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Entries from April 2013

tergiverser + pictures of the French island of Porquerolles

pebble beach nearest the port of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The island of Porquerolles is only a 15-minute ferry ride from coast (near Giens and Hyères). More, in today's story column.

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tergiverser (tehr-zhee-vehr-say)

    : to hem and haw, to dither

Also: to delay, to procrastinate, to put off, to dally, to shilly-shally or dawdle or linger or tarry...

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce tergiverser and the example sentence, below: Download MP3 or Wav file

Lorsque Jean-Marc m'a invité pour un week-end sur l'île de Porquerolles, j'ai tergiversé. Est-ce qu'on pouvait tout laisser derrière nous? When Jean-Marc invited me for a weekend on the island of Porquerolles, I wavered. Could be leave everything behind us?

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

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

When Jean-Marc suggested we escape the renovation for a night--and get away to the nearby island of Porquerolles--I hemmed and hawed, unsure about leaving the kids and the dogs behind. 

But when I learned Jackie was invited to stay the weekend at a friend's... and that Max had agreed to look after Braise and Smokey, I began to consider the break Jean-Marc was offering me. In the 7 months since moving houses--and all the decisions and disruptions involved in the process--it could be refreshing to have a change of scene. 

And, after all, I thought, Max would be comfortable in the room where Mom had stayed: it was completely independent of the partly condemned house. He could even invite a friend over for the night (a change from all the party weekends he's been enjoying, away from home).

With our teenagers' encouragements, Jean-Marc and I left just before noon on Saturday. I suggested we visit the village of Bormes les Mimosas, which wasn't too far from the Giens peninsula and La Tour-Fondue, where we would be catching the 15 minute ferry to Porquerolles.

Village of Bormes les Mimosas (c) Kristin Espinasse

In Bormes les Mimosa we had lunch at Lou Portaou, where we had eaten 18 years before, on our honeymoon. Jean-Marc must have told the waiter the story two or three times and, rather than hush my husband, it occurred to me to rejoice knowing he remembered so much about our lune de miel

After lunch, Jean-Marc followed me through the rain as I snapped pictures of one of France's most flowerful villages--only this early in April, many blossoms were still sleeping... if not all of them:

Tickling the nose of Alexandre Vigourel (c) Kristin Espinasse

On our way out of Bormes, and not 3 hours after leaving home, we were surprised by a call from our daughter.... Would it be okay if she and her girlfriends slept at the house tonight? Jackie wanted to know.

Hors de question! I growled into our car's speakerphone. But Jackie eventually sweet-talked her way into an agreement. Besides, she informed us, she and her girlfriends were already back at our house....

Noticing my agitation at the unexpected change of events, Jean-Marc suggested we not let this ruin our weekend. "The girls will be fine," he assured me. They could hang out in the safehaven and we could order pizza to be delivered to them for dinner.

Jean-Marc leaving the docks at Porquerolles, entering the village (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo: Entering the village along Rue de la Ferme.  Jean-Marc brought his vélo but we realized, later, that it costs more to use your own bike (ferry fees) than to simply rent a bike. (Notice his beloved leather bag... I need to add this one to the sacoche gallery....)

When our boat arrived at the island of Porquerolles we rushed beneath the rain from the little port right to our hotel, less that a 5-minute walk from the dock. Our plan was to relax the first evening, have dinner at the inn, then enjoy a tour of the island on Sunday, when the clear blue skies would return.

It was peaceful to be in an uncluttered room, away from the dust and all the renovation equipment. As it was still cold and rainy out, I slipped off my shoes and got under the bedcovers to rest until dinner. We were unable to get a room facing the sea and the port, but we had a cozy view of the church and the little square.

Taking advantage of the hotel's wifi connection, I logged on to Facebook. I noticed an update from Max posted onto his timeline for his friends to see.

That's strange, I thought, studying the snapshot of Max and his friends, who seemed to be gathered at the house of one of the kids. I shared the information with Jean-Marc, who smiled. "Are you snooping?"

