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Entries from November 2021

An exhausting surprise at Jackie’s Alpine “hébergement”

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Serre Chevalier Vallée, with its snow-capped cimes. Photo by Jean-Marc

TODAY’S WORD: se soutenir 

: to help one another, to support one another

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Listen to Jean-Marc’s recording, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On Monday, Jules and Smokey opted to stay cozy at home while the remaining members of our household made the three-and-a-half-hour trajet from La Ciotat to Serre Chevalier. Jackie moves there next week, but this week her two-day formation began, and we wanted to be there pour la soutenir

Having dropped Jackie at Jules Melquiond Sports, we took advantage of le déplacement to get some work done. For our son, Max, a wine salesman at Domaine de La Mongestine, that meant visiting a few accounts in nearby Briançon, including a cool wine cellar called 1000 & Cimes, and a favorite restaurant Le White, located high up on the snowy slopes. Meantime, Jean-Marc checked on a few of his clients in Chantemerle village... and my job was to tag along, paying close attention to all the details in order to report back to you, Dear Reader. The pressure is on, now, to type up this report by Friday. Je suis à la bourre! Je suis charrette!

I really love this last term "charrette", learned while watching yet another wine tasting. This time we were chez Hervé et Eliane in their lively chalet in Monetier-les-Bains. The couple heartily welcomed us, smack in the middle of several projects--including a reconversion of their spa/hotel, now called "Alliey & Spa appart-hotel". 

"Je suis charrette!" Hervé admitted, pushing aside the contents of his kitchen table to make room for a tasting of Mongestine wines. Charrette? What an interesting way to use this word! What exactly did the expression mean?

"It comes from journalism and deadlines," Hervé said, swirling some rosé, “you know, ‘to be pressed’." The dégustation continued as I took mental notes for my own rédaction and deadline. Our brief meeting over, we said goodbye to Hervé and Eliane in time to pick up Jackie for lunch at L'Alpin, in Briançon, and enjoy a decadent meal: raclette (a gigantic half-wheel of cheese “au lait cru” heated by a copper bar. Diners scrape (or 'rake') the cheese onto a plate). Miam, miam!

After her first 9-5 day at Melquiond Sports, we met Jackie in time to visit son hébergement: a tiny, 15-square-meter studio located up the hill from the ski shop. Small as it is, this apartment is une vraie trouvaille given accommodations are extremely hard to find (so many seasonal workers needing a place to stay).

The ad mentioned "4th floor" (really “5th,” in American English) and no ascenseur, but we counted two extra flights as we huffed and puffed our way up to the apartment from the lower hill (only 5 flights if you hike up the hill and enter from the front :-).

Seven flights and no elevator? I trusted our girl could do this hike several times a day. But it could prove inconvenient when she's pressed—-when she’s charrette! Speaking of charrette, she's going to need something like that--a cart with wheels--to drag her groceries up all those stairs. Bon courage, ma fille! It will all work out. And it'll be quite a work-out at that!

Voilà for our quick aller-retour to the Alps this week. Jules was happy we made it home safe late last night, in the pouring rain. She and Smokey are the most adorable welcome home committee, one of them wagging a tail the other offering a warm hug. This brings us back to the word soutenir, which is what this trip was all about.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
se soutenir = to support each other
le trajet = journey, trip, drive
soutenir = to support
le déplacement = business trip
la cime = mountain peak, pinnacle, summit 
la formation = training course
être à la bourre = to be running late
être charrette = to be pressed, overwhelmed
la dégustation = wine tasting
la rédaction = writing, essay
la Raclette = a local dish made of cheese, charcuterie, and potatoes
fromage au lait cru = unpasteurized cheese
miam! = yum!
un hébergement = accommodation, lodgings
une trouvaille = a find
un ascenseur = elevator
bon courage = good luck
une charrette = a cart with wheels
un aller-retour = round trip 
soutenir = to support
le chamois = goat antelope 

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Max woke before dawn to hike up and see les chamois—a goat-antelope native to these glorious mountains.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Guess Where Jackie is moving?... and the expression “être sur son trente-et-un”

Chantemerle Serre Chevalier Vallée Alps France
The French Alps at Serre Chevalier. Have you heard of this popular ski resort in Southeastern France?

TODAY’S WORD: être sur son trente-et-un 

  : to be all dressed up, all dolled up

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to begin listening


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse
“Être sur son trente-et un”

Behind a curtain at Le Printemps department store, dans une cabine d’essayage, my daughter is trying on an elegant black pantsuit. The gabardine costume is similar to an outfit a friend wore to Saturday’s dressy gala...

