autrement dit


Ste Cecile Chateauneuf March 2007013
A cozy town somewhere in Provence... Talk about today's photo in the comments box. What do you see? What do you like? What is oh-so-French about this scene? Can you tell me a story, no matter how imaginary, about the homeowners? Look closely and unwrap the various "morsels". Close-ups are found at the end of this post.

Today's French word:

bicoque (bee-kohk) noun, feminine

    : little house, shack

[from the Italian bicocca "little fort"]

Example (sound file follows, below):
Vue de la rue, la bicoque du disciple passionné et performant de l'abbé Pierre semble plantée de guingois au milieu d'un terrain vague..

Seen from the street, the little shack belonging to the passionate and hard-working disciple of *Abbot Pierre*, seemed planted *askew* in the middle of a waste ground.

*From the French Word-A-Day archives:
1. Read about (and remember) the beloved l'abbé Pierre.
2. Review the delightful French word for "askew".

Audio File: Quelle chance! Today we have Uncle Jean-Claude (who is here, helping with the wine bottling (see today's story...) reading the example sentence. Enjoy! PS: He would like to point out that the word I've chosen (bicoque) is used only in French slang!: Download Bicoque   Download Bicoque

Not a lot of time to write about Vauclusian life at the moment. By the time you get today's letter, we will have bottled 9000 units of Domaine Rouge-Bleu here at our little wine farm in the blustery valley of the Rhone!

Like that, today's missive will be fast and fun... and what could be more amusing than the French "bicoque"? More amusing than a *word* might be a photo related to the word-in-question!

Please join us in another round of "Three Things" or "Trois Choses". Study today's busy photo, then list three things that you see (or simply make up a story about the inhabitants of this quirky casa). Some close-ups of the image follow.

Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary

My French Coach / Nintendo

Whole Black Winter Truffles

In Music: pre-order Carla Bruni's "Comme Si de Rien N'Etait"

All photos taken with this camera, click here to view it.
Ste Cecile Chateauneuf March 2007013
Many more details are found in the original photo at the top of this post!
Ste Cecile Chateauneuf March 2007013
Don't forget to leave your impressions here.
Ste Cecile Chateauneuf March 2007013

All photos taken with this camera, click here to view it.

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


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I love the haphazard arrangement and combinations of things - aged yet timeless - the probably most efficient but really incredible open-air wiring - three discretely different steps leading up to a bright white door - green wooden shutters with weather-worn tops hanging askew - flowers and plants surviving in various types of pots - the cat half-eyeing the world ...


Kristin, I love your view of the world via your photograpy. I like the entire picture....but my favorite is the disdainful cat!


I agree with Debbie you have a great eye for bringing out the beauty of what might have gone unnoticed. Always look forward to your page. Thanks for sharing, Janet


These 3 things scream Provence to me: the weathered green shutters, the blue beads pulled back from the door and the blue and white #6 above the doorway. How about a imaginary story about a Iowa woman 'of a certain age' who fulfills her dreams, moves into this lovely little house in a tiny Provencal village, and writes a best-seller about Provence??
PS...this would be moi.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your "eyes" and kind words. It is such a treat to re-view the photo through your "lenses". So many things pop out, now that you mention it, details I had not noticed even when snapping the photos. I think we'll play this game again and again!

Jules Greer

Evelyn - I'm with you on moving into this little gem. I would change the #6 to my favorite lucky number #7...then turn that horseshoe so the luck quits running out, I actually had Marie-Fransois turn all of her horseshoes on her stairway, they should never face down. I think they swiped the golden rocks from JM & Kristi's vineyard where these rocks are famous for keeping the warmth in the ground around the vines, if you look closely at photo's of the vinyard you will notice these beautiful rocks. Get ready Kristi, I'm coming to France in March to straighten out your garden and office.

Franklin Levin

I have learned a great deal about container gardening from quick glimpses of what qualifies as a "container" in France. Anything qualifies if you can get something to grow in it. I have adopted this procedure here in Oregon where I have a fence covered with bizarre containers with viney plants hanging from them.
I also noticed that the horseshoe above the door is hung upside down to the way we hang them here (and, I believe, in Ireland) with the prongs up so the good luck will be contained and not spill out. Is there a different superstition in France? There is an interesting subject for you investigate Kristin, French superstition. Is, for examplke, a French mother's back broken if her child steps on a crack?