"No! I'm not snooping." I protested.

"You are snooping!" 

Harrumph! My attention returned to the screen, where I studied the picture of Max and his friends, who were gathered on the porch of one of the kids. I began to notice the cigarettes and the alcohol and all the girls....

"They are having a party!" I informed Jean-Marc. That turkey! He was supposed to stay home and take care of the dogs. Instead, he is out somewhere having a party!

I strained my eyes, searching the photo, when a pot of flowers came into view. It seemed the friend's mom had planted the very same trio of purple, white, and yellow primaveras that I had planted...

...and in the same unmistakable cracked pot! 

Post note: Returning from the island I found those purple and yellow and white primaveras at the other end of our garden, root side up.  As for the pot, it had disappeared.

As I inspected the front porch and the house, I complained to my daughter. "Well. If I were your brother and I had had a party when my parents were away, I would have done a much better job cleaning up the evidence!"

"But Mom," Jackie complained. "We scrubbed the floors!"



 To comment on this story, click here.

As for Max's punishment he might pack his toothbrush and join me for the spring cleaning of the Paris catacombs

French Vocabulary

la lune de miel = honeymoon

hors de question = out of the question

le vélo = bike 


  Doves and church in village of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Our hotel room faced the Église Sainte-Anne de Porquerolles. Jean-Marc gave the rest of the morning croissants to the friendly doves... (re the hotel, we stayed at L'Oustau)

Port in Porquerolles

The Quai des Pecheurs or Fishermen's dock.

  fishing boat on Porquerolles
Classic wooden Provençal fishing boat, aka le pointu. To comment on a photo or on some item in this post, click here.

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pagaille + typography photos

Typography and a cheese shop in Salernes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Typography is the theme tying today's photos together. Enjoy and, if you know someone who appreciates lettering, please send this on! Note: if you are reading via email and cannot see the photos in this edition, click over to the blog. (Picture taken in Salernes, pottery-making village and more!)

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pagaille (pah-geye)

    : shambles, chaos, havoc, mayhem, disarray; mess, disorder

Audio File: Listen to the next four lines: Download MP3 or Wav file

quelle pagaille! = what a mess!
mettre la pagaille = to mess up
semer la pagaille = to sow discord, wreak havoc upon 

Dans notre maison en rénovation, c'est la grande pagaille. 
In our home undergoing renovation, it's total chaos! 


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

I'm having a hard time deciding on the word of the day. Between bruit and poussière and marteau-piqueur... and craquer and crier and bagarre it is an embarrassment of choices as the French like to say. If only there were as many options for shelter....

Yesterday, only day three of renovation, and we began to snap. It happened when our bedroom (Jean-Marc's and mine) became host to yet another castaway: the muddy, odorous Braise. our 7-year-old golden retriever. (Our luck took a turn when it began to rain, leaving no choice but to bring the dogs inside a house overcramped with workers, plastic sheeting, and buckets of rubble.)

Under normal circumstances one more boarder in our safehaven room would not have been a worry. But, as it was, our love nest--already bursting with two armoires, a bed, a giant lazy recliner and my corner office--was now home to our daughter, our clothesline, the living room sofa, Jackie's wardrobe (piled high on a fold-out armoire), an extra mattress, our 15-year-old's school affairs--including a chest of books--and a pile of baskets, chairs, and luggage, too. I might have added our dining room table to this list, but that would be an exaggeration, for we are using our pillows as individual table tops, preferring to eat in our bedroom, the only private room of our house. 

(It is amusing to think of a letter Mom once wrote to my then-boyfriend, in 1992: "Dear Jean-Marc," she began, "...just one bit of advice: give Kristi a room of her own. She needs her space.")

As I look around at the piles of wet clothing, dirty plates, books, garbage, people and dogs I think of natural disasters and les miserables who endured them. How grateful they would be for this warm room, for this cup of coffee, for the gentle melody playing in the background... it is the sweet snoring of our muddy dog, whose gentle ronflement tempers the pounding of the jackhammer. My eyes settle on the peaceful image of our sleeping beauty. If she can dream amidst the chaos, maybe I can, too? 

