Join us here at home + A Santorini Caper

Gary-group-winetasting

Join us tomorrow at 3:30 pm for a winetasting. Jean-Marc and I are happy to welcome you here (near Bandol). Confirm at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

More tasting dates: October 3rd and October 19. Email the address above, for more info.

TODAY'S WORD: la câpre

    : caper

le câprier = caper plant

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

Il y a longtemps on trouvait des capres dans les restanques de Provence, mais aujourd'hui ils ne sont plus cultivées, car ils ne sont plus rentables. A long time ago you could find capers among the rock wall terraces of Provence, but today they are no longer cultivated, as they are no longer profitable.

 

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

I first discovered caper leaves while eating lunch at Sigalas vineyard in Santorini. Having crashed my sister's Greek vacation, I was now calculating how many pieces of charcuterie I could slide onto my plate without seeming greedy. I noticed how Heidi and her friends enjoyed ordering many dishes and sharing them--an amicable practice to be sure--but for those who are impatient and food obsessed, it is torture to hold back in the name of good manners when your eyes are begging to try two of everything!

Heidi-kim-friends

When a plate of appetizers was passed to me, I chose one slice of pastourma, a match stick of goat's cheese and a sliver of roasted red pepper--regretfully leaving the salami that shouted "take me! take me!" Somebody else would appreciate it getting it. And sure enough, my husband snapped it up as soon as the plate circled back to him, adding it to the unrestricted choices he had made earlier and washing it all down with white wine!

Grrh! I sipped on my fizzy water, and ate slowly while keeping an eye on the next platter. "I think those are caper leaves!" my friend Kim said, passing me a plate of pureed fava beans (really split peas--but that's another story!). "Try them!"

I scooped up a (small) serving of puree, adding one--oh heck, three!--dark green marinated leaves to my plate. The pureed beans being garnished with chopped red onion, I grabbed those too.

One of the mysteries of life is this: you never know where or when a new passion will hit. And just like that you hunger to discover all you can about something to which you once gave short shrift. Chewing on those tender round leaves set the mechanics of my mind in motion: capers! I must know more about capers! And isn't it funny how the moment you become aware of something it appears around every corner?

Walking back to our rented apartment, looking out over the volcanic cliff to the turquoise sea, I noticed a magnificent specimen jutting from the rocky falaise. There it was! The caper plant! So that is what it looked like? Beautiful!

After the first sighting, I accompanied Jean-Marc to another vineyard. As a colleague at Hatzidakis Winery presented the organic domain, I looked around and noted many signs of permaculture - from the composting banana peels and withering zucchini tossed into the vines at the entrance--to the office trailer which sported a second roof (a thick layer of grape stems! Instead of tossing them, the stems were used to insulate the building) this winery was obviously sensitive to nature, and here was someone who could surely tell me more about capers! A plant that will take on more and more importance in the coming years of climate change (capers like arid soil and can grow out of a rock!).

As my husband drank in every word about his new favorite Santori wine, I dared cut into the conversation. "Excuse me, but could you please tell me something about capers?" Eyeing Jean-Marc, I said my mea culpas - pleading with him to be patient. He'd had his wine, now let me have my capers!

The vineyard man smiled. "Nobody has succeeded in cultivating capers on the island. You won't find caper farms here. The plants are wild!"

"I've managed to find some seeds," I explained, telling about the pod I'd harvested from a plant outside a tourist town.

"Good luck planting them in France," he said. "If they grow here, it is the local ants that help them along."

I imagined the ants consuming the seeds and leaving the droppings deep in the crevaces of the rock walls where these plants (weeds, really) grow. "Well, we have plenty of ants! I announced. Argentinian ants!" If an argentinian ant can conquer France, it will surely know what to do with these historic seeds.

