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Entries from September 2022

“La Douloureuse”: A funny way to say “the check” + A Tourist Trap, Beware!

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Handwoven fishing baskets on La Maddalena Island, off Sardinia. Read about how we got trapped in a tourist net in today’s missive, and learn another meaning for la douloureuse. Speaking of pain, my eye surgery went well. Thank you for your kind notes.

Today’s (Slang) Word: la douloureuse

  : the check, the bill, “the painful”

AUDIO: Click the link below to hear the example sentence + all the French vocabulary. Then scroll down to check your French comprehension.

Click here for thr MP3 file

L’argot s’est enrichi d’un mot charmant. La note à payer, connue sous le nom d’addition, s’appelle, depuis quelque temps, la douloureuse. Slang has been enriched with a charming word. The bill, known as “the addition,” has for some time been called “the painful.”— Aurélien Scholl

In books: How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

La Maddalena c’est le royaume du poisson! Jean-Marc said, and from the selection of fish on display outside the island eateries, I could see why.

It was our second day along the Italian archipel, and we had reservations at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host. Seated now among the stylish clientele, I began to feel uneasy in my sundress and mismatched wool cardigan. Tant pis! I was in good company. There across the table sat my husband, wearing his favorite T-shirt: “Real Men Drive Tractors.” Regarding evening attire, we might be slowing down... But in affaires of the heart we are making good progress. For that I raised a glass of acqua frizzante as my date reached for his Vermentino and we toasted to 28 years of marriage. Tchin-tchin!

They say novelty is one key to a good marriage and something new for us is letting me pay the bill. All these years my husband has handled l’addition, for a “pain free” transaction. Even if the debit is coming out of our mutual account, I don't feel it so much when my spouse takes care of the check. I became aware of this when traveling to the US last month, when Mom surprised me with $500! “It will make things a little less painful for you while on vacation. Enjoy your time with your sisters and your dad and use this to help with the restaurants.” How generous of Jules to offer me spending money to make the bill—or “la douloureuse”—as they call it in France, a little less painful.

Les Oursins Dans Ma Poche? It isn’t that I have prickly sea urchins in my pockets, preventing me from reaching for my cash. It just depends on the situation. While spending is one thing, giving is different matter and something that doesn’t hurt at all (as Jules says: it feels good to give!). But overpaying, that’s another story and so on with ours….

Jean-Marc and I had settled on the pasta and fish (I would order the pasta, he would order the fish and we would share our main (and only) dishes. But when we learned the fish of the day didn’t have a set price (it was listed at 7€ per 100 grams) we asked the waiter for just one serving or “fish for one” figuring we were within our budget.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said he, “we only have turbot in that case.” Having never had turbot, I figured he was apologizing for having only a substandard fish “for one.” “It’s ok, I’ll have the turbot!” I decided, certain it was the best deal on the exotic fish menu….

For a substandard fish, that turbot was magnifique! It was a flat fish, similar to sole, and very delicate looking. The waiter carved it for us and we each had a palm-sized portion to go along with the pasta dish we were splitting. I ordered cheesecake for dessert and Jean-Marc ordered an extra spoon for his “taxable” portion as he calls it. (The kids and I call it Get Your Own the Next Time! But the kids, all grown now, weren’t here and so the bill would be even less—or should have been....

Holy cow! No wonder the French call the check “la douloureuse.” The meal we shared cost 108 euros. Just as I was resigning myself to pay the painful note, Jean-Marc smelled something fishy….

“Sixty-six euros for the turbot? But that’s impossible. We ordered fish ‘for one’!”

“But maybe we should have asked the price?”

“One serving of fish is around 500 grams. They are charging us for almost one kilo!” An argument ensued when the manager came over. “This is NOT fair!” my husband insisted, giving his final word. With that, the manager pointed to the bill and drew a line through the 108 euro total…JM and I were hopeful… until the manager scribbled “100.” 

