Bon bout d'an! + What is an adult? (Surprising answer by one of France's most famous philosophers)
Amour-Propre: Breakfast, Boundaries & A Blow to the Ego

Marquer le coup (A hike, swim at Parc du Mugel) + Do what you want to do


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Today's phrase: marquer le coup

    : to mark the occasion, to celebrate

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

New Year's Day began with blue skies, birdsong (les gazouillis, as JM calls it), and an urge to get outside. There were some things I wanted to do before le premier janvier slipped by, and with Mom's suggestion still strumming in my mind I set out to marquer le coup.

It took a while to get around to what I wanted to do, what with so much chicken poop, but after cleaning le poulailler (carefully transferring the fumier, or black gold, to the base of our plum tree...) I ran to my seed baskets in search of more fava beans. Les fèves are the easiest things to grow. You could probably drop one on the ground and it would spring up a few weeks later! Plus, fava leaves make nutritious salad greens...while you are waiting for the haricots to develop.

While sowing these giant seeds (which also serve as the trinket in this season's Gâteau des Rois), I bumped into Jean-Marc, returning from his morning run. Do you want to pack a lunch and we can go for a swim? I said, vocalizing my 2019 goals: more picnics! more hikes! more swims!

I packed a salad of pois chiches, red onion, diced fava leaves, chopped turmeric, and a few other ingredients Dr. Greger recommends (and some he might resent: fromage and foie gras...) and off we went to Parc du Mugel--the most glorious spot in La Ciotat. 

Mugel walk
Wearing our bathing suits under our winter clothes and doudounes, we hiked up to the botanical park, past the flowering Bird of Paradise, some bright red bougainvillea, and down into a swimming hole my father discovered a few years ago. On seeing two couples of a certain age swimming in the turquoise water, Dad exclaimed, I'm going to return here and swim. (And he did! Only it wasn't the first of January....).

Looking around the otherworldly coastline (the smooth falaise across the bay looks like something out of Planet of the Apes--or the part of the surface of the moon) the land meets the turquoise waters below, which lap over a rock island in the center of the inlet, before rising up to the east with hills of green as in a dream.

Rocky calanque at  parc du mugel la ciotat
picture, showing the rocky terrain, taken on a previous hike

Settling down on a rocky perch, we sat beside our backpacks and Jean-Marc put his head in my lap. As he napped I debated whether or not to brave the icy waters when I noticed un plongeur wearing a thick, full-length wetsuit!

Fait ce que tu as envie de faire, my husband said after lunch, as we packed up our picnic and hiked to another beach, But I am going to swim!! 

Fine, you swim, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself, I said, looking across the beach to where a crowd of New Year's Day swimmers stood beside a line of drying wetsuits.... As we got closer to the others, music filled our ears. I looked up to a quartet of jazz musicians--a talented family ranging in age. The wonderful sound carried us across the pebble beach where we set out our towels. 

Jean-Marc was the first in! And no sooner did he disappear under the glittering surface than a taste for the same experience tickled my senses. I began peeling off my clothes and, as discreetly as possible--not wanting to make a spectacle of myself...I walked over to the shore. Hard to do on those big, slippery pebbles!

Like a newbie on a trapeze, arms flailing for balance, I fell into the water. One more new year's goal bubbled up through my mind: Keep on trying new things, regardless! Better a plunge into exhilarating waters, than a staying put on a bed of rocks.

He looks cold!
Jean-Marc navigating over the slippery rocks. The water was cold but very enjoyable (at about 15C or 60F)

les gazouillis = chirps
le premier janvier = January 1st
marquer le coup = mark the occasion
le fumier = manure
poulailler = henhouse
la fève = fava bean, broad bean
un haricot = bean
le gâteau des rois = King's Cake
le pois chiche = chickpea, garbanzo bean
le fromage = cheese
la doudoune = feather, down jacket
la falaise = cliff
un plongeur = snorkeler
fais ce que tu as envie de faire = do what you want to do
  =>Try Mastering French Vocabulary

Yogurt cake kings cake gateau des rois hack
Here's another cake hack for you: If you cannot find a gâteau des rois in your area, why not make a traditional yogurt cake (easy recipe here) and stick a magical fava bean inside (magical because I have actually planted the bean after plucking it out** of a cooked cake. The seed grew!).

From Wikipedia: À l'intérieur de celui-ci, était introduite une fève ; celui qui avait la chance de la trouver dans la part qu'il recevait était nommé roi. Inside (the cake) a bean was inserted; the one who had the chance of finding it in his slice was named king.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with peaceful moments and inspiration to follow your dreams.

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