Capparis-spinosa
"Illustration Capparis spinosa0" by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1840-1925) - Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz, via Wikipedia

That night in bed I began a google frenzy and learned even more about capers, notably their medicinal value. Those who suffer from arthritis (rheumatism) and gout would do well to increase their consumption of capers! I would be adding the berries and leaves to my husband's meals very soon!

I returned home with several bottles of pickled capers and caper leaves - and those precious seeds! No sooner had we touched down in Marseilles, but I was in our back yard making mud balls.

"Seed bombs," I noted, posting the pictures on my Instagram, where I like to record the progress of our garden. Seed bombs are used by guerrilla gardeners:

The first seed grenades were made from balloons filled with tomato seeds, and fertilizer. They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardeningmovement. (Wikipedia)

 

  Caper-plant

Pictured: The first caper plant spotted outside our hotel and the seedpod I harvested from another plant. And there are the seedbombs I made with some green clay from my medicine cabinet, two parts soil from our vineyard and a sprinkling of seeds (the rest of the seeds were saved for another try at planting, this fall and next spring!)

It felt so good to have mud on my hands and to breathe in the scent of childhood, when passions came so quickly and when we followed them anywhere, without fear!  

So much more to say about capers, we have only scratched the surface. But I am out of breath now, having blurted out all I've learned so far.  Once I settle down, I will send more updates on Facebook or Instagram, if you would like to join me there, and please do!

I leave you with our anniversary picture and the message I left Jean-Marc, on returning from Greece. And yesterday, I got the perfect anniversary gift: three caper plants from our local nursery. Sure, I had already planted seeds, but, as the French say:

Il faut  mettre toutes les chances de notre côté! One must put all luck on our side! How true this is for plants and even for a marriage. (No! More than luck, marriage is patience and tolerance and love and forgiveness. The same ingredients I will use to tend my baby capriers!)

Anniversary-kiss

Happy anniversary, Jean-Marc. I remember walking down the street with you, in my neighborhood in The Valley of the Sun, and seeing that the brightest light was walking right beside me! Looking up at you, I recognized a dazzling star and I wondered if I could ever reach it (that is, did you like me too?). I am still amazed, 23 years later, that you continue to hold out your hand for me, so that I may join you on the all mountain tops toward which you climb. Sometimes I've gone kicking and screaming, but, more and more I go with steps of gratitude. And I wake up each day wondering what I would ever do without you.

CAPERS, BOOKS, AND MORE!
When you shop at Amazon you help to support this free word journal at no extra cost to you.  Order anything from caper leaves to French CDs. Simply click on my book page link, here, and then type what you are looking for in the Amazon search box. Thank you for keeping this in mind, next time you shop, and thanks for your support. Click here to shop.

Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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The Secret Revealed: contre-courant

Contrecourant
The photo Jean-Marc took of our daughter, before she momentarily disappeared.

The illusion of calm attracts swimmers. However, when great waves diminish, they (swimmers) are taken far away from the beach. When they try to swim against the current, they tire, weaken, and end up drowning. (See French translation below). 

Today's Word: contre-courant


    : ripcurrent, pull of tide, undertow

Download MP3 or Wav

L'illusion de calme attire les baigneurs. Cependant, quand les vagues venant du large faiblissent, ils sont emportés loin de la plage. Quand ils essaient de nager à contre-courant, ils se fatiguent, faiblissent et finissent par se noyer. -from "Courant d'arrachement"  French Wikipedia entry.


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

"There is something I have to talk to you about." The seconds that followed my husband's startling statement were punctuated by heartbeats. Lying there in bed, in the old stone grange of a rented island cottage, my thoughts raced to guess Jean-Marc's next words. Our children safe in the next room, Jean-Marc said softly:

"Jackie disappeared into the ocean...."

The punctuated thumping I had felt earlier was coming straight from my husband's heart, which beat against my back as he pulled me closer. "I could not keep this to myself any longer...." he admitted.

But why had he kept the near-tragedy from me? The question reminded me of our dog Breizh's last days.  Maybe I could have done something different? Would our golden still be here? I harbored such guilt and painful questioning until I shared my grief with others.

