clef

Keys
Tomette tiles and old French keys at an antiques store in the town of Piolenc.


clef or clé*
(klay) noun, feminine
    : key

(from the Latin, "clavis")

*the two spellings are correct

Can you guess what the following terms & expressions mean and do you know of others to add to this list? Answer here, in the comments box.

mettre la clef sous la porte
clefs en main
clé à bougie
la clef des champs
livre à clef*
clef de fa
une clé de sol

mis sous clé
mot-clé
clé RIB
clef USB

figure-clef

* livre à clef (also: roman à clef or roman à clé)

Audio File:  listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and hear the words in the list above: Download clef.wav . Download clef.mp3


A_day_in_a_french_life
Motoring home from the brocante,* tires now crunching over our dirt driveway, I turned to my mom, who was jammed into the passenger seat. It was difficult to see her, as the "antique" that we had just brought home took up the space between us.

"I think we need a Plan B!" said me.

I was hoping Jean-Marc would be out in the vine fields, scanning for remaining grapes, post harvest. Instead, he was fixing the tractor, right there at the front gate! How, now, to tiptoe past my husband with this not-so-petit purchase?: one which amounted to no more than a few old planks of rotting wood studded with a hundred crooked clous.* Surely the Frenchman would think me mad for dragging home a board of rusty nails... even madder for having paid for it!

It was those fallen French keys that were cramping my style. Up until the last hour, that old "board" had been a unique exposition. On display (and currently off...) were over a hundred fat-toothed keys that made the wooden structure a veritable "objet d'art".

...that is, until I turned the board on its side, wrestled it into my car, and proceeded to jingle and jangle all the way home, losing, with each bend and bump in the country road, another coppery clef*. Like that, a pile of rusty keys began to collect on the floorboard below.

Keyboard The first few keys fell off in Piolenc, then another couple outside the town of Orange. In Sérignan, I swerved and, like that, two more slipped off as I avoided a curb... More keys collided and fell, there on the outskirts of Sainte Cécile... and a final bunch bounced off as we pulled into our lot.

What remained was that old "board"... and several shadows where the keys' images were burned into the wood, thanks to the sun. As I pulled the board out of the car, my hands were quickly plastered by cobwebs. I hadn't seen those... It was time now to face my practical-minded husband, time to come up with an explanation for this pathetic-looking, plastered "plank" -- and there would not be time to collect all of the fallen keys from the floorboard: Jean-Marc was approaching the car, like one of those husbands who can sniff a spousal "spenditure" from two farm fields away.

Quick, like any clever countrywoman, where tall tales are as common as wedding bells, I came up with a solution: "speed on by with a cry"...

I picked up that "plank" and peeled past my husband... pedaling my feet as fast as my mouth which pronounced: "No worries about what to get me for our quatorzième* anniversary------------------"

PS: As for what Jean-Marc's getting ... I'm working on it. Here's a hint: I'm turning one of those "tall tales" into a short story... about an old door, some rusty keys, and the secret to life-long liberty.

PSS: for the record, Jean-Marc very much likes the "keyboard".

Freedom keys
 
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY
une brocante (f) = flea market
un clou (m) = nail
une clef (f) = key
quatorzième = fourteenth
 
 
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Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
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"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


noce

Collioures (c) Kristin Espinasse
Along a festive pedestrian street in Collioures, France


la noce (nohs) noun, feminine

  1. wedding; wedding party

En automne, je récoltai toutes mes peines et les enterrai dans mon jardin. Lorsque avril refleurit et que la terre et le printemps célébrèrent leurs noces, mon jardin fut jonché de fleurs splendides et exceptionnelles.

In the autumn I gathered all my sorrows and buried them in my garden. And when April returned and spring came to wed the earth, there grew in my garden beautiful flowers unlike all other flowers.
--Khalil Gibran

                                                                        Column_2

(The following story was written one year ago)


A stone's throw from the Spanish border, in a department of southwest France exotically known as "les Pyrénées Orientales," Jean-Marc and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary, or "noces de corail".*

For this onzième* anniversary, Jean-Marc selected the old fishing port of Collioures for our week-end getaway. "Because it is a typical French village," he explained. To me, this "typical French village" felt oh-so-Spanish, making it the perfect choice for a dépaysement.*

The colorful town of Collioure is surrounded by hills of vines which protect it from le vent* and is known to gourmands* for its grenache-based wines and anchovy trade. To artists, Collioures is treasured for its exceptional Mediterranean light. Matisse found the charming port back in 1905, after which the town became a meeting point for les fauvists.* Since then, artists like Picasso, Dali and Braque, and not a few tourists, have flocked to this bijou* of a village by the glittering sea, along the Côte Vermeille or "Gilded Coast" in the South of France.

While Jean-Marc sampled spicy reds in a wine boutique, I discovered the pastel-toned village via its maze of medieval paths. Flowering vines tumbled from the tiny balcons* and the scent of fermenting grapes permeated the air as local cellars processed the recent harvest.

After a quick aller-retour* up one of the streets, I checked in on Jean-Marc back at the wine boutique to find him swirling red in a gigantic glass, an air-tight pack of sardines-in-oil on the counter in front of him. "For the apéro*..." he explained.

Given another pocket of time to play with, I ventured farther into the cramped town center, noting art galleries à gogo, shops bursting with temptations such as striped espadrilles in red, yellow, bordeaux, orange, and green and stylish wicker baskets hanging from beneath the canvas store awnings. Dozens of restaurants poured out of the ancient buildings and onto the cobblestone paths
via clusters of tables and chairs. Small chalkboards with curly French writing announced the plat du jour* and the spicy aromas coming from the kitchens wooed weary travelers to sit down and literally savor a bite of Catalonia.

I reunited with my husband in front of the immobilier's,* just around the corner from the wine boutique, where he was looking at photographs of properties for sale. "Five hectares of vines!" he said, as I walked up. I smiled in recognition of one Frenchman's passionate rêve.* For as long as I have known Jean-Marc, he has dreamed of having his very own, family run vineyard. It may take eleven more years for him to realize his dream. It will surely require the same perseverance and personal investment of a happy marriage to reach his goal. But if you ask me, he'll have his vines one day.

..................................................................................................................
*References: le mariage de corail (m) = coral wedding anniversary; onzième = eleventh; le dépaysement (m) = change of scenery; le vent (m) = wind; un gourmand, une gourmande = one who is fond of food; le fauvist (m) (from "les fauves" = wild beasts) = painter who follows fauvism; le bijou (m) = gem; le balcon (m) = balcony;  l'aller-retour (m) = round-trip; l'apéro (m) = appetizer; le plat du jour (m) = today's special; l'immobilier  (m) = realtor's office;  le rêve (m) = dream

French inspired homeThe French-Inspired Home, by Kaari Meng, includes 40 charming projects that capture the sights, scents, and textures of the French countryside.

Listen to French:
Hear Jean-Marc recite today's quote: En automne, je récoltai toutes mes peines et les enterrai dans mon jardin. Lorsque avril refleurit et que la terre et le printemps célébrèrent leurs noces, mon jardin fut jonché de fleurs splendides et exceptionnelles.

Expressions:
faire la noce = to live it up
le voyage de noces = honeymoon
les noces d'argent/d'or = silver/golden wedding anniversary
ne pas être à la noce: to not be happy to be somewhere (not be in the mood to party)

In books and gifts:
Basquekitchen_1The Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees

Wineopoly_1WINEOPOLY. Pop the cork off any gathering with WINEOPOLY! Players buy favorite wines, collect bunches of grapes and trade them in for decanters.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline


contrefaçon (Italy, Intro)

Coldirodi_italy
Not far from Ventimiglia, is the quiet village of Coldirodi.

In_a_paris_moment_1In A Paris Moment by Meredith Mullins "... makes us want to rush out and look at the world, not just Paris, but all the world." --Mary Pope Osborne

une contrefaçon (kontr-fah-sahn) noun, feminine
  1. imitation, counterfeit, counterfeiting
  2. forging, forgery, fabrication, infringement
  3. pirating

Contrefaçon comes from the verb "contrefaire" which means to imitate, to falsify, to mimic, to disguise, to infringe, to feign or to distort.

La politesse n'est en elle-même qu'une ingénieuse contrefaçon de la bonté.
Politeness in itself is only an ingenious disguise of goodness.
--Alexandre Vinet

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

The drive from our medieval village in France to the seaport town of Ventimiglia, Italy takes only an hour and a half. It is a breathtaking ride most of the way, with the glimmering Mediterranean sea below and, east of Nice, hills peppered with villas, the colorful facades showing a charming patina from age and the salty sea breeze.

In Ventimiglia there is a jewellery shop on every street and perhaps as many liquor stores. Shop windows are gushing with bottles of Ricard* and Italian grappa, and for those who like l'or* Ventimiglia has gold à gogo.* Perhaps the idea is to put a little wind in your sweetheart's sails* before venturing in to purchase that ring or collier?*

On many a street corner you'll see a man dressed in a flowing boubou,* Louis Vuitton handbags dangling from each arm and more monogrammed purses bursting from a duffle bag... all knock-offs. While Ventimiglia is known for its smoking deals on jewelry and alcohol (due to a lower liquor and jewellery tax) and for having one of the largest outdoor markets in Italy, it also seems to be the capital of...

"Contrefaçon," my husband says, filling my coffee cup with steamed milk.
"What is contrefaçon?" I ask, passing the breakfast muffins.
"You know, FAKES."
"Si, si," says Sonia, the innkeeper. "But if you want a Louis Vuitton, one that even the boutique sales people can't tell is faux, see Fernando next to the fish stall, just past the flowers. He has the season's new collection before the real line hits the shops! You cannot tell the difference!"

We are not in Ventimiglia for LV purses, alcohol or flowers, but to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The Italian Riviera is a good choice for its proximity to chez nous,* for its gastronomy, for its seaside allure and for an exotic change of scenery. (Exotic because we can't speak Italian and such foreignness has a way of throwing a warm pink hue on everything.)

"Ventimiglia is known for la joaillerie* and alcohol," Sonia confirms. "But also for its beauty!" she says, waving her arm out to the turquoise blue Ligurian sea. We are seated on the terrace at the most eclectic lodge I have ever seen. Jean-Marc found the secluded B&B via an internet search and made reservations illico.* The former convent is practically perched over the sea and overrun by purple vine flowers, fig trees, lavender, blackberries and bamboo.

The stairs inside the house have no edges but are worn and sloping from eight hundred years of being tread upon. The white-limed halls are covered with black and white photos of Hollywood stars. In our room's library, I find an odd assortment of books including a thick volume of the collected stories of Jane Austin, a book titled "Psychopathia Sexualis" and a "Dictionary of Marine Insurance Terms".

The breakfast Sonia has made us is as eclectic as the convent itself. We begin with dessert: crème caramel and a peach yogurt. Next, there is a tray of cantaloupe and Italian ham followed by a deep-fried omelet with sliced hot dog. Sonia then brings out an apple cake and a plate of fruit which resembles lychee but smells like a rose. "From my garden," she says.

I notice Jean-Marc isn't eating the hot dog omelet or the apple cake and I end up eating it all, not wanting to hurt our hostess's feelings. On I went, feigning hunger or, to get a little more kilométrage* out of today's word: "en contrefaisant la faim."

                                              *     *     *
For past chapters in this story, visit:

Italy, Introduction
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

.........................................................................................................................
References: Ricard = a brand of French pastis; l'or (m) = gold; à gogo = in abundance; to put wind in one's sails (from the French idiom "mettre du vent dans ses voiles") = to get a little tipsy; un collier (m) = necklace; un boubou (m) = a long robe worn in parts of Africa; chez nous = at our house; la joaillerie (f) = jewellery; illico = right away; le kilométrage (m) = mileage
 

................................
French Pronunciation
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote:
La politesse n'est en elle-même qu'une ingénieuse contrefaçon de la bonté.
Politeness in itself is only an ingenious disguise of goodness. --A. Vinet
Download contrefacon.wav

Expressions:
contrefaçon littéraire = an infringement of copyright
contrefaire une signature = to forge a signature
contrefaire sa voix = to disguise one's voice
saisir des contrefaçons = to confiscate counterfeit (objects)
.

Mediterranean_women_stay_slim_too_1 Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too: Eating to Be Sexy, Fit, and Fabulous!

Italian_sketchbookIn My Italian Sketchbook, 30-year-old artist Florine Asch follows the tradition of the 18th century Grand Tour, when writers, architects and members of European high-society embarked on long journeys around Italy, taking in key cultural sites, often sketching as they went.

 

Vendange2004 013
Photo taken in 2004, on our 10-year anniversary.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’ve really enjoyed reading your stories over the years & hope you will continue to delight us with your beautiful photos and thoughtful & charming antidotes of life in the beautiful south of France."
--Jacqueline