Queyras, the French Alps (where even French scarecrows know how to tie a scarf).

un épouvantail (ay-poo-vahn-teye) noun, masculine
  1. scarecrow
  2. fright

verb: épouvanter = to terrify, scare (someone)

épouvantable = dreadful, frightful
épouvantablement = dreadfully, frightfully; appallingly

Hear the word épouvantail pronounced Download epouvantail2.wav

être habillé comme un épouvantail = to be dressed sloppily

Citation du Jour:
Jouis toujours du présent avec discernement, ainsi le passé te sera un beau souvenir et l'avenir ne sera pas un épouvantail.

Always enjoy the present with discernment, in this way the past will be a nice memory to you and the future will not be a fright.
--Franz Schubert

A Day in a French Life...

It doesn't take a scarecrow to deter me from un dortoir:* just one innkeeper's floor plan wherein the guest-room in question sleeps 10 and includes a single bathroom (part of which is made private by a thin curtain).

While les épouvantails* scared away the French crows in the garden outside our gîte* I wished they'd stun my resistance to lodging and latrining with so many rucksacked strangers. But then shower, sheet and seat sharing were on our agenda for the next three days. It was high time to send the inner prude packing--or ruin my family's back-to-nature Alpine adventure.

The aubergiste* set aside a paring knife, homegrown courgettes* and beans, wiped chapped hands on her apron and said, "Suivez moi."* Back outside, Max, Jackie, Jean-Marc and I climbed stairs that led to un grenier* where Madame pointed to two sets of bunk beds. "Did you bring sheets?" she said. That's when I noticed the other bare cots. "Those are for the cavaliers.* Attendez,"* she said, tilting her head, "that must be them now..."

Cavaliers? I turned to find a group of jodhpur-clad colocataires.* "Bonjour" one of the women said. "We're a little smelly. We've been riding for a week..." With that, she threw a stylish fedora across the room where it landed on the one and only cot-for-two. Before long, she undressed.

I didn't mind cheval* smell: it was privacy that bothered me--specifically, the lack of it. The next three nights would be devoted to outing the impostor who sometimes comes to camp chez moi*--the Miss Priss who hijacked my communal living soul and sits on my shoulder like a curly lashed devil with an ongoing commentary: "Did you see where the toilet is located? Do you realize you will be sharing a bedroom with all those strangers? You'll have to change your clothes behind the shower curtain--where else? And if you snore tonight, ALL those French will hear you?" As if the French don't snore.

Stay tuned for night two, when the number of roommates quadruples and the new crowd won't be wearing stylish fedoras, but flashlights (secured mid-forehead, like a third eye.)... Épouvantable!*

*References: un dortoir (m) = dormitory; un épouvantail (m) = scarecrow; un gîte (m) = resting place, lodging; l'aubergiste (m) = innkeeper; la courgette (f) = zucchini; suivez-moi = follow me; le grenier (à foin) (m) = hayloft; cavalier(ières) = horseman/woman; attendez = wait a minute; un colocataire (m) = co-tenant; le cheval (m) = horse; chez moi = at my place (within); épouvantable = frightful

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