Fifty euros per person was not unreasonable for our anniversary dinner, and I just wanted to pay the bill (more than ever) and leave before the scene got any bigger. But my husband wouldn’t let that fish go! On the way out he stopped the manager, who was in the middle of serving clients on the terrace. Next, Jean-Marc raised his finger and wagged it like never before. Wag, wag, wag! “La prochaine fois qu’on vous demande un poisson pour une person ne servez pas un poisson facturé pour deux persons!!!” The next time someone asks for fish for one don’t charge for a fish for two!!”

I stood there feeling as awkward as my dress until, finally, I grabbed my husband by the arm, sunk my fingernails in and the finger-wagging stopped. Next, we stumbled off, one of us shaking in indignation, the other struggling along in slippery sandals. 

We passed several more eateries on our stroll back to the rental apartment, and I wondered just how many other tourists were in for a surprise when la doleureuse arrived. Meantime, my husband walked silently. It was time for some humor to dispel the mood, and what better than a play on words?

“We’ve got to remember never to order turbot again. It’s the most expensive fish!” 

“No it isn’t,” JM corrected me. “All the fish cost 7 euros per 100 grams.”

”Well then, you might say we were ‘turbo’charged!”

So that’s my fish story, dear reader. I would love to read about your own mistakes or any tourists traps you yourself fell into while traveling. Thanks for sharing and see ou next week.

***

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FRENCH VOCABULARY 

le royaume du poisson = the kingdom of fish
tant pis = oh, well
les affaires = articles of clothing
l’acqua frizzante = sparkling water
le Vermontino = a grape variety from Corsica, Sardinia, Liguria, and Provence
tchin-tchin! = here’s to you!
la douloureuse = the check, “the painful thing”
avoir les oursins dans la poche = to be a cheapskate, “to have sea urchins in your pockets”

In books: Her Own Legacy by Debra Borchert. A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Order here

 

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The port of La Maddalena 


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A cheery eatery near our Airbnb

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Can you read Jean-Marc’s T-shirt via the reflection in the window?

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my 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 the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering 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 of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Vadrouiller: 7 updates while we roam around La Maddalena

2BF4EC51-81E8-4E57-BDB9-3A33936CF8C1A serene island cove off the coast of Sardinia

Her Own Legacy Chateau de VerzatHer Own Legacy by Debra Borchert: A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Available in paperback or read it on Kindle

 

 TODAY’S WORD: vadrouiller 

: wander, meander, roam around 

 

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce vadrouiller and all the French words in this edition. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

Bonjour from Italy ou on vadrouille. My husband and I are roaming around une petite île off the NE coast of Sardinia. So, for this week’s nouvelle, instead of writing a story, which would require full concentration, let’s enjoy some bribes (breebs) or “brief updates”. I think this is win-win or gagnant-gagnant for us both because you will have some variety and I will get to wander around some topics—as well as some island topography. Allons-y

  • Chapeau! Congratulations to my dad for his recent efforts to acquire a second language (Spanish). He has studied 80 days straight, anywhere from 15 minutes to 2.5 hours per stint, in order to parler espagnol. Really proud of him. (Though I wish he’d parler français.)

  • On allume les bougies. September 23rd. Time to light some candles—76 to be exact. Today is Jules’ birthday. Joyeux anniversaire, Maman! You are a LIGHT in our lives and your wisdom makes us stop and think and be more loving. 

  • Les Cendres - Have you ever seen a loved one’s ashes? I hadn't, which is why it took 2 months to get up the courage to pry open Smokey’s urn. To my surprise my dog’s cendres weren’t scary, nor were they gray and black. They looked like sand on the beach. While beautiful isn’t the word to describe cremated remains, those ashes were peaceful and so was the burial, thanks to the help of my husband. Alongside the urn, the package I received contained a paper heart soaked in flower seeds, which we planted among the ashes. 

  • Les Noces de Nickel: As go wedding anniversaries, 28 years corresponds to “nickel” and signifies resistance, malleability and equilibrium…

  • Sardo-Corse : the language spoken by locals here on the island of La Maddalena, where we arrived Wednesday morning. C’est dépaysant, Jean-Marc said. Italy is exotic, compared to France and a nice place to celebrate our 28-year union.

  • Une greffe - Tuesday I will have eye surgery to remove a “pterygium.” It’s a condition people from the desert or the seaside or from ski areas sometimes get. The harsh conditions (sand and sun) cause the eye to grow a protective layer...and when it spreads as far as the iris it can obstruct vision. Because pterygiums can grow back after removal, a graft is recommended… Mama Mia! (I wonder if that means “ouch” in Italian—or Help me, Mom!)

  • If you don’t hear from me next week it’s because I’ll be strutting around my neighborhood showing off a cool new eye patch. But more likely I’ll be resting in bed watching YouTube with my free eye. Jean-Marc has recommended a classic called La Grande Vadrouille. It’s a comedy and you know what they say about humor, le rire c’est la meilleure médecine.

Bye for now and see you when I see you.

Kristi

P.S. After the vocabulary section, enjoy photos from Sardinia and La Maddalena

B7308FA1-E76C-428F-8167-07E12BA3317DLa grand-mère et la petite-fille. grandmother and granddaughter, Jules and Jackie. Photo taken Sunday, on Jackie’s own birthday—her 25th. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

ou on vadrouille = where we’re wandering around

une petite île = a little island

une nouvelle = story

allons-y = let’s go

gagnant-gagnant = win-win

Chapeau! = bravo!

parler espagnol = to speak Spanish

parler français = to speak French

on allume les bougies = we’re lighting some candles

Joyeux anniversaire, Maman! = Happy birthday, Mom

les cendres = ashes

les noces de nickel = nickel anniversary

c’est dépaysant = it’s a good change of scenery 

une greffe = a graft

La Grande Vadrouille = The Great Stroll

le rire c’est la meilleure médecine = laughter is the best medicine

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A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my 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 the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering 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 of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Piquer: Guess who moved out of our house and stole away with our stuff?

Son Max apartment mirror cutting board painting
Max, working from his new îlot central. After 8 months of renovation, our son is finally settled into his new appartement.  

Visiting La Ciotat or a nearby town? Stop in and see us at Jean-Marc's wineshop. Call ahead and we'll set up a visit.

Today's Word: piquer
    : prick, bite, sting
    : to steal, nab, nick

Her Own Legacy Chateau de VerzatHer Own Legacy by Debra Borchert: A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Available in paperback or read it on Kindle


FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce piquer +hear all of the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...by Kristi Espinasse
Lunch Chez Max

Mom and I were driving to Max's new digs when I cautionned my passenger for the nième time to Hang on! 

But what is there to hang on to when you are seated with a cactus? We had just bought the prickly housewarming gift at la pépinière's, only to discover it was too tall to fit into the back of our jeep. That left the passenger seat....

As the tires eased over another nid-de-poule in the road, Jules shielded herself with a flimsy towel, using it as a barrier between her and the spiky cadeau which was set on the floorboard and stood level with Mom's shoulders. By the time we arrived at Max's condo complex, both driver and passenger were already worn out from the gift-buying adventure. Only now there were four flights of stairs to climb (pas d'ascenseur), to make it to Max's pad.

