mauvais perdant


Grignan Roses (c) Kristin Espinasse
A rose-lover's Shangri-la: the village of Grignan. (Just don't steal the flowers... or the sweetness.... read on in today's story column. 

choper (sho-pay) verb

    : to steal, to nib; to catch

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Il a chopé un rhume / He caught a cold.
Elles ont chopé le sucre du bistro. / They nabbed the sugar.

Les Synonyms: dérober = to purloin chiper = to swipe, filch piquer = to pinch, to nick

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

When your aunt and your uncle are in town for under a week... you've got to be picky and choosy about just which postcard pretty places you'll take them to see.

Grignan was a must! Its chateau, overlooking the vine-flanked valley, and its perched, rose-petaled village, were once the residence and the stomping grounds of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote prolifically to her fille. Picture so many words showering down from the chateau, falling like tears of joy, watering all those heirloom roses, from "Autumn Sunset" to "Gipsy Boy".

The flowers steal one's attention making it is easy to be attracted to this rose-rampant "rise" in the French sky. Their colorful petals pull your eyes up the narrow paths or calades, past the boutiques and the art galleries until you are overlooking the patchwork paysage of Provence. After your eyes expand over the valley, they are drawn back in to the skirt of the citadel, which bustles with café life.

There, at the Brasserie Le Sévigné my aunt, my uncle, and I sipped caffeine from colorful tasses de café. Feeling that after-lunch slump, we were content to let our ears do the walking and we listened as they bent here and there capturing the various conversations, most in French, though some were accented in English "city" or "country." I wondered if the two ladies at the next table were from London? Then again, what do I know about the topography of talk or "accentry"?

Finishing our cafe crèmes, we stood up to leave.  I called over to my aunt, motionning to the sugar packets before her (we were each served two packets with our cup. Having only used one-half of a sugar envelop I was slipping the rest into my purse. I had seen my aunt do the same at the previous café.... "Waste not, want not," she had explained, offering another of her affectionate winks. I figured I could give my aunt the extra sachets de sucre for her train trip to Paris the next day. (It is always good to have a little blood sugar boosting sucrose on hand when traveling.)

"And take that one, too!" I encouraged, pointing to the unused sugar packet in front of her. 
Just then, I caught sight of the English women at the next table. They were watching wide-eyed.

Caught red-handed, I had no choice but to finish shoving the second packet into my purse and I cringed when I realized the sugar envelope was open and showering down granulated sweetness, mixing with the contents of my purse.

My dear Aunt, her back to the would-be whistle-blowers, was unaware of our unseemly circumstance. "Here," she said, handing me her unused packet of sugar. Meantime my uncle voiced our actions, as my uncle is wont to do: "Oh, what's that? You are taking some sugar? I see."

The problem was, others were seeing too! And, what with my uncle's commentary, we were a terribly conspicuous trio.

"Put. It. In. Your. Pocket!" I snapped at my fellow sugar-snatcher. But my aunt stood there, her arm extended like a red flag, sugar packet waving like the drapeau of death. It seemed to take hours for that sugar packet to reroute itself into my aunt's pocket and I stood startled-eyed until the lightweight loot disappeared.

As we turned our backs on the café, my aunt overheard the condemning comment at the next table as one woman spoke in a disapproving tone, pointing out our petty theft to her table-mate. "They've taken the sugar," she reported.

Half-way to the getaway car and my aunt and I were giggling, "They've taken the sugar!" we laughed, lacing our voices with disappoving English accents. My uncle got into the back of the car, scratching his head in confusion, having missed the episode completely. Meantime, I started the engine and my aunt hopped into the passenger's seat and when she did she winked at me:

"I've got the sugar," she confirmed. "Hit it!"

With that, we peeled out of the pretty postcard town, bidding goodbye to a proper Madame de Sévigné and leaving, in the sugar dust, the would-be whistle blowers with their cups of unsweetened tea.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

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A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey

A wooden deck under construction... and two pooped contractors.

