la confiture


Door curtains add to the charm of Provence (here, in Mirabel aux Baronnies)... more about doors in today's story column. All photos & text © Kristin Espinasse

Next Meet-up! If you are near Houston on 03/25 and 03/26, you are very welcome to join Jean-Marc for one of his wine tastings 

frapper (frah-pay) verb
  1. to knock, to slap, to hit, strike; to make an impression on, to affect, to move (emotionally)

(Note: The following story was written in 2005)

My son and my daughter have taped the following message to their bedroom doors:
(Knock before entering!)

This request for privacy came as a surprise. I would have expected the panneau* at 14 or 16 -- but at 7 and 9 years old?

I didn't care about privacy when I was their age. I shared a room and a bed with my soeur aînée.* My sister didn't seem concerned about privacy either -- only propreté.*

"Did you take a bath today?" was her main concern each night before I climbed into my side of the bed. "Did you use soap?"

My need for privacy came much later; somewhere between bidding adieu* to the States and shacking up with a Frenchman. It would take a while to realize that I needed a place to go, une arrière boutique* as Montaigne says, to replenish my spirit. So much friction with another people -- constantly absorbing "their way" while slowly stamping out one's own habits wears away at a part of the soul.

I could have used a "Frappez avant d'Entrer" sign on my door when I moved to France: more time and privacy as I sorted through the novel ways of this new people, the French, adopting those moeurs* that suited me, while honoring, polishing the habits that had worked well up till now. The "Frapper" sign would have come in handy. The problem was that I shared that door with un Français.* A very social and outgoing one at that.

His friends and family frapped* at an alarming rate. When they weren't stopping by, they were making plans to: "Oui! Passe au début de l'après-midi. On est là!" my fiancé would say.

I would think to myself: "Who was THAT on the phone? Did he DATE her? Just exactly what time IS 'the beginning of the afternoon?' anyway?"

The phone would ring and I would overhear, "Oui, ce soir -- ça marche. Allez, à tout à l'heure!"

"Why did you say 'à tout à l'heure' when you just told them tonight? Isn't tonight several hours away and not 'at the top of the hour'?"

But to this day, the visits that frap* me the most, are the "stop bys" or "Les imprévus".* You know, the TOC TOC TOC's* that have you running for the broom, shoving désordre* into the hall closet. Not that the dust and the clutter matter that much.

At that moment, paused before the peephole of the porte d'entrée,* trying to catch your breath, the pertinent question that we all ask ourselves, finally, is a universal one:

"Did you take a bath today?"

Comments, corrections, or stories of your own--always welcome and appreciated. Please use the comments box.

.......................Enrich your French Vocabulary.............................
un panneau (m) = a sign; la soeur aînée (f) = older sister; la propreté (f) = cleanliness; adieu = goodbye! farewell!; une arrière boutique (f) = a back room; les moeurs (fpl) = customs, lifestyle; un Français = a Frenchman; frapped = (Franglais) knocked; frap = (Franglais ) hit; imprévu = unexpected; toc toc toc = knock knock knock; le désordre (m) = mess; la porte d'entrée (f) = front door
Audio File Listen to my son, Max, read the following expressions in French: 
Download Frapper (Wav)
Download Frapper (MP3)

être frappé = to be crazy
frapper d'un droit (d'une amende) = to levy a tax (a fine) on
frapper l'imagination = to fire the imagination
frapper à la bonne porte = to knock on the right door
frapper les yeux = to attract attention
frapper du pied = to stamp one's feet, to get angry
une faute de frappe = a typo (a typing error)

Your turn to add a caption to the photo! How would you name this one? (Taken in the town of Villedieu). Write your caption in the comments box. Merci beaucoup.

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


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Carol Folino

"Cat-astrophe??"Just kidding.I really enjoyed your frapper story.Enjoy your visit with Jules!Carol


J'ai vu des souris! Ha, I see one over there to the right. Looks like a nice snack for moi!


Bonjour from Serre Chevalier, where we're on break this week. I have pre-programed the blog so that stories from the word-a-day archives will run in our absence.

While I'm here, hello to Carol and Martina and thanks for jump-starting the "photo captions" request! I'll add mine, now:

(French cat to those tickling palm branches): No more guilis-guilis* -- I'm on a mouse mission!

* guili-guili: http://fr.encarta.msn.com/dictionary_2016010899_2016011010/prevpage.html

Susan Anne

le chat sur un fil


L’équilibriste :-)

Annette Heat

AS a lifetime cat lover, I must say that cats in France are especially beautiful - in every picture you have sent! I am in the market at present to adopt a cat. I'd gladly take the one walking along that narrow little strip of fence. There are so many animals here in the US who need a home. I'd love a dog also, but that cannot be while I live 3 stories up in a condo. Once again, thank you for the photo of a cat, and the beautiful surroundings in France. The stone wall is a work of art. Annette


It doesn't make me think of words, it makes me think of music....the Pink Panther theme song.


One easy step at a time ... that's how we all make it.

Diane Heinecke

Minou dit: >

Diane Heinecke

Minou dit, "Simple comme Bonjour!"


Le Chat Funambule


Voici, le chat curieux--intrepide. effrayé de rien il voyage partout où il veut, et il fait quoi qu'il veuille faire, tout en marchant cette ligne mince élevée d'être sa propre personne certaine de qui il est.

Ah, pour être comme le chat !


