Photo: my friend Kirsten and her daughter, morgan.le gîte (zheet) n.m.

  : shelter, lodging, home
  : self-catering holiday rental

Il n'avait pas de gîte, pas de pain, pas de feu, pas d'amour ; mais il était joyeux parce qu'il était libre.

He had no shelter, no bread, no fire, no love; but he was glad because he was free.
--Victor Hugo, from Les Misérables

A Day in a French Life...

"In A Pinch..."

Jean-Marc rolls two suitcases over to the gîte--a three room extension we had built several years ago when my mom came to share four seasons of our French life. Two of the rooms are now offices; the third is a guest room with an en-suite* bath.

My friend Kirsten, her daughter, Morgan, and I follow Jean-Marc into the chambre d'ami* where my husband leaves us to catch up on 'les bons vieux jours.'*

"How did we ever get our hair that big?" Kirsten muses, as we sit on the double bed flipping through photos and remembering the 80's in Phoenix, Arizona. I shake my head and hunch my shoulders. "Aqua Net!" Kirsten blurts out, answering her own question. I notice my guest's long chestnut-brown hair and how the sides are now swept back, smooth and flat, into a nacrée* barrette. I pat my head to verify that my own roots have not remembered those big hair days along with us.

I watch my friend unpack her bags, organizing her daughter's diapers and toys before hooking up a portable computer. Next, she unzips her carry-on and waves a red, white, and blue paperback through the air. "I'm going to find my inner French girl while I'm here!" she says, quoting from the book's title. Kirsten's enthusiasm is contagious and I snatch the livre* out of her hands and flip through it while she recounts her experiences since arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris, where she found herself waiting in a block-long line for a taxi. As she held her sick two-and-a-half year old, she was surprised by a Frenchman who walked up to her and spoke. "You have a small child," he said. This line does not apply to you!" With that she was spirited to the front of the queue and ushered into a taxi.

The stories of courtesy continue. "When Morgan fell sick in Paris, I called the front desk and a doctor appeared at my hotel room within an hour!" And while buying pain au chocolat* at the boulangerie,* Kirsten paused to watch a venerable Frenchman walk in, open a cloth bag one yard long and receive, as if on cue, the baker's baguette. "I love this culture!" Kirsten says. "Don't you?"

I love how helpful and independent my guest is, I think to myself, as I collect the laundry she has hung out on the line for me in her quest to pitch in with the chores. (That is, until I discover the protruding pin marks...) I cringe at seeing how the clothespins have been pinched over the fabric, so that when the clothes are dry the material juts out in the most unseemly places... I check the
front of yet another T-shirt to find more clip clip marks (and not at the waist line). Either Kirsten's inner French girl is being racy... or my friend is up to another one of her practical jokes again. Ah, les bons vieux jours!

References: en-suite = in room (bathroom); une chambre d'ami(e)(s) = guest room; les bons vieux jours (m) = the good ol' days; nacré(e) = pearly; le livre (m) = book ("Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl"; le pain au chocolat (m) = chocolate croissant; la boulangerie (f) = bakery

Listen: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word gîte: Download gite.wav


le gîte et le couvert = room and board
le gîte rural = country inn (a self-catering accommodation)
le gîte d'Etape = youth hostel
Nouveaux Gites Ruraux 2006 Edition French Country Home Rental Guide, **in French** with an English Introduction
More in books:
"Play and Learn French" : The fun, easy, and natural way to get kids started in learning French.
SmartFrench Audio CDs for Beginners II
French for Children (Language for Children Series) (Audio CD)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Jules Greer

Oh Honey,

How did I ever miss that punch line. I remember reading this story years ago but I never really got it. I hate to think of all the other things in my life that flew right over my head.

Your are the greatest writer, such a little sneak.



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