se tromper



Reader Gary McClelland shares another speedy French adventure with you today... read on and discover something fun to do in Provence (or maybe chez vous?) Also, an extra sound file for you today: Jean-Marc has recorded the vocab section following Gary's story. Don't miss it!

Occasionally I receive an e-mail asking me to tell the story of meeting my French husband, Jean-Marc (affectionately known as "Chief Grape"). For anyone interested, please know you can read the whole story in the introductory chapter to Words in a French Life ... (at under $15, this book makes an excellent gift for a Francophile!) Here is an excerpt:
  Capture plein écran 28022011 085453Back in Aix, I was dancing the night away wholly devoted to study when I met my future (French) husband. He barely spoke to me the night we met, but his first words to me -- before even "Bonsoir" -- were "Il faut qu'on se revoie," we must see each other again. His dramatic greeting stopped time. When he handed me his card, I thought I had stepped into the pages of a fairy tale. Beneath his name, "Jean-Marc Espinasse," were the words "Roy d'Espagne"....

Thanks for ordering a copy of Words in a French Life, here. Meantime, we're working on making the next book, "Blossoming in Provence", available very soon!

la sortie (sor-tee)
1.  exit
2. outing or excursion
3. availability of forthcoming novel, movie, etc.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file
Pour prendre une sortie dans la campagne, il faut prendre la sortie de l'autoroute.
To take an outing in the countryside, one must take the exit from the highway.

Reader Gary McClelland is back today with another outdoors French adventure. Thanks, Gary, for putting together this entire edition, including the word of the day, the example sentence, the vocab section and, along with ami Chris Saricks, all of the photos!
Biking the Rails in Provence
By Gary McClelland
Photos by Chris Saricks and Gary McClelland

After finding a place to park in the village of Pourcieux, Chris and I dashed toward the station fearing we were too late for the 10:00 departure of our train. We thought we had allowed ample time but had failed to note this map warning on the website about the sortie from the autoroute closest to Pourcieux: Attention, cette sortie n'existe que dans le sens Nice-Aix. Alas, we were coming from the opposite direction. So we flew by our intended exit and had to double-back through town traffic and then on the N7, a mythical road that has a similar status of the classic Route 66 in the U.S. As we approached the affable station master awaiting us in
his converted blue and white trailer, the church bells chimed 10. I panted, “Bonjour Monsieur, je suis désolé.” He looked surprised and asked, pourquoi? The website clearly recommended we arrive 30 minutes before our departure, not 30 seconds, so I said, “Parce que nous sommes en retard.” “Mais non,” he smiled, “le train reste ici.

After a little paperwork and instruction, Chris, my train buff friend from college days, and I were adjusting the height of the bicycle seats on our vélo-rail car. We were going to pedal our little train car the seven km from Pourcieux to St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and then return. Throughout France, many sections of abandoned
railroad tracks have been converted for use by touristic pedal cars carrying from two to five people. As both avid cyclists and train buffs, Chris and I had to experience vélo-rail. Even though each group would be pedaling their own car, there was a strict departure time for the train because passing, either coming or
going, was not possible. The website warned that in St Maximin we would need to help turn our heavy cars around afin de soulager les vertèbres of the train personnel.

