se moquer de quelqu'un

larguer les amarres

Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse
Last week we cast on in the learning to knit post... this week we cast off to sea in today's larguer edition. Photo taken a few weeks ago, in Colmar, Alsace. (Today's story takes place 8 hours south, on the Mediterranean coast, in the town of Fos-sur-Mer.)

larguer les amarres (lar gay layz amar)

     : to cast off, to slip the mooring ropes

( larguer = to loose, to release)

Audio File & Example SentenceDownload MP3 

Pour quitter le port, le capitaine Cyril nous a demandé de larguer les amarres. To leave the port, Captain Cyril asked us to cast off the ropes.


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

An Unexpected Excursion

My hands are clamped to the seat beneath me as I sit doubtful about boat security. I don't know anything about floating vessels... and fear the seat-belt question might seem absurd to the thrill-seekers beside me. Instead, I straighten up and inquire as any self-respecting 6-year-old would: how much longer?

My friend Rachel responds sympathetically: est-ce que ça va?
I assure her that tout va bien, but it is my husband that I am concerned about. Jean-Marc is standing a little too close to the side of the boat's bow, his hands holding onto its flimsy rails. His grip does not stop him from becoming airborne each time we hit a wake, or houache. Our little boat is surrounded by huge industrial ships, off in the distance. The ripples they send our way seem as big as surfer waves! 

As is my habit when flying through turbulence, I look over at the crew: no worried look on Captain Cyril's face and no worried look on First Mate Rachel's face.... (so then we must be safe...). 

First Mate turns to me: "We'll be there very soon," Rachel assures me, pointing to a speck on the horizon. Next, she tries capturing my attention by drawing my eyes to the designs on the surface of the water. "Look at the foam! J'adore la mousse!," she laughs, pointing to the intricate "V" design left by the boat's passage. I glance over my shoulder to view the bubbles, forcing an enthusiastic look across my face... but I won't turn around for fear of losing my balance!

"I am sorry about cette horreur!" Rachel apologizes, her eyes trailing over the industrial coastline of Fos-sur-Mer, where steel industries, and gas and chemical stations litter the air with pollution. From our perspective, this far out to sea, the coastline is a great ashtray and the buildings are cigarettes, each with a thick ribbon of smoke rising into the air.

There is a certain futuristic intrigue that keeps the scene from looking entirely foreboding. "Don't worry," I assure Rachel, not wanting my friend to feel she has to make excuses for her hometown, where she is rearing three young boys while caring for her mother, who is battling cancer. 

"We eat organic food," Rachel winks, "to make up for all the pollution!" Soon I am smiling again, remembering the organic sunscreen my friend slathered onto my shoulders. The pasty "bio" coating is currently providing a good laugh, but the comic relief is short-lived... when the speedboat turns sharply on its side!

"Ça y est!" I fret. "The boat's going to capsize!"

Just when I am about to shriek, Rachel grabs onto me. "Ne t'inquiète pas!" But it's too late: I am now sutured to the seat as Cyril swings the speedboat around in a tight circle. When will it stop? I begin to wonder whether our captain isn't just showing off--in which case I strongly object: "Ça suffit!"

Very soon I am ashamed for such a hasty judgment. Cyril cuts the engine and reaches for a long bar with a hook at the end... in time to fish my sun hat out of the water. Cyril was not turning in circles for amusement -- he was kindly going back to retrieve my casquette, which had flown off! 

Back on track and that little speck on the horizon soon becomes an eyeful of pristine sand. No trees or buildings... only the soft undulating surface, where endangered dunes rise like a whisper in the night. We have arrived at the presqu'île. Fifty or so meters from land and Cyril anchors the bateau à moteur. I look around, wondering about the raft that will take us to shore... just where is it? 

"You did wear your maillots de bain, didn't you?"

First Mate Rachel and I look at each other inquisitively. Next Rachel's eyes sparkle like a bride's before the threshold: "And miss the chance to be carried over to shore by such strong men?"

I send a wink of appreciation over to our ingenious first mate, as we take turns dipping our toes into the water during the men's long walk to shore....


Post note: Later on I discovered these photos on my camera, thanks to First Mate Rachel, who had snapped a few souvenir images. That's I and Chief Grape... who got back at me, several times, by dipping my backside into the cold water....  


Click to enlarge photo, taken by Rachel Fabre (that's her hubby, Cyril, to the right, and below left).

Captain Cyril and First Mate Rachel, long-time friends and fun hosts! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Are you adventurous? For some that might mean venturing out on a speedboat... (for others it might be bungee jumping from the Eiffel Tower!). Share a tale of your own, here in the comments box.


French Vocabulary

est-ce que ça va? = is everything OK?

tout va bien = everything's fine

j'adore la mousse! = I love foam!

une horreur = eyesore

ça y est! = that's it!

ne t'inquiète pas = don't worry

ça suffit = that's enough!

une casquette = baseball cap

une houache = wake of a ship

une presqu'île = peninsula

le bateau à moteur = speedboat

le maillot de bain = bathing suit




Chief Grape, Capitain Cyril, and First Mate Rachel enjoyed some Domaine Rouge-Bleu Rosé. For our California readers, if you are near Healdsburg, stop by Spoon Bar, where our rosé is poured by the glassful!

