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Serre Chevalier 121
A culprit of a cadran. More in today's story....

secourir (seuh-kor-reer) verb
       : to help, aid
       : to rescue

Verb conjugation of secourir:
je secours, tu secours, il secourt, nous secourons, vous secourez, ils secourent (past participle: secouru)

Audio File: coming soon...

We've featured the French word "secours" and learned many examples, in a past edition that was illustrated by a story. Today, we focus on the verb secourir -- because actions continue to speak louder than words...


"Trial by Tire" (Part Three: Final Chapter)
click here for previous chapter

It took me several moments to believe the predicament that our family of four suddenly found ourselves in: there, strapped into our car and all but teetering on a concrete slab that flanked some stairs leading down to the town hall...

Seconds before, the driver (Jean-Marc) and I had been focused on the picturesque sundial painted on a building en face. That is when our car, which had already engaged in a traffic roundabout, wandered a few fateful inches to the side of the road... and "stepped" off.

With a kerPLUNK and a POP! the car came to an abrupt halt... having driven over the concrete slab that separated the road that we had been on from an escalier!

Calm came over the car, but was quickly chased out the window by its foe, PANIC!

"C'est pas vrai! C'EST PAS VRAI!!!" my son complained. "On a crevé un pneu! On a crevé un pneu!!!

I don't know what struck me more: the fact that our car was stuck in a stairwell ...or my son's noisy reaction to that fact. Just where, I wondered, did all that panic and impatience come from? ...Did he learn it from me?

Once again, I was reading too much into things. "He's just worried about missing the snowboard lesson (an hour from now)," Jean-Marc pointed out.

We all got out of the car, and Jean-Marc went to work assessing the damage -- and a plan of action!

Little by little, the quiet village came to life. A retired couple stopped, and the man came over to have a look at our flat tire (the flat was only one of two predicaments, the second being the placement of the flat: on the other side of the barrier!).

The man searched for a big rock and set it in front of the tire, but when Jean-Marc attempted to back up the car... that giant rock spit right out from beneath the tire... missing my head by about two feet!

Thereafter, I joined the kids at the bottom of the stairwell and watched as more help arrived. A woman appeared out of nowhere... in time to share a friendly nod of encouragement: "Ce n'est qu'une voiture. It's only a car!"

Two other men stopped to help free the tire that had hooked itself over the cement guardrail. When a  third man arrived on the scene, the trio attempted to lift the front end of the car... to no avail.

Serre Chevalier 128

When Max continued to worry about missing his snowboard lesson, I pointed out the Alpine Angels that were working on our car.

"You know, they might have been heading out to the ski slopes, too! But they've taken the time to stop and help us. Isn't that kind of them? Would we have done the same?" The idea initially silenced my son's complaints, and the three of us watched quietly -- but for another hiccup of impatience.

"I wonder where that guy was headed to?" I questioned the kids. "Do you think he'll be late for his appointment? Instead, he's changed his plans in order to assist a stranger. Isn't that wonderful? Aren't they all wonderful for being so flexible with their own schedules?"

Several steps above us the man in blue began stacking wood to the other side of the tire, the idea being to back up over the wood in time to "lift up" over the concrete barrier. Another man used a jack to hike up the car, while the third man changed our tire! 

Jean-Marc returned to the wheel to steer the car back over the barrier, level with the other tires. That's when the Alpine Angels almost disappeared -- but not before returning all of the materials that they had "borrowed" (the wood was returned to the woodpile, the rocks, to a nearby garden) "Wait a minute," we called out, in time for Jean-Marc to hand each man a bottle of wine from a case we had been transporting in the back of our car.

And, just like that, the Alpine Angels disappeared, having gifted us with what these days some consider to be a rarity: charity.


*     *     *
Is this mistletoe? By the way... today's question:

Question: Who is the last person you kissed and why? Share about your last smack, in the comments box. (Here's my answer: last person kissed: my daughter (this morning at the breakfast table). Why? For being brave about sleeping in her room all night (and not coming to wake me up at the first gust of wind that rattled her window shutters... and her scarey bone)!

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


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Nancy L.

