Racines: My father's "cousins germains" or "first cousins"
Bilingual post: Le Coton-tige + a French doctor's thoughts on cleaning your ears

Oh, pétard! The things you hear (and see) when eavesdropping

Scottish brush and wooden fence
On Sunday, we took the long way to the beach, enjoying one of the many sentiers, or walking paths--this one fragrant with sweet-scented Scotch Broom! What with the perfumed air and feel of the sea's breeze, it was a sensual Father's Day morning--especially when my ears began to be tickled by a funny Southern French exclamation soon after we arrived at the beach. With that I introduce today's southern expression:

"Oh pétard!"

    : Oh my gosh!, wow!, #$@!&

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following expression

Oh pétard! T'as vu ce qu'il a ramassé le pêcheur?
Oh my gosh! Did you see what the fisherman brought in?

Note: OK, it might be a stretch to translate "Oh, pétard" (a word that likely comes from the more profain "putain") as "oh my gosh," but it seems right to me -- and it would fit with the example in the following story. If you have another translation, feel free to share it via the comments link at the end of this post.

by Kristin Espinasse

On Father's Day morning Jean-Marc and I woke up to a kid-less house. As we sat there in bed drinking our coffee, I sensed a lull in our normally racy morning (no, not that kind of racy!). I realized that if we did not come up with a plan for La Fête des Pères, we might wallow in our empty nest.

"Want to go for a walk?" I said, looking over to a crest-fallen Papa Poule.

"Oui. Et si on se gare vers..." Jean-Marc said yes and suggested parking in a new location which would give us a brand new itinerary (last month, when Jean-Marc and I began a walking program, we had come up with various routes to mix things up--and we timed them so that a 15-minute walk" or a "30 minute walk" could be chosen, depending on the mood.

We parked our car alongside a vineyard and took up the marked path beside it...and 20 minutes later we were dipping our toes into the shimmering Mediterranean. This was the best circuit yet--a forty-minute walk with a refreshing dip in between!

Typical house at La Madrague port

A typical house at Le Port de La Madrague. It is my dream home (second only to the one we are currently selling--but it is not sold yet....)

Beach along le sentier littoral

Arriving at the first beach along the Sentier Littoral (no, those are not naked people. Naked beaches are farther west!)

Typical house at La Madrague port

Aw! Can you see the father and child to the left? To the right, you can see the area near Parc du Mugel in La Ciotat (worth a visit!)

Typical house at La Madrague port

Claiming our 6ft by 4 foot digs with the help of these colorful, handy towels that you see all over our area--and, we discovered, in Sicily too! As for the pebbly bed beneath us, I reminded myself that rocks are used in therapy (reflexology? I don't know, but it seems that those smooth cailloux pressing into various points along the back could be a good thing just as a thumb pressing in and massaging those same muscles would release tension). And now that Jean-Marc has joined me in the fear of recurring skin cancer (he had a spot removed on his temple) our chapeaux, or sunhats go with us wherever we go (I think he needs a wider brim on his hat, but this is a good start).

Typical house at La Madrague port
Cool clear water enticing everyone in for a swim! And a nice view of La Ciotat way across the bay.

Now, back to our story...

After Jean-Marc and I staked our place and waded out to sea over a slippery floor of giant rocks, we turned to look back at the shore and saw the beach beginning to fill up. It was now 10 a.m.

Still, the tiny creek was clear so we luxuriated in the cool water. Joyeuse Fête, Happy Father's Day! I kept repeating, rewarded each time with a salty kiss before my husband disappeared under the water (he would later pay for this by a plugged up ear and temporary loss of hearing).

Looking around I was suddenly filled with joy. Seeing life from the sea's perspective helped change my own outlook. Peering down into the crystal water to glimpse the depths of the Mediterranean, cares faded into the sea-grass far below. As I glided backwards like an otter to the shore, little schools of fish appeared, proof that shallow waters hold their own delights.

Sitting down on my towel, I was a few feet away from a family who had secured a spot on the plage--now full with beach-goers. The woman and man were about our age, with teenagers. The mom wore a chic two-piece (black with a strapless top). She looked elegant and well-postured which made it all the more surprising when she began to talk....

"Oh, pétard! Oh pétard!" she kept saying, looking out to sea.

My face beneath my hat (like a giant blindfold), I wondered if one of her three teenage sons was roughhousing out on the sea. Finally, after a few more Oh, pétards, curiosity got to me and I sat up and searched the pebbled horizon.

Next, I heard her gasp, "poissons!...poissons!" and I narrowed my search - to finally spot the fisherman who had come in with his catch. What a sight he was with fish dangling from his belt!

Typical house at La Madrague port
The fisherman with his fish: la seiche (cuttlefish), le mulet, and various poissons de roche

Two morals of this story:


L'habit ne fait pas le moine (Don't judge a book by its cover): the French woman was elegantly composed, but she was not stuffy--as witnessed by her vernacular: street French. I will definitely add Oh, pétard to my vocabulary and think of her each time I enjoy the pleasure of saying it!

And two...

Ne fait pas la gueule - "don't make a face" when people invade your space. You just might learn something from them, see something you wouldn't otherwise have seen, or learn a few new French words thanks to such cozy proximity :-)


oh, pétard = oh my gosh!
La Fête des Pères = Father's Day
le papa poule = father hen
et si on... = and what if we...
se garer = to park
le sentier = path
littoral = coastal
la plage = beach
le caillou = pebble, stone

Typical house at La Madrague port

A Few Notes

I am excited to be quoted in Ann Mah's Food52 article about French salads. Please check out "Don't Cut Lettuce With a Table Knife, and Other Salad-Eating Rules"

The Sicily post Racines: My Father's Cousins Germains, or First Cousins, has been updated in case you missed it. Thanks for reading!

On Sunday, I reposted a favorite story about my Father - and his no-nonsense approach to swimming in France.

Kristi swimming

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