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September 2019

Entries from October 2019

Art and Contretemps, and a walk with writer Catherine Berry

PPWT-2020

My dear friend Tessa is organizing more art escapades in France, check them out here. Her colorful flyer, above, sets the tone for today's topic: art.

CONTRETEMPS (con-truh-tahn) noun, masculine
    : mishap, mischance
    : hitch; delay, inconvenience
    : syncopation (music)

  arriver à contretemps = to arrive at the wrong moment
  jouer à contretemps = to play out of time

Click here, listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence

Nos destinées et nos volontés jouent presque toujours à contretemps. - André Maurois
Our destinies and our wishes almost always play out of season (inconveniently, on the offbeat).

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The French word "contretemps" means, among other things, "a note played against the beat". I wonder whether that is why art means more and more to us lately, enough to dare us to put meaningless obligations aside in order to pursue creative activity, and so make a swift turn, marching to another drum beat: our own.

Break apart the word "contretemps" and you get "against time" which explains why artists find it difficult to practice their art. Who's got "temps" to sit quietly, waiting for the muse? And so we must make it (time and art): we shove a few things aside, allow the dust to build up, let the cat eat dog food, don't care about our hair... wear holes in our socks and dive into design when and where we can. If the muse is present, great!, if not, then ainsi soit-il! Nothing's stopping us now.

Contretemps: Part Deux...
As commitments creep in, and you feel like your plate is too full, duty dripping over at the sides, you might be tempted to invent a contretemps in order to excuse yourself from the whirlwind. Who wants to be in a crowded, cacophonic room, when one's own soul-centering sofa beckons? A reading lamp with a warm golden hue dancing beneath the dusty lampshade, a pile of favorite books, a jam jar full of colorful felt markers and a sketchbook by one's side... music musing in the background. When's the last time you were there, in that cozy chair?

Contretemps: Intermezzo
(We'll now take a break in the midst of this dilemma, its theme having to do, we think, with "art 'against time' or 'time against art'"--whether that be the art of writing, of painting, of singing... or simply the art of living...)

Contretemps: Conclusion
My Mom sent me an inspiring arty video the other day. "For Jackie and Max," her note said. I clicked open the link and found myself carried away by a quirky Canadian creator: a filmmaker, in all due respect. And I *do* respect the dues and bad days that an artist pays to get to such freedom. For isn't that the end result
of art
: when the viewer (reader, or listener) is liberated, from time and space? Off we fly, if not contre le vent, then, somehow, "contre temps" and time's constraints.

Contretemps: to play out of time
This post was written in 2008. I'd like to add a section on art and conversation. This past summer I had the pleasure of spending a few creative hours with the writer Catherine Berry. During a stroll along the promenade here in La Ciotat, we talked about writing, sharing the ups, downs, misunderstandings, risks, fears, joys, freedoms and priviledge of expression. 

Many thanks to Catherine for her story about her visit, and for the photo, below. Read the story at Catherine's blog, But You Are in France, Madame.

And please check out her wonderful and relateable memoir, available in paperback (click here) or ebook.

But you are in France

 
Kristi espinasse and catherine berry la ciotat
Me and Catherine Berry. 

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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Fournisseur: Photos from the Grand Opening of Jean-Marc's wineshop!

Inauguration window shop hours le vin sobre jean-marc espinasse la ciotat

On Thursday, October 10, my friends, suppliers and other guests came to the official opening of Le Vin Sobre La Ciotat. (See the French translation and listen to Jean-Marc read his words, below)

 

Today's Word: le fournisseur

    : supplier, provider

Click here to listen to the example sentence in French:

Le Jeudi 10 Octobre, mes amis, les fournisseurs et d'autres invités sont venus à l'inauguration officielle du Vin Sobre La Ciotat.

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This story is dedicated to our longtime friend Pascale Gauthier-Keogh, who could not be at the grand opening, but who helped enormously in getting the word out about our new wine shop. Merci, Pascale!