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.


Capture plein écran 17072011 195837
Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

"We could bore ourselves to death, drink ourselves to death, or have a bit of an adventure..." It was absurd. It was foolhardy. And it was glorious. When they retired, Terry Darlington and his somewhat saner wife Monica—together with their dog, a whippet named Jim—chucked their earthbound life and set out in an utterly unseaworthy sixty-foot canal narrowboat across the notoriously treacherous English Channel and down to the South of France. 


Have a minute for another story? This one is about The Writing Life -- it was posted one year ago... It might offer inspiration for anyone struggling to fill "la page blanche" or to face a blank canvas. Read it here. (Picture of Smokey taken one year ago).

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Oh, how romantic! Chief Grape carrying you through the water to save you distress. I could appreciate your fear in crossing but what fun you had at the end of the ride.
Always love your pictures, especially capped by a pic of that big black nose.
Great story!

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Ah, Colmar. I've only been there once, but I'll remember it forever (although I do plan to get back some day). And I know your feeling on the boat. When we're in the boat of my husband's uncle and he's bouncing across the waves at about 200 mph, I'm certain the boat will break apart and I'll never be able to swim back to shore ahead of the sharks.


Hi Kristin,

I certainly understand your feelings all the way along! As far as I am concerned, "je n'ai pas le pied marin!" (something to do with events in my childhood...) so, I rather have my two feet on the ground, where I feel comfortable.

The "presqu'île" you mentioned made me curious and I googled "presqu'île du Rhin, Colmar". The first item was about "une manifestation anti-nucléaire" in March 2011. I guess the feelings must be running high in Colmar.

Great for you to be carried over to the shore in the arms of your strong husband! I think the dipping of your toes in the water, during the men's long walk from the boat to the sandy beach, express a pleasurable form of relief. Happy ending indeed!

The pristine & deserted sandy beach with its 'endangered dunes' must have felt so special - and even slightly surreal?... worthwhile celebrating with a wonderful Rosé wine from your own "Domaine"! (BTW, I'm wondering whether it is possible to get hold of your Rosé in London...?)

As I was looking at the Domaine Rouge & Bleu Rosé photo, served in that unusual décor, I kept smiling, imagining you, lying on the sand, looking at the sky and horizon from ground level and taking that superb photo!

talking about photos... and looking at the one that follows "historiette": I love the lock, keeping the treasures behind the old gate in perfect condition, and out of reach from intruders! Ah! there are so many unfolded stories behind a locked gate...

Back to Colmar:
I hope you had a very successful evening at the restaurant, with Cyril, Rachel and guests who all appreciated, I'm sure, the treasures of your Domaine Rouge & Bleu!

Kristin Espinasse

Anne, I'm not afraid to swim... but I was not dressed for the "Unexpected Excursion" :-) Still, I did not feel like getting into the cold water... P.S.: Smokey would like you to know that a story about him is coming soon :-)

Julie, you described so well the feeling I had: that the boat would come to pieces! Each time the bow hit the wave, it felt as if it were hitting concrete!

Newforest, The intro photo (taken over a week ago, in Colmar) is very misleading. Sorry about that! The only thing it has in common with the story... is a waterway! I did not take photos once we stowed our bags (in which I kept my camera) and, once ashore, apart from the wineglass photos, I didn't take anymore. I was so happy to find the photos that Rachel had snapped. What a surprise she left me! Newforest, you mentioned dinner -- and I didn't have the time to tell you all about the delicious Soupe au Pistou that Rachel prepared for us when we returned to her home for a late lunch. If I get the chance, I'll post the recipe!

Re Domaine Rouge-Bleu in London. Sadly, I think it is not currently available.... But I think it'll be back soon :-) P.P.S. Than you for remembering the gate with the lock, in the Historiette post!


I'd have been white-knuckling it right beside you --- in my case because I am a very poor swimmer. By the way, past tense of "to cast (on)" is "cast" not "casted."

Colmar looks gorgeous and the photograph is stunning. I am just back in the U.S.A. after nearly four months in Europe, mostly in Italy, and already I am yearning for an environment that is not quite so new.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Passante. Off to fix the grammar....


So many things to respond to. I loved my quick visit to Colmar and nearby villages several years ago. Your photo captured its essence.

On our recent trip to Provence we had to spend a few days at the end on the Berre-l'Etang near Fos-sur-Mer. I too thought it was all industry and big ships but was happily surprised by some pretty beaches and beautiful villages overlooking the water. France has beauty everywhere

As for adventure, I'm still waiting for some friends to agree to rent a zodiac with me in Cassis to explore the calenques on our own. so far no one has been willing to trust this Kansas boy's seamanship.

I have a long story (it would require a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu rose to make it through the entire account) about the gallant captain of our little boat in Micronesia trying to get too close to shore so the two ladies wouldn't have to walk far in the water. The result was a sheared propeller pin from the coral reef and we were a LONG way from port.


Hi Kristin,

This goes back to your posting of July 11--

Just wanted to thank you for making me aware of Charles Trenet. I'd never heard of him before. Nevertheless I decided to order his "Very Best Of" CD and have been loving it! It's so upbeat ("Ouvre ton coeur a l'amour, ouvre ta fenetre au jour"). Makes me feel like I'm taking mini vacances en France, albeit the France of a few decades ago.


Marianne Rankin

When I was 12, I was a member of a skin-diving club that used to dive in the Mediterranean Sea. We found bits of Roman amphorae, a few old coins, and other treasures. I enjoyed the rides to and from the diving sites, where we would hold onto the bow of the boat with ropes - maybe being young keeps one from being afraid.

More recently - in 2000 - my husband treated me and my son to parasailing. A motorboat had a passenger seat attached to it, and attached to that was a huge sail. As the boat gained speed, it filled with air and lifted us up higher and higher. We went up to 600 feet, floating slowly like a kite. It was so peaceful up there, with a marvelous view. If we'd paid more, we could have gone up to 1000 or 1500 feet. There was a choice of a wet or dry landing, and we chose the dry one because we were going to drive home afterwards. Maybe someday I'll do that again and try the wet landing (those who did said the water was cold). I think experiences, not just "things," are great gifts.

Jules Greer

Hi Kristi,

Another great post today. I must admit when I first arrived at my new hangout "The Coffee Cup" I just read through very quickly with a little bit of a Ho-Hum attitude. I guess I was being a spoiled brat because I was expecting the story you told me about Smokey's new accessory. Anyway a few hours have passed and I'm back having a 10 peso cup of coffee and using free internet. I also find myself silently thanking NEWFOREST for her comments because sometimes I miss a point or two. What would I ever do with out our dear NEWFOREST.

Isn't Rachael MAX's Godmother...she looks just the same as she did 15 years ago.

I imagine Jean-Marc caught the bateau (sp?) fever. What a great goal that would be for his 45th birthday. Why not??? He could keep it at his Mom's place in Marseille and you could have so much fun every weekend. Once I get my computer fixed I'll start sending JM ads on boats for sale in Marseille. Yes, I like to stir up a little trouble and excitement whenever I can. Everyone needs a new dream every few years and I can't think of anyone more deserving than JM. Plus we could all go along with you as you traverse the Mederterian Coast. (sp?)

I finally found a great bathing suit today and now I'm off to the pool. Maybe you can call me tomorrow morning after 10:30.



Jennifer in OR

What fun to have an adventurous, unexpected excursion! Love the beach photo you took of the glasses and sand and sky. The blue of the towel matches the top of the boat.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love the photo of Colmar. I once visited during the Christmas season and they had a lovely Christmas Market. I love the photo of the wine and the potato chips...what a combination!
Jules, you have a great idea with the boat!
Have a great week!

Kristin Espinasse

Dearest Mom, I tried to call you twice in the last few days. It's a good sign you were out (in the pool? at Coffee Cup? :-) P.S. You sure do know how to stir things up! Though a boat is the LAST thing I'd want our family to acquire... I do smile seeing JM at the helm, cruising over his beloved Mediterranean. He really misses the sea (and would swap it for the Mistral wind, gladly...)

Newforest, I just reread your comment (after Mom's prompt, having reread this post!) and I realized that I had misunderstood: you were referring to the Colmar dinner that I mentionned a few weeks back. Yes! We had a lot of fun! Thank you! No readers from this site were there -- but we met some lovely people.

Marianne, you are one brave mama! I so enjoy learning about everyone here, via the "glimpses" I get into your lives. Thank you.

Christine, very glad to have your review of the Charles Trenet album. I'll post the reference again! Meantime, here's the link if anyone else is interested:

Gary, JM would gladly rent that Zodiac with you... all he needs now is to find the time! Perhaps next summer!

Thanks, Eileen! Wishing you and everyone reading a very happy week ahead.

Frances Anamosa

Thanks for this lovely story. The French can always find an excuse for a pique-nique. Sure hope you had some gilets de sauvetages on board! I will definitely look for your wine at Spoon Bar the next time we get over to Healdsburg. I love drinking Rose in the summer, but my favorite Roses are always French Roses. Thanks for the tip.


What a lovely adventure! The place looks worth the scary boat ride!


After reading this posting, I will remember the translation for 'la mousse' as 'foam' because that is what the dessert, mousse, looks like! Thank you for helping me make the connection!

Deborah Auclair

On a completely different subject....

Maybe this already exists but if not it may be a good idea. Have you ever done or considered taking all the audio files and putting them together along with the written words. This would be a great tool for those interested in learning, which I am sure most of your readers are. I would be the first to purchase such a tool as this.

Just a thought.......


Stunning picture of Colmar! I find your blog incredibly useful for Learning French! Your entertaining stories with funny anecdotes provide a great setting for learning and memorizing those often difficult worlds!

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