Guess Where Jackie is moving?... and the expression “être sur son trente-et-un”
Une saccade + Tic Talk: Let's talk about tics (did you know "Tourettes" is named after a Frenchman?)

An exhausting surprise at Jackie’s Alpine “hébergement”

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.

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 

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

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Great vocabulary enhancement for folks planning a move to France. Well done, Kristi.

Sarah LaBelle

Charrette, that is the term architects in the US use to describe staying up all night when working to meet a deadline. Architecture students do this. I once worked with a team led by architects for a week, and found I could not work 24 hours without sleep, no matter the pressure. I was young then, yet I fell asleep trying. It was great doing the project, and we did complete on time, presented to city officials and any residents who wanted to listen.

From a dictionary
the intense final effort made by architectural students to complete their solutions to a given architectural problem in an allotted time or the period in which such an effort is made.

Good luck to your daughter in her new job.

Deb Locke

Our house in Sablet being named "La Trouvaille," I especially enjoyed this morning's language lessons! We're so pleased to be back in Provence at last, but I also look forward to returning to Tucson in January. 'Will post many Arizona images that you will also enjoy, I hope! Happy Holidays to you and the family from our "trouvaille."

Kristin Espinasse

Sarah, It is so interesting to learn about the use of charrette in the U.S, in the architectural field. Thank you for the info!

Jeanine Woods

Bonne chance a Jacki avec son nouveau travail et apartement. J'ai enjoyé l'histoire, comme toujours. Et j'adore le phrase je suis charrette- ca sera facile d'utiliser!


Hi Kristi,

Thanks for the lovely post and bon courage to Jackie! I love all the photos! I remember trying raclette at a Christmas Market in France and it was miam! miam!

I would love to see a post about Christmas markets in France :-)

Anna Mershon

I have always heard the term as “en charette “. It came supposedly from architecture students hurrying at the last minute to get their models on a cart and get them to class. Architects use the term to this day when meeting a deadline.

Nancy Jenkins

Lovely post. As some readers pointed out, “charette” is used in to describe working on a deadline for architecture students. The Oxford dictionary says it comes from the 19th century in France, when a cart (charette) was used to collect architecture models for exhibition. It is in common usage in architecture studies. I heard it back when I was at university (that seems almost as far back as the 19th century :-).


Actually, it's the fifth floor in American, not English. We English, like Europeans, call the floor at ground level the ground floor, not first floor as in the USA. For us, the first floor is (more logically) the one above the ground floor, and Jackie's studio is indeed on the fourth floor.

I rented a tiny walk-up apartment on the fifth floor (sixth to Americans) in Trieste some years ago. I am a whole lot older than Jackie, and I very soon learned -- as will Jackie -- not to forget anything when I went out; if I did, to do without it whenever possible; and not to buy too many groceries at one time!


"Fifth floor" in American English. The English, like their continental neighbours, would say "fourth floor".

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Passante, for the clarification. Off to update the post. 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, David. I have just updated the post.


Hi Deb: Just reading your comment. We just returned to our home in Tucson from NYC and just today finished making arrangements for our 5 week stay in Aix en Provence and and Paris next summer. I believe we found some vraies trouvailles aussi!

Et Kristi, Bonne Chance à Jacki! Merci pour ta rédaction et Joyeuses fêtes:

Judi Miller

What a wonderful day with your family. New adventures-something to be very thankful for!

Ellen A.

You're a good mom!

Diane Heinecke

Hi, Kristi. Your family sure supports one another. Sounds like Jackie will have quite a challenge. If she didn't lose her stamina working in the U.S., climbing those steps with groceries won't be a problem. I remember seeing much older ladies in France trudging up a hill with groceries. I was so impressed. Let's just hope Jackie's accommodations have adequate heat. By the way, what does her new employer want her to wear? I was thinking about it after you went on a shopping trip with her and she was looking at a chic black pantsuit. I was thinking she'd need a ski sweater, lined leggings and boots, all merchandise that shoppers could buy in the shop. ???

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