Marc inquiring about the dessert, asking his friends if they had enjoyed his mother's very special cake. With each friend's affirmative nod, I followed my husband's eyes over to his mother's and watched as he added an encouraging wink. I searched my mother-in-law's face which seemed to lift; where once numbness and shadows had gripped, there was now a noticeable shift.

A soft light, like the glowing embers of a fire after midnight, took flight, there behind the once pained regard of a woman whose eyes now reflected her son's delight.

Now, in those lively, soul-filled eyes, I saw that my husband's "cruel" request had been compassion in disguise.
                                        *    *     *

la belle-mère
mother-in-law

attention!
careful!

la sacoche
bag

le gâteau
cake

Read popular French magazines and speak like a native!: Voici (gossip) & Elle (fashion)
.

Terms & Expressions:
un coup de cafard = a fit of depression
avoir le cafard = to be feeling down
.
:: Audio File ::
Hear Jean-Marc pronounce this French word & quote: Cafard. Chaque minute de cafard vous prive de soixante secondes de bonheur.
Download cafard.mp3
Download cafard.wav
.

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


indigne

Lamorra
Season's Greetings from La Morra, Italy.

        Learn French in your car : a simple, direct approach to language learning.

indigne (an-deen) adjective
  shameful, disgraceful, unworthy, worthless, inadequate

Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner.
He who ceases to learn cannot adequately teach.
--Gaston Bachelard

                                  *    *    *

Column_18
When my 9-year-old came running out to the garden, all teeth and waving an Advent calendar as if it were a winning Loto* ticket, I had yet another mère indigne* moment. Where had I stashed that one? I wondered, of the calendar. "I found it in the bottom of the armoire," my daughter said, eyes still glued to the colorful package. Jackie didn't seem to mind that we'd missed opening so many of those little "doors" beneath the calendar dates and I would soon understand why.

Still feeling guilty about the misplaced calendar (which I vaguely remember receiving in the mail a few years back after it had been lost in transit) I set aside my book, sprang from the garden chair and its patch of winter sun, and followed my daughter into the kitchen to help put together the pop-up structure.

With the assembly instructions located beneath the calendar's base, I had to hold the cardboard unit above my head and assemble it mid-air. When all sides were taped we stood staring at a Nativity scene. Jackie finished the Three Wise Men cut-outs and we taped their feet to the cardboard base, beneath which twenty-four pieces of stale chocolate were hidden.

With the help of  Jackie's friend Manuella, we began "setting" the calendar to the correct date, a process involving the piercing of cardboard, the opening of numbered doors, the tearing of foil, and the gobbling up of chocolate. Jackie reached behind the door for December 1st and I noticed the dark candy was faded. When it was my turn to eat December 3rd, I discovered the chocolates were a bit tasteless but that didn't stop me from eating December 6th and 9th. At this point the girls were popping open the doors and handing me my chocolates. It wasn't until I sat there with December 12th melting on my tongue that I realized.....

"Quelle horreur!* I ate my mother-in-law!" The girls looked stunned.
"I mean I ate my mother-in-law's birthday!" The girls looked amused.
"I mean I ate December 12th -- which WAS Grandma's birthday!"

Panicked, I looked over to Jackie who was busy eating The Day After Grandma's Birthday, a.k.a. December 13th. That meant it was too late to call Jean-Marc's mother on her anniversaire.* I could now slap the words belle-fille indigne* across my forehead.

Feeling worthless and dumb as the cardboard pop-up I'd just assembled, I dialed my belle-mère* in Marseilles. As the phone rang, I looked over at the Three cardboard Wise Men for encouragement. Two of them had tumbled over from the faulty tape job. We're not perfect either, they seemed to say.

.....................................................................................................................
*References: Loto = French lottery; une mère (f) indigne = unfit mother; quelle horreur! = how awful!; l'anniversaire (m) = birthday; la belle-fille (f) indigne = unworthy daughter-in-law; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law

Hear French spoken: listen to my son, Max, recite today's quote:
Qui ne continue pas à apprendre est indigne d'enseigner. Download indigne2.wa
v


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


emplette

Primeurs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Fruit and vegetable crates at a corner market in Orange (Vaucluse).


une emplette
(om-plet)
noun, feminine
a purchase

 

When Max and his soeur cadette, Jackie, offer to ride their bikes to the bakery, I request a little detour along the way.  "Please stop by the supérette. We're out of toilet paper!" 