We had chosen to bypass the vélo-rail in Plan d’Orgon, closer to where we were staying in Bedoin, because the Chemin de Fer de la Sainte Baume leaving from Pourcieux promised tunnels, viaducs, et ponts with views in many directions. As we pedaled up the easy but noticeable 1.5% grade to the tunnel, Chris explained that tunnels were usually at the top where the surveyors could no longer find easy grades. We could barely see la lumière à la sortie of the 180 meter Tunnel du St Pilon. We thrilled at the rush of the wind in our hair from our increasingly speedy descent until we began worrying about climbing this same section of track on our return. The promised views did not disappoint and we stopped on a viaduc for photos (being the last car in this morning’s train, we had no fear of blocking anyone).
Too soon we were at the end of the line in St Maximin. Pirouetting the car using the metal plate between the tracks disturbed the vertèbres of neither me nor the train man. Now as the lead car, Chris and I could not dally, but neither did we need to rush because the car behind us had three passengers and we had none. We pedaled hard on the climb so again we had time to stop for photos. Soon we were through the cool tunnel and racing for the station in Pourcieux. As we rounded a bend, a beautiful view of Cezanne’s Montagne Sainte-Victoire appeared. After another pirouette of our vélo-rail car to be ready for those voyagers departing on the noon train, we began our drive home, eschewing the autoroute for the nostalgic N7 and discussing our morning’s sortie très agréable on the rails of Provence.
Information about Le Velorail de la Sainte Baume, as well as links to numerous other velorails throughout France, is available at
Gary McClelland is a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Colorado. He became a Francophile while spending a summer as a student in Paris in 1967.
Le Coin Commentaires
To comment on Gary's article, or to share one of your own favorite things to do in France, click here.

Don't miss Gary's other stories: "Pétanque" and "Péloton"

French Vocabulary
listen to these words

Download MP3 file 

l’autoroute (f)
– highway, especially a toll road
le sens = direction
Attention, cette sortie n'existe que dans le sens Nice-AixWarning, this exit exists only in the Nice-Aix direction
Bonjour Monsieur, je suis désolé = Hello Sir, I am sorry
être en retard = to be late
Parce que nous sommes en retard = Because we are late  
Mais non. Le train reste ici = No worries. The train stays here. 
afin de soulager = to relieve
la vertèbre = vertebra 
le chemin de fer = railroad, literally the iron road
le viaduc = railroad trestle
le pont = bridge
la lumière = light
Our amiable station master in Pourcieux
Lead car
The lead car in our train

 Approaching tunnel
Approaching the Tunnel of St Pilon with la lumière à la sortie
La sortie
La sortie
Chris enjoying rush out of tunnel

Chris enjoying the speed rush exiting the tunnel
Un viaduc
Un viaduc
Gary stoking the rail
Gary stoking the rail car
Chris and Gary on saddles

Chris and Gary on their saddles in St Maximin
Le pirouette
Preparing to pirouette the car on the metal plate
Les coquelicots along the tracks
Cezannes Montagne Sainte-Victoire
Cezanne’s Montagne Sainte-Victoire

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Tim Averill

What a great story, beautifully told. I remember your enthusiasm for this trek. Next time, I'd love to take the trip myself.

Nancy Stone

This looks like so much fun! I will try it next spring. Are the climbs very difficult?

Bruce T. Paddock

Gary -

Thank you for the story — it sounds like it was a blast.

I somehow missed the photo at the top of the post, so as I was reading, I was picturing you and Chris on one of those old-time railroad handcars, with big iron wheels, a plank floor, and two pedal sets taking the place of the up-and-down hand crank.

What you were actually on is much nicer.

Mademoiselle Chenonceau

How interesting! I enjoyed learning about this alternate way of using railroad tracks in one of my favorite countries! Thanks for sharing.

Betty from Hobe Sound, FL

Loved the post and photos. Thank you so much Gary & Chris. This is just the type of excursion I love to take while traveling, something a little out of the way, a little quirky, and in beautiful scenery.

Pat, Roanoke, Va

Many thanks, Gary, for your story, which sounds like great fun! Loved the photos, esp seeing Mt Sainte-Victoire which was what I gazed at from my "room with a view" in Aix-en-Provence 3 years ago. Now this is something I'd really love to do!

Julie S. from San Diego

Beautiful pictures and I love the story! This looks like it would be a lot of fun. I especially love the picture of the poppies. It is beautiful! Kristin, regarding Jean-Marc's comment in your book, the subjunctive is needed here, "Il faut que l'on se revoie". Merci et bonne journée!

