Wednesday, September 29, 2004
dépayser (day-pay-ee-zay) verb
1. to disorientate, to disorient
2. to give a change of scenery to; to give a welcome change of surroundings to
dépaysant,e = exotic
dépaysé = out of one's element
un dépaysement = a disorientation
sentir dépaysé = to feel like a fish out of water; to not feel at home
Citation du Jour
Les passions s'étiolent quand on les dépayse.
Passions wilt when we disorient them. --Gustave Flaubert
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
We are sitting in Il Ponte restaurant in a little Italian village called "Badalucco". Sonia, our hostess at the B&B, recommended we visit the arrière pays for a change from the Italian Riviera. "There's this wonderful restaurant," she says, kissing her fingertips, "Bene!"
"Tell them Sonia from Latte sent you! 'Latte,' like milk!"
Badalucco is an artists' village in the Argentine Valley. Faïence is scattered throughout the modest ruelles. On at least one miniscule winding village street, a painted ceramic plate announces each residence (one plate per door) and around every corner, a fresco. My favorite image is of a cat sitting next to a story. The words to the story are painted on the village wall, on a blue background.
Just like in a postcard image, the elderly Badalucchesi are seated in front of their homes, shucking beans and chatting with their neighbors. They stop from time to time to rinse their hands in the neighborhood fountain.
At the River Argentina we crossed the pont to access the family owned 'Il Ponte' restaurant. We weren't offered a menu; instead the waiter appears with a ceramic plate of fried zucchini, Italian cold cuts and some sort of fresh white cheese. Olive oil is drizzled over le tout.
Jean-Marc is trying to order Italian wine as they have offered only French. I tell him to stop fussing over the wine menu, "Just look at this! Will you just look at this! How do you say 'heaven' in Italian? In French, it is "le paradis." In a little lost village in the hinterland of the Ligurian coast, we have stumbled upon Le paradis du palais.
My husband says he would like to live in Italy. I guess Ligurian food does that to you. But still, it seems strange for a Frenchman (un Marseillais de coeur!) to admit that.
"They're so nice here," he says, as the waiter walks off humming in Italian. I'm wondering if it's the wine. Has it gotten to him? I understand his desire to move to San Francisco--but Italy?! Strangely, I've never known a Frenchman who moved to Italy. A French woman, oui, but not a French man. Don't get me wrong, the French love to visit Italy--but to s'expatrier there--c'est autre chose!
"J'aimerais bien vivre en Italie un jour."
"Sans déconner?" I say, teasing him in his native Marseilles' tongue.
It must be the rolling hills, or the Barolo wine. Or the fresh spinach linguini or the gambas. "You can eat the shells they're so good!" It could have been la baignade in the warm Ligurian sea after the meal at Marco Polo.
For me it is those little funky trucks on three wheels, the Vespa scooters, the pomodoro sauce the village lady was making as I passed by her front door. It is the language--the sound--of Italians speaking.
It is the Italian people. They have real joie de vivre mixed with a sincere generosity. It drips from their pores when they wave their arms high and low to tell you that you must, must visit the arrière pays. Try that restaurant. Savor this fruit. Eat. Enjoy. See. Come back!
A little dépaysement, ça fait du bien pour l'âme.
l'arrière pays (m) = the countryside inland from the riviera; une ruelle (f) = an alley, lane; la faïence (f) = earthenware; le pont (m) = the bridge; le tout (m) = everything; le palais (m) = the palate; un marseillais de coeur = one who is Marseillais in his/her heart, though not born there; oui = yes; s'expatrier = to expatriate oneself; c'est autre chose = that's another thing; J'aimerais bien vivre en Italie un jour = I would like to live in Italy one day; sans déconner? = are you kidding?; les gambas (fpl) = Mediterranean prawns; la baignade (f) = the swim; une joie de vivre = a joy of life; ça fait du bien pour l'âme = that does the soul good
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