The French word for "Fellowship" and (a funny term for "Homebody")

Jules at farmers market la ciotat
My Mom and her fish purse at our farmer's market. Photo taken 4 years ago, when Jules moved to France. 

In Summer reading: From Moulin Rouge to Gaudi's City by E.J. Bauer

Today's Words: Fellowship

1. camaraderie (companionship, company)
2. confrérie (brotherhood, friary)

Bonus Word: Homebody

    : pantouflard(e) (from "pantoufle" or slipper)

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio clip


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Tergiverser—now there’s an amusing word to begin with. It means to hem and haw, to sit on the fence, to remain undecided, and Undecided is my middle name! Just when I was debating about whether I should get out of bed and get to the farmers market and the fish market before la foule, a certain passage in a book I was reading lifted me up and out the door, d'un seul coup!

If inspiration is the vehicle that gets us moving forward, then reflection may be the key to what makes us tick. Sometimes we have to wonder why it is we do what we do. Why, I ask, do I have such a hard time going places, and is that good or bad? What’s wrong with being a loner, une solitaire, un ours des cavernes? (I prefer the term “une sauvage”--sounds cooler than "hermit"! But that’s just the Ego talking. Maybe my ego is keeping me back?)

While there are always the big things, often it is a string of petites choses that keep me stuck: "I haven't washed my hair in days. I don't want to run into anyone I know. I'll stay home!" That's enough to have me hiding indoors dining on a can of tuna for lunch. And yet I sense this is not God's will for me. (Not that canned tuna is unholy)....

So this morning I put on my floppy hat, and hurried out the front door, ignoring everything clawing me back: my elderly dog who wanted a walk (“it’s too far for you, Smokey!”), my son who had questions and suggestions about the laundry, a text I meant to answer illico...). With the front gate pulled shut behind me, j’étais délivrée! Free as a bird.

Coincidentally it is the season of the swallows, and it was a pleasure to watch ces hirondelles swooping through the sky above as I walked to the fishmongers. At Poissonerie Laure, the lively and colorful selection of fish is second only to the lively and colorful patronne. "How is Jean-Marc?" Laure asked. But when Laure's husband put down his carving knife and came over to hear the update, I realized they were aware of his épreuve. I thanked them for their empathie, and headed out with two fillets de cabillaud and du saumon

At the farmer's market I stood in line holding a sack of fish and reading the cashier's T-shirt, which was in English: "Chilling under a palm tree," I said, as the cashier rang up some tomatoes. “C’est ça! What does it mean?” she asked.
"You know, de se la jouer cool, sans stress...”
Oui! C'est ça qui'l faut...” the cashier said gifting me an extra tomato. 
Merci! I’ll eat it for lunch,” I promised.

As I walked home with my bounty I realized nobody cares about my hair! We don’t see each other’s flaws. We only see each other's hearts--especially when our perspectives are refreshed. I will try to remember that the next time I’m holed up inside with my can of holy tuna, behaving like a bear. Company, fellowship, brotherhood--in one lovely word la camaraderie--is good for the soul. And home sweet home is a comfort as well. This leads us to one last synonym for "loner": un pantouflard--after "pantoufle" or slippers. Let's end on that cozy note.

***

MVIMG_20190615_180037Camaraderie, brotherhood, company--and a lot of smiles at our local fish market. That's the owner, second on the left, her son (second on the right) and friends. Related story: La Patronne at our local fishmarket, and solidarity following a visit by a burglar

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 
la camaraderie = company, fellowship
la confrérie = brotherhood
une pantouflarde, un pantouflard = homebody, homebird, stay-at-home person
tergiverser = to procrastinate, to hem and haw
la foule = crowd
d’un seul coup = all at once
un (une) solitaire = loner
un ours des cavernes = a cave bear, recluse
un (une) sauvage = recluse, hermit
une petite chose = little thing 
une hirondelle = swallow (bird)
illico = pronto
j'étais délivré = I was free/freed
la poissonnerie = fish market
le patron (la patronne) = owner
une épreuve = a struggle
le cabillaud = cod
se la jouer cool = to play it cool 
c’est ça qu’il faut = that’s what’s needed

In books: Petit déjeuner à Paris: A Story in Easy French with Translation

IMG_3743 IMG_3737
If only that tongue could fan him in this heat! Smokey keeping cool in summer. The hanging tongue is une séquelle, or consequence of being attacked when he was a puppy.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


The worst thing about summer in the south of France + do you know these slang words?