P.S. Where is Newforest these days? (Elle me manque)


Most interesting, I have never heard about velorail before. Plan d’Orgon is not too far from where we live and there are at least two very good restaurants nearby where we could go eat lunch afterwards.

Mike Armstrong

Oh, how cool is that! Velorail is definitely going on the list for our next trip to France. Our best outing so far has been kayaking on the Gardon river ending with a passage under the Pont du Gard. Its a two hour paddle through mostly national parkland, not particularly arduous. Gorgeous and out of the hustle and bustle. There are many opportunities for canoeing/kayaking in France.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

I definitely have to put this at the top of our to-do list (well, second after stopping by to say hello to Kristin) when my husband and I finally make it south of Burgundy. Thanks for the story, Gary.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Julie S.! I think I need a review course in the subjunctive...

Morton Brussel

An interesting and very well written tale. Next time, get off your bikes to hike up to the Ste Baume ridge. You'll meet wild goats there, and can visit the stupifying grotto dug into the mountain.


Having now written three guest blogs, this the first with all the trimmings including vocab, sample sentence, etc., I know first-hand how much work these thrice weekly postings are for Kristin. These are real work and we need to remember that Kirstin receives some compensation for her labor of love. Now would be a good time to scroll to the top of this page and click the link on the left side that says "Support this Site: Send a Donation." It is quick and easy. Do it NOW

Velo-rail is leisurely exercise. Any one who can enjoy a leisurely stroll in the countryside will enjoy velo-rail.

I agree with Mike Armstrong that paddling down the Gardon, coming around a bend, and suddenly seeing the magnificent Pont du Gard looming above is an experience not be missed. I did that 4 or 5 times before I branched out to velo-rail. That would be my ranking of relative importance.

Like Julie S. I too have been missing Newforest. Once after an extended stay in Provence, I sat on the flight next to a French exchange student going to the U.S. I correctly used the subjunctive in our conversation and was so proud.

I'm rehabbing from a successful knee replacement (not caused by velo-rail!) on Dec 1 looking at the snow on the ground in Boulder. it was great fun to revisit sunny, warm Provence when my knee was happily spinning. During my time in the hospital I was inspired by Kristin's stories of her encounters with patients and staff to remember to focus on the people and being human rather than on my knee. Thanks for the inspiration Kirsti


thanks for the beautiful story wonderful pictures!!!

Also thanks for the great comments. I learned so much from all of them.

Kristen, Thanks for pulling together this wonderful family of Francophiles.


Sarah LaBelle

Gary, thanks for a great story, and what a cool thing to do.
Assuming there is but one Chris Saricks in the world, my former colleague at work, please say hello for me. Glad the two of you had such a wonderful trip.


Debbie Ambrous

Thank you for the story and pictures. I want to try that someday!

Lisa A., CA

What a great idea! ...what beautiful photos too.

Thanks Gary

Francine Gair

Thank you so much for letting me know about the vélo-rail. I plan to try it next summer with my grandchildren -- we can't wait!


My daughter and I are preparing for a six month sabbatical in Provence leaving in a month (from Colorado too!). Thank you so much for this wonderful post and story. We will certainly try out velo-rail!

"Pour prendre une sortie dans la campagne,"

hum! on dirait "Faire une sortie" ou simplement "sortir" ;)

french guy


Upon further review involving lots of web searches, I believe french guy is probably correct. Although I did find instances of each, the dominant choice would be:

"Pour faire une sortie dans la campagne, il faut prendre la sortie de l'autoroute."

And although one could say "pour sortir dans la campagne," I'll defend my choice of "faire one sortie" because the word of the day was "la sortie" and because echoing the structure of the main clause is more poetic.

And one has to love the nuances of French and how we newcomers can so easily get ourselves in trouble. Note that "le sortie" means something very different. "Faire un sortie" is outing someone for behavior the speaker deems inappropriate. So be careful to "faire one sortie dans la campagne.


arrghh. the auto spell checker changed my "une" to "one" in my post above. "faire une sortie dans la campagne" sorry for the confusion

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