Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher (These boots are made for...)

Maison de village in saint chaffrey alps
Village home in Saint-Chaffrey, Southern French Alps

Today's word: la botte

    : boot
    : bundle (sticks)
    : bunch (radishes)

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Eh bien, ces bottes sont faites pour marcher et c'est exactement ce qu'elles vont faire. --Nancy Sinatra
These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...by Kristi Espinasse

Our drive up to the Alps was getting off to a bleak start. Not five minutes into our trip and we encountered a monumental embouteillage, only this time it wasn't les gilets jaunes protesters--it was VINCI--the company in charge of the motorway. It was they who had closed les péages. I looked out our passenger window to a sea of commuters who would not make it to the office by 9 a.m..... 

Jean-Marc began driving on the road's shoulder, passing two lanes of stalled vehicles to reach a raccourci farther up on the right. Following a caravan of renegade drivers, we weaved back down through La Ciotat...to shimmy up the backside of Cassis. There we broke off from the southbound traffic and entered the freeway north--not a single car ahead of us now. It was surreal--like the day after the end of the world, and only the two of us remained.

On the opposite side of the autoroute, heading toward Marseilles, thousands of cars were backed up. Little did they know what lie ahead. Les pauvres!

The two of us carried on, three-and-a-half hours northwest to Serre Chevalier--where a group of mountain towns are niched among the southern French Alps. It was there, 24 years ago, on the banks of the rivière Guisane, that Jean-Marc proposed to me. But that was not the reason for our return....

We were there to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jean-Marc's friend Fred (godfather to our son Max). It was Fred's parents who loaned us their apartment years ago, for Jean-Marc's special plan. As we drove past Saint-Chaffrey, I looked up the street to where that old telephone booth used to be--the one Jean-Marc slipped into to phone my Dad and ask permission to take my hand in marriage. He burst out of that phone booth like Superman, having transformed from a bachelor to a near-married man!

Nostalgia courses through me when we return to les Hautes-Alps. It was here our children learned to ski, and here where we have our longtime mountain friends--a group of athletic bon vivants who love nothing more than to wake before the sun rises and hike 8 hours (mountain peak to mountain peak?) in the summertime. They are funloving, hard-playing professionals--and for years I have watched them from a distance...in awe.

Coincée, bloquée, compliquée--or simply lacking confidence--I often find a pretext to stay in our cheap hotel room rather than pile in with a houseful of extroverts while les sportifs go downhill skiing or meet for a daylong randonée. I don't have the gear and have all the fear. Part of this (the non-idiosyncratic side) goes back to a mistake I made years ago when Jean-Marc took me to the top of the mountain to une piste noire.  It was there I learned I could not ski. I eventually inched my way forward, on my bottom, cussing all the way down the icy, steep slope. (This explains why I no longer cuss, or dire des gros mots--I used up every single expletive on that day!)

While the black diamond (the word for a vertical ski run?) was Jean-Marc's mistake, I regret to this day that I didn't sign up, then and there for ski lessons. And so, for all these years I've stayed in my room, which only alienated me from our mountain friends who came to know me as Jean-Marc's femme sauvage. In the end, I didn't even bother to go to the mountains, but sent Jean-Marc off on his own.

This time something shifted in my brain. It might have been all the walking (and some running) I have done since September. Or my state of mind (improved from physical exercise). Somehow all those blocks--or one of them--lifted! And when we walked into our friend Guillaume's ski shop, I marched right up to the sales girl and said je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas! 
Hautes alps piste trail hiking boots ski de randonne
Hiking while Jean-Marc does cross-country

Having found a solution to a fear (slipping) I've held on to for ages, I followed my husband to the nearest piste and chased him right up the side of the mountain (OK, a small section of it) but I may as well as arrived at the summit of Mont Blanc! That is how good it feels to overcome something that has held you back for a very long time.

At Fred's 50th birthday party, I joined our friends and danced the night away in my new hiking boots. The faux-fur trim is an affectionate nod the femme sauvage at heart who is, little by little, climbing her way out of her hotel room--to the dance floor and beyond.

Non-slip bottes de neige
Visit our mountain friends here:
Guillaume's ski shop 
Benjamin and Virginie's restaurant (menu pictured below)
Lionel's Bière Alphand
Hervés Hotel (not the cheap room I mentioned in my story!)