The kids wrinkle their noses, complaining that they'll look carrément ridicule shopping for le papier WC.  But not wanting to lose the right to ride to town, they quickly come up with a compromise.

"Can we get Sopalin instead?"  

I'm not crazy about the paper-towel idea, but have to give the kids credit for some creative problem-solving. 

Half an hour later, brother and sister return from les courses with a few unexpected purchases. Jackie, her cheeks crimson from the cool autumn air, hands me a package of toilet paper.

"It smells like peaches!" she says. "Sens-le!"

I sniff the fruit-scented TP. It does smell good! Still, I am suspicious. How did she suddenly muster up the courage to be seen in the toilet-paper aisle?  And what is that in the other bag?

As if on cue, Max pulls a bottle out of his sac à dos
Wine? Jean-Marc, walks into the room. He is as confused as I am.
"Pour faire plaisir à Papa," our 11-year-old Max explains.

Jean-Marc examines the bottle, amazed at the coincidence: the Côtes du Rhône wine is from the area to which we will be moving this summer!

Busy reading the label, Jean-Marc seems unfazed by the fact that his child has managed to buy alcohol. More than fazed, I am dying to know a few details about the booze purchase.

"It's a 2004," Max is busy talking wine with his dad. "It cost 6 euros 80 for the bottle!"

"But Max," I question, 'How is it that the store clerk let you buy wine?"

"I told him it was for my dad."

My eyes shoot over to Jackie. Eh bien! That explains the toilet paper confidence. She must have told the clerk that the TP was for her mom!

***
Putting away the groceries, I have a change of perspective and am no longer embarrassed about the toilet paper. All it takes is to imagine the following Could Be Worse scenario:

Early Sunday morning at the supermarket. Two little kids run up to the check-out line (peopled by all of our nosy neighbors!), and plunk down a bottle of wine. In breathless voices they explain, "It's for our Mom!"

 

Your Edits Here.  Is the story clear?  Better to leave off the final paragraph? ("It's for Mom!" may be a strong enough punch line, no? Thanks for your thoughts here in the comments box. 




French Vocabulary

la soeur cadette

little sister

la supérette
small supermarket

carrément ridicule
completely ridiculous

le papier WC (also le papier toilette)
toilet paper

le Sopalin (from "Société du Papier-Linge")
paper towel

les courses
errands

sens-le
smell it

le sac à dos
backpack

pour faire plaisir à Papa
to please Daddy

Côtes du Rhône
wine grown in the Rhône region of France

eh bien!
well!

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


pourriture

Vendange braise
Braise (Brez) at her first harvest.

Cuisine Printed in French, Cuisine Et Vins De France features dozens of recipes in each issue along with articles on wine, cheese, appetizers, table decorations, and more. Subscribe to C&V here.

la pourriture
(poo ree tewr) noun, feminine
  1. rotting, rot, decay
  2. rottenness
  3. stinker, louse (person)

Proverb:
Ce que tu manges devient pourriture, ce que tu donnes devient une rose.
What you eat becomes rot, what you give becomes a rose.


A Day in a French Life...

Of fourteen autumns shared with Jean-Marc, I have missed only a few of his uncle's grape harvests. Pregnancy and childbirth were two sneaky ways to escape the backbreaking vendange. But by the fourth family harvest laboring over vines won out over the other kind of laboring. 

Harvesting grapes, like raising kids, gets easier from one year to the next. Perhaps it is due to age: old vines give less grapes; fewer grapes equal less work. As for kids: the older they get, the less lifting they require. On a purely physical level this all equates to less energy loss.

Harvesting might seem easier these days because of the language: with a growing French vocabulary I can now understand the vendangeurs, who are full of information--both serious and silly. All the trivia and teasing makes the time pass and before long the buckets are being stacked, the sécateurs stored away, and we're headed for Aunt Marie-Françoise's kitchen for a homemade harvest dinner. Time to celebrate! (Well, not quite yet. I'm not done telling you my story....)