Smokey says: you haven't heard much about us lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy... in a bucolic, sleepaholic way.

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Bonjour Kristin!
J'aime la photo de Grignan! I have also "pinched" sugar!


Kristin très drôle ! I love your aunt's sense of humor. The heat is sweltering in south Louisiana as we celebrate Memorial Day. I hope you are still enjoying beautiful spring weather. Bonne journée.

Barbara Jackson

Scrolling down past your funny, and oh so real life, story today I noticed the comment about "supporting" French Word by buying through your link to Amazon. Kristin, you shouldn't do this to us bookaholics! I just couldn't keep my hands off the mouse and $42 later I am the deliriously happy owner of three new French books. And it's not even 8 a.m! I justify everything by thinking it's my small way of keeping you writing.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, Barbara, for all the book support! I hope you enjoy your new reads :-)


I'm certainly guilty of doing this as well, Kristin, taking the unused sugar... especially in Paris where I feel pressure to consume every last drop of that oh-so-cher 4.20€ tea I take. I consider it the same as taking a doggy-bag and leave completely guilt-free!

Johanna DeMay

Bonjour Kristi,

This morning you have made people laugh halfway around the planet! I could not resist sharing it, so I just signed another friend up to your blog. It's good to know that Amazon purchases through your link will help to support it. I too will be doing that in the future.

Summer has arrived in New Mexico. The Memorial Day weather is going to be hot! Hope it's mild and beautiful chez vous.


Sandy Maberly

I guess great minds think alike! :-) I always take the extra packets of sugar when served with a hot drink. I don't use them but Mark does. It's nice to have extras, especially when we are flying and it's sometimes hard to get an extra packet out of those stingy f/a's :-) Thanks, Kristi, for my morning smile!


I don't ever leave links in comments - but this is a rather long story.... about a lovely Irish lady we knew when we lived in Andorra.... Who made 'jam for the Church'.. I laughed so hard reading about your sugar 'theft' I hope you enjoy this story:


Salut Kristin,

Let me get this straight.....

Sly “saving sisters” successfully swipe several sweet servings from store’s sugar stash . . . Sounds slightly suspicious!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Franklin Levin

We have and will continue to pinch sugar, particularly the brown raw stuff that tastes so good in cafe.
Is there any place in France where Madame de Sévigné has not left her mark? We have encountered her chateaux and other buildings and areas that claim her as their own in Brittany and around Nantes and it seems her name pops up almost everywhere. The lady sure got around.
So will we. In precisely one day we will be airborne headed for France and our duties as commissaires de piste at LeMans and three weeks of all out fun in France. Yeah summer!!!!!


It’s Memorial Day in America and this link to “The Star Spangled Banner” sung in French seems appropriate especially since many of our fallen warriors peacefully rest on French soil.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Michael Morrison

In your story today, you say "I sipped caffeine from colorful tasses de café." But, the correct word here is "tasses à café."

A tasse de café is a cup of coffee (i.e., a cup containing coffee). While a "tasse à café" is the coffee cup itself (with nothing in it).

The same for a verre de vin and a verre à vin. The verre de vin is a glass of wine. The verre à vin is a wine glass

Devra Long

Merci Kristin for sharing that delightful story; I was giggling along with you and your aunt!
60% chance of rain on this Memorial Day in Madison Alabama; hope we will be able to grill ribs later today!

Julie F

Ah, this story was so familiar. Americans are quite the sugar addicts and I love the brown sugar that comes with my cup of tea, as well as the little ginger biscuit or piece of dark chocolate that comes with my tassé de thé in favorite salon de thé in Dijon. Last year, I guess the local sitting next to me noticed I used all the sugar and picked up every last crumb of my ginger biscuit, so he ever-so-kindly leaned over and offered me the piece of chocolate that had come with his café. I was embarrassed that my sugar addiction was so obvious, but I didn't hesitate and take the extra chocolate with a merci beaucoup. And in one month I'll be back in Dijon for more. Can't wait!