...Except that the workers have just now tumbled into our private space--on their way past the dining bed, past the wet clothes and dog, past this desk on which I type and over to the balcony to begin drilling on the back wall. Oh, to dream again!

    To leave a comment, click here. 

French Vocabulary

le bruit = noise, din

la poussière = dust

le marteau-piqueur = jackhammer, pneumatic drill

= to lose it (to break down)

crier = to shout

la bagarre = fight, brawl

le ronflement = the snoring

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  Typography for the dogs, in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse

Pairing today's post with some snapshots of French typography. This first picture was inspired by Braise, the dog dreamer in our story. The sign reads "Biscuits for Dogs."

Telegraphe typography in Comps sur Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse
Looks like we are not the only ones undergoing "the works". This old post office in Comps sur Artuby is being fixed up. Will it be a private home or will it be what it says it is? You never know in France, where people move into bakeries and even historic little chapels--converting the once public sites into private nests. Do you know of an unusual place into which someone has moved? Comment here.

Typography at the butcher's in Visan (c) Kristin Espinasse

 At the butcher's in Visan. Notice the typography... and not the gruesome hooks above the old wall tiles!

 In our old stomping ground of Les Arcs-sur-Argens. This typography hints at a liquor store once upon a time... To comment on the photos or today's word or story, click here and thanks in advance!


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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le nounours + teddy bears spotted in France (photos)

Teddy bear or nounours in Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse
Pooh Bear, you've got competition in France. Share today's "extra" edition with a Teddy Bear lover.

le nounours (noo-noorce)

    : teddy bear 

Word origin: Nounours--from un ours (en peluche), or a "stuffed bear," is French baby talk. See a list of French Baby Talk here.

Audio File: 

Download MP3 or 

Wav file

Un nounours c'est un câlin à quatre pattes.
A teddy is a cuddle with paws at the end. (Gill Davies) 

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

Teddy bear in Beaumes les Venise (c) Kristin Espinasse
When I was little, at the hospital getting my tonsils out, my stepfather (we'll call him that, as Dick was a big part of my childhood, even if Mom never married him) brought me a giant teddy bear.  Only, when Dick learned that the little girl sharing my room was dying, he gave her the big teddy bear. (He gave me another, on his next hospital visit.)

My would-be stepfather passed away several years ago, but I will never forget his gesture. From then on, teddy bears were BIG in my life and that seed of empathy grew and grew.

SmokeyBear and Teddy at Domaine Rouge-Bleu (c) Kristin Espinasse
 "Teddy, Resurrected". This yellow nounours, seemingly rescued from the municipal trash, was given to my mom by a villager in Les Arcs-sur-Argens. As you can see, I swiped it from Jules....

Teddy bear or nounours or doudou in France (c) Kristin Espinasse
We all need to vent sometimes. Go ahead, air your teddy laundry! (Can't remember where this picture was taken... Not too far from Sainte Cécile.)

Teddy bears or nounours in Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse
Longing to go out and play.... A teddy reminder that we might stop what we are doing, for a moment, and get out for some fresh air. Solutions come and problems seems to solve themselves... with the help of a little fresh air.

shop window in Colmar (c) Kristin Espinasse
(A second reminder to get up and get out for some fresh air. You needed that second reminder, didn't you?)

Teddy bears in Les Baux de Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
Teddy Bears hanging out in Les Baux de Provence. And thanks for hanging out with me, dear readers, for a few moments this Thursday morning.... I needed to concentrate on something besides the pounding and sawing and crumbling going on around here this morning.

Did you ever have a teddy bear? When's the last time you gave someone a nounours? Comment here. My friend Kate gave me two last time I saw her. I shook my head, "It's been years..." I thought, and my thoughts skipped off, right down memory lane

To leave a comment, click here


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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How to say "to fall for it" in French? + the charming "door curtain" (photos)

Poissonnerie or Fish Department (c) Kristin Espinasse
If you thought the previous story was a bit fishy... it was! (Photo of the fishmonger's taken in Brignoles.)

