Monday, October 17, 2005
Along la rue Gambetta in St. Tropez
le drap (drah) noun, masculine
1. woolen fabric 2. (drap de lit) bed sheet
Hear the word drap pronounced: Download drap.wav
le drap-housse = fitted sheet
le drap de bain = bath towel
le drap de plage = beach towel
se mettre entre deux draps = to go to bed
être dans de beaux draps = to be in a fix, to be in an embarrassing situation
L'eau, si claire qu'elle puisse être, n'a pas de vertu de blanchir du drap teint en noir. Water, no matter how clear it can be, cannot bleach out a black-stained sheet.
A Day in a French Life...
When Jean-Marc announced the invitation to Lolo's family's home in St. Tropez I packed the sheets. I also packed bath towels and a change of clothing for Max, Jackie and myself. Jean-Marc threw some fishing gear into the trunk of the Citroën before we motored south to the former fishing port/modern-day tourist mecca.
When I lived in the States, I don't remember ever opening the front door to a sheet-schlepping guest and I never dragged my own draps* along when staying the night chez les amis.* But the French are sometime sheet-porters and their thoughtful gesture has many a host heaving a silent sigh of relief...
...especially when 15 guests show up at the door, which was our hosts' wish this past weekend.
Almost one century ago Lolo's grandfather owned a cable factory on the quiet bay of St. Tropez. Boats came and went, collecting the cables and ferrying them off to be tucked eventually beneath the bed of the sea. The cable factory had several buildings along the sea front including a canteen for its workers and a few employee and family outbuildings. Today the canteen and the rest are homes to Lolo's extended family as well as prime real estate property along the Côte d'Azur.
While Jean-Marc stood in the gravel driveway (and makeshift pétanque court) balancing a pastis in one hand and a heavy steel globe in the other, I made the beds and unpacked. Later, we would switch roles, with his watching the kids and washing the pans while the no-longer-desperate femmes au foyer* discovered the city.
The foyer women now navigated the center of St. Tropez, darting in and out of a multitude of boutiques and licking a lot of windows* in the process. While it was fun to see so many specialized boutiques and to rub coudes* with the rich and famous, consumerism and people watching have nothing on the charm and character of the city itself; the real joy is in witnessing the unglossed and
unlifted faces of the old buildings and immersing oneself in the old ways of a once unknown-to-most city.
And while we didn't see Ivana or Rod or Mick,* we did see the draps (as in the classic French window scene where real French life--and hung laundry, including socks, underwear and sheets!--continues amidst the hype and popularity of a quaint French city).
In a phrase: Let it all hang out; and in French: Vive les draps français!*
References: le drap (m) = sheet; chez les ami(e)s = at friends'; les femmes au foyer (f) = housewives; licking windows = from the French expression "lécher les vitrines" = to window-shop; le coude (m) = elbow; Ivana (Trump), Rod (Stewart), Mick (Jagger) = regular visitors to St. Tropez; Vive les draps Français! = Long live French sheets!
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