Previous month:
October 2020
Next month:
December 2020

Entries from November 2020

How to say cane (or trekking pole...) + photos from French Alps

IMG_20140102_143442
Our golden retriever, Smokey, and one of his many sticks. In today's story, Jean-Marc searches for the perfect bâton along the sentier to Fontenil, high up in the Southern Alps. Read along and learn a dozen useful French terms including a funny word for perfectionist...

Today's Word: le bâton

    : stick, cane, staff
    : le bâton de ski = ski pole

Sound file: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French and in English.Un alpenstock est un long poteau en bois avec une pointe en fer, utilisé par les bergers pour voyager sur les champs de neige et les glaciers des Alpes depuis le Moyen Âge. Les alpinistes francophones appelaient cet objet un "bâton". An alpenstock is a long wooden pole with an iron spike tip, used by shepherds for travel on snowfields and glaciers in the Alps since the Middle Ages. French-speaking climbers called this item a "baton".

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Le Fignoleur (The Perfectionist)

On a hike with Jean-Marc in Le Parc National des Ecrins, I discovered my husband's rare perfectionist side. This quirky behavior began after he picked up a fallen branch and, snapping it in two, carefully fashioned a walking stick. Advancing along a trail of faded pine needles, my guide reached for another branche d'arbre, examined it thoughtfully, and tossed the one he had been using.

Tu veux que je t’en fasse un? Would you like me to make you one? Jean-Marc offered.

Non merci. I needed both hands to fall on as we advanced up the rocky ravine, even if I felt surefooted in my tightly-laced bottes de randonnée.

Kristi at Ecrins national park

C'était dommage, Jean-Marc remarked, to have missed the changing colors of the beautiful mélèze trees. The leaves on these conifers were now a dull brown, but there were other vivid scenes to enjoy: the clear blue sky and the candy red berries on the trees in the fields we'd passed earlier, where the moist earth was upturned by wild sangliers in search of bulbs. 

"I didn't know there were wild pigs in the Alps...." I said, reaching to pick up one of the bulbs the boars had left behind.

Eh oui, my Montagnard replied, wrestling with yet another found branch. His foot pinning it down, he pulled one end of the branch until it snapped in two. Voilà! As he measured it against the previous stick, until the length was to his liking, I was about to tease him for such fastidiousness. Instead, curiosity won out. I wondered, was there a specific term for this stick Jean-Marc was so obsessed with? 

"C'est un bâton," Mr. Finicky answered. Such an ordinary word compared to these synonyms I would later look up, like alpenstock or trekking pole or shillelagh! 

"A good one should come up to your chin. Comme ça," Jean-Marc demonstrated, leaning against his latest find. "High enough to balance a pair of jumelles...." Too bad he had forgotten those binoculars. On second thought, Jean-Marc was so intent on finding the perfect bâton, he couldn't focus on much else—though he didn’t miss the chamois, when it clipped past, some 200 meters below us. Regarde!!

The fawn having disappeared from view, my husband began smoothing out the “handle” of his (6th? 7th? 8th?) bâton, using the rough bark of a larch tree to saw the tip. Running his fingers over the edges, Ça y est! It looked like this would be the one!

I watched my mountain man set off now, down the canyon, over a deep bed of crunchy autumn leaves. And it made me smile to see him stomp down with his feet, and tap the ground with his bâton, rien que pour le plaisir, just for the pleasure of hearing the sounds of fall. 

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le bâton = stick
le sentier = path, way
le fignoleur/la fignoleuse = perfectionist
la branche d'arbre = tree branch
bottes de randonnée = hiking boots
c'est dommage = it's too bad
le mélèze = larch tree
le sanglier = wild boar
le montagnard = mountain dweller
les jumelles = binoculars

le chamois = fawn

Regarde! = look!

ça y est = that’s it
rien que pour le plaisir = just for the pleasure

IMG20201121110915
I regret not getting a picture of Jean-Marc with his beloved bâtons! For the moment, our roving perfectionist is busy finishing up his chapter, dotting every i and crossing every t, in hopes you will follow along with his (and our) vineyard story.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Une épreuve: Do you know the French word?

Jean-Marc in Mas des Brun wine cellar
Jean-Marc in the early days at Mas des Brun near Bandol

Today's Word: une épreuve = a trial, a test
Synonyms for the French word épreuve include adversité, malheur (hardship), and even calamité. Now for the cheerful antonyms: bonheur (happiness), réussite (success), joie (joy). Every one of these nouns describes our 10-year stay at two French vineyards. For years Jean-Marc has wanted to tell the story of his rise and fall as a vigneron. Now, 18 chapters (36 published installments) later, we are making good progress. Mille mercis to our active mécenes or sponsors, terms synonymous with those who are purchasing our book. We greatly appreciate your support.