Golden retriever Smokey in the garden
An almost 13-year-old Smokey, keeping cool in the garden. It's a good thing he can't hear so well these days, as the streets just beyond those hedges are loud at the start of summer. Read on in today's bruyante update.

TODAY'S FRENCH EXPRESSION: blindé


  1. jam-packed, full (of people)
  2. loaded (with money)

blindé de monde = crowded, full of people 

In books: Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, from Menton to Saint-Tropez

FRENCH SOUND FILE:
 Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE, by Kristi Espinasse

Over lunch on our terrasse, we were discussing the busy summer season here in the south of France when my family used some colorful words and expressions to describe la foule passant....

C’est la folie!” my belle-sœur said, of the crowded beaches in Marseilles. So packed you have to move your beach bag to make room for a stranger to set down their towel. Forty-five minutes east, in La Ciotat, “C’est le bordel!” Max seconded, pouring some chilled rosé into his father’s glass. “C’est blindé!” Jean-Marc agreed—the seafront is teeming with people.

Blindé, bordel, folie...Quietly eating my salade de pois chiches, I began mental-noting all this juicy argot in time to share it with you in the following piece about le bruit. So plug a couple of boule Quies into your ears and read along--it's going to get loud!

Litter, crowds, and pee (or “la miction publique”) are some désagréments of the tourist season in our seaside town. But what pains us the most isn’t the smell, the swell, or la poubelle... it’s the noise--the ear-shattering clattering. By June, our normally peaceful garden is now a cacophony of screaming toddlers, quarreling lovers, and screeching teenagers. And while these strangers are not actually in our yard, their reverberations are...

...a woman is clapping her shoes together, shaking free le sable, clack! clack! clack!...a shirtless man at the parking meter is shouting to a friend 5 cars away, "C’est quoi le numéro d'immatriculation?" What’s the license number on your car? 
"C'est E....T....6...3...5....Q...L" the other yells back. Often my daughter and I are just beyond the hedges, our lawn chairs in the crossfire of so much shouting. If it weren't so amusing it would be maddening

I sometimes want to call out from the other side of the oleanders: Est-ce que vous vous rendez compte qu'il y a des gens qui vivent ici? Do you realize that people live here? Instead, I run for cover. But escaping into the house doesn’t bring the quiet I am hoping for, as none of our upstairs windows have le double-vitrage, or double glazing—worse, they vibrate with each slam of the car door. I'm amazed at how many times a family of 4 can slam the doors. I lie in bed counting... un, deux, trois, huit?! Wait, someone's coming back for a forgotten towel, neuf, dix! Even if I had earplugs to block out the sound my nerve-drums hear it all.

If the daytime decibels weren't loud enough, nighttime is booming with le bruit...et la bagarre! Someone’s set off another pétard. A gaggle of teenagers are now running down the street, shrieking with glee. A block in the opposite direction and a fight's broken out. Hours later, people are heading home, but not before a few revelers make a pit stop at our hedges, trickle, trickle, trickle. And then, finally, the quiet of the early morning hours.

Then the garbage trucks arrive at 6 in all their thunderous glory. Finally I give up, get out of bed and head out to say good morning to Smokey and to my mom, who's reading in her butterfly chair.

"Did you hear those firecrackers? What a noisy night!" I say.
"Oh, I don't mind. We're in the South of France!"
I'm with Mom: it's all about perspective, and attitude is one way to drown out the claquements. (The screeching cicadas and our water fountain are good buffers, too). As for la foule passante, it helps to remember "this too shall pass"—but not before I mental-note more words, expressions, and juicy slang to share with you in the future. Therein lies the gift of going with the flow and tuning in to the passing crowd. 

*** 
 
E991D6BC-D3F6-4A1D-B1F0-8769297C4088
One of the boardwalks in our town, La Ciotat, above a tiny fishing port and its colorful “pointus,” or wooden boats.

