Fresh as a lettuce : and other delights from Mama's in Mexique
If we left France, Where we could move...

New friends, new words, and meme pas peur!

Voici une photo d'un caraco. Here is a picture of a caraco. Worn by Jackie, to her brother's birthday party.

TODAY'S WORD: le caraco

    - camisole
    - bodice, corset

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word:

Download Caraco

Ni un débardeur, ni un marcel, le caraco c'est une camisole
Neither a vest top or a tank top, a caraco is a camisole

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


    by Kristi Espinasse

Talking To Strangers

Let's begin with a brand new French word: le caraco. I have not used it in the years that I have lived in France. But that does not mean it is not an essential. For some it forms the very basis of a garde-robe. You guessed it, un caraco is an undershirt. In old-time French, is was a corset. Whether or not this fits, I am going to force this item of female covering to connect our story, or at least lead into it. For just like the tight, pinching, can't-wait-to-unlace-it garment--so was that urge of mine, over the weekend, to throw off all pretenses and talk to strangers.

The port town of Bandol was unusually busy this time of year. Was it the sunshine that had brought everyone out on Sunday? We were having a mother-daughter lunch, Jackie and I, when a striking woman and her daughter sat down in the bistro table beside ours. When their eyes became focused on the glossy carte, I stole surreptitious glances while drawing up a colorful story in my mind. I'll bet she lives in that house up on the hill, beside the one for sale that we visited. She may be our future neighbor! She seems to be a very strong woman. She looks like my sister-in-law. Is she North African? What is that pink pass around her neck?

The woman wore heels and a silk Chanel-style top. It had to be real. Her dark hair tumbled past her shoulders in smooth waves. Her daughter was her sosie, or twin, down to the pink pass which hung on a long pink ribbon. Though inches away, the mother spoke in tones so low I could not make out what she was saying. The daughter responded in kind. The pair were cool, reserved, assured. French.

Wearing sandals and an Hawaiian-print dress, I chatted wildly to my daughter, all the while keeping tabs on the duo to my left until I turned, abruptly, and said with a strong American accent, "Are you having a mother-daughter lunch too?"

"Yes," smiled the mother.

"Yes, yes, I thought so! Yes that's what I had guessed!"

And so our conversation began, between Madame Yes, and Madame Yes! Yes! Yes! which gives you an idea of  personalities, opposites with at least one thing in common: curiosity.

We continued talking until their order arrived, when I finished my sentence, adding, "Je vous laisse manger tranquillement. I'll let you enjoy your lunch now."

"You care too much about what others think," the woman said, referring back to my intro, in which I admitted a number of attempts to strike up a conversation, each sabotaged by the fear of rejection.

"And you don't care at all," I smiled. "Do you realize you are the perfect heroine?" I said, referring back to her intro, in which she explained she was in town to attend The Festival of New Romance. (Those pink passes around their necks.) Avid reader of chic-lit, the woman and her daughter had spent the morning meeting famous authors.

"Yes! (Yes Yes)" I continued, "You are a beautiful doctor of infectious diseases who lives where coconuts fall on your front lawn--in the Amazon! You leave your laboratoire to board a paddle boat and travel upstream through the jungle, to do your researching!"

The doctor from French Guiana smiled in amusement, seeing herself in a new light, and not just the florescent one beneath which she spends most of her days, hair tied back, lab coat  and glasses on, looking down into a microscope.

I was beginning to see myself in a new light too: a little more brazen than before. I might still care too much about what other people think. But so far it hasn't kept me from life's biggest adventure: writing.  There, words are coconuts and paddle-boats, the sentence is a winding river, and the next paragraph is the Amazon--ever lurking, unknown, thrilling.

Related stories:

On Writing, How to Write

On our decision to move:

Même pas peur! (what this expression means)

A picture I forgot to show you, from my visit to see Mom and sister in Mexico. Yes, it's real!r.

Selected products
When you shop at Amazon via one of the links, below, you help support this free language journal.

PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

TISANES - French herbal teas. My family drinks one every night, to help drift off to sleep ORDER HERE.

APRONS, French-themed - keep the tomatoes in the tart and off of your nice shirt. CLICK HERE.

TABLECLOTH, Provence-themed - scroll down to the Maison d'Hermine Birdies on a Wire, HERE. I love this one!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE book- for the chapter "Casse-Croûte" and for the pleasure of a real French picnic. Buy the book, HERE.

FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

Paris PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty. Click here

Jackie and I went to Bandol and had a few serendipitous encounters. Happy to discover a juice bar tucked into this fashion accessory boutique. Pierre, the owner, is so kind and welcoming. Be sure to stop into "Sunset Blvd Bandol" if you are ever in the port of Bandol! Like them on Facebook at Sunset Bandol.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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