Soundfile: listen to Jean-Marc read the following:
Dans le livre que nous écrivons avec Kristi, je parle des différentes épreuves rencontrées dans nos deux vignobles. In the book we are writing with Kristi, I talk about the different trials encountered in our two vineyards.

Excerpt from our memoir, The Lost Gardens
St Cyr-sur-Mer, July 2017

Using the leftover wine cartons initially used to bottle my first and most probably last vintage of Mas des Brun, I am boxing the almost 2,000 bottles accumulated for the last 25 years.

Each of them relates to my wine path, bottles bought, exchanged, produced during our numerous life changes, some bottles have actually moved 8 times! But, like my family, they have faithfully followed me for my wine passion which, during all these years, has given me so much joy... and pain.

I really thought this place was the terminus of our many moves. In 2012, after almost 6 years of hard work, starting and orbiting Domaine Rouge-Bleu, we had found our promised land, the one where to eventually build my dream vineyard from scratch with an existing magnificent centenary olive grove, next to the Mediterranean, next to my family, friends, roots...

I was so sure about keeping this place forever that I remember boasting to those around me that this place was priceless, that I would never consider selling it, not even for 10 times more than it might be worth! This was when I had the feeling of being "King of the World," the conviction that nothing could prevent me from raising Mas des Brun to the same level of Romanée-Conti. My future wines would be the nec plus ultra of Bandol! In those early days were the times where I felt so "high"....

Packing up our wine bottles, I don't feel down. This very depressing period is already behind me. I just want to get ready for another move, which is still uncertain (and which will depend on the goodwill of the French administration...)...and finally "turn the page".

     *    *    * 

Below is a list of Chapter Titles to give you an idea of the book's contents, and the sub-themes in the story, including marriage, sobriety, and faith. To purchase our book, click here.

 

Kristi's narrative Jean-Marc's narrative
Chapter 1: In Limbo Chapter 1.5: Turning the Page
Chapter 2: A New Domaine and Doubts Chapter 2.5: A Dream Reignited
Chapter 3: Relationships: The Jar Analogy Chapter 3.5: A Mythical Summit
Chapter 4: Marriage Vows Chapter 4.5: The Stars Were Aligned
Chapter 5: A Sober Decision Chapter 5.5: What if we move to the States?
Chapter 6: Time to Surrender Chapter 6.5: The Roller Coaster Syndrome
Chapter 7: The Courage To Stay The Course     Chapter 7.5: Asking My Vines for a Favor
Chapter 8: A Close Call Chapter 8.5: Finding Level Ground
Chapter 9: Writing Through it All Chapter 9.5: The Story behind the Lunatic Label
Chapter 10: Adieu Doreen Chapter 10.5: Mas des Brun-Too Good to be True?
Chapter 11: Moving? Again? Chapter 11.5: Who Needs Meds in Paradise?
Chapter 12: The Big Move and our Pagaille Chapter 12.5: Paradise has too many Trees
Chapter 13: A Mas and a Marriage Chapter 13.5: Hurluberlu? 
Blog excerpt: Mom Visits Blog excerpt: So Much for Anonymity
Chapter 14: Staying Sober at two Wineries Chapter 14.5: In Memory: A Touching Dedication
Chapter 15: Laisse-Moi Faire! Chapter 15.5: Moving Mountains
Chapter 16: The Garden of Healing Chapter 16.5: First Whispering of a Wineshop
Chapter 17: Double Trouble Chapter 17.5: In the Eye of a Cyclone
Blog excerpt: A Sobering Intermission  
Chapter 18: Pot in the Potager? Chapter 18.5 (coming up next!)

bougainvillea at mas des brun
View from a 2nd-floor window at our vineyard. When we moved to Mas des Brun in 2012, this bougainvillea was a dying stub (frozen the previous winter). What a joy to watch it regenerate.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


PAIX: Share your thoughts, stories, for Veterans Day

Finding gilbert
Diane Covington-Carter’s award-winning book, “Finding Gilbert, A Promise Fulfilled,” takes you on her journey to find the French orphan, Gilbert, who her father tried to adopt during the war in 1944. In this touching and true story, Covington-Carter reminds us that, “in the end, it’s all about who you love and letting them know.” Order the book.