Your story restores my faith in humanity! Oh, and last person kissed? My husband before leaving for a Peter, Paul & Mary concert last night. He could've gotten a "smooch" this morning before I left for work but he was still asleep & snoring (Read: Do Not Disturb"). 'Let sleeping babies, husbands & dogs lay'


My four year-old son Spencer is always the kissy one around here. A true cheek kisser, and if my cheeks are cold from the blustery wind, the better! He never seems to need a reason, either, (yet, thank goodness!!) but is still bursting with love naturally.

That's quite the predicament you all found yourselves in! You're absolutely right about the guardian angels, and were quite fortunate to have come across so many at once!!

Lynnda Evans

Great story and wonderful example of living the Golden Rule. The last person I smooched was my wonderful husband first thing this morning. That's how we start every day since he almost died from a misdiagnosed ruptured appendix in 2004. A day doesn't go by that I don't give him a kiss and thank God for his health and mine and having another day to spend together.


Oh yes! Definitely mistletoe!
I don't wait until the time we hang mistletoe to kiss and hug my beloved ones!
I kissed my husband this morning before he left for work, wishing him a very good day!


Great story! I kissed my boyfriend on the way out the door this morning. Only wish I could have stayed home with him!

Andrea  A.

Quelle grande aventure pour ton famille Kristin!

Today I kissed the head of my darling 90 year-old Dad as he lay in his bed in the Hospice. He may only have weeks to live but he is still sharing his wit and enthusiasm for life. Each kiss is precious as there may not be time for many more.

Felicia D.

Nice blog. I am putting a link to it from my website. I take antique shoppers to Paris a few times a year from the USA and they are always interested in learning a little more French. Your site will teach them and also get them more enthused about my tours. My site is EuropeAntiqueTrip com Please put me on your email list. Thank you, Felicia


Last Kiss? My son for staying out in the cold long enough for the dog to "do his business" so we wouldn't have an indoor surprise waiting for us when we returned form work/school!


A toast to the Alpine angels!!!
What a perfect example to illustrate your Word-of-the-day -> secourir. I understand now why the French say -> "voler" (to fly...) au secours de quelqu'un (= to rush to somebody's aid). This is exactly what the 3 angels did!... and, with tools and "les moyens du bord" (= what you've got/what they've got) they saved la famille Espinasse! I'm sure Max and Jackie will never forget them.

Now, I completely understand the hint you gave us at the end of Part 1: the unexpected fortune!

On a language point of view, I learned that a tire (US) = a tyre (GB)
and that a flat (US) = a flat tyre (GB) …. [I knew that a flat (GB) = an apartment (US)]
The words will go on my list, following the last discovery (“cadran” newsletter) which was: a take out (US) = a take away (GB)

Thanks for the painted “cadran solaire” on the white house at the top of the newsletter. This is surely 'the picturesque building with yet another sundial' mentioned in Part 2 (“crever” newsletter), isn't it?

Looking forward to the (dozen you said? that's generous!) high resolution photos you will publish on Saturday in the first issue of your Weekend Photo Supplement. We are already so lucky to get one or two photos with the - free - newsletter FWAD, so, your weekly photo supplement is certainly worthwhile a subscription fee!

Sharan Linebaugh

Delightful to find your posting. Are you Texan? My friend who sent your site to me thinks you are. I am coming to France in May/June. I will research your site for info on French villages. Thank you. Sharan in Texas.


Thank you for the exquisite "rideaux brise-bise" shown on the link about your Photo supplement->

Does anybody know of an English word (US, GB) for these short 'half-curtains' that are supposed to "briser" (= to break) la "bise" (= very cold North wind)?
Not sure the rideaux "brise bise" on the photo would give such a protection, but they are certainly very pretty!

Sandy Maberly

Une bise pour mon mari, Mark, ce matin! I flew into Tulsa late last night (delayed flight) and Mark picked me up, made me a cup of tea and stayed up late with me even though he had to get up early to go to work!

Jules Greer

Hi Honey, I have been thinking about your weekend post. I'll never forget how darling you were (at 9 years old) when you used to ski to school when we lived in Aspen. I know you have shunned the ski-mountains for the past 30 years....I am hoping I will see you shussing down the mountain in your weekend post. I have asked you to ski with the kids for years now - I want to see you chasing them over the moguls. Also I am hoping to see more photo's of Jean-Marc, he is the most beautiful Frenchman I have ever seen.

I have been making a list of villages we should visit when I arrive. I wonder if anyone else has suggestions for villages within a 2 hour drive from the vineyard. I have been surfing around France on Google Earth looking at all of the villages, with this application I have also been able to walk the streets of Marseilles. FIVE DAYS TIL I ARRIVE....!!!!


Most recent kiss, mon mari before we fell asleep last night. Lovely story about the kindness of strangers. Humans(pas angels) never cease to amaze me with their altruism in times of need. We were also overwhelmed with this kindness when hopelessly lost near Rennes driving through France to Spain in 2004. An immaculately dressed lady in MacDonalds(we thought we'd find an English speaker there)from whom we asked directions to our motel, packed up her 2 children and their food into her car and drove for over 20 minutes out of her way and led us to the motel and waited until we were safely in. Similar events happened to us while lost in Paris the next year and forever revived my belief in the goodness of people especially the French. Kristin you have chosen a wonderful country in which to live and bring up your children. Merci bien pour les histoires.


Angela: I enjoyed your words about young children "bursting with love naturally". How true (It seems like I have to ask my kids for kisses! I'll pay more attention -- maybe they're kissing me more than I think?)

Andrea A.: enjoy Dad's wisdom and a virtual kiss to him from all of us reading!

Newforest: that's the one (the sundial that I had "*indeed!*" photographed :-) PS: thanks for the helpful expressions and for your enthusiasm for the new photo site. (People are going to think we're in cahoots on this project! What they may not realize is that you were the first to contribute -- and that means we may have the luck of reading more of your insightful commentaire and educational comments on the French language -- over at Cinéma Vérité!)

Hi Sharan: no, I'm not Texan. I'm a Desert Rat from Phoenix!

Mom: Can't wait for you to get here. I'm stocking up on all your favorite foods, but you are *not* allowed to eat any more surimi because ... we'll do you know what that stuff is made up of?! Also: you are *not* allowed to eat more than three flans (or whatever that pudding is that you like) at one sitting! Remember, this is BOOTCAMP! (No sneak-smoking either!!!)

Judi C

Last person I kissed? Just moments ago my 18 year old son who jumped out of my car heading off to his date with his girlfriend to Disneyland. So old yet so young... the story of your charity angels was a classic and should be shared to many. It had so many life lessons! thank you

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Last person I kissed, well actually there were two my husband before he was headed off to work this morning. My youngest son who is 20 I not only kissed but hugged tight as yesterday he was in a terrible car accident, but lucky us those airbags worked. He is fine, can't say that about his new car but cars are replaceable. I feel so blessed that he walked away from it without a scratch.


Is this mistletoe? Do not know. Do know that the colors-- pinks, blues of the photo are gorgeous. My last kiss? a mon mari ce matin...tourjours, before he leaves.

Always say goodbye with a kiss...

"dites toujours au revoir avec un baiser"

Correct en francais??


To Karen, a great big hug to the glad to hear your son is all right. Such a big scare and reminds us of the preciousness of our children. I am hugging my Sam (24 yrs) in my mind right now!

Joanne Fischer

I sent long distance kisses to my husband in Houston while I am in Santa Fe. I will be back in Houston tomorrow and can kiss him live and in person!!!

I love the Alpine Angels story! It is amazing how good things happen to good people!!!!! (not the flat tire but the help afterwards!!!)

I am looking forward to lunch with Jean-Marc in Houston in two weeks! bien des choses à tous,Joanne

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Thanks Kristin and Pat I really appreciate your thoughts.

Ron Adams

Hi Kristin!

Congrats on the books! In a casual conversation with my sister, I mention I am writing a book. A secret I've been keeping from friends and family for sometime. In a big surprise she said "So did Kristin!".."Kristin?..remind me" "You know! early 1990's..scale models..Scottsdale". Ah right! Of course! So good job!


Oh my Goodness -- Hello Ron! Great to hear about your book.

