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Entries from November 2006


A smiling girl, a slavering dog, and thousands of stooping vines in the Vaucluse.

SmartfrenchSmartFrench CD-ROM--"the smart way to learn French":

le vignoble (vee-nyobl) noun, masculine

  plantation, la vigne (vine), le cru (vintage), le cépage (grape-variety)

Si l'on me demandait quel est le bien le plus précieux de la Terre, je répondrais c'est la vigne. If one asked me what is the most precious good of the Earth, I would reply it is the vine.
                                                                           --Marcus Porcius Cato

It began with a grammatically incorrect email. "Looks nice, isn't it?" the message read.

Clicking on the link that followed, I watched as the white screen before me became a blur of green. Rows and rows of grapevines came into view, pixel by pixel, until my eyes jumped to the rectangle of gray* in the background.

"Quand est-ce que on peut la voir?"* I shot back, forgetting my grammar just as my husband had. One week later I found myself walking through that familiar green blur, the white screen having transformed itself into a field of delicate lace-like flowers.

Minding the rocky ground, I tagged behind the realtor and seller, chatting with Jean-Marc's uncle, a vintner, who had come along to give his professional avis.*
"Moutarde!"* Jean-Marc's uncle said, naming the white flowers which ran up and down the rows of vines, pouring out onto our feet as we stood before the pocket-sized vignoble,* sampling the sweet grapes.

When Uncle Jean-Claude reached down to yank a bunch of wildflowers from the earth, rubbing them between his palms, I followed suit, surprised when the flower juice effectively washed the sticky grape coating from my hands.

Looking up from the white flowers and the green and red vines of autumn, we were struck by the purple majesty of Mont Ventoux, Provence's highest peak. "They call it 'Mont Chauve',"* Jean-Marc said, explaining that the barren top is like a bald man's head. Looking farther south, Jean-Marc recognized the mountain's famous foothills known as the Dentelles de Montmirail ("dentelle" meaning "lace"), so-named for its jagged limestone peaks.

"Well, what do you think?" Jean-Marc asked, as we stood at the creek beside the vines, watching our puppy and our children splash in the clear spring water.

I answered not in French, not in English, but with a grammatically safe ear-to-ear grin.

References: rectangle of gray = (...more about it in a coming edition); Quand est-ce que on (qu'on) peut la voir? = When can I see it?; un avis (m) = opinion; la moutarde (f) = mustard (flower); le vignoble (m) = vineyard; le Mont Chauve = Bald Mountain
Listen to French:
Hear Jean-Marc recite today's quote:
Si l'on me demandait quel est le bien le plus précieux de la Terre, je répondrais c'est la vigne.Download vigne.wav

Terms & Expressions:

la route des vignobles = the route of the vineyards

In books and gifts:

VinestowinesFrom Vines to Wines: The Complete Guide to Growing Grapes and Making Your Own

FrenchalphabetblocksUncle Goose French Alphabet Blocks

Carcassonne_gameCarcassonne is a simple, clever tile-laying game that brings new challenges with every turn.

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