Here in La Ciotat there was quite a turnout for the inauguration of Jean-Marc's new wine shop, Le Vin Sobre. I drove to our cave à vin with friends Julie and Dan, visiting from Nice, and we arrived early enough to see the fournisseurs setting up. Our friend Lionel Alphand of Brasserie Alphand was already serving his beer-on-tap in front of the shop, and inside we met Stéphane from Maison Matthieu, busy preparing cured bonite (a kind of tuna) and said bonjour to Olivier from La Cave à jambon.

Olivier la cave a jambon la ciotat le vin sobre jean-marc espinasse
Olivier from La cave a Jambon
Lionel brasserie alphand le vin sobre la ciotat jean-marc espinasse
The wonderful Lionel Alphand, center, and our friends outside the wine shop


Another guest arrived and quietly introduced himself. Anthony Stagliano, from the service de la communication de la Ville de Ciotat, took photos and video clips throughout the event and made the extraordinary (and extraordinarily helpful!) video of the night's celebration, and we are so grateful! Merci à Anthony ainsi que La Ville de La Ciotat!

Friends began arriving, as well as vignerons and those representing our favorite wineries. Fanny was here from La Mascaronne! And there was Eric from Château de Pibarnon and also Jean-Christophe from Domaine du Paternel as well as Harry from Domaine de La Mongestine, where our son Max is currently completing his work-study.

inauguration vin sobre la ciotat max espinasse
our son Max and friends Marianne and Michel, and Nicolas


Christophe, Jean-Marc's shop assistant, who worked day and night to get thousands of bottles and stock into place, and most of the associates were present at this grand opening, including fondateur Fabrice Dammann who began the Vin Sobre Wine shops (there are now four, including ours) almost 20 years ago.

Jean-Marc called me over to meet the mayor of La Ciotat, Patrick Boré, who had arrived with several people from the mairie. Next, Jean Marc gave a touching speech before opening a giant 3-liter bottle of Billecart Salmon champagne for everyone.
As guests sipped bubbly, including me (sparking water) a reporter from La Provence who was taking notes turned to me ...
and posed a question that everybody's been asking...

D'ou viens le nom Le Vin Sobre? Just where did the shop name come from?

I thought about just how many times a day we get asked this question and it is time to set the record straight, or
mettre les choses au clair...

No, it has nothing to do with one of us being abstinent (as those of you reading our memoir-in-progress have guessed), it is, according to Le Vin Sobre founder, Fabrice, simply an amusing play on the words vin et sobre, wine and sober. 

I find it endlessly amusing, too!  This humorous and ironic twist--this vin, this sobre, could be the story of our lives.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

l'inauguration = grand opening, unveiling
le vin sobre = (literally) the sober wine
le cave à vin =wine cellar (also used for wine shop)
ainsi que = as well as
la mairie = town hall, city hall
abstinent = teetotaler, non-drinker
d'ou viens = where does it come from?
mettre les choses au clair = to set the record straight

MVIMG_20191010_203642

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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S'emballer: Jean-Marc's heart after the 2019 Ironman Barcelona

2019 Ironman Barcelona Jean-Marc Espinasse
In between these letters, you can follow colorful updates on my Instagram @kristinespinasse

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Today's Word: s'emballer

    : to race, to bolt, to soar, to rocket

=> s'emballer also means to get carried away, to lose control of yourself

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following update, click here
À 28 kilomètres de la ligne d'arrivée de l'Ironman Barcelona, mon cœur a commencé à s'emballer et j'ai senti dès fourmillements dans les pieds, les mains et le cou. J'ai alterné marche et course ensuite et lorsque j'ai ressenti une pointe au mollet à 14 kms de la  "finish line" j'ai décidé d'abandonner.

