prendre pour acquis



Ulysse (c) Kristin Espinasse

Today we learn the French word for "bouncer". I'd say Ulysse, pictured here, would make a good one, wouldn't you? What might the name of his nightclub be called? If we use the example in today's story (in which we remember the nightclub "Hotbods"), then might we call Ulysse's club "HotDogs"?

Chief Grape will be in Orange County, CA on March 20th! Check out some of the other cities he is visiting, click here.

videur (vee-deuhr)

   : bouncer (nightclub)

Example Sentence

A la porte de la bôîte de nuit, il y a un videur qui vérifie les cartes d'identité.
At the door of the nightclub, there is a bouncer who checks IDs. 



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

The Midnight Run

When Max asked me to drive him to a nightclub at 12:30 a.m., I felt the first pangs of loss for my husband. Chief Grape, who is on a business trip, would not be volunteering to do the driving!

I got to bed by 10:30 p.m., hoping for a few hours of sleep before the night run, but Max woke me up earlier than expected. "Mom, on part dans une demi-heure".

Lying under the covers, fully dressed, keys in hand, I might have easily slept up until departure time, but I couldn't blame Max for taking precautions. This would be his first nightclub experience and he wasn't going to miss one minute of it.

The midnight drive through the countryside was surreal; we passed ancient chateaux and thousand-year-old French cathedrals. I thought back to my first nightclub experience, and to the drive through the streets of downtown Phoenix. There were a lot of stoplights and flashing signs, then; now, in the middle of the campagne, there were only old stone structures and stars. To think that we were nearly 30 years into the future... yet seemingly farther into the past! 

"Hotbods" was the first nightclub I snuck into at Max's age (16). It was a gay club, and almost a sure bet for minors hoping to fool the bouncers with their fake IDs. My date, C, drove me. I was mad about C (un jeune homme)... but began to wonder whether C was mad about drag queens--there seemed to be a few at Hotbods....

Hotbods... what a name! What a memory! It was now my son's turn to make memories, here at a nightclub with a more classic name: Le Monte Carlo. I pulled into the dirt driveway and shut off the engine. We sat facing the dark freestanding building; only a garland of red lights ran along the roof's edge, adding to the mystery.

Max and his friend Timothy, seated in the back of the car, calculated the entrance, where a burly man in a dress shirt guarded the door. 

The boys wore dress shirts, too--but would this be enough to fool the burly videur? In France, you need to be 18-years-old to get into a boîte de nuit. But Max and Tim had a plan: two girl friends were about to arrive. "Si on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer". I guess having a girl on one's arm lends a certain maturity to one's person.

Their plan seemed a little farfelu to me, but what did this old crow know?

I watched the girls arrive, kiss Max and Timothy, and off walked the two newly formed couples... easily slipping past the bouncer. Come to think of it, hadn't C and I used that same plan almost 30 years ago? 

At 4:30 a.m. I was awakened by an SMS from Max. It read: meet me at 5:30 next to the stadium. He might have waited another 45 minutes to send the wake-up call. But I couldn't complain too much. At least the boys had had a safe night. I looked forward to hearing all about it, once they got their hotbods out of that boîte.


Did you ever sneak into a nightclub or make yourself a fake ID? .... 


These were the good ol' days, before the powers that be stamped "Under 21" in bold red on one's license.

My son, Max, is the same age as I am in this photo (almost 17), though he is much smarter--he would never done such a poor job altering his ID. And he might have written YES! in the organ donor box. Had I read The Story of Nai... I might have done so too!


French Vocabulary

on part dans une demi-heure = we leave in a half-hour

la campagne = the countryside

un jeune homme = a young man

un videur = bouncer in a nightclub or bar

la boîte de nuit = nightclub

si on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer = if we come in with a girl, they'll let us pass

farfelu(e) = scatty, odd, crazy


Mary and Peggy and Allen and Mary Ann

From left to right Allen, Mary, Jean-Marc, Peggy, Mary Ann. Peggy writes: We had a lovely visit with Chief Grape last night in Alexandria, Virginia.  He signed my copy of "Blossoming in Provence" and of course, we bought some of your wonderful wine


Bill by Peggy

And here are Chief Grape and Bill.

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Never had to... I lived on a military base and looked older than I really was. I also went off base to a nightclub when I was under the legal age and was never asked because I looked older.

Karen from sunny Maryland but vacationing in cloudy Florida

I don't recall going to clubs during these midnight - dawn hours but we did have paper drivers licenses that were extremely easy to "manipulate". I wish I could go back in time for a peek at us all in our platform shoes dancing to Steely Dan music when we should have been studying at the library - like we'd told our parents.