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Villa Royale apartment in Monaco. Large studio with beautiful sea views located in the residential district of Beausoleil

Today's word, an expression, really, comes from a comment following Monday's post. Claudette Kunsay writes:

Oh! Kristin, je suis tombée dans le panneau comme bcp d'autres !!! Et j'étais si fâchée contre ces hommes de loi!!! Je trouvais la situation ridicule mais, tout est possible. Oh, Kristin, I fell for it like a lot of others!!! And I was so mad at the authorities!!! I found the situation ridiculous but anything's possible.

Thanks, Claudette, for inspiring today's entry:

tomber dans le panneau (tohm bay dahn leuh pah noh)

    : to fall for it, to walk into the trap, to be duped

Audio File: Listen to me Claudette's letter (above) Download MP3 or Wav

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

I wanted to tell you about the kick I got writing the Paris catacombs story and all I learned in the process of creating fiction. But that will have to wait. Today is Day 2 of renovation and I hope to chronicle the messy process this time! 

Yesterday played to the tune of the jackhammer as a lonely demolishioner brought down the old brick fireplace....

French fireplace: bricks and wood (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

(That rustic cheminée had character but it also had a bad habit of feeding on all the air in the house, going as far as to pull freezing cold oxygen in from the outside, via the window and door cracks. In return it gave back puffs of ashes which coated the floors, the furniture, and our dinner plates as we ate, wide-eyed, watching the disheartening process repeat itself.

The new fireplace--an insert--will send out heat via a network of pipes. The floors will stay a little cleaner, too--if one of us would once and for all wipe off the dogs' muddy paws before our goldens came in for the night. As for all the dog hair that carpets the floors....)

rock wall and demolition man (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

To prepare for the destruction, we removed all bagatelles and cleared the foyer of its furniture before the demolitioner taped up a clear plastic curtain to prevent dust, or la poussière, from blowing into the dining room, which connects to the busy kitchen. 

(Here I'd like to add that plastic renovation curtain must be very much like plastic "packing bubbles"... for one of our kids had a hard time resisting the urge to poke at the curtain holes, rendering the plastic shield that much more useless and causing the other grumpy members of her family--who were resting on the opposite side of the curtain--to shout, "Stop that, Jackie!" and "Mais arrête! Oh! Ça vas pas, non?!")

Regarding moodiness during renovation, we held it together that first day, no matter how disorienting things were. It was even a little amusing to find that every time you went to set down your keys or your sacoche or your coffee cup, the desk or the table or the fireplace mantel was no longer there to hold it! And when you went to sneak another chocolate your husband brought back from recent travels, you wondered, for a split second, why a plastic wall of poked holes was blocking your path. Ah, oui! you shook your head as you detoured out of the house, across the driveway, and over to the other end of the house to enter from there.

In your slippers, walking out of the house to access the kitchen (via the garage), it was again amusing to pass your neighbor, the demolishioner, who took the occasional break in the back of his demolition van, amidst piles of rubble. Seated there, beyond the open van doors, he smoked his cigarette and patted the furry head of a new fan (Smokey).

...And when you smiled, in passing, wishing him bon courage, you were startled, delightedly so, when he paused to wish you the same.

"Bon courage à vous aussi, Madame," he bowed his head.

At first I took the demolitioner's encouragment as politesse... (Yes, thank you, and you too!) until I realized, coughing my way back across the house, encumbered by all the construction dust--my head ringing from the pounding hammer--that bon courage was something we were going to need a lot of these next weeks.

To respond to this story, you can leave a note in the comments box. Thanks in advance!

Mas des Brun
This isn't the first time this mas has undergone renovation. In the 70s the façade you see, above, and the rooms beyond it, were renovated. We are privileged to learn about the history of Mas des Brun (Brown's house) as Maggie and Michael, who sold us their home, tell it to us, via the thoughtful emails and letters they send us. I hope to share excerpts with you at some point.