Introducting FLOF = "Free Lunch on Friday"...
We are so proud of Max for the way he planned and orchestrated the renovation of his appart (make that "condo" in English,  because even if apartments and condos look similar in France, in some cultures you don't buy an apartment--you rent one). Max called on friends and family for all works associated with his condo and managed this bighearted team on his own. Max and Uncle Jacques demolished walls and Jacques put in the dry wall, Aunt Cécile did the woodwork, architect friend Zoë drew up a floorplan, pal Clément installed the electricity, best friend Yann, his brother, and father put in the floortiles, Anaïs added many loving final touches and Jean-Marc and I did various errands and a lot of cooking! In the 8 months it took Max et compagnie to renovate his apartment, and while he continued to live here at home--nourri, logé, blanchi--I often hinted that it would be nice to eat chez lui one day. "We can call it FLOF! Free Lunch on Fridays!" Thus, FLOF was born and here we were, about to enjoy a meal--our first FLOF--chez Max! 

But, as guests...what to buy for someone who has everything? Let me tell you a little bit about how that happened. First, do you know the verb in French for "swipe" or "steal"? It's "piquer"! Here are some examples/funny synonyms of piquer--as well as a list of missing items from our family home:

Max a piqué le canapé... he nabbed the couch

il a piqué le gel douche... he pinched the shower gel 

il a piqué la lessive... he pilfered the laundry detergent

il a piqué le miroir... he lifted the mirror

il a piqué la table de nuit... he swiped the nightstand

il a piqué le repose-pied ... he stole the foot rest

il a piqué trois tabourets de la cave de Jean-Marc... he took three bar stools from Jean-Marc's wineshop

il a piqué la planche à découper...and he ran off with the cutting board!

(He yanked that last item right out from beneath the veggies I was about to chop! And, as usual, he offered a grinning and irresistable explanation: he's taken these items in the name of sentimentality. He grew up with a lot of this stuff--and would like it to live on chez lui. Blame it on la nostalgie!) As for the shower gel and clothes soap, his sister stole it back. (Go, Jackie!) I'd like Aunt Cécile's cutting board returned, but it does look good in Max's kitchen and who can resist that devilish grin, that twinkle in his eyes that says: it's mine now

Despite all that our son looted, I still got him an early crémaillière present. So, you might ask, what does one offer someone who steals? (Quelqu'un qui pique?)

Something piquant, of course!

And so, dear reader, we got him a cactus.

***

Chez son Max french mirror cactus basket apartment la ciotat
The cactus gives a touch of Max's southwest American roots.

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While saving for a dining room table, Max is using this foldout card table (also snatched from our place...). He got the bistro chairs free, too, from our friend Fabrice, at Le Vin Sobre Marseilles, who was clearing out his own wine shop. The chess board was a gift from grand-mère Michèle-France, years ago. Max's cork bar stools (you can barely see one there at the kitchen island) are are available here. The bar stool reminds us of a champage cork and the wire cage surrounding it. 

***
Related Stories from the Blog Archives:
Mortgage is a Creepy Word... (Max looks to buy an appartement
Nid-de-Poule - insight into one of our vocab words via a story Max wrote when he was in high school
Cécile's work - a story about my belle-soeur

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un îlot central (de cuisine) = kitchen island
un appartement = condo
piquer = pinch, nab, nick, steal
nième = umpteenth
la pépinière = the garden center, nursery
le nid-de-poule = pothhole
le cadeau = present
nourri, logé, blanchi = "fed, housed, laundered", the term is often used in a humorous, sarcastic sense
Max a piqué le canapé = he nabbed the couch
il a piqué le gel douche = he pinched the shower gel
il a piqué la lessive = he pilftered the laundry detergent
il a piqué le miroir = he lifted the mirrorµ
il a piqué la table de nuit = he swiped the nightstand
il a piqué le repose-pied = he stole the foot rest
il a piqué trois tabourets de la cave de Jean-Marc = he took three bar stools from Jean-Marc's wineshop
il a piquer la planche à découper...and he took off with the cutting board
la crémaillère = housewarming party
piquant(e) = prickly

Max Jules tv Queen Elizabeth death
Max and his grand-mère, Jules

Max and Jules
Feathers and clouds... 

Jean-marc pasta chez max mirrir
Jean-Marc enjoying Max's pasta. Max also made a delicious green salad and served Magnum ice cream chocolate pops for dessert.