Thanks for this stimulation for a wild flashback and for the mental image of what my life would be like in France. Having a son Max's age, I guess I'd be doing this duty myself or sharing it with you (if my husband was away) if I lived there. When I have to make these late night jaunts, I find it surreal too, going out during the hours when sleep is the norm.


When I first see the new word-for-the-day, I always try to guess what it means with what I already know about french. Today, I knew that the verb "vider" means to empty, so I began searching my brain for something that would empty something else, for example, a special device that extracts water from a boat. Well, imagine my surprise, that it came in human form...a man to throw out(empty) the underage youth or rif-raf from a night club!

I do love your blog, et surtout, your wonderful stories!

I never got tossed from a night club for drinking, but I did get tossed for gambling at 15 years of age in Las Vegas!

Charles Orr at Flat Rock, NC

Kristin, I enjoyed hearing about your midnight drive through the Provençal countryside and the contrasts with your memories of the bright lights of Phoenix.

Last night Bettie and I had an enjoyable visit with Jean-Marc at Bouchon in Asheville, NC, but fortunately it wasn't so late and there was no "videur" to sneak past! (We both look over 18, anyway...) The wine dinner was excellent and well attended. J-M asked me to assure you that he is "still alive" and coping well with his tour. As with Peggy (above), I also got J-M's autograph on his essay in your "Blossoming" book and took home a new supply of his great wine. Unfortunately, I didn't think to bring a camera! Sending best wishes to you all, especially Braise.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Charles. Great to see your comment about meeting up with Jean-Marc. I hope hes not too tired... but I know that seeing familiar--and new--faces, feeds his energy.


I have a question for you "grammarians" out there. I am always wondering about the use of the pronoun "on". I know it is third person singular, but it amazes me that in your example sentence it can mean both "we" and "they" on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer

Can anyone enlighten this old homme..





Bill in St. Paul

We look forward to seeing Jean-Marc tomorrow at both Thomas Liquors and 128 Cafe! Years ago in Minnesota, we had drivers' licenses with raised letters and numbers. If you were careful and creative, you could take a razor blade (remember those), bend it, and carve off the year on your birth date (usually just one of the digits) and replace it with a number carved off of some other number on the license - thus, becoming of legal age.


I didn't make a fake I.D. for myself but did make a fake driver's license for Ringo Starr once way back in 1965 (long story)! The Beatles were in town and I was trying to meet them. It didn't work.

I'm planning on going to one of Chief Grape's wine tastings next week while he's here. I won't need fake I.D. to get in!

Connie in Portland

Nancy L.

Ralph has a great story (one of many) about the first time we went, together, to a campus pub when he was in college. At the time the drinking age was 18 and he was in the clear, but his "petit chou", moi! was only somewhere around 16. I had never been in a college pub, nor had I ever ordered a drink in public. So, he got his beer and, wanting to impress him with my sophistication, I ordered a Tom Collins! The difference in the cost of his boite and mine was substantial. He likes to say that, right then, he should have known I would be 'expensive' to keep. After 33 years of marriage, I guess he thinks it's been worth the cost! LOL


Such a great story! Brought me back to some of the "good ol' days" I experienced with my son Jack (now in his second year of college). The late night drive through the Provençal countryside, although very different in many ways from a late night drive through the streets of Los Angeles, seems to be a similar interior journey for parents the world over. So exciting, so sweet, so poignant. I love the way you write. Many thanks!


I loved this story--beautifully written and it brought back memories of my own attempts (some successful, some not) to sneak into bars and clubs during my high school days. And what a great maman you are to drive your son there and then go get him at the crack of dawn. Wonderful blog.

Sandra Vanw

Another truly charming entry Kristi...yes brings back memories of High School days.
Ah...Kudos to you for the late night taxi service!

Lee& maureen

Kristin, many thanks for the "reminder" to be an organ donor!! It is so important, especially at this time of years with proms and graduation parties!!
So sorry we could not meet Jean Marc in Ashville like last year but we were taking Trish to the airport on the other side of NC.
See you in Provence in May.
Lots of Love,
Maureen Templeton-Adams ( and Nai)!!

anne wirth

Two comments, Kristi.

How is Braise doing? Did you ever find out what bit her?

What is your son doing out at 12:30am until 5:30am? I can remember staying out that late on my prom nite when I was 17. Was this a special nite? You should be rewarded for giving up your nite for Max.
Oh how times have changed. I was 17 in 1960.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

I am no grammarian! It is easier for me to think of this as a difference in phrasing not an issue of translation word for word.