At 28 kilometers from the finish line of the Ironman Barcelona, ​​my heart began to race and I felt tingling in the feet, hands and neck. I alternated walking and running next, and when I felt a stab to the calf 14 kms from the "finish line" I decided to give up.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
  By Kristi Espinasse

My Ironman is sleeping after a challenging 24-hour day, Sunday, in which he pushed his 52-year-old body to its limit. Twenty-eight kilometers shy of the Ironman Barcelona finish line, after swimming, biking and now running... Jean-Marc's heart began protesting. Next, he had les fourmillements--"crawling ant" sensation in his feet, hands, and le cou. At that point, he began walking to the finish line...when his mollet began to shoot with pain.

His first words when he called me were, "Je vais bien. Ne t'inquiète pas..."

I wasn't the only one concerned! My Dad, over in Idaho, was also tracking Jean-Marc--via the Ironman app. When Dad's watch dinged, shortly after he'd gone to sleep, he realized the race had begun. Jean-Marc had dived into the Mediterranean Sea in Calella, Spain, and this immense physical épreuve--among men half his age..and a few older--was on.
 

Screenshot_20191006-194743

Dad's watch continued to ding throughout the night, alerting him (and my belle-mère?) to Jean-Marc's progress. By the next morning when the sun rose in Idaho, Jean-Marc had finished the biking and was now running. But my Dad became concerned when Jean-Marc fell off the radar and could no longer be tracked...had Jean-Marc had an accident?

Screenshot_20191006-194621

Meantime here in La Ciotat, my phone was dinging as well. It dinged when I went out to feed the chickens their breakfast, dinged after I made our daily bread, and dinged on my way to church...and dinged when I returned home and when I took my nap. I was amazed to check my husband's progress thanks to each alert. It was incredible to think that while the rest of us were going about our day, waking, eating, gardening, sleeping, Jean-Marc was carefully meting out his energy reserves on what would be for him a 12-hour course.

I was thankful our son Max had driven across the border with his Dad to help out with the equipment and cheer him on in person. Speaking of Max, this is the reason Jean-Marc had called so late at night....

"Everything thing is ok," my husband assured me. 

My sleepy brain tried to process Jean-Marc's words. Why was he calling? What had happened? Last I checked he was 2 hours from the finish line. Where was Max? 

Max was fine (indeed he'd had a thrilling day following his dad, cheering him on, photographing him, and enjoying the Spanish seaside town. He too was receiving those dings, or notifications... while he ate ribs, spoke in Spanish to the locals, and even managed a little spa time during the 12 hours that his father advanced toward the finish line....

But he was currently unaware of his father's injury. "Call Max and tell him I will meet him back at the hotel."
Jean-Marc's voice was level and I knew not to ask too many questions, but to get the message to Max asap. 
When next I heard back from the two, they were already on the road, for the 4.5-hour drive home (with Max at the wheel).

It wasn't the first time I thought: This is crazy. He is overdoing it--once again squeezing a mountain of activity into the space of a day! Driving almost 5 hours home after midnight and after an all-day triathlon! He has not slept in 24 hours. Why don't they just stay one more night and get some sleep?

Because that's Jean-Marc, and I am learning to let him be, all the while keeping a watchful eye on this Ironman.

"But I am not an Ironman," I did not finish the triathlon, Jean-Marc replied, as he cracked open our bedroom door at 3:03 am, having arrived safely home.

"Yes, you are! As far as we (your family) are concerned, you are a Finisher. And we are so proud of you! Tellement fier de toi!"

*    *    *

I am still editing this post, but will pause now to make lunch for our Ironman, who is up and walking around now. If you see any coquilles, or typos--or simply want to congratulate Jean-Marc--thank you for using the comments box below.

For those reading our memoir, you will be familiar by now by Jean-Marc's drive. Indeed it's driven us from town to town, project to project, where he's raced after his dreams 24/7. It caused a fair amount of tension in our relationship, something I am writing about (8 chapters have now been posted). Let's give Jean-Marc the rest of this week to finish his latest chapter. He needs a little rest for now. Click here to read about our memoir-in-progress.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
les fourmillements = tingling
le cou = neck
le mollet = calf
je vais bien = I'm okay
ne t'inquiète pas = do not worry
une épreuve = test
la belle-mère = stepmother
tellement = so very
fier de toi = proud of you

 

A


Screenshot_20191006-194039

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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A lost phone and a found skill: Max's foray into juggling

Max juggling tassels
Learn and listen to this sentence in French, below: Juggling is an exercise of skill that consists in its strictest sense of throwing, catching and relaunching objects in the air. It can be a game, a sport, an art or a religious rite.