The painted shutters and beads at the doorway remind me of a framed old poster that is above the kitchen sink. There is an old man in a blue worksuit standing at the door. I love the shutters and the large green arch door to somewhere, the mailbox on the shutter, the stone wall and the very content cat. Oops that is more than three. What is on the white plaque? It looks like a Pierrot playing a mandolin.


As always, your wonderful photos make me "home-sick" for France! Thanks for the link to the type of camera you use. I've been thinking about getting something smaller than what I have (an early Olympus digital.) Again, merci beaucoup beaucoup beaucoup.

Jules Greer

Kristi Darling,

I know this is totally off the subject for your post today, but I want you to notice in your photo #3 how the owner of this little jewel took tinted stucco and smeared it over the bland cement wall. What great effect this has - let's do this to your bedroom walls when I arrive, we could almost do this entire photo on your wall with shutter's etc, a stuffed kitty (from the toy store) rocks from vineyard, and old tin buckets etc. from brocante. What do you think. XOXO MOM

Warren Plauche

Kris, my muse - Every shape and texture all in one photo. What a challenge to a poor watercolorist! I'll try it but it will have to "cook" some time to make it to the art table. What an eye you have, and what a bit of geography you inhabit. Merci, mille fois, encore. Warren

Kristin Espinasse

Franklin: that would be an interesting topic (French superstition). Will let it percolate!

Mom : re recreating the shutter/facade scene as a backdrop -- that sure solves a technical problem: now I'll quit worrying about the horizontal fissure running along the north wall (we'll simply incorporate that, too).

Warren : in France, there is what they call "l'embarras du choix". (I just looked up the definition: "to be spoilt for choice". This explains the ease in photographing France :-) I look forward to your next watercolor and to putting together another vernissage. While the photographing was easy, I wish you courage in working out, via pinceau et eau, all those textures. I don't know how you do it!


Hello Kristin--I love your photos of real life in France ... that's what I see looking at this one: real people living in real places, loving the cat, setting out the plants, taking in the mail ... Love it!


The thing that first struck me about this photo was the stucco covering the concrete wall. I wonder how many repairs, over how many years, this wall has seen, and how many different facelifts the various occupants have given it. In my mind, I imagine all of the women who have made this bicoque their home.


Is that the letterbox pinned up on the shutter? Is that a birthday present left still wrapped on the ledge? Is that the smallest garden gnome you have ever seen.......? *smile*

PS wonderful photo!


J'adore les photos. Ça serai pas une maison française sans un animal, un chat ou un chien. Ma bicoque à Canada, contrairement cette bicoque à France, il est couvert de neige. I wish I could post a photo with my comment, but you'll have to visit my URL/blog to see ma bicoque en la neige.


I am "eating" a French cookbook right now, your photos came in just perfect.

I have a couple of tomatoes in the oven for supper, and will dream of France.


This is definitely (a la Dr. Seuss) "a cat in the flat." Obviously sunning in an empty plant flat or tray.


Hi Kristin -

The most French thing I observe in the photo is, like so many French people, a sense of comfortableness with what it is. No pretensions, no insecurity. Tel quel et ainsi tres charmant.

Brad@Container Gardening

New to your site and really love it.
I looked up container gardening blogs and yours came up. Maybe because of the container garden in the picture.. who knows....
But, when I close my eyes and dream of a far-away place so removed from the crowds and traffic I'm in now, the picture is so much like what my mind's eye sees!

Thank you SO much!


I love the curtains that are tied toward the middle of the window, and the tiered 'onion basket' hanging on the left side of it. The house across the street has a spanish tile roof, and the sky was beautiful that day! Ah, to be la chat.


Oh, and could you ask your mom if she could buy an extra ticket? I'd be happy to join her! :-)

Mary Deignan

Late tonight, I finally could see the photo described in your reportage. Although horseshoes hang well from a nail, to my dad, they must always be turned up into a "U" to hold the good luck in. As a gardener, I recognize the poinsettia (probably from this past Christmas) pushed live or die? My tendency when I need to let an ill or dying plant go, is to push it outside where the cold will do the job I can't do any other way. Yet, with this haphazard abode, one cannot tell.


