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 creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Bonne fete des meres

Smokey says: Bonne Fête des Mères - Happy Mother's Day, a little in advance! And please excuse my floppy collar, which serves to balance my floppy tongue! P.S. Check out Pronounce it Perfectly in French - now with more pronunciation exercises!

Bonne Fête des Mères (bun* feht day mair) 

    : Happy Mother's Day

*do I hear giggling out there for the "bun" pronunciation (in parenthesis, above)? Well, bonne sure sounded that way when when I recorded my husband voicing bun feht day mair); better rely on his accent, just below, and not my half-baked parenthetical sound guide!

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's wish:
Download MP3 or Wav file

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

An Unusual Friendship

Yesterday I watched an emotionally-moving témoignage, or testimony, on video. In it, two mothers stand before a stone-faced audience. Hand in hand, fueled by courage, the women tell the story of a remarkable friendship born of tragedy.

Phyllis speaks first. Her son was killed in the September 11th attacks...
Aicha listens. Her son is accused in the World Trade Center killings.

And yet...

Where they would be enemies, hearts filled with vengeance—
Where they would be in opposition, minds filled with distrust—
Peace has overcome. 

Tears rolling down her cheeks, Aicha (pictured, right) understands her dear friend's words only with the help of  a French translator, who is standing beside the women.

Capture plein écran 06052011 095438 Phyllis says: "When people heard that my son was a victim, I got immediate sympathy. But when people learned what her son was accused of... she didn't get that sympathy. But her suffering is equal to mine.

When it is Aicha's turn to speak, the mother of the accused tells of how she approached the victim's mother:
Dans son regard j'ai compris que c'était une mère comme moi...
I saw in her eyes that she was a mother like me...

Aicha's story pours out over the audience, as stone faces dissolve into cathartic tears. Instead of hate, we learn about how these mothers found another way....

Capture plein écran 06052011 093909
Aicha's story ends with these thoughts on humanity: "We must be hand in hand and do something together..."

Il faut essayer de connaitre "l'autre"...
Il faut être genereux, genereux de coeur, et d'esprit...
Et de la tolerance...
Il faut lutter contre la violence!
Et j'espère qu'un jour on va vivre ensemble dans la paix et dans le respect des uns et des autres

We have to try to know people who are different from us...
We have to be generous in our hearts and minds...
We have to be tolerant....
We have to fight against violence!
And I hope one day we will live together in peace and in respect of one another. 


Take a moment to watch the short video (click here, if reading this edition by email) in English and in French and please come back to share your thoughts, in the comments box.


Le Coin Commentaires

Capture plein écran 06052011 093735 In one of her many compassionate reactions, Phyllis embraces Aicha, empathising, "I had never met someone with such a hard life, from such a totally different culture and environment than my own...

Thank you for sharing your response to this video. Click here to leave a comment

 *photos taken from the video at Ted.com



We are bound only by our own bigotry. Put aside intolerance and prejudice. Quit assuming. Take a stand to step out and get to know the seemingly exotic humans all around you. Photo taken in Madrid.



A Feast at the BeachA Feast at the Beach. Travel back in time and immerse yourself in the Provence of the late 60s. Sensitively told, filled with humor, tenderness and a beautifully descriptive narrative regaling the reader with the tastes and smells of Southern France, A Feast at the Beach deftly blends the foods of Provence with stories that will touch your heart - and just may inspire you to rediscover your own joie de vivre. See the reviews, here.


Check out the latest prices for Kindle, click here and consider ordering today! Your purchase helps support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

P.S. To my wonderful Mom: Happy Mother's Day! See, I didn't forget that photo you asked me for, of one of the flowers in my garden. (Picture taken with this handy pocket camera.)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the 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.