Summer Reading: The Paris Library: A Novel by Janet Skeslien Charles

FRENCH VOCABULARY

blindé de monde = packed full of people
la terrasse
= patio, balcony
la foule passante = the passing crowd
C’est blindé = it’s packed
C’est la folie = it’s crazy
la belle-sœur = sister-in-law
C’est le bordel = it’s a mess!
le pois chiche = chickpea
l’argot
= slang
la bagarre = fight, brawl
le bruit = noise
le pétard = firecracker
boule Quies = ear plugs (named after a popular brand, quies signifies calm, tranquility)
la miction = urinating
publique
= public
le désagrément = annoyance, unpleasantness
la poubelle
= garbage can
le sable = sand
le claquement = slam, slamming
le numéro d'immatriculation = license plat number

Our front yard
One-half of our front garden. The other half is looking like the desert this sizzling time of year.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Le Défi: An upcoming challenge for Jean-Marc + full story recorded in French

GR 20 trail in Corsica France
One of the many "points d'eau" Jean-Marc talks about in his update, below. The English version follows and the entire story is available on sound file, below.

Today's French Word: "le défi"

    : challenge, dare

Sound File: Click below to listen to Jean-Marc read his story.  Note:  Jean-Marc repeats a few of the sentences in this long recording (where an error was made).

Click here for the audio File


JEAN-MARC'S UPDATE IN FRENCH

Dans deux semaines, je vais parcourir une des plus belles randonnées d'Europe : Le fameux GR20. Ce magnifique sentier traverse la Corse en diagonale, partant au Nord Ouest de cette "l'île de beauté" (Calenzana) pour arriver au Sud Est, à Conca.

La plupart de cet itinéraire est en haute montagne avec une incroyable diversité de flore composée de chênes, châtaignier et le maquis Corse, de faune et même au mois de Juin, il est fréquent de traverser des névés surtout dans la partie Nord du parcours. Je pars randonner avec mon meilleur ami, Nicolas, avec qui j'ai lié mon amitié pour la vie suite à un voyage inoubliable en mobylette à travers la Corse, alors que nous avions tout juste 15 et 16 ans.

L'année dernière, pour notre première partie du chemin, nous avons marché 5 étapes, chacune dure environ 8 heures et malgré la difficulté des importants dénivelés positifs et négatifs (qui font encore plus mal aux jambes), la beauté des paysages, les nombreux points d'eau pour se rafraîchir et l'excitation de marcher sur ce sentier mythique permettent d'oublier la souffrance.

Nous partons aux aurores pour éviter la chaleur et arrivons à chaque nouveau camp en milieu d'après midi pour déguster une omelette, une Pietra (bière Corse) avant une petite sieste, un dîner au coucher du soleil et quelques heures à essayer de dormir dans la même tente.

Il y a un an, j'étais en pleine forme physique et mentale. L'idée de ce périple, dont nous avions trop souvent repoussé l'organisation, me faisait frissoner de bonheur. Je garde un souvenir impérissable de cette semaine passée en pleine nature où j'ai gravi le plus haut sommet de Corse : Le Monte Cinto.

Aujourd'hui, les temps ont bien changé. Je traverse une période mentale très sombre et je ne suis sûrement pas assez prêt pour affronter physiquement ces épreuves sportives. Mais je ne louperai pour rien au monde ce magnifique défi car si je sais bien que je vais souffrir, je me dis aussi que si j'arrive à parcourir ces 5 étapes, je serai plus fort pour affronter tous les sommets psychologiques personnels qui m'attendent à mon retour.

Merci pour vos encouragements,
Jean-Marc

ENGLISH TEXT
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

In two weeks, I'm going to hike one of the most beautiful trails in Europe: The famous GR20. This magnificent track crosses Corsica diagonally, starting in the North West of this "island of beauty" (Calenzana) to arrive in the South East, in Conca.

Most of this itinerary is in the high mountains with an incredible diversity of flora composed of oaks, chestnut trees and the Corsican maquis, of fauna and even in June, it is frequent to cross snowy slopes especially in the northern part of the route. I will be hiking with my best friend, Nicolas, with whom I made a lifelong friendship after an unforgettable trip on a moped through Corsica when we were just 15 and 16 years old.

Last year, for our first part of the trail, we walked 5 stages, each one lasts about 8 hours and despite the difficulty of the important positive and negative changes in altitude (which make the legs even more painful), the beauty of the landscapes, the numerous water points to refresh ourselves and the excitement of walking on this mythical trail allow us to forget the suffering.

We leave at dawn to avoid the heat and arrive at each new camp in the middle of the afternoon to enjoy an omelette, a Pietra (Corsican beer) before a little nap, a dinner at sunset and a few hours trying to sleep in the same tent.

A year ago, I was in great shape physically and mentally. The idea of this trip, which we had postponed too often, made me shiver with happiness. I keep an imperishable memory of this week spent in the middle of nature where I climbed the highest summit of Corsica: Monte Cinto.

Today, times have changed. I'm going through a very dark mental period and I'm certainly not ready enough to face physically these sporting events. But I will not miss for anything in the world this magnificent challenge because if I know well that I will suffer, I also say to myself that if I manage to cover these 5 stages, I will be stronger to face all the personal psychological summits which await me at my return.

Thank you for your encouragement,
Jean-Marc


Book: Trekking the Corsica GR20: Two-Way Trekking Guide: Real IGN Maps 1:25,000

Jean-Marc in Corsica
Jean-Marc at the top of Monte Cinto, June 2021

IMG_20210620_113626
Jean-Marc and Nicolas

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Words, Meaning & Avoir le déclic (to have a lightbulb moment)

A cafe in Montmartre Paris
A café in Paris. A bit of a coffee theme in today's story, so we'll pair that now with a picture taken years ago in Montmartre.

TODAY'S FRENCH EXPRESSION: "avoir le déclic"

  : to have an aha moment, a lightbulb moment

FRENCH SOUND FILE:
Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio clip


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
, by Kristi Espinasse

I will never forget the time the true meaning to an English word jumped from a French page. It was Christmas at our vignoble near the Drôme and a children's storybook was concise enough for me to pause amidst the holiday flurry and read to the kids. Only, as soon as the lecture began a certain mot moved me to tears.

Fast forward 11 years and one more vineyard later... My husband and I are going through another phase, and for this we have been talking a lot to each other. These causeries are encouraging, difficult, relaxing, and sometimes funny. Especially amusing is how each time Jean-Marc says the word "express" (a recurring term lately) it conjures up an image of an expresso machine in my mind. Suddenly I picture hot water being forced through a dense mass of ground coffee, the liquid coming out the other side in rich, dark droplets (our cafetière italienne could use a good détartrage for the expressed coffee to flow out).

"TO EXPRESS"
The exact definition of the verb reflects this high-pressured process: to express... from old French expresser: “to press out, to obtain by squeezing.” Quelle image! Can you see how it illustrates the effort involved in transporting our thoughts or ideas to words? The next time I struggle to express myself I'll remember those precious droplets of expresso—it’ll also be a needed reminder to service our machine.  

Funny how remembering those gouttelettes is not helping much now as I try to conclude today’s causerie*...though droplets of another kind are forming on my brow from effort... One thing that helps me when I cannot express myself in French or English, specifically when I can’t find the word needed, is to stop squeezing my brain and quickly grasp for another way to say the same thing (this often involves a series of words to replace the unknown term). This keeps the conversation going fluently and requires creativity and un chouïa, or smidge, of confidence. When all else fails I have invented words, often accidentally, always to the amusement of my French interlocuteur.

In the name of expression, you might even borrow an inexact word (a colorful one, in theme with the discussion...) and plug it in juste comme ça, pour le plaisir. So, in closing, and for your thoughtful words following our recent update, Jean-Marc and I would like to espresso our thanks, in good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, like good coffee, like a good verse.*  

Amicalement,
Kristi

Le café populaire

FRENCH VOCABULARY

avoir le déclic = bingo! eureka! to have an aha moment
le vignoble = vineyard
la Drôme provençale = French department
la lecture = reading
le mot = word
la causerie = informal conversation, chat; *also means short essay
la cafetière italienne = Italian espresso maker
le détartrage = descaling, tartar removal, cleaning
quelle image = what a picture
un expresso = espresso
une gouttelette = a droplet
un chouïa = a tad, a smidge
un interlocuteur, une interlocutrice = conversation partner
juste comme ça, pour le plaisir = just because, for the plaisir 
amicalement = yours, best wishes, best

* "pressed down, shaken together, and running over" from Luke 6:38 

Cordonnerie shoe repair shop to coffee shop
La Cordonnerie: a former shoe repair shop now expressing itself as a coffee shop in Paris. Ah! The power--the sheer percolating force--of expression!

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Update on Jean-Marc & photos from Bormes-les-Mimosas

IMG_3644
Cistus flowers high up in one of France's most blossoming villages. Don't miss all the colorful photos in this edition, click over to the blog for the full post.

TODAY'S WORD: "alentours"

  : surroundings, vicinity

FRENCH SOUND FILE:
Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio clip


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Jean-Marc has not been feeling well again, so our plans for a two-day escapade were up in the air last Friday. When finally we could not decide either way what to do, we just did. Typing this now my husband’s old saying comes back to me: Mieux vaut une mauvaise décision que pas de décision du tout. Better a bad decision than no decision at all.

A change of scenery turned out to be une bonne décision. One thing to love about France is how quickly the landscape changes in so little space. An hour east of La Ciotat, and we were entering Le Lavandou (the word reminds me of “soft lavender” for the way it is pronounced). No lavender fields here, but plenty of flowers and exotic trees (like les tamaris) and we were soon to enjoy softness on the cushioned transats at the beach. 

We found the hairpin turnoff Max had warned us about and took the narrow, winding road down to Tamaris Plage in Pramousquier Bay. Parking in the lot belonging to the restaurant, we left our overnight bags in the car–a no-no in France. As my belle-soeur says, “never leave so much as a mouchoir in your vehicle or risk someone breaking the window to steal it!” But if we were throwing caution to the wind it’s because we had a lot on our minds–and stolen pajamas were the least of our soucis.

My husband, for one, was on my mind. As for what was on his, that was, and still is, half the battle–for depression is a war of the mind. Jean-Marc’s latest episode began 5 or 6 months ago and, in finally recording it here, I’ve gone against plans to “share only the lovely things”--indeed a sticky note on my desk reads: A writer’s duty is to lift readers up. I admire that thought by E.B. White. But frankness and transparency are lovely things too. They reveal our shared human condition.

Now, if what is on the mind is half the battle, then what’s the other half? Jean-Marc is feeling his way forward in the darkness, but so far trust, courage, faith, perseverance and meds are soulagements. Leaving no stone unturned along the path back to peace, those pebbles on the beach in Pramousquier Bay, where we walked hand-in-hand, became solid reminders to persévérer

Returning from our shorefront stroll, Jean-Marc rested on the chaises-longues, feelings of oppression and defeat washing over him in waves. Positive reminders and comforting words helped, but when  a man napping nearby startled us with his thundering ronflements we both enjoyed a spontaneous chuckle. As for our snoring Samaritan, he was oblivious to his cathartic part in lifting a stranger’s heart. 

At the end of the day, nobody broke into our bagnole to steal our pajamas. At least one of us was relieved by this finding. As for the other, relief doesn’t come easily to him at this time. But many, regular reassurances help. Prayer works. And humor temporarily breaks the spell.

* * *

For anyone out there struggling with a setback in body, mind or spirit, experience shows things will get better. Accrochez-vous. Tenez bon. Hang on. And if you are alone, take courage: someone, somewhere cares about you. Chances are a lot of people do.

Thank you for keeping Jean-Marc in your thoughts and prayers. I leave you with some colorful pictures from our périple to Bormes-les-Mimosa and ses alentours.

Amicalement,

Kristi

JM in Bormes les Mimosas
We appreciate the support of friends and family. Someone dear to us recently wrote, "We know Jean-Marc is going through some inner turmoil now, but that is due to his sense of adventure and resourcefulness, the gifts of a true pioneer, and understandably nerve-wracking." Read more about this pioneering spirit in our 2019 vineyard memoir
The Lost Gardens

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une escapade = escape, getaway, trip
mieux vaut une mauvaise décision que pas de décision du tout = better a bad decision than no decision at all
La Ciotat = our town, the next port east of Cassis
Le Lavandou = a town and commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of France
le tamaris = salt tree, tamarisk
le transat =  sunbed
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le mouchoir = tissue, Kleenex
le soucis = worry, trouble, problem
le soulagement = help, relief, respite
la chaise longue = sunbed, sun lounger
le ronflement = snoring
la bagnole = car (in slang)
accrochez-vous = hang on
tenez bon = hang in there
le périple = trek, expedition, journey
les alentours = surroundings, surrounding area

Bormes les Mimosas perched village
Looking over the town of Bormes les Mimosas
Shopkeeper
Getting ready to close up shop for the day
IMG_3591
So many boutiques...
IMG_3596
A hat shop too!
IMG_3614
A charming trompe l'oeil or "fools the eye" on the side of a building

IMG_3671
IMG_3620
IMG_3624

IMG_3617
Venelle des Amoureux "Lovers' Alley"
IMG_3587

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Terroir, French for "somewhereness" & that magnetic pull we feel towards France

Sainte-Cecile-les-Vignes wildflowers
Those wildflower seeds loved the terroir in Sainte Cécile, where we lived for a time

TODAY'S WORD: "terroir"

  : soil, region; "somewhereness"

FRENCH SOUND FILE:
 Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Listen closely to the vocabulary list


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

You have probably stumbled across the word terroir (especially if you are a wine lover) and have a notion as to what it means. But, lately, this earthy term is taking on even more significance, helping to clarify just what it is I love about France. And it’s more than the food, more than the architecture, more than French dirt!

A synonym for terroir is "somewhereness". J'aime ça. My husband, a former vigneron, says a complete definition of terroir (beyond the region in which the grapes are grown and the soil) would include the history of a place and even the winemaker. Mais bien sûr!

It is also le facteur humain that describes our strong attraction to France. I love the way French women of all ages stroll arm-in-arm, or "bras dessus bras dessous". At a time when adolescents are awkward about everything, you’ll still see girls walking, les bras entrelacés. Throwing their heads back, laughing and chatting, it’s the most natural thing in the world. I’ve been honoured by such arm-hugging tenderness which, culturally, is a little less natural to me. Slightly embarrassed, I will gradually – so as not to make things even more awkward – let my arm slip away until, ahhh, I’m more in my comfort zone. But I will always appreciate the endearing moment a friend reaches for my arm while out on a stroll.

Speaking of endearing: I love the affectionate way the French acknowledge a kindness. “Vous êtes adorable!” they’ll gush. Where else on the planet will a perfect stranger say, in so many words, you are worthy of love and adoration? You will hear this phrase while serving an impromptu coffee (our plumber said it to me the other day, as I added a lump of sugar to his espresso). The compliment can be used anywhere, anytime. “Vous êtes adorable!” I thanked the cashier who left his register to help me carry a heavy cagette of patates and melons to my car.

One may have sinned a thousand times but, for a moment in time, in a stranger’s eyes, we are worthy of veneration. There is something else I enjoy here in France, though not every foreigner will agree: it’s the way a clerk will honour your place.

C’est-à-dire, when it is finally your turn at the counter you will be given the time you need and then some. Never mind the long queue behind you. When it is your moment to do business at the post office or the pharmacy or at the art supply store, you can linger with your needs, your unending questions, and your doubts. I am still not comfortable doing this – no matter how many times the postal worker says “Ils peuvent attendre”. There is time. Perhaps le temps is yet another element here?

Terroir... It could unlock the mystery of why so many of us feel an attraction magnétique towards France. It’s visceral, it’s minéral, it’s surréaliste. We feel we have, at some other point in time, been a part of this somewhereness. We walked along the salty shores or inhaled the mineral scent of the earth as we strolled arm-in-arm in the countryside with a soulmate… our endearing âme sœur, La France.