Le white restaurant at serre-ratier benjamin melquiond


la botte = boot
un embouteillage = traffic jam
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
le péage = toll (booth, bridge)
VINCI = partner to the French government, this company is in charge of many of the roadways throughout France
le raccourci = short cut
les pauvres = poor things!
bon vivant = one who enjoys life
coincé(e) = uptight
sportif, sportive
= athletic, sporty type
ski de randonnée = ski touring
une piste = track
je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas = I would like non-slip boots
merci = thanks
femme sauvage = wild, unsociable woman
Little chalet of dreams
A stone chalet in the Hautes-Alps. Do you enjoy reading about this part of France?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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  Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
 Shelter on a rainy day. Read on, in today's story.

vadrouiller (vah-drouih-ay)

    to roam, wander, trail along

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc

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J'ai vadrouillé toute la journée à Paris, en attendant mon train. 
To roam. I roamed all day in Paris, waiting for my train.

        Paris shopping bag

I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. A percentage of sales will support the nature conservancy. Order one here.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I have waited out the rain for two hours in a family run café along Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg. Family run, if you consider the conical condition of the waitress (a pointy pouch predicates a boy, the French told me, when I was in the same condition as she. Three months later, Max was born, as if by symmetry). 

Shouldn't she be resting instead of dashing to-and-fro, drying the raindrops that land in perpendicular plop-plop!-plops! on chairs which line the shoulder of the trottoir?

From my perch, beneath a glass awning, one step up from the flooding sidewalk, raindrops land on the tables, not far from my feet. I have been watching the locals, the vagabonds, the globe-trotters, and the tourists duck into door frames, eke out asylum under awnings, jump puddles, and dash for metro, just opposite, kitty-corner.

I study the darkened square en face. One side is lined with taxis. Out of the question. I will not take a taxi, the price of which represents one night in a youth hostel (single room: 40 euros, no bath, no toilet). I should know: I have been doing homework for my next périple through Paris. (Apropos youth hostels: one doesn't have to be a youth to be hostel, or to lodge in one.)

I stare at the hostile heavens. It is my turn. I must go, must quit entertaining thoughts of how to get the waitress to sit my bags. How she might be bribed—up to 10 euros (yes, it would be worth every centime to be freed of this weight)—to store the bag until my train leaves (at the end of the day...). But visibly, this won't work. I can tell by the way the produce arrives—lettuce, potatoes, céleri-rave, tomatoes—via a delivery truck. (The driver is drinking a complimentary café-au-lait at the bar). I watch the legumes being lowered, via an ascenseur that  just appeared, out of the floor, from beneath a large tile—next to where the driver is sipping his complimentary crème.  I stare as the lettuce bottoms out into the belly of the bar, disappearing into the basement below, where an invisible chef will labor in cramped quarters for the lunch crowd that arrives at noon.

Every nook and cranny of Paris is filled, by lettuce, a cook, by raindrops.... There is no place for my bag, not here anyway. Not in the 7th arrondissement. But what about the 12th? I will need to take the metro to the Gare de Lyon and search for a baggage sitter.... It is called une consigne isn't it? They do exist, don't they? I have another look at Paris Insider's Guide a free booklet that Clydette gave me. It is chock full of information, everything but where to store one's bags during that precarious  "in transit" time: neither here nor there, loaded down with a suitcase filled with books and sportswear... I might be ready for a marathon, but for the books. So many books!

I should call Robin, or Christine or Meredith or Janet or Penelope or Laurel... or Ann... they want to help. Why not let them? I have my doubts. Self-doubts. 

Ann! I could go to the American Library. Hang out all day... 

Loiterer! Espèce de vadrouilleuse! I look up and notice the pregnant waitress, who is quietly considering  me from behind the comptoir. It is time to press on. Liberate this perch for another self-conscious, soaking, stranger.  

I pay for the tartine and the two crèmes.... Leave a tip for a college fund, never mind that the university is free. Maybe the unborn child will study aux états-unis? Next, I wait in the corner café until a light at the end of the crosswalk turns green at which point I travel, perpendicularly, like the rain, jaywalking across the intersection. Beyond, I see the cannons of the Invalides. The eyes at the end of their barrels are watching me.

Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and suggestions are most welcome. Click here. Merci d'avance!


They say that a writer is influenced by the stories she reads... I am re-reading and loving Good Morning Midnight. It is not for everyone... read the reviews first!

When you shop via any of the following links, you help to support this free language journal!

"No one who reads Good Morning, Midnight will ever forget it." -- New York Times

Sasha Jensen has returned to Paris, the city of both her happiest moments and her most desperate. Her past lies in wait for her in cafes, bars, and dress shops, blurring all distinctions between nightmare and reality. When she is picked up by a young man, she begins to feel that she is still capable of desires and emotions. Few encounters in fiction have been so brilliantly conceived, and few have come to a more unforgettable end. Order a copy here and read along with me!

PARIS, JE T'AIME, a film for Paris passionatas.

Paris Metro (c) Kristin Espinasse at www.french-word-a-day.com
 Smokey says: if you aren't going to show photos of me (because you are behind...), at least tell them that you saw a few golden retrievers in the metro, and how it scared you when they got so close to the danger line on the platform -- but not as much as it scared you when their non-seeing master followed close beside. Can we have a round of applause, now, for seeing-eyed dogs who deliver their charges safely over the worlds danger zones?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

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Nice & Serre Chevalier 029
A cadran solaire in Serre Chevalier. Thank you, "Newforest", for leaving a comment about this sundial:

"The inscription in Latin stresses our human condition: VULNERANT OMNES ULTIMA NECAT,
= Toutes (les heures) blessent, la dernière tue.
= All hours wound, the last one kills."

cadran (kah-drahn) noun, masculine
    : (clock) face, dial

Audio File: Listen to the French word cadran, hear the following phrases:
Download MP3
* Download Wav

le cadran solaire = sundial
faire le tour du cadran = to go right around the clock

In the Alpine village of Le Rosier a wise woman sits soaking in the sun, its reflective rays lighting up the face of her centuries-old stone chalet... which slopes to the side of a winding country road, opposite the cemetery.

I slip by our heroine, camera in my hand--French fountains, sundials, façades on my mind, discretion my hymn. I have 15 minutes to photograph this town, minus Madame (privacy), while my husband and my children wait patiently for me back at la mairie.*

Before Madame, a cup of steaming coffee and a book dress a simple iron table parched for color by the passing of time; beyond, the snowy Alps glisten. I imagine myself in the woman's shoes (make that hiking boots) some twenty years down the timeline: existing peacefully in a petit village montagnard,* just around the corner from the free-flowing fountain. Perhaps after a life of keeping up with the Joneses, this woman is now keeping quiet with the country cows: living finally, simply, in the here and now.

About two meters above the woman's head, a 19th-century cadran solaire* is painted on the façade: its fading face a reminder that not only man-made things--but also Time--eventually disappear into eternity. The previous thought has me matching up words: man/futility... nature/eternity. I think about my picture-taking hobby and what it means to me. Far from feeling disconcerted, I am inspired to enjoy "right here, right now" ... never mind that the photos that I am taking will go the way of the fading sundial: No! it is the hunting and the discovery of images that fuels the soul -- and not the collecting of them: the first is action (read: aliveness!), the second (collecting) is passive and "piling up" and the "up" part brings me back to those Joneses  -- whom I'm trying to stay a millenium away from. Indeed, the only thing I want to keep up with anymore is the laundry (I might have said "my dreams" and I'm sure my mom will have her say about that! "Laundry? Forget the laundry! Go out and play!" And so I am trying to...)

Enough philosophy, which, along with good intentions, has that "passive" quality. It's all fine and well to wise up -- and one can wax evangelic till the cows come home. But sooner or later "life" will intervene as life is wont to do just when "know it all you" thinks she has a clue about what is good and what is true. The bottom line is patience and isn't patience born of love? Stay tuned for part two of this story, where an almost enlightened expat... ends up with a flat and an unexpected piece of good luck.

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Comments, corrections, translations (for the French words in this post....) always welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance! PS: while you're there, don't forget to answer the photo-du-jour question at the end of this edition...


French Clockmaker sign : a reproduction of an old French merchant's sign

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves : made with no colorings, artificial preservatives, pulps, purees, juices or concentrates.

In French Music: "Au sourire de l'âme" by Pep's (recommended by my son, Max)

Photo du Jour (see the question, below)

Today's question: When's the last time you ordered take-out and from where? Tell us about it, here, in the comments box. (photo: A take-out joint in Marseilles)

Recommended album "Liberta" by Pep's (my son Max's favorite): from the clip, below.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.