The French have the greatest way of making something old and disheveled look beautiful.

Simon Mackay

Lang: FR
Les vieux volets vert tint avec les chamières, ils donnent le caractère rustique et tous les petit objets provencale mettent l'accent sur le caractère.

Lang: EN
Those old green shutters, held together by their hinges, they give that rustic character and all the little Provencial objects do emphasise that character.

Alison Stringwell

Hi Kristin

The placing of all these objects seems haphazard at first, but actually on reflection these are objects that have been placed deliberately. The stones on the step, the little plant growing, the potted plants have been put there firstly to decorate, and then to die off before being replaced. The decorative placards, the tub which will be useful one day soon, ditto the cane. Most important though, is the box for the cat... It's a microcosm of someone's life. And a lovely photograph. Thank you.



this picture is interesting


So much French habitation is charmingly rustic-- how could I make my neat, but boring house in suburban Sydney, look just like that??
This a is GREAT website - what is the French for the slang exression 'blown away' ??
Regards Bob


I certainly agree with the "no pretense" of the people in the south Europe, I haven't been to Provence but the horse shoe, and the beads fit in with the Dalamatian coast of Croatia. I love the beads at the door that keep the flys out and heat also. I wish I had the beads for my balcony door because I know my dog would love the idea. Now she has to wait for me to open the screen for her. People in my condo association would think I am a hippy, and chase me out of town. Wouldn't that be fun. Joyce


Je ne parle pas bien le Francais mais je vais essayer.Quelle jolie photo! les bicoques (le nouveux mot qui j'apris aujourd'hui) en france sont tres intressantes. Chacqu'n racontre un histore de personne qui habite la. C'etait longtemps ce que j'ai visiter la France. C'est depuis vingt annees j'avais visiter. Je suis allais a l'ecole a Paris pour une trimeste. C'est drolle que votre enfants vous enseignie la langue maintenant. C'est vraiment drolle. Pardon mon mauvais francais mais J'adore la langue.


I love your photos! This one speaks to me through the shutters, the plants outside, the cat enjoying a lasy afternoon. I imagine an older couple who have lived here, in this small town, for years and years. They get their french breads and pastries from the little white truck that honks outside in the morning. The cat is not disturbed by anything.


Bonjour Christen,
I am addicted to your blog, je lis chaque jours, and making notes! J'adore les photos et votre mere! elle est adorable! et vos enfants, j'apprécie lire les histoires d'eux. j'ai 2 filles et je parle le russe à eux, mais vivant en Amérique, ils m'enseigneront bientôt comment parler le "bon" anglais. :( :) uu Cant wait for those embarasing moments :)
Merci pour votre blog!


I think I would like your mom!


My comment is about the beautiful, musical voice of your uncle Jean-Claude reading the sentence - I had to listen multiple times! I always enjoy hearing everyone in your family reading French, but you were right, we were lucky he was on hand for that.

Eve Robillardrobill

Kristin--I imagine a tiny old woman living inside. A sort of French Strega Nona. Her home smells like morning buns. And cats.
Eve Robillard (whose real name is Evalyn &
who also plans to write a best-seller & move from Wisconsin to the south of France where she will live out her days in a bicoque much like this one!)


To answer Bob's question above about how to say "blown away"...maybe "ébloui" would come close. There isn't a word for word translation for everything. Language doesn't work like that. People invent languages and we're creative!


I adore the photo, the green shutters with loved objects attached and the little blue door to where? The plant held up by a stake with the pots and stones. It just speaks of a loved home. I also love the beads that can be unhooked and I missed the cat and horseshoe till I read the comments. Back to take another peek, I come from the french word on my blog, you are always so interesting. Smiles, cyndi


I love your choice of subjects to photograph and always wish I had time to do paintings from them. I love hearing your free spirited mom's comments as well. How nice of you to settle into such a lovely place for her to visit! I've stayed with families in France several times and this brings it all back. Thanks for your charming site.

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