To leave a comment--or to read the comments, click here.

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door curtain in Vinsobres (c) Kristin Espinasse

In honor of the plastic curtain that is protection our house from dust (if only it really worked!) here are some charming rideaux de porte I've spotted in France. The wind-whipped curtain, above, lives in Vinsobres, near our old village of Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes

Door curtain or rideau in Serignan (c) Kristin Espinasse
This door curtain lives in Serignan. Be still my heart, I thought, each time I passed it. Such charm. 

  Madras door curtain in Croation (c) Kristin Espinasse

This one lives on an island in Croatia. Can't you just feel the sea breeze? See how it moves the madras curtain. More themed photos on the way. After reading your responses to the sacoche post, and all the "bag" photos, it is a pleasure to come up with more themed-photo editions. To comment on the photos, or on something in today's post, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

French word for catacombs + photos of French locks

Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp in the Catacombs of Paris. Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 30 January 2004In case you ever wondered just who gets stuck cleaning the catacombs of Paris... (Photograph taken by Michael Reeve)

Very sorry for the hasty letter today (the sound file and "word of the day" will return--along with the regular edition--on Wednesday).

I'm in a hurry as I need to be in Paris by 9 a.m. for three days of community service. The local authorities contacted us last month after a disgruntled sheep farmer filed a complaint. Turns out we are being prosecuted for empoisonnement! (Remember the cool "punk rock shepherd"? Well he wasn't so cool after all as he is claiming his herd suffered from gastro-entérite--or le gastro--after grazing on our "contaminated" pasture.) 

That the sheep all but trespassed onto OUR private property--to enjoy a free meal--doesn't seem to faze the police, who informed us that when we made the verbal agreement allowing the berger's sheep to feed on our land, we were unwittingly taking responsibility for their santé.

I am trying to see the good in this even if I am reluctant head out, now, for some punitive community service. The 8-hour chore I have been assigned is surreal: the cleaning of the catacombs, i.e. Paris's underground cemetery. It took me a moment to understand the punishment, because of the confusing French words and legalease, which were misleading and which read: le nettoyage de l'ossuaire municipal. ("Ossuaire" threw me, but I recognized the words municipale and nettoyage and so assumed I was assigned to clean the floor of Town Hall--and not a wall of skulls!

The good news is the State is paying for my train ticket. All I am to do is to provide a personal scrub brush. (The municipal order that I received in the mail contained a small packing list: I am to bring my brosse à dents and a small flask of olive oil. A further note--an instruction, actually--states "une goutte par tête" or "one drop per skull"). I guess they'll fill me in on the rest (is the olive oil both a detergent and a polish?) once I get there.

Off now to catch the train in Marseilles. See you Wednesday...


P.S. If they think I'm bringing my own toothbrush--get out! I'm taking an extra of Jean-Marc's. He won't even know the difference--he's not back from the States yet (or else HE would have volunteered to take the punishment).

P.P.S. Even more surreal (humiliating, actually) is the uniform I have been assigned to wear. See it here along with a note, in the comments box, and I would love to know your opinion on this one! 

Note: The good news is the sheep will survive the stomach attack or le gastro; because they are no longer fit to slaughter they will live out their days in a petting zoo, outside Toulon). 

To share a comment, click here.

lock and chain in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin EspinasseIn theme with my punishement, I'm pairing this edition with photos I've taken over the years... of locks or cadenas. This one, in St Paul Trois Chateau.

lock or cadena in Italy
Locked up somewhere in Italy....

lock or cadena (c) Kristin Espinasse
Locked up somewhere in Provence...

padlock or cadena (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Locked up somewhere in Croatia...

 Locked up somewhere in Paris... that would be me. On my way now, to the Catacombes de Paris. Don't forget to see what the uniform I've been assigned looks like, here.

Smokey Locksmith says: If you're ever feeling locked up I've got a key for you! To comment on any of the photos, or something in this edition, click here.

Forward this edition to an April Fool. xoxo, Kristi 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.