"Roof Support" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Leaving France behind... in the following edition. Picture taken near Sablet and Gigondas (that's Mont Ventoux in the background); today's photo may as well be titled "How to Keep Your Roof on in the Windy Vaucluse". (Squint your eyes in time to see the rocks that are holding down the roof tuiles...)

une randonnée (ran doh nay)

    : walk, ride, outing, excursion

une randonnée à pied = hike
la randonnée = hiking
le randonneur, la randonneuse = hiker

Audio File:  Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words Download MP3 or Wav

Le mois dernier, nous avons fait une longue randonnée dans le désert. Last month we had a long hike in the desert.

 Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)


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

Note to newsletter readers: the underlined words in the following text correspond to stories from the archive. Click on the words to read the passages.

Last month I visited family in Mexico and in Arizona and, in both countries, I had the chance to meet up with readers of this blog. The friends in Mexico taught me restaurant etiquette, or "How To Send Back an Order!"(simply complain: "These eggs are as cold as a dead man's butt!"). So far I haven't had the occasion to use the insult. Maybe you have?

Meantime, no dead butts in Arizona... where we busted ours for an early morning randonnée. The pressure was off from the get-go (the theme of the meet-up was The Horizontal Hike...)  and we walked slow enough to sip coffee as we strolled. I leave you with those photos...


One last cuppa before heading to the trail... from left to right: that's Herm, Naoma, Sharron (Herm's wife), Lynn, and Judy.   


From left to right: Rita, my sister Heidi, Karen, and Susan.


Judy, Ann, and Gaelle, whom I kept calling "Susan". Now I'm having doubts about "Ann", whose name I may be mistaking...


Chasing our shadows into the desert... In the lead, that's Gabriel, his sister Monet (left) and their mom Ronnie (behind Gabriel). C'est moi, to the right, in the beige pants.


These three to the right (Ronnie, Heidi, and Karen) were focusing in on the baby coyotes that barked or howled or yelped (???) excitedly up the hill.


This is Randy, who drove over from Cave Creek, AZ. I informed him of my short-lived waitressing job in Cave Creek (in a former life in the desert...). Randy had never heard of "The Desert Deli" and I began to wonder whether it was all a dream... one great mirage!


Stone Sculpture... Those Palo Verde branches are tickling the têtes of Ronnie, Monet, and Gabriel. Can you hear them giggling?


These two desert dwellers belong to Lynn (that's her husband, left) and Ronnie (that's her son, Gabriel, right)...

There's Lynn and her husband. And that's Ann (I think...), right. "Ann" didn't sign my guest book (or did she?). Now I'm having doubts...


There's You Know Who... and that's my sister, Heidi. Cute photo, non? I wished I had on what my sister had on (don't we always?) but my legs were "blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine" or white as a pill, so it was "no deal".


And this is Karen, left, who, along with Herm, made this French meet-up possible! Many thanks again to Herm and to Karen for everything. (And thanks, Karen, for the lovely scarf! It has that European elegance... yet there's a certain Aztec flair!)


This is Herm, whom you may know from the comments box. He occasionally shares a poem with us there. This time he shared one with me, here, as a souvenir of our Horizontal Hike. I had the chance to meet many of the "characters" in the following poem.  Herm writes:

Welcome to my space on the planet
in a secluded wash just off the trail
Join in with my friends... The critters,
singing birds and a few colorful quail

With Palo Verde trees on both sides,
It's a pleasantly cool and shady spot
Especially good in the midst of summer
when the dry winds blow un-Godly hot

Occasionally someone on their daily
hike will leave the trail to take a peek
At the rare saguaro cactus down in the
wash, a one of a kind, said to be unique

The excitement, the wonder in their eyes
and, oh, the surprised look on the face
they stand in awe... they can't believe
Siamese twins; bodies joined at the base.

--Poem by Herm Meyer

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments, and stories/poems of your own are welcome in the comments box. Tip: this is a good place to ask and answer each others questions on France and French life! Click here to leave a message.

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In film:  Paris Je T'aime & My Father's Glory

In the kitchen: Emile Henri Provençale Pie dish in azure blue! 

In the garden: I'm looking forward to planting sunflowers again this year. Why not plant some with me? Click here and choose a packet!

Az desert

Thank you, Herm, for sending in this photo. Herm writes:

Here's a photograph of a photographer photographing a photographer photographing a Stone Sculpture.....

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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"Frozen"... or the "permanent press" cycle in Provence. 

enfance (on fance) noun, feminine

    : childhood

Expression: vivre une enfance heureuse = to live a happy childhood. Audio file and many more expressions, here.

French christmas musicFrench Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here.

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

An Olive Harvest and The Fruits of Memory

Jean-Marc and I are picking olives. The sun is beginning to set out to the west, where leafless vines in a field recline under the weight of winter. We are standing along the dirt driveway that leads home. Our dogs are wrestling on the rocky path and every now and then their roughhousing is halted by breathy barks on either wrestler's part.

Hey-oh! Calmos! Jean-Marc calls, when the dogs whip past the backs of our legs and it's all we can do to grab on to the olives-laden branches or be knocked down by the bent backs of our knees!

As I drop olives the color of ripe raisins into a half-filled sack, I am thinking that it would be nice to have orange trees, too! Wouldn't oranges and purple olives go well together? I could just smell it now. There's something so Mediterranean about it... and yet it is the desert that wanders through my mind....

Though my hands continue to harvest olives, I am far far away... somewhere in the Southwest, in the Valley of the Sun. I can smell the citrus grove and see the puckered peels that cling to the fruit. I can see where the sparrows have snacked, leaving the oranges gaping from the attack.

Alone in the forgotten field, I am afraid, but the sunny scent of citrus fruit and the delicious adventure through the orchard emboldens me—as witnessed by the scrapes on my eight-year-old knees. Beyond the tortured trees, I can just perceive the back of a trailer park. Our mobile home is the last on the row, in the single-wide zone. 

To one side of the trailer park ran the Black Canyon Freeway, but to the other side, beyond the oranges, there was a vast wash where Palo Verdes flanked the dry creek bed. Therein was my childhood Never Never Land.  When the wash, or creek bed, was full I would sit on the banks and hunt indefatigably for guppies. And when it was dry, or nearly so, I would venture down its cluttered center, like Christopher Columbus in my own desert jungle. Here and there the banks were littered with beer cans and "skin" magazines. I guessed other adventurers had gone before me; I hoped they'd gone on, at least....

Frightened now, I would hightail it out and over to the open field beyond. There, I would stare up in the distance to Shaw Butte. In summertime the little mountain (some call it a "hill") was lit by the fireworks that seemed to fall upon it. My sister and I would climb to the top of the tin shed which butted our trailer and watch the sparkling Fourth of July show, a pint-size patriotism growing from within, as yet unbeknown to us. 

Back down at the field, past the wash, I remember kneeling down on the sweet-scented earth and studying a green patch. As the monsoon season and rains had just passed, the earth was soft enough for me to quench my curiosity. I tugged at the leaves, which resembled parsley, and out popped a carrot! 

Gnarled and thin, it didn't look like the carrots at the supermarket, but I recognized it as one and the same. Just to be sure, I dusted off the clumps of earth and sunk my teeth in. I felt the rush of rustic life course through my veins... as I feel it now... as my teeth sink into an plump purple olive! The taste is not sweet, but bitter. So unlike my memories.

Soon these olives will be crushed and lose their bitter taste. As for an Arizona childhood, what I'd give to return to such a magical time and place.


French Vocabulary

Hey-oh! Calmos! = Hey there! Calm down!
le raisin = grape



I miss my family back home... meantime, here's a French family that adopted me back in 92'. (I recently wrote about Baptiste, here.) Click to enlarge photo.

Passion of joan of arc Last night I watched, and was mesmerized by, The Passion of Joan of Arc (a silent film that was lost (to a fire) until a copy of the film was miraculously found -- in the janitor's office of a Norwegian mental institution). Joan of Arc and Maria Falconetti are two people I will line up to meet in Heaven. Read the reviews, here. Bilingual subtitles (to the screen images of this silent film) make this a great way to learn French!


Somewhere south of Grenoble, on the way home from Laurence and Philippe's.

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.