In most of the expressions where I might say, if you do this, then they will...
the French are likely to construct a phrase using "on". In the American phrase, 'you' refers to people in general in the same way as 'they'. Not specific people. In Max's phrase, only "nous" refers to specific people -- 'nous' refers to him and his friend.
" on entre avec une fille, on nous laisse passer "

Maybe some of those better trained in both languages can say this more succinctly.
I never tried to get in underage. My parents -- what would they have said had I asked them for help? Never know. I did have the advantage that there were dance clubs for people my under-age, when I (and my next younger sister) both wanted to dance so much. No liquor, just music and dancing. Funnier, I was recalling that just a day or so ago.

Eileen deCamp, Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
What a nice mom you are! At least the boys had a safe ride home. We lived in Heidelberg when our kids were in high school and they would take the tram into town. They never go into trouble and always had a nice time out with their friends. They would always be home before midnight though. I wouldn't allow them to be out all night into the morning hours.


J'aurais tant aimé rencontrer JM!
Hahaha, "nearly 30 years in the future..." and the scenery en campagne looked more like in the past to you there :-)
And what an understanding mom you are, lovely Kristin! My mother would have disowned me if I had wanted to go out after 9PM, at 16. I never need to fake ID and I'm always asked to prove proof of age. When I was already 22, my boyfriend brought me to a nightclub, le videur asked for my ID. And now, when I ask for my senior citizen discount, they also ask for my ID. They told me to take it as a compliment.
For David above, I am no "grammarian", but this info might help explain better l'usage du pronom ON

Jill in Sydney

So evocative of your late night drive through the countryside. So different to my early morning forays into the city picking up son or daughter from the dreaded clubs! Good to know they are safe though isn't it? And telling us what they are doing unlike when we hid everything from our parents!

Barbara Johnson

When I was seventeen, very thin, with braces, I ordered my first drink at a bar in San Francisco. My older sister was dating a "much older" man - I believe he was thirty - and I knew that he was often to be found at LaRocca's Corner. I went in to that bar with a friend, walked up to the bartender and asked for the "older man" by name. I thought that the fact that I new someone so mature would surely establish me as an adult. The bartender told me he was not in that night... so I said thank you, can I please have a gimlet? I got the gimlet, but being so sophisticated, I don't think I gave the poor man a tip.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Hi Kristin,

You are a very dedicated Mom to drive with Max at such late/early hours. I don't remember being out at that time at his age and I doubt my parents would have let me. I was usually in by midnight before my coach turned into a pumpkin!
I so enjoyed your description of the countryside at night. Having been to France, I can picture the scene in my head and I think it would be lovely to be driving there at that hour. I have had to take many early morning trips by car the past few years and despite my yawning, I really love being on the road before the rest of the world wakes up. Seeing the sun rise and the day unfold can be magical...
Hope Braise is doing well. Much love to her and Smokey and all of you. Thanks for sharing the pictures of Jean Marc and his "fans".


Those were the days when we wanted to be older...Ah, those are probably gone forever..

I forgot to post this earlier- but if you have the chance to go to Jean Marc's tastings (and/or) the dinners- please DO! I had the opportunity to go to the BOSTON tasting and the wines are wonderful!


What a cute story and what a cute id! I am glad the very young men made it to the club and thank you for the vocabulary ...boite de nuit sounds pretty cool! Happy Wednesday before vernal equinox to you.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

I loved your description of the countryside. It reminds me of the night went Brad and I went to eat at Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu. That ten-course dinner didn't end until almost midnight then we had to drive through the pitch black countryside to our B&B. I was so afraid I'd miss the turn-off because there really were no street signs -- or even town signs! Our hostess told us about a guest who managed to get to the hamlet, but couldn't find the street with the B&B so she ended up knocking on a random door after midnight to get directions.

I have to say that you are a very wonderful Mom for doing this midnight-5 a.m. shift. I hope your son does all the housecleaning for a week to show his appreciation.

Diane in Brunswick, Georgia

Boy, times have changed! When I was a teen in the Midwest U.S. in the early 60's my curfew was 11:00 pm or sometimes midnight for school dances. Prom was the biggie when there were continuing "negotiations" since there was the prom, the post-prom, and the next day a picnic in the afternoon. My parents were strict. Not only that, they were really heavy sleepers. If I had asked them to drive me somewhere past their bedtime or pick me up in the wee hours of the morning, I'd still be waiting for them! Ha! Regarding the fearsome Ulysse in the picture today, perhaps his boîte de nuit could be called "Club Défense d'Entrer." That would make all guests rebels!