“Jackie, that looks great on you! It’s a classic and you will have it for a very long time. Dress it up or down—you could wear it just about anywhere!"

My 24-year-old agreed, adding, “I can wear it to work....”

Her comment was so innocent... Truth be told this was not an appropriate outfit for her new job. Should I gently enlighten her? After all, this would not be the same dress code as Baccarat... shouldn’t she know that by now? 

By now, seven weeks since leaving Miami after une escroquerie, our cadette was doing better. Gone was the numbness, la colère, and the depression. Maybe it was a good sign she suddenly wanted to wear a power suit? I just wouldn’t want her to feel out of place—when even France feels out of place to her right now. And I’m so afraid she’ll get back on that airplane and disappear...yet I’ve got to be honest with her and quit handling my grown girl with kid gloves.

“I don’t think this is something you could wear for your new job at the ski shop...” 

“Pourquoi pas?” Jackie countered and this time Innocence wasn’t talking. This was Boldness. She reminds me of her grandmother when that rebel spark flies out. 

Jackie’s grandmother, Jules, also worked in a ski shop. While we wore jeans (my sister Heidi and I worked there too) Mom wore silk dresses and patent leather pumps at The Alpine Ski Keller, in Phoenix Arizona. But that was the 80s. That was also a time of transition in Jules’ life. There, in “The Valley of the Sun,” Mom went on to become a top producer in real estate before burnout led to her early retirement in Mexico. 

Back in France, in Serre Chevalier Vallée, Jackie will soon be in a similar transition. While she has recovered from a terrible scam, she is still trying to find her footing, après avoir perdu pied. Going back to Miami is tempting, but something tells her ce n’est pas le bon moment. So when a friend put up a Help Wanted sign in their family-owned ski shop, the universe seemed to be nudging.

Bienvenue à Jules Melquiond Sports!
Since getting the job, Jackie’s been busy researching the company, founded by Jules Melquiond. champion de ski et ex-slalomeur de la grande équipe de France des années 60.... Searching the company’s Instagram account and its website, Jackie shared various nuggets with me as I cooked dinner: “Did you know the shop sells luxury ski apparel? And that it boasts one of the best French boot-fitters in the country?”

Skilled boot-fitters? Our girl is sure to find her footing in the mountains! And high-end apparel? She might be able to sport that elegant costume after all. But for now, please join me in wishing Jackie bonne chance at Jules Melquiond Sports. She begins training next week!

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I leave you with a postcard from the collection of love letters Jean-Marc sent me 30 years ago... the message on the back is timeless as our daughter begins a new chapter in the Alps.

Serre Chevalier est un pays magnifique. Tout est sain et je me plais à venir ici...avec toi. Serre Chevalier is a beautiful place. Everything is healthy and I enjoy coming here...with you. —Jean-Marc

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
être sur son trente-et-un = to dress up 
la cabine d’essayage = fitting room, dressing room 
le costume = suit
une éscroquerie = a scam
un(e) cadet(te) = youngest
la colère = anger
pourquoi pas? = why not
Serre Chevalier Vallée = major ski resort in southeastern France
perdre pied = to lose one's footing, to be overwhelmed
ce n’est pas le bon moment = this isn’t the right time
champion de ski = ski champion 
équipe de France = French team
bonne chance! = good luck!

Chantemerle sapin de noel wood heart door star
For more photos and a story about a stolen kiss in the Alps, click here.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Burlesque in Burgundy... (A Cheeky Cabaret to Celebrate a friend's 50th birthday)

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If you are here for the photo of the semi-clad dancers, you’ll need to click over to the blog for the full version of this steamy letter! 

Today's French Word: le déguisement

    : costume, disguise; dressing up clothes, wearing fancy dress

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in today's séduisante story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Audio file, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Tarzan is Happy"

En route to Burgundy to celebrate a friend's cinquantenaire, Jean-Marc was having difficulty shifting gears in our jeep. His right hand was swelling up from une crise de goutte ! I was feeling so sorry for him until our conversation switched from his gouty arthritis to details about our weekend rendezvous with twenty friends. Ever trying to fit in with the French, I had asked my husband multiple times about the dress code. Each time his response was the same: he didn't have any information in particular.

Getting information out of my man is like pulling teeth! Une vraie galère!

Considering how cold it might be en Bourgogne, I decided on black jeans and a black col roulé for Saturday night. But now, an hour away from Gevrey-Chambertin, busy helping my husband shift gears, I saw an update on his phone from the group we were meeting up with. Scrolling through his messages, a few words jumped right off the screen.

SOIRÉE DE GALA???