Jean-Marc could not bear to relive the moment when he watched our daughter being swept out to sea, and now he resisted my efforts to comfort him. "I need to finish," he said, "please let me finish," he urged, as I assured him all was OK.

"I was on the shore," he explained, "taking photos of Jackie as she swam out with her bodyboard. The water was so calm. And then a giant wave rose up and Jackie disappeared! After the wave crashed, I scanned the water for her. Fifteen... twenty seconds passed and I still could not see her. She had vanished. I was quickly swimming out when I heard a surfer shouting, "She is over there!"


With his eyes steadied on his child, Jean-Marc swam towards the horizon.

*    *    *

When Jackie could finally share her own grief with me a day later, owing to a secret vow, she said: "Maman, j'ai bu la tasse. I swallowed a mouthful. When I came up from the water, the shore was so far away.... 

I tried to swim back but became exhausted. And then I panicked. I thought about my life, including our last fight, and did you know I always love you--

Then I heard Papa shouting, Swim! Swim! But I was afraid for him trying to reach me. It was impossible to reach the shore. We would both drown!

*    *    *

Jean-Marc continued to shout, "Get on your bodyboard!" Jackie did what she was told and soon father and daughter reached one another. They were met by a rescue team who helped them out of the water, to the shore, where they took Jackie's blood pressure before letting her go home. 

By the time I could comfort my daughter, a day later, I said to her, "Tell me everything you need to say. Get it all out." 

As she rested her head in my lap, I stroked her soft hair and listened. "Ce n'est pas facile à comprendre." It is hard to understand, she said. As her words trailed off, I recognized the voice of a survivor. 

Survivors
Smokey and Jackie.  When someone has returned from a traumatic experience, listen to them, for as long as they need to express their thoughts. 

Post Note: So why did my family keep this secret from me? Because, as my son says, "Tu es emotive." (My short response would be: "Yes, emotional. But with the strength to lift every lead-heavy hurt off of your heart for the rest of eternity. And that adds up to a ton of relief. So please accept it next time!") 

Thank you for sharing today's post with a friend, along with this tip (add your own): If you are caught in a rip current, swim across it, parallel to the shore.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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Devoiler: The Secret My Husband Kept from me

Smokeys-excellent-vacation

Smokey's Excellent Vacation - We just returned from the Ile d'Oléron with all four--make that five!--members of our family. From a nightly game of Yam (Yahtzee) to regular forays to the ocean, we had a restful and memorable time together. See all the pictures right here. (And did you spot Mr. Sacks in the photo above?)

MILLE MERCIS
Thank you for your thoughful responses to the previous story, "Hostile." After reading your comments my Dad wrote to say, "Your readers are incredibly caring!"

I am deeply touched by your words and very grateful for this endearing writer-reader relationship. I hope it continues for a very long time! 

Amicalement,
Kristi


Today's Word: DEVOILER

    : to reveal, to disclose

dévoiler un secret = to reveal a secret
dévoiler ses batteries = to show one's hand (cards)
dévoilé = laid bare

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

Toward the end of our vacation, I learned my family had been keeping a secret from me.  To the relief of my husband, I was not angry on finding out the truth. I was only surprised at how little my family knows me--to think it necessary to spare me the grief. 

Le secret was revealed late one night, after Jean-Marc had taken me into his arms for the second time. "There is something I have to talk to you about," he said. The tone in his voice was unfamiliar and it woke the inner stranger inside of me.  As different as we are to one another--as mysterious as our hearts are even to ourselves--our married souls occasionally reveal an ongoing conversation, so that we will be thinking exactly the same thing at the moment one of us voices it (if not in unison).

Except this time. This time I could not have fathomed what my husband was about to say--his thoughts being nowhere on the cusp of my mind. Even my trusty vibes had abandoned ship. Instead, like a drawstring that closes a hood, it felt as though my skin was shrink-wrapping around my bones, and I held my breath, wondering: What is he going to say next? 


(To be continued...  Click here to read Part 2)

 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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covoiturage

Ride or walk
What's your favorite way to get around France? Walk or ride? If you said "ride," then today's covoiturage tip is for you! 


le covoiturage (ko-vwah-tewr-ahzh)

    : rideshare, carshare, carsharing, carpool

Audio File and Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav file

BlablaCar est un service de covoiturage economique, ecologique et convivial. BlaBlaCar is a carpool service that's economical, ecological and convivial.

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

Fill 'er up with passengers!

Certain members of my family are enjoying a new and inexpensive and efficient way to travel around France: le covoiturage!

This all began a few weeks back, when Jean-Marc travelled to the west coast to see about more grapevines (he just can't help himself!). Chief Grape was going to take the train, but that would limit him sur place (how to get to those hilltop vineyards?). That's when he discovered BlaBlaCar.  

"The Paris-based BlaBlaCar helps match up drivers and passengers for long trips across Europe while avoiding the regulatory issues that have tripped up Uber." -csmonitor.com


While BlaBlaCar might not help a passenger get from sea-level to the top of those hilly vineyards (the service is more for city-to-city travel), as a driver my husband could enjoy those benefits and more for his séjour in Collioure (the coastal town where he'd be lodging, not far from appellation Banyuls)! 

Faster than you can say VROOM!, Jean-Marc was loading his car with his beloved bike and a bevy of complete strangers! Finding the passagers was easy: all my husband had to do was type in his departure and arrival coordinates. BlaBlaCar then begins its interrogation: "would you be willing to pick up someone in Cassis? And in Marseilles? And in Montpellier?... All cities cited are right on the driven path, so a driver needn't go out of his way.

"The key competitive advantage of the company is that it’s much cheaper to share a ride than to take a train or a plane. The average 200 miles ride costs $25 on average." -Techcrunch.com article on BlaBlaCar

2cv
You never know what kind of car you'll travel in, when you sign up for covoiturage. But if you happen to get our car (a family van) it will be a little cozier than the one above--if not as charming!

This morning Jean-Marc headed for the Alps, where he'll be roughing it for next three days (I'm staying behind, to meet a few writing deadlines--or, to say it another way: I don't do well camping all night and biking all day with large groups of people!).

My husband left an hour earlier than scheduled, after the BlaBlarCar app informed him last night of a new potential passenger--just up the road in La Ciotat. 

"You're going to get up at 4 a.m. instead of 5, just so you can have one more passenger? Is it really worth it?" I asked, amazed.

But I don't need to hear the answer, I can already understand the satisfaction of filling one's car to the brim with paying travelers! (I'm remembering back to that solo and pricy aller-retour I made to airport in Nice last month, to pick up my daughter. Instead of paying $60 in gas and toll fees, I could have cashed in on a carfull of passengers and enjoyed some company along the way!)

"There's even a social aspect to it: The app's name derives from just users rate themselves on how chatty they want to be in the car, from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla." (Christian Science Monitor article on BlaBlaCar)

Speaking of my daughter, she is the latest fan of covoiturage. Recently Jackie opted for rideshare instead of taking the train from St. Cyr to Aix-en-Provence--saving herself 10 euros (15 euros one way to Aix, only 5 euros when you share the ride). She and her best friend were chauffered by a young law student from Sanary sur Mer. (Jean-Marc and I checked out his profile on BlaBlaCar's website and verified passenger feedback. We could also note his phone number, which is more than we could do had the girls secretly hitchhiked--as so many French kids do!)

When I called my Mom in Mexico, telling her about the new and inexpensive way to travel across France, she begged for a return visit. "I want to go to Aix... and Marseilles... and why not Paris!" Meantime she encouraged me to hop on the bandwagon. "Get out and see the world!" she cheered.

Now to get over my hang-up of sharing confined spaces. Maybe after that I'll go camping with my husband ... who'll then have to sacrifice one of his paid seats, just for me :-)

*    *    *
Post note: I wish BlaBlaCar had an affiliate program. I might have hit the jackpot after today's glowing review! Instead, the company encourages citizens to spread the word for free; in return we are making the world a little greener. How's that for compensation?

Ken kobre jean-marc espinasse

Kristi Ken Betsy Jean-Marc

What a chance to watch Ken Kobré (center) film Jean-Marc for Ken's documentary on rosé, "The Color of Wine." That's Betsy, Ken's charming wife and assistant, cradling a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. And there's Jean-Marc--can you see him in the window?

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Unlucky in French

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

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

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.


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

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.

"Jackie!" 

"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.

 

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Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

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New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Aussi Froid Que Le Cul d'Un Mort

IMG_4950
One of these locals taught me a funny expression when, at a local café, she sent back her fried eggs, complaining they were cold as a dead man's butt! So I promised Lulu (left) that today's not-so-French expression would be in her honor...

aussi froid que le cul d'un mort* (oh si fwah keuh leuh kul dun mohr)

: as cold as a dead man's butt

*(and, gosh, I'll be mortified if I didn't get this translation right... after butchering the shoulda coulda woulda French translation...)

PHOENIX Meet-up: click here  for info on Friday's meet-up in the Valley of the Sun.


A Day in a Mexican Life... (by a damned tourist*)

50 Ways to Please Your Mother

Mom and I are tying our shoelaces and tucking pesos into our pockets.
"You don't want to be one of those damn tourists* who stand there counting out change, holding up the driver and the locals." With that, Jules slaps on her hat and shouts, are you ready yet?!

I suspect we are heading out, after all, for that mountain adventure she's been raving about, on our way to dusty jungle paths far from the typical tourist traps... though by now I am content to remain within a half-mile radius of the marina, especially since my stomach never did settle down completely, not since the pre-flight adventure last week.

Oh, Pffft! Mom gestures, and the unimpressed look on her face reminds me that I do not want to be taken for the namby-pamby neurotic that I really am. 

"OK. So what are we going to do?" I wonder, anxiously.

And Mom, as cool as an accomplice, gives me the gist:

"We're just going to get on the bus, Gus."


 
Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and comments are welcome here, in the comments box.

 

 

Bel ria dog of war by Sheila Burnford I am currently reading one of Jules's all time favorite books "Bel Ria". I hope you will read along with me. Check out the story of a darling dog in wartime France. Bel Ria by Sheila Burnford. More than a children's book - any grown up would adore reading this. The vocabulary is rich - a wonderful book for a budding or a practicing writer or a Francophile or a history buff or a dog lover... a great read for all. Order a copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_4951
From left to right: Teri, Berthe "Bety", Penny, Lulu, Jules, Breezy, Kristin, and Matt, who is a reader of French Word-A-Day and who emailed, inviting Mom and me to hang out with him and his friends.

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We ate with the mischievous group here at the marina, where I've been hanging out all week.

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Why venture out when characters like these two bring the best of Mexico right to you? 

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Teri and Penny are from Portland, OR... and might've been featured at the top of this post... had they come up with a saucier expression than Lulu's (did they not dare to?).

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Fun loving Lulu (see her there in the back?) steals the show once more... that's Matt and I, trying with all our might to stay in the spotlight...

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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choper

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.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

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A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey
...................................................................

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A wooden deck under construction... and two pooped contractors.

Smokey says: you haven't heard much about us lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy... in a bucolic, sleepaholic way.