Saturday afternoon I stood beneath a steel blue sky, my feet parked before yet another pied de vigne. Two rows over, my eleven-year-old was filling his bucket with clairette grapes while his nine-year-old sister collected the grenache further back. As for me, I held in my hand a bunch of rotten grapes.

"That's Noble rot!" another harvester, Eric, said, with a faux aristocratic accent.

I handed the bunch over to Uncle Jean-Claude who stuck his nose right into the rotten mass.... 

"C'est de la pourriture noble. We can use these grapes. But when the rotten grapes smell like vinegar, throw them out!"

I filed the information away before putting the nobly rotted grapes into my bucket and moving on to the next vine. When Eric's gray curls reappeared from the vines engulfing him, I noticed his grin was a little wider than before.

"Have you ever seen les Baux de Provence?" he inquired. I smiled, realizing I had indeed seen the charming southern town in question. But before I could answer Eric pointed to his innocent sidekick, Alain. "C'est nous deux!" It's us two! he giggled.

It took a minute before the play on words (baux/beaux) hit me and a new translation of Eric's sentence registered: "Have you ever seen the "good-looking ones" of Provence." Laughing at his joke, I forgot about my tired arms, which were bitten and scratched, and my reins which were aching. When next I looked over to see how the kids were getting along I found them studying the grapes, trying to decide which were pourri and which were not.

I marvel at the seriousness with with our kids undertake the task they've been assigned--and I feel a little guilty about my own sneaky behavior of yesteryear.... when I'd do anything to get out of harvesting. But I don't regret missing the 95' and 97'  harvests, which brought me two grubby-faced vintages--sweeter than all the grapes in Châteauneuf.

More stories from this French life in the book "Words in a French Life".

..................................................................................................................
French Vocabulary

la vendange
grape harvest
vendangeur, vendangeuse
grape-picker
le sécateur
clippers, shears
le pied de vigne (m) = vine-plant
la pourriture noble
noble rot, botrytis
les reins (mpl) = back
pourri
rotten

French Pronunciation:
Listen to Jean-Marc's recite today's proverb:
Ce que tu manges devient pourriture, ce que tu donnes devient une rose.
What you eat becomes rot, what you give becomes a rose.

Download pourriture.wav

Related Terms & Expressions:
pourri(e) = rotten, bad; corrupt
pourrir = to go rotten or bad, to spoil
le pourrissement = deterioration
l'odeur de pourriture = putrid smell
la pourriture sèche = dry rot

In books:

Noble_rot Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution.
"A truly fascinating book." --Peter Mayle

Gites_de_france Gîtes de France:
AA Bed and Breakfast in France 2006 . Check it out here:


.............................................
In Francophile gifts
: Limoges boxes

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


aisselle

Aisselle
A quiet corner in Marseilles.


aisselle
 (ay-sel)
noun, feminine
armpit, underarm


Jean-Marc's dear friend, Laurence, sits on the edge of Jackie's bed. Her long, wavy hair is pulled back into a clip, revealing her luminescent complexion, which is set off by dark Corsican eyes.

"Coucou, ma puce," she says to my daughter, who was up heaving part of the night.

"Ça ne va pas trop, n'est-ce pas?" our guest coos. Jackie lights up from the extra mothering, while a light goes off in my own head: I should be cooing like Laurence! And it is about time I added "My Little Flea" to my own list of endearments for my daughter! Forget "sweetie pie"; ma petite puce is so much more... French!

"You might want to take her temperature," Laurence suggests, and I make for the medicine cabinet, as if I were already on my way to do just that.

Le thermomètre! Why hadn't I automatically thought of it? Instead, I had pressed my cheek to my daughter's forehead, as my grandmother used to do, to judge whether Jackie had a temperature. Suddenly the old-fashioned gesture seems so unofficial, so... négligent!

I return from the bathroom with a skinny glass thermometer sans mercure, one I picked up a few years ago after struggling to get the digital ear thermometer to work. Only one problem: where to insert it while under the watchful eye of a seasoned French mother-nurse?! Do I do as the French—and aim for les fesses—or do I tuck it under the tongue as Mom used to do?