That's so funny, Tammy, because I too hear music when I look at this photo. "Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash:)


Not quite LE CHAT BOTTÉ here ('Puss in Boots')...

What came first to my mind was the name of a game played by French children: LE CHAT "PERCHÉ"...

Photo caption:
Le Chat Perché is inviting you to play a Mice little game.

Rules of the game of "Chat Perché":
One player is the cat and must run after the mice. When he catches 'a mouse' (by simple touch), the mouse is turned into a cat. The game must then re-start, with the 'new' cat, trying to catch a mouse... and so on ... At the end of the game, the last mouse that hasn't been caught is the winner.

Players (mice) run around, looking for a ´PERCH' -> chair, tree, stone, threshold, little wall, anything to stand on preventing them from touching the ground. As soon as a mouse is 'perched', it becomes safe from the cat!
One player per perch! There shouldn't be too many perches right in the centre of the playground!

When a cat has caught a mouse, he gets transformed into a mouse and carry on playing, trying not to get caught by the 'new' cat.
Alternative (according to the number of players and the size of the playground):
Once a cat has caught a mouse, he goes to a designated place where he can have a rest, watch the game, support the new cat chasing the mice...

I like The Pink Panther theme song mentioned by Tammy. Absolutely ideal in this context!



I just typed in google:
jouer au "Chat perché" - Règles du jeu

Here is an interesting link, in French. You will not only find the rules, but you will also find something on 'the origins of the game', from Marie's observations of her 2 cats.
I think cat lovers might be amused by her remarks and agree about what she calls: "une technique de combat ancestrale". Interesting!



Chère Newforest: I'm borrowing this one from my mom, who's said it before (only I'll spare you the ALL CAPS): "Newforest, you are so cool!" Thanks for the fun & games, and information, comme d'habitude.

To All: thanks for the great captions. I love "funambule" and all the French titles!

Mary Lou Fritts

"Because you're mine, I walk the line" with apologies to Johnny Cash...


My first reaction to seeing the cat was also "Walking the Line" but I didn't know the Johnny Cash song. Or maybe "one step at a time". Cats are so agile and have the great ability to walk on the smallest rails, almost like a trapeze artist. And if they fall, which is seldom, they always seem to land on their feet. Unfortunately, that is not always true of humans. But when we fall, we need to learn to pick ourselves up and move ahead.

Fred Caswell

High-way Hiking.

C'est tout!


Comme on dit en Français:
"Un chat retombe toujours sur ses pattes"

dorothy dufour


I like the Johnny Cash contributions.

dorothy dufour

Re "frapper"

Oh those French! I remember being annoyed at the lack of privacy as a newlywed, and the oh so frequent visits from family. Just one of the many things to get used to....

Jules Greer

Hi Kristi,

I just can't think of anything interesting to say about the "cat" but I would call him
"Lucky". The rock wall is a piece of art, reminds me of the rockwork Grandpa used to do for his fireplaces. Remember he did one out of white quartz and another of a beautiful blue-green rock that looked like turquoise. I can see by Jean-Marc's and your comments that you don't know how to vacation at night. Get out there and DANCE.

Jules Greer





Quel joli minou pas pressé! Cherches-tu gêner un merle caché?


My caption would be:

"I Love Gymnastics!"

My daughters were both gymnasts and they spent many, many hours on the balance beam. I spent many hours praying that they would be able to maintain their balance and not fall off! No problem here!

Ben Phillips

Je dirais..."On the Catwalk!"



Looks like a cheeky "catburgler" to me!
All this talk of walking the line reminds me of a movie I saw recently... "Man on a Wire"...a very brave and slightly eccentric french tightrope walker, Philippe Petits, who walks on a rope between famous structures such as the Notre Dame and the Sydney Harbour Bridge...often stealthily.....


Une question de équilibre.....


We have 2 cats: Mork and Mindy.
This one looks like Mork.
so I would title it.....

"Come on Mindy. Time to go home!"


Nancy from Mass

My first thought was: "Hey, when did Buttons (our cat) go to France?!"

Ce Belle Minou

Cori Bath

Life is a balancing act.

Diana Porter

...kitty walks the straight and narrow in God's town....


That was my exact thought!!!


The Chat on the mur is the splitting image of our cat! Whoa! Right down to the white on the tip of the tail. Ever hear of Heinlein's book The "Cat who walks through walls" (or something like that)?


Hi Christie...no haven't heard of your novel but... "curiosity (never really) killed the cat"... so looked it up on Wikepedia...I was thinking the sci-fi books we used to read are now very much like the virtual reality games our teenagers love to play!


"Comment dit: Can i has cheezeburger in French? Perhaps" Je prends le biftec y frites, right after my yoga class, that is, purred le cool cat.

Véronique Robigou

Le funambule sur la barrière.


that clothesline was nothing compared to this!


Hey girl! Get out of my way!

he says to the kitty walking the other way... ;)


I'm not sure how this all works, blogs are a little new to me. I just read about Kristin in France magazine (May 2009)and was reminded about corresponding with her a couple of years ago -- then we lost track. I would love to hear from Kristine and renew our acquaintance. My wife is French and we live in Salt Lake City. I am a photographer specializing in French Impressionist images. We spent a month in Provence last year (Lourmarin, etc.) and had a great time. We are going to Burgundy this year -- I really wish I could live in France. If anyone is interested in seeing my photos, they are at www.donthorpe.com. A bientot, Don O. Thorpe

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