Suddenly Jean-Marc yelped in agony as he returned his swollen hand to the steering wheel, but this time I didn't respond "Pauvre-toi!" I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, picturing all the wives in exquisite evening attire. When the torturous thought had run its course, Reason had its say: Oh, laisse tomber tout ça! What would it matter in 100 years? Besides, this would be a good exercise in l'humilité

But humility is also knowing when to ask for help. Our 6-hour drive over, we joined our friends for lunch at La Part des Anges to savor specialties including Boeuf bourguignon, les escargots, and la volaille de Bresse. During a lag in the conversation, I fessed up about my clothing predicament and, illico, one of the women offered to lend me an elegant chemise. Parfait! Merci! 

(Speaking of “fessing up”... Did you know fesses in French means "butt"? If that seems off-topic read on...)

That night at the beautiful Castel de Très Girard hotel the women were dressed to the nines, but after the festive evening began they ditched their gowns and slipped into itsy-bitsy costumes for a spicey mise-en-scène.... 

There was a hush as the guest of honor sat in the middle of the party room, his back to the door. Soon we heard a rumble from the “jungle" when Serge Lama's song, Et Tarzan est Heureux, came on. The door opened and a delicate Geisha took tiny tiny steps towards our newbie Cinquantenaire, fussing over him before shuffling off stage. Next, a saucy cowgirl galloped in... after a few whips of her lasso she exited stage left in time for La Policière to saunter forth and issue him a ticket (which she tucked beneath his belt). As each dancer sashayed her way off stage, the audience belted out the song's joyous refrain....

“...et Tarzan est heureux!”
“...et Tarzan est heureux!”

Tarzan did indeed look happy! The burlesque continued with a voluptuous visit from “L'infirmière” (the Nurse), the sensual “Pilote d'avion,” the steamy “Soubrette” (that's a cheeky way to say Maid) and finally, The Birthday Boy’s own wife, and you have never seen a more ravishing (and provocative) Pirate! 

With forward and backward flips of their skirts à la Folies Bergères, all wives (or most all wives...) returned center stage. By now my husband had completely forgotten about his excruciatingly painful gout

Quant à moi, I wasn't sure whether to feel left out or enormously relieved not to be shaking my booty beside the other femmes-séductricesOh, laisse tomber! All that mattered was whether our beloved guest of honor was having a good time on his half-century mark. Just then, the song’s refrain seemed to confirm it:

Et Tarzan est heureux!
Et Tarzan et heureux!


I leave you with a photo (many thanks to our friends for permission to post it!) and a sound file of the catchy Tarzan song. The lyrics are un peu osé! Here are the first lines in English...

JPEG image
Et Tarzan est Heureux

When you sleep near your husband
For the three hundred thousandth time
Doesn't it happen to you sometimes
Dream that he's someone else?
And when you roll in his bed
Meowing like a young cat
Don't you sometimes hope
That Tarzan is behind the door?...

(For all lyrics in French and in English, click here)


Listen to "Tarzan est heureux", click here


FRENCH VOCABULARY
le déguisement = costume, dress up clothes 
séduisant(e) = seductive
en route = on the way
le cinquantenaire
= 50th birthday
une vraie galère = a real pain, a real chore
la crise de goutte = an attack of gout
La Bourgogne = Burgundy 
le col roulé = turtleneck
la soirée gala
= gala reception
pauvre-toi = poor you
laisse tomber tout ça
= forget about all that
la part des anges
= "the angel's share" refers to the wine that evaporates during fermentation
le boeuf = beef
la volaille = poultry
illico = right away, presto
la chemise = blouse
la fesse = cheek (bottom)
les fesses = butt
la mise-en-scène = setting up the scene
l’infirmière = nurse
la soubrette = maid
quant à moi = as for me
les femmes séductrices = seductive wives
un peu osé = a little daring

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Wearing my dear friend’s chemise. Thank you, Isild 💕
Crise de goutte
Photo from several years ago. A clay poultice (covered with a Harry's Bread sack) to help alleviate Jean-Marc's gout. For more about his painful gouty arthritis, click here

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That's all for this playful edition! If you enjoyed it please share it with a friend. Take care and "see you" next week.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


"Eclosion": Old love letters, a lifetime commitment, and "rien n'est acquis"...

postcards from Marseilles Provence France

Today's Word: une éclosion

    : blossoming, burgeoning

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Sound File here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

There were a handful of letters I meant to include in our vineyard memoir, colorful cartes postales from Provence saved from when Jean-Marc and I fell in love. I never did find the right chapter in which to insert ces déclarations d'amour and, finally, the cards were set in a box of "things to find a place for" beneath our bed. 