My daughter and her doting Corsican nurse are waiting. The room feels warm now and I wonder whether I, too, am coming down with something? A long hot moment passes before Laurence offers a suggestion:

"Tu peux le mettre sous l'aisselle..." she hints. I swiftly move the thermometer toward my daughter's armpit, as if I were on my way there anyway. Laurence nods graciously, as if she's certain I had been on my way there, too!

I am grateful for our friend's discretion and for all the nursing tips I've just learned (including "add half a degree Celsius to an underarm reading"). But perhaps no one is as grateful as our little patient, who seems relieved that we aimed that thermometer at the armpit and not les fesses!
***

Your edits here please. Have you enjoyed this story and is it clear enough? Are there any grammar or punctuation problems? Thanks for your thoughts here, in the comments box.

French Vocabulary

coucou ma puce = hello my flea (my little darling)
ça ne va pas trop, n'est-ce pas? = you're not doing so well, are you?
 sans mercure = without mercury
les fesses (fpl) = buttocks
tu peux le mettre sous l'aisselle = you can put it under the arm

 

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    
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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


gourde

French dog (c) Kristin Espinasse
Nothing to do with today's word... just a dog days photo taken in Draguignan.

"My Life in France." In her own words, here is the captivating story of Julia Child's years in France, where she fell in love with French food and found 'her true calling.'

une gourde (goord) noun, feminine
   1. gourd, flask, canteen
   2. simple (mind), maladroit
   3. Haitian currency (the Haitian gourde)

gourd, gourde (adjective): dull, numb (cold); dopey, clumsy

On appelle familièrement gourde une personne un peu sotte.
Informally, we call someone who is not very bright "gourde".

                                  --from the French Wikipedia, "gourde"


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

I hope he finds his way to the bathroom at night, I think, wrapping a piece of tape around my son's new lampe de poche* before using a permanent marker to label it "ESPINASSE, Max". One of the first things I learned when I moved to France was that the French always capitalize last names; presently I could use a lesson on how to label dark socks...

I examine the navy blue chaussettes* in one hand and my navy blue marker in the other. The dark socks will be difficult to mark, just like the flashlight and the gloves were. Too late to order iron- or sew-on labels. I remember the roll of tape.... Sure, it will come off in the wash... but then the packing instructions indicate that there will be no laundry service during the first week of summer camp! I stick a piece of labelled tape on the foot of each sock, happy to tick one more item off the list. I hope his feet will be warm enough.

The light blue bob* is easy to mark: ESPINASSE, Max (just under the bill), as is the tube of crème solaire.* Will he think to put on his hat? Will he protect his little freckled nose with the sun block? And the back of his neck? The merciless Alpine sun now haunts me.

Max sits on the edge of the bed, twirling his Equipe de France soccer ball.
"Mom!" he protests, embarrassed to see me labeling even the little packets of Kleenex.
"But it says here to mark 'TOUTES les affaires',"* I explain, waving the list titled "Trousseau de base."* My son points a finger to his temple and taps it. A little dingue* you are, he signals. His sparkling eyes and toothy smile soften my defense.

I open the smallest bag, and move the new orange toothbrush and the comb aside. I hope he'll find relief up north from his chronic allergies... with that, I slip the tissues in and zip the small tote shut.

When I've labeled every sock, bottle, comb, tube, gourde* and packet, I turn to my sparkly-eyed son. I feel like a dope* marking so many unprecious items against loss, when all I really want returned from camp is this eleven-year-old boy.


***

~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~

une lampe de poche = flashlight; la chaussette (f) = sock; le bob (m) = cap (hat); la crème solaire (f) = sunscreen; toutes les affaires (fpl) = all of the belongings; trousseau de base = (packing) basics: clothes, accessories, linens...; dingue = crazy; la gourde (f) = canteen; dope = gourde (in French)

French Pronunciation:


Listen: Hear my son, Max, pronounce the word "gourde": Download gourde2.wav
Hear Max's French sentence: "Ça fait du bien de boire dans ma gourde." It feels good (it's refreshing) to drink from my canteen.: Download gourde4.wav

The French word gourde in litterature:

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