Meanwhile, here in St. Louis there's a bit of an overcast day, but with the temperature in the 80's. Memorial Day -- let the porksteak grilling season begin!!!! Yum.


Merci for the French lesson.

: )

Kristin Espinasse

Michael, thanks for the correction -- always helpful (and needed!)

Herm, merci for the play on words -- so much fun!

Franklin, have a blast again this year in France.

Julie, just my kind of story (about the thoughtful sweets gift). Thanks and cheers.


Your story made me chuckle, and reminded me of my "poor art student" days! No discriminating details, but wanted to say thank you for the reminder of some of the simplest and happiest times I've yet experienced. What do people think purses are for anyhow, if not for a packet (or six) of sugar/ketchup/salt...? You never know when an emergency might present itself after all.... Bonne journée.:)

gail bingenheimer

J'ai chope les serviettes au MCDO! gail

Jennifer in OR

Hahaha, that was fabulously written, with all the great turns of words that I love from you, like the "topography of talk!"

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Kristi, loved today's sweet story and equally lovely photo of this fairy tale, rose-petaled village. Thanks for planting a smile on my face on this overcast, warm Memorial Day. This rose lover is heading back outside to my gardens…dotingly waiting for the first rose buds to bloom here.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin & Everyone! Absolutely great writing today, Kristin .. but the next time you get a "zit" .... well, you know, that Karma thing. Mahalo Nui Loa for such a super "read" and the smile it produced half way around the world! Aloha, Bill Facker

Marianne Rankin

I've saved sugar packets on occasion, mainly because I don't like to waste them. I've take a few to work because I like real sugar, and in many offices, only substitutes are available.

That said, in Starbucks and restaurants, I find the packets annoying. I much prefer the containers with the hole where you just pour the sugar into your cup. Although I don't drink it much, when I have coffee I consider it undrinkable without sugar, and it's easier to pour it into a cup than to use the packets. One time when I was tearing open packets for a latte, the woman next to me, who had a stack of empty packets next to her cup, said, "You need a million of them!"

The story of the lady who saved sugar to make jam "for the church" was funny. I've never done that. But I've saved clean paper napkins, which I don't think health regulations will allow to be reused; plastics spoons (wash and reuse in bag lunches); and even extra lemon slices from restaurants, which I put in the microwave to freshen it. Why waste anything?

Herm, thanks so much for the Star-Spangled Banner in French. I've already forwarded the link to a friend of mine who's a Francophile. I plan to write down the words and memorize them. While no translation can be exact, I think Olivier did a good job, and I liked the harmony in the rendition.

Our flag is flying in 90-plus-degree weather, but it's pretty outside. I'll go to the pool later today; it just opened for the season.

In college, I read some of Mme. de Sevigne's letters. At that time, said our textbook, postage was expensive and was usually paid by the recipient of letters. So Mme. de Sevigne's correspondents, especially her daughter, must have had a large postal bill. At the time, my knowledge of French geography was limited, and I didn't know that she lived in such an attractive region of France.

I've also ordered a few items from Amazon via the blog. Hope it helps.


First of all I need to tell you how much I like your photo-Beautiful!!
I chuckled through your story and recalled a few of my own suger napping times...
Thanks for sharing :)

Joan Linneman

With your story about the sugar heist and hiding the evidence dans le sac, I'm thinking how hard I am on purses. I used to save a piece of fruit from lunch for later in the afternoon until the time I melted a plum in there. Having had a sachet of pot pourri disintegrate la-dedans at one time, I didn't think too much about it when a nice aroma emanated every time I opened the purse, until it started to get sticky in there. I had to pitch that purse, but it smelled wonderful for a while... Joan L.


OH, MY GOD, I LAUGED SO HARD! Your entire story was so funny, and so close to home. You see pinching (tiny things) is also in my veins, so to speak. My Grandmother even to her dying day, while in a nursing home, would "keep" her jams, sugar, and what-nots after breakfast, lunch and dinner. What can I say, your story was hilarious! Since it's Memorial Day, I thought I'd share this experience with all of you: Well, I've just had the greatest memorial experience! I had been crying(sobbing) and missing Lorraine and Dad today. When, into my conscious comes this blaring audio transmission: "Patty, you don't have to cry, see, I'm boating in the Puget Sound, and I'm happy." this was the voice of Aunt Lorraines speaking (almost face to face){Lorraine recently died}to me. I asked Lorraine, "Where in the Puget Sound, is it that place where Grandpa got the flags for me?" She exclaimed, "Yes, Patty, don't you see Him?! "You see, this is my happiness, and you are here with me presently!" Then Dad said to me, "Patty, you can't live in the past"(as he had told me in my young adulthood), and then he laughed heartily. "you would use your sense of humor Dad, of course what you really mean is, you can't live in the past presently, you can only do so in spirit." i then clapped my hands in anticipation as I watched Grandpa haul down the flags for me. I'm so happpy to have been blessed with this "visit", as it affirms my belief that Lorraine has indeed moved on to her happier times in spirit, as it should be. i thank you Lorraine so much that I thank you twice and send thoughts again to you, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma and Mom, thoughts of Love and Happiness. See you on the other side. A Very Happy Memorial day to All of You.


I do hope there is a Cinema Verite visit to Grignan in our futures. Loved the one tease you gave us. I always mean to get up to Valreas and north but never make it. I wouldn't need much more than that photo to make the journey.

Christine Cormack

Hi Kristin
Mea culpa...I too nick the sugar when I have coffee. I don't TAKE sugar myself [sweet enough already? :-)] and when I am making a 'cuppa' for people who ask for sugar, I often find, in our humid climate, that the sugar has gone rock hard in the bowl. Very embarrassing to get out a chisel (or whatever) to try to chip off a bit for guests! I figure when I go to a cafe and get a couple of sugars on my saucer that I have paid for it. So I openly put them in my bag. I also think that after they have been served to a customer that it might not be 'hygienic' to serve them to someone else, and so maybe they throw them away. So I scoop them up, bring them home, and put them in the La Perruquet tin I chopéd from my French friends last time I stayed with them. They really WERE going to throw it out, promise!
Christine, Australia


Thanks for all these wonderful stories. What a way to start the day. I had missed Herm's link, but found it in reading Marianne's comment, which also reminds us to check out Katie's story about the lady who made "jam for church".

Joan, loved your note about purses, this would make a good post one day... and Patty, sounds like you had a lovely visit.

Christine, your note leaves me with a good chuckle. I think I'll try the same: putting the collection of sugar packets into a pretty tin (I don't use sugar in my coffee either... but did get into a bad habit of sprinkling some over my coffee (the foamy part) after seeing my aunt do the same...)

Gary, thanks for mentioning Cinéma Vérité. You can count on seeing more of Grignan soon :-)

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

I recall a trip across the US in the mid-60's during which I started a sugar thieving habit. Each restaurant we stopped in had either beautiful (New Orleans) or cute (Texas) designs on the packets advertising the establishments. Whether cubed or granular, I started a collection of sugar packets on that long trip.


J'adoooooooore !

Devra Long

Do you realize that all of us FWAD's around the world will be thinking of each other the next time we pocket the packets of sugar!

Margaret Dennis

Kristin - Love the photo. Grignan has now be added to our September itinerary! Also love the photos of the dogs. Smokey does love his mother. His little tongue is so cute.

Margaret in hot, steamy Durham, NC.

D. @ Outside Oslo

I'm trying to learn French, so thanks for helping those of us who love the language and want to learn more!

By the way, I just added you to my blogroll.


Just thought I would add a further clarification to this for anyone who has not traveled in France and been served a cafe or tea there. The cafe cup is (almost) always served with 2 sugar packs or cubes, and a little "bite"- a cookie, or tiny chocolate candy. Obviously, these are paid for with your order. So" taking the sugar" is not from an endless bowl of condiments, but is portioned out to you. No guilt should be involved with this..

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