Last summer I took several months off from this blog to organize my thoughts and my life. Jean-Marc spent August at his man cave in the Alps... During la pétite separation I continued getting rid of the surplus in our home, trying to decide what to keep...while mindful not to toss the baby out with the bathwater. (Perhaps my husband of 27 years was safer in the mountains while I navigated "le retour d'âge"*?)

While tossing or donating "7 things a day" I uncovered more letters from Jean-Marc, dated 1990, '91, '92, '93, '94.... Turns out that handful of correspondence under our bed was but the tip of the iceberg!

Speaking of ice...

My husband returned from the mountains. Damn, he looked good! All tan and a dashing grin on his face. I began to melt all over again. He even had a gift in hand (an antique moulin à café to perk me up). Any complacency flew out the window and we quickly began revamping our efforts "not to take things for granted." But we would need more than appreciation to jumpstart a new season in our lifetime commitment. Sometime midsummer I began watching YouTube videos by a couples therapist. His tip? "95/5": you assume responsibility for 95 percent of the relationship (your spouse is responsible for 5 percent). To add to this injustice, cette iniquité, the therapist dared suggest I write down each day 25 things I like about my husband or our marriage. I did this for one day...when I had a sneaky idea: why not incorporate the "gratitude" practice into our morning ritual?

Je t’aime parce que...
There began a morning ritual of noting down one thing we like about the other. The gratitude pages grew and another chose was added to our early morning routine: “read one of Jean-Marc's mots doux from the past.” I dug out his cards and read them aloud. Lingering in bed, coffee on our respective nightstands, the sun rising beyond the window shutters, we relived our courtship days, as chronicled in the letters. So many details had been forgotten, like the “Morse” code we used for our international telephone calls (to avoid an onéreux phone bill).  And other particulars regarding our jobs, our wish to fonder une famille and notes on how to care for a lifelong commitment as explained in the following excerpt:

Amour, One thing I consider important is to talk, every day, even if we are tired, even if you don't want to for any reason. Talking sincerely is the best way to reinforce links and to prevent. Moreover, we will have this language problem and talking will help us to perform communication. Don't you think so?

Perform communication...That was Jean-Marc writing in English, 30 years ago...but it might have been me talking today: We need to communicate! We need to communicate!

Speaking of me talking, where were all my letters to JM? Qui sait? We didn't have to wait long to find out. One morning my husband appeared at the door of our bedroom, un sourire enjôleur on his face and a thick manila envelope. "Tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui?"

He found them!

Postcards from Arizona to France

We now poured over postcards from the Arizona Dessert (Saguaro cacti and yellow poppies contrasted with his postcards of lavender fields and old stone farmhouses...), and letters long and short written on company letterhead (mine from the French travel company I worked for, his from the accounting firm qui venait de l'embaucher) taking turns to read or to carefully file the correspondence in a "his" or "her" pile, by date. On hearing JM read the date, I always pause to tease him, “So this was before (or after..) you bought me my one-way ticket home...” It always brings a chuckle...before we are gently quieted by the reminder that rien n’est acquis! 

In addition to the thoughtful cards, Jean-Marc sent me tape cassettes of French news "to help you keep up your French...." I sent most letters from the office, where I worked as a bilingual receptionist. One day, so deliriously in love, I stuck my head in the office photocopier just to have something interesting and passionate to send him.

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In big loopy writing or small hard-to-read cursive, our billets doux progressed and so did our plans. In a postcard of an old French mas from the winter of winter '92, Jean-Marc wrote poetically: 

It is in a house like this that I would like to live, when the passion of work and when age will have reminded me that nature is truly beautiful. And if in 30 years you will share my life, I hope you will be happy in this kind of landscape. (See postcard below...)

And here we are, 30 years later dusting off our histoire d'amour. There are dozens more letters to read and enjoy. We’ll be careful to keep them, and us, together this time.

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une éclosion = blossoming
la carte postale = postcard
déclaration d’amour =declaration of love
la petite séparation = little separation
le moulin à café = coffee mill
je t’aime parce que...= I love you because...
une iniquité = injustice, unfairness
une chose
= thing
le mot doux = love letter
onéreux
= pricey
fonder une famille = start a family
Amour = Love
qui sait? = who knows
tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui? = want to read your letters today?
qui venait de l'embaucher = that had just hired him
rien n’est acquis
= nothing can be taken for granted
le sourire enjôleur = charming, beguiling smile
le billet doux = love letter
le mas = Provencal farmhouse
l’histoire d’amour = love story

*"Le retour d'âge": I slipped this term in later, in place of  "menopause". The term is slightly dated, but the literal translation is interesting: "the return of age"; poetically means: "the change", the change of life

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A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. PayPal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens