Ride or walk
What's your favorite way to get around France? Walk or ride? If you said "ride," then today's covoiturage tip is for you! 

le covoiturage (ko-vwah-tewr-ahzh)

    : rideshare, carshare, carsharing, carpool

Audio File and Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav file

BlablaCar est un service de covoiturage economique, ecologique et convivial. BlaBlaCar is a carpool service that's economical, ecological and convivial.

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

Fill 'er up with passengers!

Certain members of my family are enjoying a new and inexpensive and efficient way to travel around France: le covoiturage!

This all began a few weeks back, when Jean-Marc traveled to the west coast to see about more grapevines (he just can't help himself!). Chief Grape was going to take the train, but that would limit him sur place (how to get to those hilltop vineyards?). That's when he discovered BlaBlaCar.  

"The Paris-based BlaBlaCar helps match up drivers and passengers for long trips across Europe while avoiding the regulatory issues that have tripped up Uber."

While BlaBlaCar might not help a passenger get from sea-level to the top of those hilly vineyards (the service is more for city-to-city travel), as a driver my husband could enjoy those benefits and more for his séjour in Collioure (the coastal town where he'd be lodging, not far from appellation Banyuls)! 

Faster than you can say VROOM!, Jean-Marc was loading his car with his beloved bike and a bevy of complete strangers! Finding the passagers was easy: all my husband had to do was type in his departure and arrival coordinates. BlaBlaCar then begins its interrogation: "would you be willing to pick up someone in Cassis? And in Marseilles? And in Montpellier?... All cities cited are right on the driven path, so a driver needn't go out of his way.

"The key competitive advantage of the company is that it’s much cheaper to share a ride than to take a train or a plane. The average 200 miles ride costs $25 on average." article on BlaBlaCar

You never know what kind of car you'll travel in, when you sign up for covoiturage. But if you happen to get our car (a family van) it will be a little cozier than the one above--if not as charming!

This morning Jean-Marc headed for the Alps, where he'll be roughing it for next three days (I'm staying behind, to meet a few writing deadlines--or, to say it another way: I don't do well camping all night and biking all day with large groups of people!).

My husband left an hour earlier than scheduled, after the BlaBlarCar app informed him last night of a new potential passenger--just up the road in La Ciotat. 

"You're going to get up at 4 a.m. instead of 5, just so you can have one more passenger? Is it really worth it?" I asked, amazed.

But I don't need to hear the answer, I can already understand the satisfaction of filling one's car to the brim with paying travelers! (I'm remembering back to that solo and pricy aller-retour I made to airport in Nice last month, to pick up my daughter. Instead of paying $60 in gas and toll fees, I could have cashed in on a carfull of passengers and enjoyed some company along the way!)

"There's even a social aspect to it: The app's name derives from just users rate themselves on how chatty they want to be in the car, from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla." (Christian Science Monitor article on BlaBlaCar)

Speaking of my daughter, she is the latest fan of covoiturage. Recently Jackie opted for rideshare instead of taking the train from St. Cyr to Aix-en-Provence--saving herself 10 euros (15 euros one way to Aix, only 5 euros when you share the ride). She and her best friend were chauffered by a young law student from Sanary sur Mer. (Jean-Marc and I checked out his profile on BlaBlaCar's website and verified passenger feedback. We could also note his phone number, which is more than we could do had the girls secretly hitchhiked--as so many French kids do!)

When I called my Mom in Mexico, telling her about the new and inexpensive way to travel across France, she begged for a return visit. "I want to go to Aix... and Marseilles... and why not Paris!" Meantime she encouraged me to hop on the bandwagon. "Get out and see the world!" she cheered.

Now to get over my hang-up of sharing confined spaces. Maybe after that I'll go camping with my husband ... who'll then have to sacrifice one of his paid seats, just for me :-)

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Post note: I wish BlaBlaCar had an affiliate program. I might have hit the jackpot after today's glowing review! Instead, the company encourages citizens to spread the word for free; in return we are making the world a little greener. How's that for compensation?

Ken kobre jean-marc espinasse

Kristi Ken Betsy Jean-Marc

What a chance to watch Ken Kobré (center) film Jean-Marc for Ken's documentary on rosé, "The Color of Wine." That's Betsy, Ken's charming wife and assistant, cradling a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. And there's Jean-Marc--can you see him in the window?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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Unlucky in French

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wave file

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.

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

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.


"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.


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Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

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New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

en panne

Flax flowers

Never stop receiving these words and photos (this one, with flax flowers, taken in the back yard)

Today's word reminds me we need a Plan B! Recently I've learned that French Word-A-Day is not delivering to all subscribers. Rather than panic (changing mail carriers), I'll continue sending out these posts via Feedburner. But before we lose each other, please take a moment to connect with me here, via Twitter where I may update you au cas où, or in the event....  

panne (pan)

    : breakdown, failure

tomber en panne = break down (car)
une panne d'éléctricité = power failure
une panne sèche = out of gas
avoir une panne d'oreiller = ("a pillow breakdown") to oversleep

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (and today's word and the phrase tomber en panneDownload MP3 or Wav file

Que faire en cas de panne ? 6 consignes pour préserver votre vie et celle de vos passagers si vous devez vous arrêtez sur la bande d'arrêt d'urgence. What to do in case your car breaks down? 6 instructions to save your life and those of your passengers if you have to stop on the emergency lane.

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

Wearing her Panama hat and her Mexican poncho, Jules inhaled the fresh pine air and wiggled her toes, seemingly oblivious to the exhaust fumes trailing up from the road below. Not two days after she arrived in France, Mom was barefoot on the shoulder of the highway! She may have been shoeless and stranded after my car broke down, but she was smiling bright.

I sat down beside Mom, beneath a shady umbrella pine, and we waited as cars whizzed by. "Here, hold this." I handed over my purse as a makeshift écritoire. Fishing out some old receipts, I scribbled "EN PANNE" across the flimsy paper. Next I colored in the ballpoint letters and tucked the notes on my car's front and back windows, sous les essuie-glaces.

"Lucky for us Max was home and is now coming to the rescue," I chirped, mirroring Mom's  attitude. She was in such a good mood--even after loosing a shoe (her sandal broke back at the pépinière, as we tromped up and down rows of apricot and cherry trees, eventually coming to our senses and choosing a specimen that would fit in my small Citroën).

Mom and the Papyrus 

Shooting the breeze as we waited, I thanked Mom for the tall, leafy papyrus, which was recovered from the passenger seat and now stranded beside us, here on the bande d'arrêt d'urgence. "I've got another pair of sandals for you!" I added, remembering my collection--all gifts from mon beau-père John, who sends them along with Mom each time she comes to visit from her home in Mexico.

When my son arrived, I argued when he got into my car and tried to start it. "I wouldn't do that if I were you! There is a really strange odor... What if the car explodes?!

Max brushed me off and got into my car and--amazingly--drove off! I watched as the car lurched forward and back, all the way up the road. 

"What is he doing?!" 

"He is taking care of things," Mom announced. "He's 19 years old. His friends' cars must break down all the time, Honey. He knows what he is doing."

Five minutes later Max was running back to us, sans voiture. "I found a parking space opposite the mechanic's."

"He's just saved you a hundred dollar tow fee," Max's grandmother pointed out. "Smart kid!"

Normally, when my son's street smarts kick in, I remind him he gets his brains from me (nevermind I was last in my class to graduate). But this time it was normal to give credit to the bright-eyed grand-mère who stood clasping her hands in admiration.

Looking at my son (who finishes high school this week) I had to admit, "You get those brains from Grandma Jules!"

Max won't be graduating last in his class, because he's madly studying for the baccalauréat. Wish him luck! He'll need to pass this high school exam to make it into a university.

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 Son Max, his grand-mère Jules, and the papyrus she gave us. The sign above the tip of Mom's hat is serendipidous. It reads Merci. Thanks Max!

My beautiful maman. Plates full of salad and jam jars filled will water, we're enjoying every moment together, Mom and I! Those are Jean-Marc's muddy docksiders in the background--beside another bouquet of his vineyard wildflowers.


tomber en carafe = slang for to break down on the side of the road
une écritoire = writing tablet
en panne = broken down
un essuie-glace = windshield wiper
la pépinière = plant nursery
bande d'arrêt d'urgence = emergency lane
le beau-père = stepfather, father-in-law

Jean-marc and vines

In other happenings, Jean-Marc scored when a wine nursery gave him a couple dozen orphans! These Tibouren vines are an ancient variety primary grown in Provence. See the babies, above, with their waxy red "hats". The shoots will soon break through the wax and leaves will appear. Presto, a grape is born!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Flic: A near-collision with the cops!

1-Eileen DeCamp
Thank you, Eileen DeCamp, for your photo vignette of Jean-Marc's wine & my First French Essais! Eileen titled her picture, "Two of my favorite things!!!" With any chance, Eileen's photo, taken on Seabrook Island, SC, will work better than my publicity stunt, filmed here near Bandol!

le flic (fleek)


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and example sentence
Download Flic or Wav

A Toulon, j'ai été poursuivie par un flic.
In Toulon, I was pursued by a cop.

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.


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

Now that my daughter is in drivers' school, we, the chauffeurs and members of her family, are under constant surveillance.

"T'as pas le droit de doubler," Jackie points out, as I speed around the tiny car that was ahead of me. It's one of those voitures sans permis, or "no permit needed" cars--owing to an engine so small it couldn't hurt a fly, or a flying saucer (i.e. faster-moving vehicles that usually require permits). 

Voiture sans permis

Normally my kids get a kick when Mom overtakes one of these "washing-machines," as they are the only other cars that travel as slowly as Mom does.

But back to Mom's misdemeanor... My daughter is right, that was a continuous white line (signaling "no passing!") and not a broken white line that allows drivers to "pass with care."

Yikes! What was I thinking? I must not have been thinking.

Gosh! I've really got to put on my thinking cap, especially now as we are entering the city of Toulon. Suddenly the autoroute forks--and forks again--until we find ourselves about to be swallowed up by an underground passage!

Mon Dieu! They've finally opened the tunnel! After more than a decade in the planning and a false start (the tunnel opened a few years ago, but quickly shut down because of a fault in engineering...). Since, it has become a favorite target for my husband's sarcasm. Each time we pass by the barricaded, would-be shortcut my husband snickers:

"Fine undergrounds we pay for in France! Maybe one day we can actually use them!"

Apparently this was the day. Only, crossing Toulon sous terre was not on our itinerary (the mid-town mall was)!

Seeing the signs to centre ville, I edged two lanes over, trying to avoid the city's underbelly. No sooner had I changed lanes, than a loud grumbling startled me. A glance in my foggy rear-view mirror revealed another car, inches away! 

As the driver blared his horn, the hairs on the back of my neck shot up and my heart raced. But the beads of sweat that had appeared on my brow were instantly dried as my arm flew up and began waving excitedly, along with my tongue, en franglais:

"Mais ça va pas? Gosh! Haven't you ever gotten lost, Mister!"

On second thought, that probably wasn't even a mister, but some just-got-his-license whippersnapper--one who was bent on correcting MOM!

This realization sent my arm waving wildly again. Road rage is a bad thing, but a wee waving of the finger (or arm) at the little big shot ought to teach him a lesson!

Only, a second glance in my rear-view mirror revealed a surprising detail. This was no little big shot. This was a cop!


"What's the matter, Mom?" my daughter's words were warm with concern.

"That's a flic! I just went ballistic on a flic!"


"Jackie! I can't translate right now. That's a policeman behind me!" 

Our voices grew silent as I studied the rear-view mirror. "Please God, please. Please. Please God..." I did a quick mental inventory of my purse, realizing both my driver's license and certificat d'immatriculation were back at home!

"Mom, there's nothing to worry about."

"Please God, no. Please no."

"Mom, that policeman is not going to pull you over!"

The quiet assurance in my daughter's voice caught my attention. I quit babbling in time to listen to Jackie, who enlightened me:

"He is the one that's breaking the law, not you!"

"Ah bon?"

"Blaring your horn at another driver can cause a serious accident," Jackie explained. "It stresses the driver, who might then panic, or even pass out!"

"You did nothing wrong," Jackie continued, confident in what she had just learned in drivers school. "You were only changing lanes!"

As my daughter spoke, I glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw the cop turn onto another road, and disappear.... My 16-year-old was right! Well that ought to teach the flic, the whippersnapper, not to give Mom a heart-attack next time she lawfully changes lanes!

To leave a comment or to read one, click here.

French Vocabulary

T'as pas le droit de doubler = you don't have the right to pass
la voiture sans permis = no-license car, license-free automobile
une autoroute = motorway, highway, freeway (US)
sous terre = under ground
centre ville = town center
mais ça va pas?! = What's the matter with you?!
mon Dieu = my God
certificat d'immatriculation = formerly "la carte grise" or car registration document
ah, bon? = oh, really?


Two places to stay in a favorite village: Sablet!

 "La Trouvaille"--a true find in Provence! Affordable vacation rental in our beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet. Click here.

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. 


Photos from a French Life... The red iron bed once held my daughter, then my Mom as she recovered from her first mastectomy. Then my brother-in-law slept there, months and months, healing from a broken heart. After, the bed moved poolside, but any lounging there was shortlived when my husband decided to set his 500 liter wine barrels there to rest on the springs (a good night's sleep for his wine?). 

A little bent out of shape now, here is the iron bed's current life--in the permaculture garden behind the house. That peeping Tom, in the right-hand corner, is really a flowering fava bean. Spend more time in a garden. There's so much going on in a veggie patch! 

Book Update for First French 'Essais'!
The first week of publication book sales were nearing 800 copies! A promising start for a self-publisher... But things quickly slowed down by day 5. Maybe a publicity stunt was needed afterall? 

On day 8 (Thursday) I posted a video of a first attempt to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew! Plenty have tried this feat with a shoe, but with a paperback?...

Using my new book, I drove out that cork in under 20 whacks! Alot of people shared the video... but did book sales go up with viewcounts?

Hard to say, because something very strange happened instead... Readers began receiving notes from Amazon: shipping for First French Essais would be delayed one week. That was odd, given the book is printed on demand!

Next, I received a note from Amazon's publishing company. Here is what the senior publishing consultant said:

I've been aware of the success you've experienced with your title and I wanted to reach out to you personally to say, congratulations! We are thrilled for you and want you to know that we are here to support you in any way we can.

It is exciting to receive this kind of offer, and my mind is reeling with possibilities. Meantime, can a publishing company help me sell more books? Stay tuned.... 

Enter The Battered Book Giveaway! Winner gets the book used in the video! Find out why this battered book is meaningful to me: listen to my message near end of the video!

To Enter:

  1. Share the video
  2. Tell me (here, in this box) where you've shared it (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, with a French class, or via email).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

rouler de nuit

ile de Groix (c) Kristin Espinasse
L'île de Groix, where we vacationed in 2006. We are heading back to Brittany, to a different island, on Friday.... Note: French Word-A-Day will be on break through August 3rd. 

rouler de nuit (roo-lay-deuh-nwee)

    : to drive through the night

 Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc's French: Download MP3 file or hear this Wave file

Pour rouler tranquille et au frais, roulez de nuit! To drive easy and in cool (temperatures), drive through the night!

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

Yesterday Jean-Marc made a last-minute reservation for a home rental on the Île de Ré. We were unsure whether we would go on vacation this year, due to a certain stand-by situation that has us on a roller coaster of emotion.

Briefly, we will be getting off that roller coaster and getting into our family van for the 9-hour drive west, to the coast of Bretagne. To avoid vacation traffic, or what the French call le chassé-croisé of July-August vacationers, we have decided, once again, to rouler de nuit.

The idea of driving through the night makes me nervous, but for Jean-Marc it is not an issue: my husband enjoys the cool night air, the open road, the backseat peace (sleeping kids), and the music he listens to as he drives (I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot of Manu Chao this year, after Jean-Marc returns from the concert in Nimes tonight).

This year, instead of fretting, I might focus on being a better co-pilot. One thing I can do is listen to my husband when he tells me to go ahead and get some sleep. This time, I'll try not to feel so guilty and, especially, I'll try not to startle every 15 minutes, when I wake up after dozing off....

"Are you OK? ARE YOU OK? You're sure you are OK?" I can't help but quiz the driver each time I spring awake. Jean-Marc responds by assuring me he is wide awake and I should rest easy, only, deep down I know that he is only human, capable of nodding off.... T'es sûr que ça va???

Experience reveals him to be an alert and precautious driver. He's driven us from France all the way to Croatia. He's driven from Sainte Cécile to Sicily. Those long hauls make this drive to Brittany a trip around the block. And should he tire, Jean-Marc knows when to pull off the road and sleep for an hour or two, or to ask me to take the wheel for a spell.

A spell! Yikes, that's just it! I worry about the continuum of the road and how it can coax a driver into a trance-like state. To avoid this trap, some drivers roll down the windows, chew gum, or spritz their faces with a spray bottle. Jean-Marc's precautions include a good nap the afternoon or evening of departure and a good supply of caffeinated soft drinks—along with the other astuces already mentioned.

How about you? What do you do to keep alert while behind the wheel? Thanks for sharing your tips here, in the comments box. We'll see you in two weeks... at which point we hope to have some good news to share with you!

P.S. After two skin cancer surgeries this year, driving in the dark is also a good precaution! Now to figure out what to do on this sunny vacation—when my family is at the beach the day long. How about an early morning swim or a late night dip? And this might be a good time to return to knitting, after giving up? Please share some sun-skirting ideas and activities here in the comments box. Many thanks in advance--and I hope you are remembering to wear sun block, too!

 I leave you with our itinerary...

View Larger Map

French Vocabulary

la Bretagne = Brittany

le chassé-croisé = comings and goings

rouler de nuit = drive through the night

t'es sûr que ça va = you're sure everything's OK?

une astuce = trick, tip, helpful idea

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Father and daughter in 2006. 

Smokey says, Why can't I come with you? I promise not to ask "how long till we get there?" and I won't fight with the other kids in the back seat. Please, take me on vacation with you!" (Smokey, you and Mama Braise are headed to Uncle Jacques, in Avignon. He's going to spoil you rotten--fun, games, forbidden food--so no complaining!)


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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ceder le passage

Bull dog by the sea (c) Kristin Espinasse
Name this photo! Click here to add a picture title or a thought bubble. (Photo taken near St Cyr-sur-Mer).

céder le passage à quelqu’un

: to yield (when driving)

A Day in a French Life… by Kristin Espinasse

I woke up this morning with the nagging doubt that the kids might not make it to school today—worse, that we might be stranded on the side of the road, our thumbs awkwardly stuck out as we begged an early morning ride.

I should have filled the tank yesterday! And now, our car was almost out of gas. The nearest station is in Camaret, but that would mean backtracking. I could drive to Tulette, but was the pump open this early?

Just as I began calculating the distance from Sainte Cecile to Pierrelatte, Max offered  a solution. “There’s one near my collège. I’ll drive us there.”

Well, why not ? He has completed his cours de conduite, and the drive would count towards the 1000 hours kilometers of road time he would need to accumulate in order to get his license (but not before the age of 18).

Max, Jackie, and I buckle up and are soon on our way to Bollène, driving past fields of grapevines and little yawning villages, window shutters opening as we speed by. The morning sun feels good on our faces and the drive is relaxing, after all. As passenger, I feel pretty secure driving with our 17-year-old, who has completed an excellent driver’s training and knows the rules of the road by heart. He is probably a better driver than I am, but experience has merits of its own, namely precaution, which in my book trumps skill.

As we drive, I offer an ongoing commentary. “Always anticipate an obstacle—a little kid that bolts from a side street… or a dog… or a grand-mère or…”

Max interrupts. ”Mom, je sais!”

“I’m sure you know, Max. In fact, I think you are a very good driver and I feel safe riding with you. But it isn’t you I am worried about so much as the other driver out there. You must be alert! Practice defensive driving!”

Here Max shares the story about his driving instructor who had an accident in the very spot over which we are now driving. It was a head-on collision. He was driving with a new student.

“Did she survive?”

“Yes, the car just spun off the road… ”

The next few kilometers are passed in thoughtful silence. When Max picks up speed, I perk up.

“You need to slow down!” I remind him again. Only, for each reminder, Max has an argument.

“But Mom, the car is registering kilometers-per-hour, not MPH.”

It is too early for me to calculate (or divide?) kilometers to miles and so know whether Max is going too fast or too slow for my comfort zone. I cut to the point. “Well, it feels fast to me—so slow down!”

Nearing the village of Rochegude I have to look over at the odometer again.

“Max, what is the speed limit here?” 


“Then why are you going 84?”

“Mom! Old cars show a higher speed. We are really only going 80.”

“This is not an old car. Slow down!”

As we approach the gas station, it occurs to me that I won’t have to do the messy chore this time!

“Your driving instructors have taught you to fill the tank, haven’t they?”

“Yes,  but I can’t do it this morning. It will make my hands reek and I’ve got to go to school afterwards!”

I shake my head. He sure has an excuse for everything from faulty odometers to smelly gas pumps—and it all seems to work in his favor!

After I fill the tank, Max fires up the engine attracting the attention of the student in the next car’s passenger seat. Subtle Max, you are subtle! Careful, now, not to kill the engine as you did on the way in! You won't look so cool putt-putting out of here, just as you putt-putted your way in!

At the industrial roundabout in Bollène Max slows, observing the yield sign.

I watch as cars speed around the busy circle, or camembert. Although a little nervous, I trust that Max will take his time. Only, when a lumber truck passes carrying a forest of giant logs, I notice Max does not stop!

I watch as the semi-truck’s wheels spin past our car, which is presently entering the roundabout , right on the heels of the giant truck!

Our car slips in so close behind the semi that I fear we will be sucked in beneath the truck’s back tires. Looking up from the passenger seat, I now see a tower of lumber above us. The ends of the neatly cut trunks are so near our faces I can count the many circles that represent the tree’s age. Will we live as long?


In the school parking lot I am lecturing Max, who, as expected, has an argument for every point I make. And when he doesn’t have a point, he simply replies, “Quit screaming!”

Finally, I make an ultimatum:

“Max, you are NOT going to explain things away and have the last word each time! Now, listen closely. I am going to say it one more time and this time you will not interrupt me—do so and you will lose driving rights for two weeks!"

I finally get the chance to make my point without being cut off. “What you did was dangerous and there is no justifying it!”

I wait, lest one more peep come out of the reckless driver. When not one peep is made, I am satisfied and have to turn my face away, lest the smirk upon it degrade its authority.

Despite the grave situation that was now past us, it feels so good to have the last word. Cathartic, even! I can now see the allure “le dernier mot” has for my ever righteous kids!

But that self-righteous feeling soon gives way to simple humility and gratitude. Thank God none of us had the very last word this time!

French Vocabulary

le collège = junior high school

le cours de conduite = driver education

la grand-mère = grandmother

je sais = I know

le camembert = the popular round cheese is also a synonym for roundabout

le dernier mot = the last word




Max likes to lift things, just look at those arms!


Smokey likes to eat things. Just look at that tongue!


No matter what you like to do, it's nice to stop to rest and to look in a new direction. To comment on a photo, click here.


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              Click to enlarge this photo, taken in Villedieu (near Nyons).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

Trajet: Drivers, travelling in Morocco, and the road to Marrakesh

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse
In contrast to the chaos in today's story, we'll begin with a peaceful glimpse of Morocco. Read on, now, for another 'picture'! (Photo taken two years ago, on a family trip.)

le trajet (trah jay)

    : trip, journey

In books: French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student. Order your copy here.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Le trajet à Marrakesh était un veritable parcours du combattant!
The ride to Marrakesh was a real obstacle course!


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

The Motorway to Marrakesh

When Jean-Marc was asked to be témoin, or best man, in the marriage of a childhood friend, he could not refuse the honor--never mind the delicate timing (during our busy wine harvest!) or the not-so-convenient location: Afrique

No sooner had our plane arrived in Morocco's "Red City" than I began to suspect that the town's colorful synonym had something to do with blood, for the ride from the airport to the hotel was nothing short of a death march.

I stared out the shuttle window at fellow travelers along a chaotic chemin (was it a highway or an expressway?). It couldn't be an autoroute... or why would 5 lanes of traffic include both man and animal? By 'man', I mean homo pedestrian, and, by animal... well, there were camels and donkeys and dogs... and monkeys walking along the expressway, too!

There on the outskirts of the airport, we were one great procession, weaving, wobbling, crawling (were those toddlers teetering on the curb of the express way? Mon Dieu!) ...zipping, shrieking, and honking our way forward, toward the setting sun.

As the sky darkened, the fragile human and animal pèlerinage began to fade into the background, where streetlights ...when alight... cast a faint lumière on the surreal atmosphere.

Our bus lurched forward, yanked to and fro by the whim of its heavy-handed operator, who seemed faintly amused by his passengers' terror.

Between gasps, puffs, and more sharp intakes of air, I evacuated my fear, to the amusement of those more experienced passengers. The man in the front seat, on hearing me, began a game with the driver, so that each time a member of pedestrian traffic was spared, he shouted: râté! ("damn, missed that one!"). His macabre sense of humor only goaded the driver, who homed in a little closer, each time, to the living, breathing "obstacles".

From my unsecured seat (no ceintures, or seat belts!) facing the menacing windshield, I watched as entire families were transported on a single moped: father (in a protective helmet) at the helm of the rickety scooter, followed by baby, then wife. (The babies--for this wasn't the first family aboard a moped!--were sandwiched in between the driver and the veiled mother--neither of which wore safety headgear!) 

Criss-crossing the swaying flow of traffic, were the elderly and the disabled... who seemed to have wandered onto the highway from a hospital bed somewhere.... I watched a blind man (he would have had to have been aveugle to have ventured into this death trap) navigate across the traffic lanes, with the help of his cane! 

Arriving at a roundabout the traffic lanes narrowed and I heard scraping... I turned to see the metal bite of a donkey rubbing against our bus's window as the fellow travelers (our bus and the donkey) squeezed together when the lanes merged, or bottle-necked.  

Wait! No! But! Ahhhh! Gosh! Eek! Oh!.... I gasped.

"Raté!" the sadistic copilot shouted, in mock disappointment, and I saw that the donkey's hooves were spared from the bus tires. But I could take no more. I closed my eyes and thought about my childhood in Arizona, where drivers stayed to the very center of the wide traffic lanes. If a driver needed to change lanes, he first made his intentions known by deploying what, in America, we call a "turn signal" or "blinker" (a bright light that flashes a clear-as-day warning to surrounding motorists). As for fellow motorists ("motor" being key), in America we classify as "traffic" the collective presence of vehicles (mobile machines with four--or sometimes two--wheels and an engine) on a given road. And people are not normally considered vehicles, indeed, walking anywhere near a motorway meant that you would be committing a crime punishable by law (JAYWALKING!).

Speaking of crime, where were the traffic police? Who were the powers that be that were supposed to be watching over this swaying, scraping, uncontained menagerie? What about safety?

I leaned forward to inquire about traffic statistics, specifically incidents of death: "Just how many accidents mortels happen each year?" I asked the driver.

"No accidents!" he insisted. 

"No accidents?" Just then I watched another near-miss, when a scooter slipped sideways between a donkey-drawn carriage and a truck... were those feathers flying out of the truck bed? Was that a squawk? And what about the poor souls hidden from view--the casualties who were on their way to becoming casualties (or the chickens on their way to the slaughterhouse?) Didn't they count, too?!

"No accidents!" the driver insisted, and I noticed his conviction, which was backed up by his own testimony. Looking out over the streaming sea of innocents, some old, some young, some furry, some bent, he announced.

"God is protecting us."



Well, I couldn't argue with that. Whispering "amen", I stared, with awe, out the window, at the fragile-yet-confident travelers, who advanced toward the hazy horizon, beyond which the mysterious universe traveled on and on.  


French Vocabulary

le témoin = best man, witness

Afrique = Africa

le chemin = road

l'autoroute (f) = motorway, expressway

le pèlerinage = pilgrimmage

râté! = missed (target)

la ceinture = seat belt

aveugle = blind

accident mortel = deadly accident

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In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

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auto ecole drivers school in France lamp post shutter hanging laundry
The shop sign reads "drivers school". Do you have a minute to read another story... about learning to drive in France? I'll never forget the smug feeling of driving to my driving school class... only to feel humbled, when I had to sit beside the 17-year-old students (at 38, I had been driving for almost 20 years! Yet... it was necessary to pass the French driver's exam. Read the story "Conduire" here


THANKS, to those of you who wrote in, in response to my story about the search for a good "skin doctor"! I am moved by your caring words, as former patients and as friends and family of those who have had an experience with skin carcinoma. Thanks also to the doctors who took the time to write in with encouragement and helpful information. Update: this picture was taken 6 months after my surgery. More about that scar on my forehead, here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

des en peluche


The exact meaning and origin of "fuzzy dice" is unclear, but one theory holds that U.S. pilots in World War II used dice in their cockpits for good luck, and they continued the practice when they came home from the war. (Text & image from Wikipedia)

dés en peluche (day on peh loosh) noun, masculine

    : fuzzy dice

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: (Download MP3 file)

dés en peluche. Fuzzy dice... ce sont les dés en peluche suspendus au rear view mirror. Fuzzy dice... they are plush dice suspended from the retrovisor.

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

"Trying to Wrestle a Sou Out of You-Know-Who!"

I am wandering aimlessly through an auto-parts store, killing time. I arrived a day late to pick up a repaired pneu, but the man behind the comptoir tells me: ce n'est pas encore prêt.

My eyes travel over to la salle d'attente, where a few aluminum chairs and a stack of curdled car magazines are about as inviting as a baseball dugout. On second thought, I'll roam the field....

I travel up and down the aisles of the auto-parts store, quite unsure of what I'm looking for. I begin to wonder whether this may be, after all, the store's sales strategy:

...when wide-eyed woman comes to collect repaired item... indicate the "waiting room" (pointing out the hard chairs, coffee-cups strewn floor, and sticky motor magazines)... and watch her run for the pricey auto-parts aisles!

The ploy works and before I know it I am shopping for items that have never seen the doodled pages of my shopping list: car tattoos, escape hammers, and fuzzy dice.

Fuzzy dice! They have those here in France?! Suddenly I am transported out of a foreign land of auto parts... and into a universal meeting ground. Though I have never owned a pair, I can somehow (in the vague recesses of my mind) relate to fuzzy dice, or "les dés en peluche". Is it an American thing?... or is it something kitsch (like lava lamps and garden gnomes--which also exist in French homes and gardens)?

I stand for several nostalgic minutes, filled with fuzzy, dicey memories of times past, but in the end the ploy does not work (...though I almost, just almost, buy one of those "head lights": a battery-powered lamp on a hairband. Is it for staring into the car's engine? Or part of a survival strategy? ( go along with the escape or "life hammer", which, by the way, doubles as a seat-belt scissor in the event of entrapment!!!)
Anyway, I might have purchased the headband-lamp-majig (and used it to read in bed at night)... had not the man behind the counter shouted "à vous, Madame". Turns out my tire is ready...  

I fix triumphant eyes--batting lashes and all--on the salesmen behind the counter... if theirs was a money-digging ploy... well then it's no dice, les gars! I have all I need today.

Le Coin Commentaires
Have a correction (in English or in French?). Would you like to respond to today's story -- or share one of your own. Comments are welcome and appreciated. If you like, tell us which city you are writing in from and the local weather in your area! Click to leave a message.

Update: For those of you wondering just what were the rare wines tasted during Monday's visit to Burgundy... check out the answer in the comment's box to that "aviner" edition. (P.S.: don't forget to come back and read the rest of this edition... with photos and a note from my Mom.)

French Vocabulary

un sou = a cent (centime)

le pneu = tire (tyre)

le comptoir = counter

ce n'est pas encore prêt = it's not ready yet 

la salle d'attente = the waiting room

à vous, Madame = your turn, ma'am

les gars = guys

Michel thomas
Michel Thomas method for learning French: learn at your own speed--listening, speaking, and thinking through the language. Order 10 CD program here

"My Boys": Max and Smokey-Doo


For Jules... a new photo of her grandson... 

The following soapbox happens when your mom is a regular in the comments box! My mom, Jules, writes:

Regarding MAX'S day-beau (I know I have slaughtered that word, but spellcheck is dumber than I).

I believe you must have run down to the cellar and stuck the microphone in his face around 6 a.m. demanding his help. He looks shocked and cold and sleepy - what a great sport he is to put up with you.

I, of course being Max's #1 fan, think you should make him a regular on your blog...give him a little warning before you place him in front of 40,000 people and better yet, have a little conversation plus the word.



 *Note: Mom is referring to the video (seen at the end of this post) that Jean-Marc made of Max. And Mom's right: Max was dragged out of bed in time to be pushed in front of the video camera (this, after he swiped my own microphone the day before... making "ideal working conditions" impossible for this fly-by-the-seat-of-her pants publisher!)

Time for another read? Would you like to learn a few more French words, in the process. I hope you'll take a minute to read my story about passing the French Drivers Test!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Bonne Fetes (c) Kristin Espinasse

Braise, Smokey, and family wish you bonne fêtes... "many happy returns"! If Smokey looks a little pained in this picture, it is the photographer that is troubling him: why, he wonders, is her cross-eyed face contorting like that? Wouldn't "Cheese!" or "Ouistiti!" be just as effective in getting us to smile? How she troubles herself!

 poix (pwah) noun, feminine

    : pitch

noir comme poix = pitch black, "black as pitch"
poix sèche = resin
poix liquide = tar
tenir comme poix = to stick like tar
avoir de la poix aux doigts = to have sticky fingers (said of a thief, pickpocket, or clepto) 

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

Night Blindness, or "Moonblink"

Last night I stood stoveside, emptying into our biggest pan two packages of chicken thighs. Normally I am careful to discard all of the fatty peau before roasting. Not this time. 

"Don't you think that will be enough?" Jean-Marc questioned.
"Une douzaine?" Max seconded. 

"I'm hungry!" came the hasty reply. Given all those chicken thighs it seemed I was hungry for life.

I had just been out driving after dark: a quick aller-retour to pick up my daughter from a neighboring village. The pitch black sky, noir comme poix, was pouring out rain and my windshield wiper was flapping after the rubber blade had broken. I could barely see the road beyond... the headlights were so faint that I wondered whether I had mistaken the lumière for moonshine? 

Testing this theory, I switched off the phares... then switched them on again. Off... then on again... Still, only a breath of brightness.

Next, I put on the high beams... only to wonder: were they, too, in need of replacing?

There are no street lights out in the deep French countryside, where the stars and the moon must oblige. Out walking at night one's eyes eventually stabilize, but a pilot's vision must follow different retinal rules.

"Why has everybody suddenly decided to take this road tonight!" I complain to my daughter, of the half dozen cars we had just passed.
"For the same reason you have..." Jackie points out and there's no arguing there. Besides, I can hardly hear my girl... so loud is the fan whose job it is to free the fog from the window. Though the glass has been cleared, I don't dare turn off the defogger... lest our breath creep back onto the glass, further blurring my range of vision!

I am traveling at a snail's pace, focusing on the faded white line to the right of the road. It is my guide. I don't dare look straight on, or be blinded by the oncoming headlights!

Grumbling and swearing I swerve back to the middle of the road after leaving too much leeway for the oncoming traffic. I don't want to end up in the gutter again. The ditch to our right is hidden in the dark, but I know it is there having traveled this road enough to "navigate it in the dark," so to speak; presently I am speechless at such a blind assumption. 

Each time a car begins to tailgate, blinding me from the back, I pull over, letting the impatient one pass. But on the long narrow stretches, there is no way to let these cars doubler, given the ditch that runs parallel.

It is so hard to see on this pouring pitch-black night! I begin to scold myself for not scheduling an eye exam. Surely it is my glasses--the prescription is prehistoric by now! As for the windshield wipers, I have no excuse. Why didn't I have them changed on a sunny day? Because on a sunny day I must have been busy sunning my cares away! 

Finally, we are almost home and the brightness of a main road lightens things, not the least of which our heartstrings. Just when I breathe out a sigh of relief my heart seizes up again as I become aware of an "overtaker". The angry van jerks past us, but not before its passenger extends a bare arm out of the window... in time to shake a fist. Next, the fist opens and its forefinger circles seethingly in the air.

"Ha! T'as vu ça?!" Did'ya see that? Jackie questions.

"He thinks I am crazy," I explain to my daughter, who is already busy planning a retaliation.

"Laisse tomber," I tell her. He'll be humbled one day... when a little weakening of the eyes and a few more decades gone by... will do away with so much misplaced pride.

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, reflections, and comments welcome here

French Vocabulary
la peau = skin

une douzaine = a dozen

un aller-retour = round trip

noir comme poix = black as pitch, pitch black

la lumière = light

le phare = headlight

doubler = to pass

laisse tomber = let it go, don't bother with it

Time now to get ready for Christmas dinner, or le gros souper de Noël! Though we won't be having the famous Treize Desserts there'll be plenty of pastries and clementines... Bon appétit! (pictured: our multi-purpose earthenware tagine. Find one for yourself, in the shopping section below)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th 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 (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


My 10-year-old style-conscious daughter. More in today's story... photo taken two years ago, when this edition was first published.

Yabla French Video Immersion.
The fun way to learn French

le secours (suh-koor) noun, masculine
  help, aid, assistance, relief

                                    *     *     *
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même.
(He) will come to the aid of the suffering other, he who suffers himself.

                        --Faramarz (12th century Persian author)

In French music: "Avec le Temps" by Leo Ferre

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

Living out here in the vine boondocks, where high traffic means encountering one lazy tractor on my morning school run, I care less and less about presentation. Having all but worn my bathrobe while chauffeuring the kids into town, I wonder sometimes about risk-taking and ridicule.

Heading out the door to pick up the kids from school, I hesitate before the shoe pile. Forget it! I am not changing out of my slippers this time. The car is right outside the door. I only need to hop from doormat to car mat, risking but a trail of dust in between. As for hopping, that might be hard given the size of these slippers, which gets me thinking...

What IF I have an accident on the way to school? My daughter would kill me for getting caught in cotton "clogs". I look down at the un-dainty slippers, each one the size of a boat and with enough insulation to temper arctic waters.

Silly thought, that of getting caught. The odds of that happening! I shake my head and grab the car keys before stepping into car, lifting one giant slipper after the other, and pulling out of the driveway.

At a country crossroad where one, two, three, four paths meet—two of which are dirt roads—I slow down. With the help of peripheral vision I sense an object speeding forward to my right. I am amazed to encounter another car!

Right, priorité à droite! I remind myself, giddy at the chance to give another driver the right-of-way. Only, given the hairpin turn awaiting the other driver, I have to put the car in reverse in order to make room.

As the car passes, and with a great beaming smile on my face, I am the picture of good manners as I offer to willingly retreat for the hurried French driver. Backing up, it is only when I feel myself sliding to the right, that I realize I've nearly ended up in a ditch!

Back to that unglamorous glitch. I look down to the floorboard, toward the foot pedals hidden behind those gigantic slippers. Time to act quickly before secours arrives! I push in the clutch, put it in first, and all but pole-vault the front end of my car into the ditch. Whereas the back end had only flirted with the fall, it is in forgetting to straighten out the wheel that I dig my own descent.

I quickly put the car into reverse and listen as the engine replies in rip-roarious ridicule. A cloud of dust appears beyond the back window. Each clumsy kick of the clutch sends my slipper-boats sinking into the floorboard until a chilly arctic awareness sets in. I am not going anywhere. I will have to get out of the car and walk to town with those ridiculous "rafts" on my feet.

I look up, as one does for mercy, and notice something in the rearview mirror: two strangers slowly appearing amidst the dust cloud. One man is smoking a pipe, the other has car keys in his hand. I recognize The Right-of-Way driver and co-pilot. I see them jump into the ditch, walk over to the dangling front tire and lift it up—along with the car!

"Avancez," they say, holding the car in the palms of their hands.

The situation is surreal and there, behind the wheel, I feel uplifted by the strangers' secours. I AM uplifted, as is my car! My eyes do a double-take and I see the pipe in one man's mouth, a smile on the other's. Sweat begins to appear on their collective brows.

"Vous voulez que j'avance?" I say, afraid to run them both back into the ditch.
"Oui, Madame," they answer, politely, painfully, sweat now pouring down.

Right. This is no time to second guess. I tried that with the slippers and who knows if that played a part in this mess? Grinding the gearshift into first, I literally peel out of those men's palms.

 *     *     *

Looking back I saw the men waving, unharmed. I had thought it was I the Good Samaritan. Slippers tucked safely now beneath a spared ego, I think again.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is open to your comments about today's word or story. You may also pose questions about France, the French language, and similar topics. By helping each other, we enrich this community, educate, and inspire one another in all things French. Click here to comment.

Have a minute to read another story? Here's one I wrote four years ago... about coloring Easter eggs with the kids. Thanks for checking it out and sharing it with a friend. Click here to read "Tremper". 

French Vocabulary
priorité à droite = priority (goes to the driver) to the right
avancez (avancer) = go forward, advance
le secours (m) = aid
Vous voulez que j'avance = Do you want me to advance?


:: Audio File ::
Listen to these French words: Secours.
Viendra au secours de la peine d'autrui celui qui souffre lui-même. Download secours.mp3 or Download secours.wav

French Words & Expressions:
  Au secours! = Help!
  appeler au secours = to call/cry for help
  la caisse de secours = relief / charity fund
  les fonds de secours = emergency fund
  porter secours à quelqu'un = to give assistance to someone
  sortie de secours = emergency exit
  le secours moral, mutuel = moral / mutual support
  les premiers secours = first aid


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