Today's word: LA PAIX

    : peace

Click here: Listen to Jean-Marc read this entry from wikipedia.fr:
Le coquelicot blanc a été lancé comme symbole de paix pour la première fois en Angleterre en 1933 par la Co-operative Women's Guild (CWG). Il visait à commémorer toutes les victimes de la guerre, aussi bien civiles que militaires. The white poppy was first launched as a symbol of peace in England in 1933 by the Co-operative Women's Guild (CWG). It aimed to commemorate all the victims of the war, both civilians and military.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last night Jean-Marc and I watched half of A Hidden Life--a film about a peasant farmer who refuses to fight during WWII. I knew my husband would be drawn to such breathtaking scenes of the Austrian Alps, even if the movie's theme might be too religious for him.

While Jean-Marc didn't get a holy overdose (alléluia!), if we quit watching after the first hour it was for the long, drawn-out scenes, during which the main character, Franz Jägerstätter, suffers his conviction not to kill--a decision which ignites the fury of fellow villagers and members of his own family, who view him as a traitor.  

Our emotions may ignite when we think about war as we do, especially on November 11, le jour de l'armistice, which makes me wonder: How do pacifists observe Armistice Day? Is it faux-cul to want to honor military veterans (je vous remercie!) while at the same time rejecting war (je suis contre!)? 

As with la liberté de parole, peace is a tricky thing and freedom is not straightforward--la liberté n'est pas gratuite. We all have a debt of gratitude for those who risked their lives so that we may continue to live ours.

     *    *    * 
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Un grand merci to all who fought for our liberty, and a special nod to reader Herm Meyer (90-year-old veteran), drafted into the Korean War. Later, his duty after extensive radio school training was with NATO in Fontainebleu, France.

...and to 95-year-old reader Gus Elison who was bombed by the Japanese in WWII, flew into hurricanes while a member of the navy's Hurricane Hunting Squadron, and who served a tour in Vietnam.

We will never forget. On that note please share your thoughts on this day of remembrance, and mention someone you know who served or currently serves. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
alléluia = hallelujah
le jour de l'armistice
= Armistice Day
je vous remercie = I thank you
je suis contre = I am against it
faux-cul = two-faced, hypocritical
la liberté de parole = freedom of speech
la liberté n'est pas gratuite = freedom is not free

Blessed_are_the_Peacemakers
Blessed are the Peacemakers by George Bellows. Anti-war cartoon depicting Jesus with a halo in prison stripes alongside a list of his seditious crimes. First published in The Masses in 1917. (image, text, via Wikipedia)

IMG_20160815_095309
A statue in the French Alps reads: Chantemerle reconnaissante à ses enfants morts pour la France. The town of Chantemerle is grateful to her children who died for France. For more about Remembrance Day traditions, read the post Le Jour de Souvenir.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort: Correct me if I'm wrong

Garde manger
I am much more comfortable writing about my garde-manger than politics. (story of my pantry in the next edition of France Today...)

Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort
On this, the day we are to find out who will be the next president of the United States... I'm tempted to call in sick from work (or casually "forget" to post this week) because I am afraid to comment on world news, even if I sometimes do.

Recently I daydreamed about beginning a new column titled Correct Me If I am Wrong. For once, I could write freely about current affairs without hiding my ignorance.... Après tout, I don't know a lot about history or politics and only recently learned the spelling of Connecticut (I never heard the second c...and so omitted it), but this has not stopped me from pursuing the career of my dreams: writing. 

While writing publicly is a sure way to expose one's lack of worldly knowledge (worse, one's unconscious biases and prejudices) we reveal a lot about our minds via the interactions we have with others. I still remember the doctor who told me I was an intellectual plouc--a simpleton--all because I told him I had faith. I took his words seriously and wondered whether he was correct? I mean, he could be....

I often think about faith and ignorance and it always brings me back to the bottom line: nobody knows for sure what to believe when it comes to how we all got here in the first place. Not my ex-doctor, not me, not the sum total of humanity. Personne le sait! 

Meantime, plouc or not, if I am comfortable enough writing this blog it is because I also have faith in my readers who are my teachers. Spelling can be fixed, what is vital is to remain in a teachable spirit. Corrigez-moi si j'ai tort. 

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
le garde-manger = pantry
après tout = after all
le plouc = simple minded person
personne le sait = nobody knows
corrigez-moi si j'ai tort = correct me if I am wrong

amicalement = yours

Wooden boat
A peaceful image from here in La Ciotat. Take care and see you next week.

DEVENIR MECENE - BECOME A SUPPORTING MEMBER
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.