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January 2019

Entries from February 2019

Bilingual post & hommage to four young men who left us too soon.

Four bright stars above Serre Chevalier alps mountains
Stars over the Valley of Serre Chevalier. Jean-Marc took this photo on the way back from a quiet gathering to console our close friends who have lost their firstborn. Four young men lost their lives in the car accident early Saturday morning. The entire Alpine valley of Serre Chevalier is in mourning. The following bilingual post was written in the car on our way home from the funeral.

Une semaine après être revenus des Alpes, nous y sommes subitement retournés. Nous voulions soutenir et exprimer toute notre tendresse à nos chers amis Isild et Guillaume ainsi qu'à leur fils Edgar, leur famille, amis, proches suite au décès tragique de leur fils aîné Arthur. 

One week after coming back from the Alps, we suddenly returned. We wanted to support and to express all of our tenderness to our dear friends Isild and Guillaume as well as their son Edgar, their family, friends, those close to them following the death of their oldest son Arthur. 

Dans l'église "La Collégiale" à Briançon, aussi majestueuse que les montagnes qui l'entourent, nous étions plus d'un millier à écouter les témoignages d'amour portés par leurs* familles et tous ceux qui l'ont connu.

 In La Collégiate church in Briançon, as majestic as the mountains that surround it, we were more than one thousand (in attendance) to listen to the testimonies of love delivered by their* families and all that knew them....

L'émotion était d'autant plus forte que l'accident a coûté la vie à quatre* jeunes hommes , tous membres de l'équipe de ski de Serre Chevalier, tous âgés de dix sept a vingt ans.

The emotion was even stronger given that the accident cost the lives of four young men, all members of the Serre Chevalier ski team, all aged from seventeen to twenty years old.

Dans ces circonstances si bouleversantes, il n'y a pas de mots pour soulager nos amis. En espérant que tout l'amour présent lors de cette poignante cérémonie puisse leur apporter le réconfort dont ils ont tant besoin.

In these overwhelming circumstances, there are no words to relieve the pain of our friends. In hopes that all the love present during this poignant ceremony can bring them the comfort that they greatly need.

In honor of victims Serre Chevalier
During the long drive back to La Ciotat, we listened to the song chosen by Arthur's family. Love of My Life by Queen (click on the Eagle above to listen) had echoed through the massive La Collégiale cathedral as the light poured in from the giant entrance, sweeping across the crowded pews, gracing all in attendance.

Collégiale_Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Nicolas_de_BriançonImage Par LPLT — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0

Something 'Pink' about the French (and it's not rosé wine) + coûter la peau des fesses

Valensole France paint in provence artist art tour travel group
The lavender fields of Valensole beckon, their heavenly scent entices, and the backdrop of the mountains make me yearn to paint them. Why not come and paint them with me? Trip/tour info at Tessa's site Paint Provence With Tess or email

PQ, immanquable, le coton-tige, peau des fesses...
(Today, all the new vocabulary words are in the hup, hup, let's get going....)

Learn speak understand french grammarSchaum's French Grammar--for those who want a daily workout for their French! Click here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristi Espinasse

"A French Quirk?"

One thing I began to notice after moving to France was all the pink toilet paper! The supermarket shelves were full of it as were all of the petits coins de la France: it stood out at friends' powder rooms, was inmanquable at restaurants and the rest stops along the autoroute.  The ubiquitous pink tissue (more polite than 'PQ'...) dots itself across l'Héxagone in one great question mark!

In spite of being the biggest Francophile in the world, one who put every quirk of French life up on a pedestal, I could not relate to the French penchant for le papier rose. And as soon as I learned that le papier blanc did indeed exist, I begged my husband to buy it instead. Like this, our house has been free of pink toilet paper for twenty years now.

But last week my daughter did the shopping, returning with a toilet paper value pack. 24 extra big rolls of PAPIER ROSE. "They didn't have anything else," Jackie explained. So touched that she had noticed this quirk of her mother's, I all but embraced the purchase.  But Jackie's brother downright hugged it! 

"I'll take it! I'll take it!" Max--my son and starving student--volunteered. "I don't care about the color--ça coute la peau des fesses! Toilet paper costs an arm and a leg in Aix-en-Provence!"

Et comme ça the toilet paper problem was settled. It would return to school with a very grateful bachelor.

Then yesterday Tess came over with a lovely group of watercolorists, including one of my readers, Valerie, and three of Valerie's longtime friends: Meredith, Marsha, and Trilby. I didn't make it to the store in time to switch out the pink rolls, and so resolved that if anyone would be okay with pink toilet paper it would be these artists - to whom color is a vital medium (indeed many artists, like my feisty Mother, abhor white! But I am getting off topic...)

As Tess pulled up to the house and I saw all the new faces inside the car, I did my best to appear at ease, even whispering to Tess, as her group exited the vehicle, just how relaxed I felt this time. But my body was showing other signs and, as I spoke my eyes and my nose and my skin began to drip..

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a tissue. Having no Kleenex in the house--and certain this friendly-looking group of women would take no offense--I proceeded to dry my eyes and nose and brow with a wad of pink toilet paper. "So lovely to see you all, " I sniffed. "What a warm group!" Meantime my body poured out its anxiety, drop by drop.

Once the ladies were settled before their paint trays, I hurried up to the house to check my mascara. Given how my eyes had watered, I was sure to find black streaks running down my cheeks. But I couldn't have imagined the real disaster when I looked into the mirror.

My eyes were plastered with toilet paper! There it was--my old pink foe--stuck to my eyelashes and paper machéed to the crow's feet just beyond! Even more alarming was the realization that I had been posing with the artists for photos...I with little clumps of pink TP glued to my eyes like far-out false lashes!

Using un coton-tige to clean up the mess, I rehearsed what I could say to my guests. But I never got the chance to explain. By the time I walked back out into the sunshine, to rejoin the warm circle of artists, I had completely forgotten about it!

And from this day forth, I shall stock my bathroom with rolls and rolls of pink papier toilette--and so honor the day...that yet one more anxiety up and rolled away. 

*    *    *

Tessa Max and artists paint in provence france
Max (who scored all the pink TP), Tessa and the artists on a Paint Provence Tour that stopped at our vineyard a few years ago.


hup, hup! = allez, come on
(f) = motorway, freeway
PQ = (vulgar but popular term) for papier cul (butt paper)
le petit coin = the toilet (the bathroom)
inmanquable = impossible to miss, unmistakeable
le papier = paper
rose = pink
coûter la peau des fesses = to cost the skin of one's arse (to cost an arm and a leg)
un coton-tige = Q-tip, cotton swab

Tessa and max paint in provence france artist retreat
My friend Tessa teaching our Max to paint when he was little. For more info on Tessa's Paint Provence tours in France, click here.

Kristi and max palm tree gardening hat
Doing garden work with my son Max and my Mom (behind the camera) is a wonderful way to rest the mind and the brain. Thank you all for the helpful tips you left me following the story Petits Oublis, about forgetfulness and memory loss.

Petits Oublis: 'Forgetfulness', Etourderie, and verb conjugation (listen to it!)

Lavender tour
Experience a Lavender & Vine painting tour. Join our small group with professional instruction at the peak of the lavender season! 10% discount if you sign up in February. Rates and tour info here.

Today's Word: l'oubli

    : forgetfulness, oversight, memory lapse

*New: Don't miss the verb conjugation for oublier, just after today's vocabulary-packed story below...

ListenL'oubli n'est pas un ennemi de la mémoire. C'est un phénomène non seulement banal mais aussi indispensable, qui lui permet de faire le tri dans la masse d'informations qui nous parviennent en continu et qui ne peuvent pas être toutes engrangées. Forgetfulness is not an enemy of memory. This phenomenon is not only banal but also indispensable, allowing it to sort through the mass of information that reaches us continuously and that cannot all be collected.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I am beginning to concerned about this latest series of petits oublis... so I've decided to come here to talk about it with you. I'm guessing a few of my readers are aged 50 and above, and will have a thing or two to say about the topic of forgetfulness, or  les moments d'étourderie.

When last I misplaced my key and asked Mom if she had seen it.she replied, Darling, you left it in the front door. (Was that a concerned look on her face? The walking-on-eggshells tone in Mom's voice tells me something too: Is it my mood again?) I remember responding in a nonchalant way, Oh, thanks Mom--yes, I was in the middle of bringing in the groceries, I explained.

And yet I feel anything but insouciant about memory lapses, forgetfulness, oversights, flakiness, and forgotten appointments that are becoming some sort of norm lately...

As someone who does not drink, does not take medication, regularly challenges her brain by speaking a foreign language, eats a (mostly...) plant-based whole foods diet, walks daily, prays and gets plenty of sleep how could this be happening to me? 

A few possibilities come to mind: as a ronfleur, or snorer, chances are sleep apnea may be affecting the quality of sleep... And then there is the anxiety that I arrange my life around--it is why I no longer drink alcohol and why good nutrition, sleep, exercise and, recently, therapy is helpful to me. And yet...

When I left the kitchen robinet running for 10 minutes the other day (the irony! I had been filling a bowl in which to wash mes patates...and so recycle the water afterwards!), and then left the oven on after serving the oven-baked fries... I was alarmed at the latest oversights! But panick doesn't help things, now does it? Peace, after all, plays a big part in a well-functioning brain!

So, dearest reader, please chime in in today's comments box with your own thoughts on forgetfulness a.k.a. les petits oublis. Meantime, may those of us concerned with memory lapse take heart in the following thought (whether you remember it or not!):

L’oubli favorise l’innovation, libère la pensée et stimule la curiosité. Forgetting promotes innovation, frees thought and stimulates curiosity. --Simon-Daniel Kipman

*    *    *

There are many tools to help with our memory--including the exercise of conjugating French verbs! Listen to Jean-Marc conjugate the verb oublier

Verb conjugation oublier

tu oublies
il oublie
nous oublions
vous oubliez
ils oublient

French country diary 2019
A tried-and-true memory aid is a good old-fashioned calendar... and this one is a beauty: The popular, beloved French Country Diary makes jotting down appointments and reminders a pleasing , mindful activity. Order one here.

l'oubli = oversight, forgetting
les petits oublis = forgetfulness
une étourderie = forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, inattention
le ronfleur, la ronfleuse = snorer
la patate = potato, spud
le robinet = tap, faucet
insouciant,e = carefree, unconcerned, untroubled

St. P paint
Photos in today's post are from my friend Beth. Check out her popular Lavender & Vine Tour in Provence. A vacation (and all those heady aromas from the French countryside) will do wonders for one's memory :-)

Beth painting tour in provence

French for peninsula + South of France Memories Tour

Memories 2019 logo

Join sixteen women for twelve unforgettable days exploring the beauty of the south of France.  Deborah Bine aka Barefoot Blogger and best selling author Patricia Sands share their passion for their favorite places with you. Spend six days in Nice and six days in Arles ... only move once! September 15 to 27, 2019.  Click here for details ... four places left!

Today's Word: la presqu'île

    : peninsula

Audio: listen to Jean-Marc read the Wikipedia entry below, click here:

La Presqu'île de Giens et les îles d'Or ont été les derniers sanctuaires continentaux de France à abriter, jusqu'en 1940, une population relique du rarissime Phoque moine de Méditerranée, aujourd'hui en voie critique d'extinction.

The Giens Peninsula and the Golden Islands were the last continental sanctuaries in France to house, until 1940, a relict population of the rare Mediterranean Monk Seal, now critically endangered.

The promise of provence
Inspiration for the South of France Memories Tour, Patricia's book.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Avant-hier, Jean-Marc and I were tourists in a charming southern French peninsula called Giens. It's a place we took our kids every summer, to visit Jackie's parrain, Philippe, and his family who had a pied-à-terre there. Sadly, it was sold, but oh how the memories flooded back...the private beach, the barbequed mussels (Philippe's Dad's specialty), chilled Mouresques, and the decadent Tarte Tropezienne we always brought along with us to share. Here is a tiny picture of the private beach from when Max and Jackie were tiny, and already off on adventures...

Max and Jackie on bord

This recent rush of nostalgia was thanks to our son Max. Earlier in the week he helped me with some marketing matters (he's majoring in this in school...) and, in return, he slyly suggested remuneration: There's a kitesurf school near Hyeres...I'd really love to go... my 23-year-old hinted. Tu peux venir avec moi! 

A mother-son day off--how could I resist?

Giens peninsula mediterranean hyeres
When Jean-Marc found out he wanted to go too...

A 45-minute drive later, and we were cruising down the presqu'île and its familiar marais. Though we didn't see any salt marshes, the swampy area was thick with exoticism for us (residents of the straightforward seafront of La Ciotat). But here in the low-lying grasslands around the Mediterranean, you could sense all sorts of wildness--the wind being one of them!

Oh, ce vent! Il n'y a pas un peu trop? A young woman asked, entering the tiny kitesurf shop. I turned around to see the 4th participant in today's expedition. All the kite-surfers were around Max's age, and they were soon exchanging stories. Max was recounting his recent trip to Dakhla, Morroco, where he and Jean-Marc had the chance to fine-tune their brand-new kite-surfing skills. 

The group, wearing wetsuits, lifevests, harnesses, and carrying their heavy kites and boards, headed down to the waterfront, disappearing behind a row of beachfront properties, to board a speedboat that would take them out to le grand large--the wide sea in all its windy glory. Jean-Marc and I tried to follow along the coast, by car, hoping to find a gap among the string of private properties (including one that used to belong to our friends...). Finally, Papa Poule found a front row spot! (picture above).

We waited 15 minutes until we saw the four kites flying high in the sky... And there was Max's! Bright yellow, orange, and red! Jean-Marc and I shared some jumelles to watch the spectacle from our car, where the sun warmed us. Seeing Max dip in and out of the freezing waters made us cold just watching!

We would have been watching for 3 hours--which is about how long the kitesurfers braved the wind & sea. Instead, we decided to pass the time with a little sightseeing...

Port du niel
We began at Port Niel...and it was as peaceful as it looks! Here in winter, il n'y avait pas un chat! There was practically no one around. This made it challenging to find the pie and tea I was hankering for, but where there's a will there's a way. On trouvera, Jean-Marc promised.

Cafe brasserie le duc
Too bad this beautiful café (a Francophile's dream) was closed. We soon realized we would have to drive up the presqu'ile, away from the charming port, to find civilization--and pie!

Kristi and jean-marc
Me and Papa Poule. 'Father hen' stopped at every gap along the coast to look for our son, announcing, il est là! each time.

Book lending lions club
The next time Jean-Marc pulled over to search for Max, I staved off my dessert cravings by focusing on this little book lending library--a rare find in France! It was placed here by the Lion's Club. I'd love to ring them and see if they can distribute these throughout our area! Meantime, where's my pie?

Port du niel giens
It took a while but we eventually found pie and coffee at a commercial pâtisserie (even if I wash hoping for a homemade slice). I did not get a picture of the mini pinenut tart (out of 100 cakes, Jean-Marc and I chose the very same!), but you will find more pictures on my Instagram.

Max kitesurf kitesurfing france
From the look on his face, can you tell Max had a blast? Oui, il s'est régalé! (And that pain au raisin we brought him from the bakery really hit the spot!)

presqu'île = peninsula
avant-hier = the day before yesterday
le parrain = godfather; sponsor
pied-à-terre= second home, vacation home
une maurèsque = a pastis with sirop d'orgeat (barley water syrop)
le marais = swamp, marsh 
des jumelles (f) = binoculars
il s'est régalé = he had a blast
Patricia and Deborah
Do check out the South of France Memories Tour, lead by author Patricia Sands and blogger Deborah Bines. I leave you with delicious photos from their previous tours.

South of france memories tour
South of france memories tour flowers
For more about the South of France Memories tour, click here.