Today's Word: lancer

    : to throw, toss, launch 

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French

La jonglerie est un exercice d'adresse qui consiste dans son sens le plus strict à lancer, rattraper et relancer de manière continue des objets en l’air. Elle peut être un jeu, un sport, un art ou encore un rite religieux. --Wikipedia.fr
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

The other night I was treated to an impromptu juggling performance, after our son returned from Montpellier. Max is home for 3 weeks for his internship at Domaine de la Mongestine, and will return to the university every month to complete his final year of business school. Having found a short-term rental to share with his pals, Cameron and Souhail (also completing une année en alternance) the classmates are getting used to homework again after a year away from classes. And in their downtime, they have found a few ways to décompresser, or chill out (besides les boîtes de nuits!)...
 
Watching Max jongler was impressive. "Bravo! When did you learn to do that?"
 
"After mon portable went missing. Ten days without a phone...on s'ennuie!  Voilà -- I learned something new!"

Nodding my head in appreciation, I studied the juggler's equipment: All you needed were three small balls and you were in business! You could carry them in your backpack, and always have a form of entertainment handy--or a way to earn some cash for a starving student!

Screenshot_20191004-095102

"Hey, by the way, where did you get those pompoms?" 
 
"They fell off the Souhail's pillow..." (aha! I guess Souhail ended up on the couch). "...so Cameron collected the pompons and began juggling. That's how I learned...by watching Cameron's technique!" 
 
"That is so cool, Max! But are you sure you all didn't help that pillow to lose a few more tassels?"
 
"Haha. We came up with a second use, too... Each night after dinner, we each tossed a pompon. Whoever made a basket did not have to do dishes!"

Gosh, now I really wanted my own set of these ever-amusing and useful pompons. I don't think any of our pillows have tassels on them, so the first trick will be to look at all the objects in our house... with fresh eyes!  Maybe some wine corks would work? We've got plenty of those!

     *    *    * 
I'll take this opportunity to remind you that Jean-Marc has opened his wine shop here in La Ciotat. It is so easy to access. Simply exit the freeway in La Ciotat, take the first right and you're there--at Le Vin Sobre wineshop If Max is in, he'll share his pompons with you. There is also a puzzle you can help finish and next time I stop in I am dropping off a guitar. And there are books! This should make the shop even cozier, so stop in and enjoy a glass of wine.

Jean-marc reading words in a french life
Jean-Marc, pretending to read Words in a French Life , in stock now! :-)

Jackie Jean Marc Max Kristi at Vin Sobre Wine shop La Ciotat
Are you on Instagram? More photos from day-to-day life, follow me here

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une boîte de nuit = nightclub
en alternance = work/study training program  
décompresser = relax, chill out
une boîte de nuit = nightclub, club
on s'ennuie = one gets bored
jongler = to juggle
un portable = cell phone, mobile phone
un pompon = pompom, tassel
 
 
In this contemporary version from Paulist Productions, Barnaby ekes out a bare existence juggling in the street for coins. He is broken-hearted over the death of his wife and best friend. Barnaby drifts aimlessly until he stays in a small community where he is treated kindly. As Christmas approaches, all are making special gifts for the Lord. Click here to view The Juggler of Notre Dame

IMG_20150511_202424
Another ball game Max (second on left) loves: pétanque. Photo taken at our former vineyard, Mas des Brun. That's Jackie on the right. Wish her luck, she passes her bartending exam in Miami next week!

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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Dolphin...and other seaworthy terms in French

Coastline in la ciotat

Many people are unaware of it, but this sea is home to dolphins, whales, cachalots, and pilot whales. Learn this sentence in French, in the soundfile section, below.