Kristi and son Max

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my 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 the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering 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 of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Redémarrer: Bonjour. An update from Kristi

Sunny English sheepdog
In Denver, I got to meet "Sunny", my sister's 5th chien de berger anglais ancestral, and enjoy a longawaited reunion with family. Read on and bienvenue to new subscribers. Delighted to have you with us! 

Today's Word: redémarrer

    : to restart, start again, to get moving

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

The eightHave you read The Eight? It takes place in France, is loaded with history, and Mom loved it! Order it here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Et hop-and just like that-summer is over. The French call this time of year la rentrée, "the start of the school year" or simply the return from vacation for those of us heading back to work. It is time to redémarrer or restart this blog with a quick update from our home in La Ciotat.

From the Rocky Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea...
It feels good to come home to France after a solo, three-week visit to Colorado. And like anyone returning from a getaway I have a lot to catch up on including, apparently les mites! Hungover from jetlag I stood in our kitchen pointing to le plafond as my husband balanced himself atop our wobbly dining table, a sharp wooden stick in his hand. You need such weapons to scratch the buggers loose from from their encrusted nests. Allez! Oust! Begone unwelcome weevils! Get out of my oatmeal, get out of my rice, get out of my life!

It is time to calm down and focus on writing and it doesn't come easy after a two-month pause. Writing for a living means the brain is constantly churning. Everything is grist for the mill! The mind chatters possible sentences, edits phrases, rearranges ideas and words only to scatter when facing a blank page. All that brain sweat for nothing. Two summers ago I decided to go on summer break "just like teachers do," and rest my head. I still don't know whether that's a good idea or not. I think this summer taught me that writing regularly is more than a healthy discipline--it is an anchor.

There, I've said everything but what I came here to tell you. Let those previous paragraphs be a warm up and now let's sprint to the finish with a recap of my time in Denver: After 3-and-a-half years apart from my family, I had the chance to see my sisters, Heidi and Kelley, and our Dad for a belated 80th birthday celebration. While this was the highlight of my trip, so were the many hugs from my niece and nephew, and seeing the two off to college at CU in Boulder. I also got to experience a “Tailgate party” before the CU football game, and, back in Denver, savored enough Mexican food and pastrami sandwiches and Triscuits to hold me over until the next time. Oh, and we discovered Elk burgers (thanks Rondo and Tom!) and Colorado corn so good it makes organic French maïs taste like cardboard. I will need to better explore the French farmers markets during corn season--and update you.

Kelley-heidi-Dad-Kristi
My sisters Kelley and Heidi, our Dad, and me in Boulder.

Other highlights included a special gift delivery from a reader (see painting below), keeping up with my sister on daily walks with sheepdog Sunny (Heidi is a jet plane while I'm a hangglider) and a sober dance in the rain at a biker bar! But I'll save that one for now. A writer must always have a story up her sleeve and the option to leave it there!

Now, back to those pesky pantry invaders and to other areas needing attention and care here at home. Tell me, how are you and how was your summer? I would love to hear about it in the comments. And thank you so very much for reading these French-infused updates, moths and all!

Amicalement,

Kristi

Edits to this post are welcome and appreciated. Merci beaucoup!



FRENCH VOCABULARY
Are any of the following words new to you? Which is your favorite term and which is hardest to pronounce? 

le chien de berger anglais ancestral = old English sheepdog
bienvenue = welcome
redémarrer = to restart
et hop! = and that's it! and just like that!
la mite = moth
le plafond = ceiling
allez! = go on!
oust! = get outta here!
le maïs = corn
amicalement = yours

 

IMG_4064

Thanks, artist Judy Feldman, for this precious rendition of our dearly departed dog. Those eyes! That tongue! That soft, silky, golden hair... That's our Smokey! Hard to believe he's been gone two months.  

IMG_4112

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my 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 the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering 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 of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens