Halt! Harvest Time. The next edition may or may not go out on Monday... depends on the state of the grapes!

une impatience grandissante

    : a growing anticipation


Audio FileDownload MP3 or Wave file

Comment décrire les sentiments d'un vigneron la veille des vendanges? C'est une impatience grandissante! How to describe a winemaker's feelings prior to the harvest? Anticipation!


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

Une Impatience Grandissante

I'm up early, looking for a word to describe the general atmosphère around here--at an 18 acre Vauclusian vineyard... 24 hours prior to harvest time! This side of the open window, where a minty morning breeze reaches me, I hear a rooster crowing in a far off basse-cour and the rumble of a tractor in the leafy field to the west, opposite which the sun has yet to rise from behind Mont Ventoux; given the headlights which brighten the vine rows, my guess is that the farmer harvested le grenache or le cinsault throughout the cool night. Not a bad idea considering the week's sweltering temperatures. Though it feels like la canicule, a true heatwave happens when stifling temperatures continue into la nuit, without relief. 

Jean-Marc tells me that it will be a little cooler this weekend, that there may even be un peu de pluie followed by a light Mistral. I keep my fingers crossed for our own vendange, which leads me to settle, finally, on today's word (also the title of today's missive): "A Growing Impatience", or, in less poetic prose: anticipation. Only, every time I think of the word "anticipation", it throws me back to high school, when my friend Holly, learning of my prom date and bent on seeing my face flush red, sang the tune by Carly Simon: "Anticipation" (...an-ti-ci-pa-ay-tion is making me wait!...). Holly sang the Heinz ketchup version and not the Carly Simon original, which we were unaware of, it being a little before our time). As Holly sang, I prepared to go to the dance with a junior on whom I had a short-term crush. And now, three decades later, I've another crush coming on.... A Grape Crush!

To be honest, my husband (no connection to the aforementioned prom date) is the one in love with grapes--and the crushing of them--and, because I vowed to follow him anywhere, I have ended up here, in the Rhône Valley, anticipating the arrival of so many harvesters who will soon sit down to the table and wonder "Qu'est-ce qu'on mange?"

What's for lunch, indeed!!! Never mind that our frigo is bursting and our garde-manger now groans beneath the weight of its bounty; the question now is how to get all those ingredients to add up to a satisfying meal? It seems we're in for a humble beginning (my brother-in-law has voted for les sandwiches. He is only being practical, trying to inspire my inner American cook; now to dig in deep, past le ketchup and le peanut butter.... and find her --'else perpetuate a certain gastronomic myth which has the French assuming that hamburgers and Coke are on every star-spangled menu!).

Meantime, my husband, Chief Grape, is busy with his own pre-harvest flurry. He is washing out buckets, or seaux, painting the old benne, which will receive all those ripe raisins, and scouring his cement tanks. I am relieved to hear him whistling and joking and stopping to eat his lunch -- what a different picture this is from four years ago, when I witnessed a gaunt figure racing back and forth, from the cellar to the field, fueled by his own sweating flesh. He never took the time to eat, and stayed up late into the night trying to keep one step ahead of the voracious vendange. I feared the harvest would consume him completely. In the end I understood that he had put himself, sweat and tears, into the wines that he made.

These days my husband pushes away a part of his lunch... and I wrap up les restes to snack on later. He is no longer a skinny first-year vigneron, he is a grape chief, which, come to think of it, makes me Mrs Chief ! I think it may be time, now, to do away with so much self-doubt, and begin to live up to my new name, Mrs Chief, by getting into some of the former, beginning with the harvest menu....


Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box


 Please have a look at how last year's harvest jitters were handled, here, in the story "Affolement" or "Panic" - you'll also see Smokey's Elizabethan headgear....

 See a picture (from the story reference, above) of what Jean-Marc looked like after the first "voracious" vendange. He has since gained back all the lost weight.

French Vocabulary

l'atmosphère (f) = atmosphere

la basse-cour = farmyard

le grenache = a grape variety

le cinsault = a big-sized grape used in rosé wine

la canicule = heatwave

la nuit = night

un peu de pluie = a little rain

le mistral = a kind of northern wind

la vendange = wine, or grape, harvest

qu'est-ce qu'on mange? = what's for lunch?

le frigo = fridge

le garde-manger = pantry

le seau = bucket

la benne = the moveable bin at the back of a truck

le raisin = grape

les restes (nmpl) = left-overs


For those of you who asked for some Smokey and Braise photos... Here's Smokey, ogling the carrot salad (I like to mix pureed avocado, olive oil, lemon, and roasted (sometimes burnt!) pine nuts inside.

 Here's another harvest lunch possibility... now if only tomatoes will stay in season for another month... Click here for the Tomato Tart recipe.


Braise (Smokey's mom) says: "I'll eat anything!"

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.


"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.



Courtyard in Rochegude (c) Kristin Espinasse
In the moss-covered village of Rochegude... a courtyard, above, located beside the writer's den that I mentioned in a recent post.. 


parole (pah-rol) noun, feminine


   : lyrics; word (spoken)


Audio File: Hear Aunt Marie-Françoise pronounce the French word "parole":Download Parole   Download Parole

À la parole on connaît l'homme.  --PA Manzoli


Help translate today's quote? ...or share one of the dozens of French idioms and expressions that go with the word "parole" ("avoir la parole facile", "perdre la parole" "tenir sa parole"...). Thank you for using the comments box.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
A Photographic Interlude in the town of Rochegude 

Of the many ruelles that wind through the picturesque French town of Rochegude, at least one is carpeted green. "If red stands for royalty," I reflect, snapping a photo of the floor beneath me, "then green must stand for "grace"--and if I were a queen I'd walk on green!"




Stepping down some softly sovereign stairs made of stone and thick with moss, I spot a modern day carriage at the end of the path: it is, in fact, a classic car by today's standards. Admiring the shiny new paint on the Renault Quatrelle, I wonder: will the old bagnole be a good subject and, if so, how to best capture it?

"Make room for the lantern," I begin coaching myself, looking through the camera lens to the street light above. "And don't leave out the Town Hall... Oh--and it would be good to include these!" I think, looking down to the path before me, where a line of smooth, round rocks fills in what may have once been an eye-sore of a gutter. I notice how the stones add style to an otherwise ordinary cement landing, one which follows those velvety stairs.

Renault 4 or "4L" or "Quatrelle" (c) Kristin Espinasse


Approaching the old Quatrelle, I notice there is writing on the back, just beneath the window, and soon find myself singing the old tune that those words represent....


"Baby you can drive my car.... "


All but leaning onto the hatchback, I am now chuckling at some Frenchman's tongue-in-cheek finishing touch over that new cherry red paint: "Beep Beep, Yeh!"  Back in the States, it is common to see stickers on the backs of cars (wisdom in under a dozen words) but, here in France, such free philosophy is reserved for friends--and, occasionally, for enemies (during a traffic altercation or, in retail, when a sales clerk smarts back... or even when she doesn't).

I begin snapping several photos of the car when a woman with a stoller passes, only to stop in her tracks. I lower my camera in time to smile at the baby and to answer the woman's inquisitive stare. "C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas?" I offer.

Like that, Stroller Woman and I strike up a conversation ranging from old cars and collectibles... to joblessness and even weight loss! I learn that Stroller Woman suffers from phlebite and has just returned from Bollène, on foot, as part of her new exercise regime.
"Walking is the best sport!" I offer, cheering her on, happy to think up something to say.

When we have exhausted our repertoire of "Small Talk for Complete Strangers," conversation comes to an abrupt and embarrassing halt.

"Do you have internet?" I ask, the thought crossing my mind to post the photos that I have taken, along with a story, and thereby recruit a new reader--never mind that she can't read English.

"No," Stroller Woman says. "But I will give you my phone number!" I am caught off guard by the stranger's offer and, after an initial hesitation, I search for a pen.

"By the way, what does it say?" she asks.

I follow her gaze, over to the English lyrics on the old Quatrelle.

"Oh, that's a song from the 60s," I answer, taking a clue from the "Sixties" signature on the car.

Stroller Woman looks at me, expectantly, and I so I prepare to translate the song lyrics:

"Chérie, tu peux conduire ma voiture.... Non...  c'est pas ça.... euh..."*

I give it another go:

"BEBE, tu peux conduire ma voiture..."

Just then, another villager--and friend of Stroller Woman--appears, greets my one-woman audience, and ignores me. I nod, clear my throat and decide I'm performing for two. Best to start fresh with the lyrics:


"Bébé, tu peux conduire ma voiture!" My eyes are now bright and I think I've got the swing of it.


"Oui! Je vais être une star!I enthuse, now wiping my lashes, which are soaked with tears due to the cold morning air.

"....ET bébe JE T'AIME!" (This part automatically escapes my mouth and when I look over to the words on the car, I notice these particular lyrics are missing! In my embarrasement I skip quickly to the end):



By now I have to dry my eyes with a mouchoir, the wind having picked up and, with it, the rate with which my tear ducts pour out their watery, cold air barrier. When next I look up I notice my new friend, Stroller Woman, has disappeared! This, before I have even had the chance to give her my phone number.


I see her now, a little further up the street, making what looks to be a getaway--beneath the protective arm of a friend.

The two walk away slowly, cautiously--as one walks away from Insanity, or Madness... or simply a tone-deaf damsel in distress.

Le Coin Commentaires

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

Quatrelle (c) Kristin Espinasse



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renault Quatrelle (Renault 4) = kind of economy car with a hatchback, see it here; la bagnole (f) = slang for "car"; la phlébite (f) = phlebitis; C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas? = It’s amusing, this car, isn’t it ?; Oui! Je vais être un star! = Yes, I’m gonna be a star!; le mouchoir (m) = handkerchief



Books & More....

Young Adult reading: Vidalia in Paris  


Paris inspired art work sign:  Wall Clock - Café Du Parc

Lavender : all natural Provence Imported *Lavandin*


Film feature: The French Revolution (History Channel)

 On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization.




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.


Crashing into the marguerites. Oh, the dangers of driving in Ceriana, Italy (where we saw the little camionnette).

la camionnette (ka-me-oh-net) noun, feminine

  pick-up truck; small van, minivan

La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs. The truck starts up with a roar and the young girl closes behind her the heavy door, a relic from uncertain times. —from "La Nouvelle revue des deux mondes"

I was wondering about what to get my son for his birthday when Jules called from Mexico to offer her two centavos worth:

"Get him a car!" she rooted.
"A car? He is turning twelve, Mom."
"It's not too late! Your uncle Rusty and I didn't start driving until we were twelve...or was it eleven? Hmmm. I had an old Ford pick-up!..." my mom reminisced.
"Mom! Max can't drive!"

The conversation was surreal until I remembered that my mom's clock does not tick to world time. She doesn't even have a watch. And lest day and night become nagging reminders of Father Time's regulatory nature she'll sleep with the sun and dance with the moon just to shake things up. She's a rebel that way and wouldn't want her grandson to be driven by society's clock--which brings us back to driving...

Come to think of it, my sister Heidi and I, pint-sized Thelma and Louises at the age of thirteen and nine, used to careen across the dusty desert floor, in Grandpa's Jeep, tumbleweeds spinning in our wake. With Heidi at the wheel, we killed time (something Mom might've approved of)—this after a breakfast of burritos and beer, coffee being bad for a kid. My grandfather made the turkey burritos and shared the Budweiser. We only had a few sips of it—though Grandpa's poodle, "Poo-Poo," got a generous splash in her bowl each morning. The beer cans were then strung by the tab along my grandmother's clothesline. BB guns poised, we'd spend the afternoon shooting at the cans from the deck where my grandparents' singlewide trailer was set in cement. The year was 1977. We were in Bouse, Arizona.

I am a long way from the desert now and just a tumbleweed's trot from the French Drôme* as I clutch the phone, feeling iffy about my mom's suggestion.

"Well, tell Jean-Marc about my idea, Honey, and see what he thinks," Mom says, trying to sell me on the idea. "So much safer than a motorcycle!" she argues. "Braise* could ride in the back and Jackie or mom or dad next to Max. Max would learn all about mechanics...I would suggest finding a garage where Max could meet a mechanic and learn how to keep his truck running."

By the time I hang up the phone I am spinning with anxiety. Then, I recall our neighbor's "garage." Monsieur Delhome has at least four tractors in that massive steel hangar,* the walls of which are covered with tools. One entire wall is a veritable tools-n-parts museum. He could probably build a camionnette* with all that metal....

Bingo! Max can build his own car! (And, I reckon, by the time he's figured out how to assemble the monster he'll be old enough to drive it). Off to Feu Vert* now...to buy my son a wrench and the French equivalent Kit Car magazine. I can afford that (and this mother's nerves could afford a break now).

References: French Drôme = a department in southeastern France, where the towns Nyons and Valence are located as well as the charming town of Grignan. The Drôme is located north of the Vaucluse department; Braise = our one-year-old Golden Retriever; le hangar (m) = shed; la camionnette (f) = pick-up truck; Feu Vert (Green Light) = French auto parts store

:: Audio File ::
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and quote: Download wav
La camionnette démarre avec fracas et la jeune fille ferme derrière elle la lourde porte, relique de temps moins sûrs.

 Also: camionnette de livraison = delivery truck

Did a friend forward you this post? Click here for a free subscription to French Word-A-Day.

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.