Today's Word: le dauphin

    : dolphin
    : heir to the throne
    : runner-up (beauty competition)

In books: Pronounce it Perfectly in French

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce dolphin in French in the following sentence
Beaucoup l’ignorent, mais cette mer abrite des dauphins, des baleines, des cachalots, ou encore des globicéphales. --Cetus Méditeranée


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

(This story first appeared in France Today magazine)

Coucou from down South. Having shared with you the beauty of our lively port city, La Ciotat, there is now one more thing to shout about: our coastline has recently been crowned La Plus Belle Baie du Monde! And though it is physically impossible to crown a body of water, one could prop a couronne on one of the hundreds of dolphins that regularly grace our shoreline!

Our sparkling baie en croissant will boast this title all year, at which point another aquatic beauty gets to bask in the saltwater spotlight (past winners include Mont-Saint-Michel Bay and the Bay of San Francisco). For now, we Ciotadins are gazing at our seafront with a new appreciation. And what better way to experience the splendour...than from a historical boat?

Les pointus as they are called, are the colorful fishing vessels you see bobbing in the port in Marseilles, in Cassis, in Sanary, and here in La Ciotat. And after wishing for one for decades (ever since strolling as newlyweds along the calanque of Sormiou) our dream has come true! We will soon be the lucky owners of one of these barques de pêche--built in 1925! Meantime, as Provencal bureaucracy kicks in (it's like winning the lottery to get to buy one of these boats with its own slip), the current owner has granted us access.

Pointu wooden boat carenage
old wooden boats during the carénage

Recently, Jean-Marc and I enjoyed a relaxing sortie.... After packing a thermos of tea (for the chilly sea breeze), and a bottle of rosé--and some sweet and savory goodies from la boulangerie, we set sail towards L'Ile Verte--the nearest island--only 10 minutes away in put-put time. This one-hundred-year-old barquette is slow...and so close to the water you can reach over the side and touch it!

Nearing The Green Island, Jean-Marc tossed the anchor overboard and we rocked peacefully for the next hour, enjoying the magnificent scenery (including Le Bec de L'Aigle--an impressive Eagle shape in the rocky coastline), and so many gabians--that's southern French for goéland, or seagull. On this day the French airforce flew jets overhead and with a whoosh they appeared over the island's Mediterranean forest every quarter of an hour. What a show!

If only my husband had more to show from the end of his fishing line.... It seemed the arapèdes he'd hooked there were not fooling the local daurade. Even les loups turned their noses. Next time he should try cake, I thought, as I began to doze off....

Lying there on the wooden sideboard, I dreamt I was eating une galette des rois, when suddenly I bit into the fève inside! My husband, following tradition, placed the cake's cardboard crown on my sleepy head...but the wind carried it right off. Searching for it in the distance, I saw the golden glimmer just as the dauphin disappeared underwater.

Oh, indeed! I thought, waking up. The Most Beautiful Bay in the World has received its deserved crown!

Cliff falaise along coastline la ciotat

FRENCH VOCABULARY
coucou = hello
la plus belle baie du monde = most beautiful bay in the world
la couronne = crown
croissant = crescent
le pointu = wooden fishing boat
la calanque = rocky inlet
la barque de pêche = fishing boat
la sortie = trip, outing
le gabian = seagull, gull
le goéland = seagull
un arapède = limpet
la daurade = sea bream
le loup de mer = sea bass
la galette des rois = king cake
la fève = fava bean
le dauphin = dolphin

In books: Mastering French Vocabulary and 2000 Most Common French Words in Context

Yellow euphorbia and a euphoric view of the bay and the Green Island (1)
You can see many more pictures of daily life here in La Ciotat via my Instagram gallery, here.

Jeanmarc on a pointu traditional wooden boat from provence
One more reason to visit La Ciotat is to stop into our wine shop/épicérie--located conveniently off the freeway (take a right at the very first roundabout). Jean-Marc is there most days, and we will organize meetups, tastings, and a wine workshop for those interested. Thanks for telling a friend!

Parc mugel bench sea

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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