"Lexique" + a botanical glossary of plants in Provence
Flench Glossary of Baby Talk: toutou, doudou, bidou, bobo...


Broom or
The ancient walls of Gigondas (Vaucluse) where genêt gilds the countryside.

faner (fa-nay) verb
    : to wither

La gloire soudaine se fane très vite.
Sudden glory quickly withers.

Hear the French word "faner" and today's quote, read by my son, Max: Download faner.mp3 .Download faner.wav

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Is it too late to talk about sweet-scented French broom? "Le genêt," as it is called in France, is now withering across the French countryside, but nostalgia for the shrub never fades.

Also: "une fane" is a dead leaf... and... the verb "faner" finds itself before "fanfare" in the dictionary (while one conjugates to "withered," the other boasts a "showy outward appearance").

With French maracas playing in the background (those cicadas do give off such a rhumba-shaking sound), I sit at my desk beside an open window and study "The Perfume of Broom". It is a tender short story written by my francophone aunt. The sweet-scented scenes sweep me back to Marseilles... to the chalky heights that tower over a deep blue sea; in between the two, a delicate yellow flower softens more that the rugged landscape...

"The Perfume of Broom" by Marie-Françoise Vidal
(read this story in French... click here)

Among all of the goodies that nature offers us in spring, a certain magical blooming has a particular importance to me, and each May brings me back to my adolescence...

Back then I was a student in Marseilles. I studied in an exceptional school, exceptional as much for the education as for the magnificent environment. The buildings spread out over the hills which scaled the limestone high massif that dominates the city.

At that time the Bac* took place over a two year period, sanctioned by two successive exams in the month of June. As soon as May approached, the vegetation surrounding our classes woke up, and the sea, close by, attracted the less studious. But the most conscientious among us knew that the dates for the dreaded exams approached... and so we threw ourselves into the non-stop revisions, even during recreation and in between classes.

In little groups, we looked for the pénombre* to continue working.... Seated at the foot of the towering broom that had just covered itself with golden flowers, we formed little industrious conclaves.

Perched over our books and our cahiers,* we were intoxicated by the honey-like perfume that the flowers emitted; it made us forget the stress and transformed us into little worker bees.

I received my Bac, and my life unfolded... but each year I am rejuvenated by the arrival of these flowers. I love the genêt* that, here, splashes the thickets, gushing up between somber berries and forming great joyous families along the chemins* that surround the vineyard parcels. I gather great brassées* which I bring back to the house in order to enjoy their sunny "fireworks" and especially for the perfume of my youth. And I wish "bonne chance"* to the young people who, in turn, prepare their own exams.

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If you enjoyed Marie-Françoise's story, why not let her know? Thanks for leaving her a message in the comments box at the very end of this post. You might tell Marie-Françoise a bit about yourself as well :-) P.S.: If any of the messages look odd, that may be due to website spam, which I'll clear out of the box as soon as I discover it...

le bac
(baccalauréat) (m) = a French diploma http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baccalaureat ; la pénombre (f) = half-light, dusk; le cahier (m) = notebook; le genêt (m) = broom; le chemin (m) = (country) road; une brassée (f) = armful; la bonne chance (f) = good luck

Excellent French/English dictionary
Provence French Linen Water - in Summer Jasmine
Summer Black French Truffles
In French hair care: Rene Furterer Complexe 5
In Music: pre-order Carla Bruni's "Comme Si de Rien N'était"

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