Yes, scale model cars... I was so lucky to have this job that you gave me after Jean-Marc kicked me out of France! I actually wrote about your office in the introduction to my book! (page xiii)

PS: re "kicked out of France", the wording in the book is a little less dramatic. Happy reading and hello to Jena who owes me a call (or maybe I owe her a call...?!)

PSS: I was just telling someone about my job selling scale-model cars via mailorder and I could not come up with the French translation to "scale model". Can anyone help?


My husband recieved a big kiss this morning as he headed off to help weed and push mulch in the school gardens on a "working bee"! I joined him a little later as my son was off to an all day music concert for bushfires in Australia and I had to make sure he had finished homework and had some vitamins for breakfast! Too exhausted now to kiss anyone!!

Kristin, so glad you were able to fix your tyre and hope Max and Jackie were able to have a snowboard lesson even though a little late! I think there are more "angels" in the world than realised... they just don't call attention to themselves! Also my son has just had 3 weeks with a host family in Phoenix and loved it. glad to hear your son is safe and sound...


Bonjour Kristin,

L'expression est --> "modèle réduit"
-> une voiture modèle réduit

So..., you were specialised in --> le "modélisme automobile",
selling --> "des modèles réduits".

I'll try to see if I can find anything on the net.


Re:bonjour Kristin,

"modèle réduit" = A three-dimensional representation of an object or structure having all parts in the same proportion of their true size.

Le modélisme:,2695.html

Le modélisme automobile:

Were you selling cars like these ones?


Kristin: It looks as if your link regarding your Saturday Photo Supplement (and brise bise curtains) has disappeared ...(?)


OK! it's back now...


Newforest: thanks for the info and glad the photo is up!

Glad to learn the scale-model terms, too. Yes (re the link) those are the kinds of cars I sold. I could never get the orders right (whoops, sorry if you are reading, Ron!) because I couldn't figure out the numbers on all those race cars, porches, ferraris, lamberthingies...

Ron Adams is exactly the kind of company I had..and yes..some of these cars are even the ones you sold! Most of the French Companies that I dealt with simply called them "modélisme automobile". The one company from France I purchased from in 1990 is this one

No reason to apologize! 3000+ SKUs is alot to remember an any language

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Thanks so much Gretel for your kind words.

Hope your son enjoyed our sunny state so much he would
want to come back.

Laura West (Laurence)

Merci Kristin pour toutes vos histoires de vie francaise. Grace a elles, je reduit un peu mon vague a l'ame de ne pas pouvoir visiter mon pays cheri.
J'ai aussi une histoire de secours par des anges alpins. Nous estions en vancances a Briancon avec mes parents quand j'avais douze ans et nous avons decide de franchir le col et decouvrir le village italien de l'autre cote de la frontiere. Malheureusement notre vielle bagnole n'etait pas d'accord et voulais rouspeter toutes ces routes montagneuses que nous la faisons traverser. A peine arrives dans le village, notre petite Peugeot 4x4 s'est refuse de bouger (transmition I think, sorry my brain can't think of french car parts right now) et nous voici en un pays etrange sans aucun moyen de retourner en France. Maman ayant etudie italien a l'ecole, part pour trouver un mecanique overt le dimanche. Je reste avec mon pere avec la voiture car au moins je peux parler francais. Des gentils hommes (anges peut-etre) nous aident a pousser la voiture a un lieu plus a propos et un bus d'italiens qui allait en vacances en France nous permettent de retourner a Briancon, sans frais, tout en chantant des chansons tantot en francais et tantot en italien.

Chris M.

My daughter, each night before she goes to bed. It reminds me to spend more time with her, because she is growing up so fast.

Marilyn Munsterman

I am going to carry this photo with me in France as I drive in the little villages with narrow streets and lots of stairs. When my tire is over the side, I can pull out your story and photo and know I am not the first and that the angels will appear as they always do in France.

Jennifer in OR

I love how you redirected Max's nervous energy into noticing that these strangers were setting aside their own plans for YOU! What a wonderful, teachable moment you took advantage of.


Am not able to open link to Saturday

Ann Simons

This wonderful story reminds me of the kindness of a group of French hikers when we were stranded in the middle of nowhere with a totally ruined tire and, of course, no cell service. Strangers no longer,but angels to the rescue - with only a handful of common words between us.

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