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In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Refreshing mosterizing mist: vine therapy by Caudalie

 

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moquette

Pêle mêle ( = confused, rushed, disorderly) shop in French Alps (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in Barcelonnette

Pêle-Mêle

(pel-mel)

higgledy-piggledy, any old how

  


Jean-Marc pulled into the snow-n-slush parking lot behind l'Equipe Hotel, got out and searched for the entrance. Ignoring the two-foot-tall board marked ENTREE, he side-trekked around the back of the building. I think he purposely misses these "how-to" signs and, in so doing, he turns life into one man's perpetual back-to-nature quest (and French boot camp for his prissy American bride).

Max, Jackie and Miss Priss followed, dragging our bags up the steel-grated stairs reserved for employees; we hiked around the brasserie to find ourselves back on track with the normal guests who approached the hotel in a conventional fashion.

Three hours earlier, just before heading out for the French Alps, I'd talked my style-unconscious husband out of his Glad Bag valise so that this time we were not stealing past other hotel guests—me with a duct-taped suitcase, the kids with a plastic laundry basket "drawer-for-the-weekend" and my husband with two hefty garbage bags (the deluxe kind with built-in handles, and not the cheap ones with the detachable plastic yellow string), contents thrown in pêle-mêle.

In the Ubaye valley, where the village of Enchastrayes is nestled, the nearest town being Barcelonnette, we were greeted by three French mutts—which explained the surprise-on-ice we'd sidestepped out on the Path Less Traveled. The dogs' owner stubbed out her cigarette before checking the reservations book.

"Chambres 15 and 16," she said, pulling two keys from a wallboard of 23 hooks.

Max pointed to the keychain and quizzed his sister: Did she know what the small, abstract wooden carving represented?

"Un castor!" she correctly guessed.

We climbed four levels of moquette-covered stairs, pausing to catch our breath in front of a needlepoint wall hanging, its thick yarn ...in mustard, orange and black... looped loosely across a cotton canvas. Plastic flowers, now faded, punctuated each landing.

Two floors up, Jean-Marc pushed the long metal key into the keyhole at room 15. He had to tug the door forward as he turned the key to the right and to the left (this tugging and key jiggling was in response to an indice he was discovering in real time—as he watched a demonstration given by the young woman standing next to a vacuum cleaner and cart two doors down.

No framed needlepoint art in the rooms, just more plastic flowers and more synthetic-carpet tile. Each side of the bed in room 15 had candle lighting—except a plastic flame stood in for a fiery one. Behind a vinyl accordion door, the bathroom, which included a plastic flamingo pink shower head draped over decades old robinetterie, smelled like a porta-potty.

"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted. "It smells like a hospital."

"Oh," I said, encouraged. The kids' room was a repeat of our own, except that it had twin beds.

The stringy sound of a violoncello filtered in from chambre 14, the cellist's glorious musical notes almost canceling out the infant's cries from the room above; such wailing from deep in the icy French woods, along with the bow and string (sans arrow) next door, seemed in keeping with one Frenchman's return to the Land Before Time, and the hotel decor, though not prehistoric, had that barbaric feel with just the right dose of vulgar to temper Miss Priss's great expectations.

I watched my husband unpack his bags with gusto, and it occurred to me to face our circumstances with a similar verve or joie de vivre.

With a little effort, I could begin to see our surroundings in a new light: no longer did the room feel oppressive. With renewed thinking, I began to feel a flutter inside my spirit, as a new sense of adventure was born. One that would sustain me, again and again, each time my husband reserved a hotel room....


French Vocabulary
 

l'entrée (f) = entrance
pêle-mêle = in confused haste
la chambre = room
le castor = beaver
la moquette = carpet
un indice = clue
la robinetterie = plumbing
la joie de vivre = joy of living

 

====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for scouring this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting (for example, all chapter titles should look similar to today's formatted title. All French words (in the story) should be in italics... etc). I appreciate your efforts to help me. Thanks again! Click here to submit corrections.

 



Listen: Hear our daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word: Download moquette2.wav

Expressions:
chambre moquettée = bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet
faire poser de la moquette = to have a fitted carpet laid
la moquette murale = fabric wall covering

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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