Mary Ann

Thanks for posting our picture Kristin!
We have our few minutes of fame now.. Merci!
Pleasure meeting Chief Grape on Sunday... thank you for sharing him on this tour and the wine was tres manifique!
Mary Ann and Allen

Marianne Rankin

Yes, you were a good sport, Kristin, to make two trips to chauffeur Max and Timothy, but I can assure you, I would never have taken my not-yet-17-year-old, legally underage, son to a nightclub. I hope it wasn't a school night. These days in Maryland, the legal drinking age (which usually determines the entrance age) is 21, so my son has a little while to go. Around here, especially so close to the U. of Md., there is too much drinking, so I shy away from anything connected to it. It is hard to find a liquor-free place to listen to music or dance. I hope M & T enjoyed the evening.

I'm also surprised that the Arizona driver's license was so antique. I remember my mother's old license from Virginia, which was partly handwritten, but it looked like kind of a reverse Xerox copy - there was no way to alter it that I could see. And by the time I got my license, surely years before Kristin, it was computer-generated, also hard to "doctor." I've read that modern computers and other technology have actually made it easier to create fake IDs. Hope Max will cherish his license and leave it in pristine condition.

Ann Hill

...hmmm..helping your son break the law ~ really? ..definitely will not be sharing this with my 17 year old....

Kristin Espinasse

Anne, Braise is doing fine. She gets her stitches out today; bad news: she chewed off one stitch, which will need re-doing! (Shes wearing THE CONE now!) No, we still dont know what bit her, but believe it must have been a wild pig that gored her!

Re the night out: no, not a special night (apart from it being Maxs first time in a nightclub).

Mike Hardcastle

Hi Kristin,
I still read your blog even if I don't respond often at present.

However a response to your last sentence is important. When my wife died my greatest comfort was the knowledge that her donated organs enabled three people to live normal active lives: a young woman 31 years old with two children who did not know what it was like to play with their mother before her transplant, a man about to lose his job is once again in good health and still working, and a woman who was slowly dying before her transplant now has the expectation of a normal lifespan.

I hope everyone who reads this will become an organ donor.
Your organs are of no use to you when you are dead and they can transform other peoples lives. I carry French and British donor cards with the support of my son who was also comforted by the knowledge of his mother's generosity and kindness to people in need.

Very best wishes to you and yours,



Thanks to Sarah and Millie for their help. I guess I can blame Kristin as what "fooled me" was her translation using We and They. (And yes, I understand that is a correct translation of the meaning, I am just trying to give Kristin some grief!) If I had looked at the sentence structure closer, I would have realized the usage. This is how we improve, right??


About "on" as a French pronoun. In American English we use anyone, someone, and everyone but seldom just "one." As in, "In America, one sounds pretentious phrasing it this way." But one (grin)can translate Max's sentence as "If someone comes in with a girl . . ." rather than "If we come in . . . ." Hope that helps!

Mara in unseasonably warm (NOT complaining) Wisconsin.


Until 5:30!!!? I'm 36, but I would like to go back in time to have you as my mum. I have a 10 year old now and I can't fathom it...

I love your blog (have just discovered it) and I am excited to start reading your book. Keep it up-I love it.


I had an older boyfriend (20's) who knew the staff etc , so didn't have a problem (small town)But I still felt like a bit of a criminal! Seems like 100 yrs ago now,(was actually over 50 yrs ago) Guess times really don't change all that much. (Feeling like Cher...."if I could turn back time" from sunny New zealand)

Martine NYC

I became an organ donor because of this blog. Thanks for reminding us, Mike. Until Kristin's story, I'd always felt so squeamish about donating my organs. Finally, the obvious set in: I won't have to deal with any of this! It's beyond me, in the best sense.
As for parenting, I think Kristin is a marvelous role model. How wise to provide the parentheses for a night-time adventure, and know that Max and his friends are safe. You must have a great rapport.

Becky, Fayetteville, NY

Kristin, I have so enjoyed your posts the past 2 years since discovering your wonderful blog and almost feel like a "friend," but I just can't get past your driving your underage son and friend to a night club in the middle of the night! Safe driving there and back maybe, but the drinking? Nothing safe about that for a 16 year old, not to mention what else could have happened... From the above responses, I guess I'm mostly in the minority, but I wouldn't even do it for my 19 year old. I do love all your other stories though!


Haha, as always, I enjoyed reading your story, but I must admit I agree with the other more "repressive" parents. My husband and I always tell our kids, "Nothing good happens after midnight". Maybe French night clubs are different, but around here they are not wholesome places for anyone, let alone teenagers! I'm glad they came home safe and sound!

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