*    *    *

vineyard
Jean-Marc, harvesting at Mas des Brun in 2016. See une coquille, or “a little mistake”, anywhere in today’s post? Thank you for letting me know and I will fix it illico!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le terroir = soil, region
j'aime ça = I love that
un vigneron = winemaker
un bras = arm
bras dessus bras dessous = arm-in-arm
entrelacer = intertwine
une cagette = crate
une patate = potato, spud
une queue = line, queue
c'est-à-dire = that is to say
ils peuvent attendre = they can wait
âme soeur = soulmate

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A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Dépanner & How a safety pin can outwit pickpockets

lily of the valley muguet roses flower stand pizzeria la ciotat
Pictured: a muguet stand here in La Ciotat. I hope you all had a relaxing premier mai, or Labor Day, and that the month is going well. On May 12th, at 6 p.m., Jean-Marc and our son Max are having a special wine-tasting for organic and natural wines. If you are in the area of La Ciotat they would love to see you. Click here for more info about this free winetasting event

TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: “dépanner”


    : to help out, to lend someone money, to help someone out of a jam, to come to the rescue

(Here we are focusing on one sense of the multi-meaningful  verb “dépanner” as it relates to today’s story)

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the MP3 audio file

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Driving up to a local ATM for some flouze, I saw the familiar figure loitering around the strip mall. I hesitated over whether to drive off or face the situation.

As soon as I got out of my car, the woman beelined it towards me. 
“Vous avez un euro cinquante à me dépanner?”

Could I spot her a dollar fifty? Such a specific sum. Was she a regular shopper who was short a few coins for a pack of cigarettes or a baguette? It is the impression she gave the first time she stopped me, in a nearby parking lot.

"Non. Non, non!" I replied (those last two noes surprised even me as I nervously turned to the distributeur. I tried to hide the numbers I was punching into the clavier--all the while keeping an eye on the woman who was slinking away.

Having run into her several times, I knew her story didn't add up. Unlike the panhandler outside our post office or the mendiant beside le tabac or the ivrogne seated in front of the superette (whom Mom regularly supplies with ice cream) who are clear in their motives and whose stories (true or not...) we blindly support, this woman made me uneasy. Certain beggars  make me uneasy but that is no reason to look away. It is better to err on the side of giving than to make the mistake of leaving someone in need. I suppose that rule should apply to her as well?

Her. We will call her "Passe Inaperçu," because she blends into the scenery: bare skinned (no makeup), hair tied back, neutral pants and top... you might not recognize her a second time. But a third, fourth, fifth... I see her when I go to the grocery store or to the animalerie, she's soliciting other shoppers in the parking lot, walking right up to them as they head to their cars: "Vous avez un euro à me dépanner?"

Maybe it was a question of the language? Jean-Marc's guess, when I relate the story to him, is the woman is too ashamed to beg, so she asks for money another way. If that is true then I am the one ashamed for jumping to conclusions. Yet...there is something dishonest about her, something in her manner that is synonymous with con or scammer. My intuition is so specific it adds “organized ring” to the hunch. Is it any coincidence, then, what happened next....

While driving to that same centre commercial, I noticed a van pull off to the side of the road, the side door rolled opened and a handful of people got out—including
her. I knew where she was headed, but who were the others and where were they off to? 

There are all sorts of scams and scammers in France and various ways to deal with them. Our friend Charles, in Florida, has a homemade "antivol" contraption anyone can make. To outwit a Parisian pickpocket all you need is une épingle à nourrice. Charles fastens the safety pin to the bottom of his front pant pocket, and ties a string to his wallet, attaching the two. C'est malin. A clever way to keep your wallet safe.

You've got to be malin with these thieves. And malin enough to know who's who: are you dealing with a con artist or someone in need? When is one the other? Tell me, Dear Reader, how would you handle my “parking lot” situation and have you ever been duped? I would love to know your thoughts and hear your stories in the comments section below.

***

See une coquille, or “a little mistake”, anywhere in today’s post? Thank you for letting me know and I will fix it illico!

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Photo of the shopping center mentioned in today’s story. Look at the dog on the back of the motorcycle.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le flouze = cash
le centre commercial = shopping center, strip mall (when it’s outdoors)
Vous avez un euro cinquante à me dépanner? = would you spot me a dollar fifty?
le distributeur = ATM, cashpoint
le clavier
= touchpad
le tabac =tobacconist, tobacconist's (shop selling cigarettes and other items (cards, magazines...)
un ivrogne, une ivrogne = alcoholic, a drunkard (man), a drunkard (woman)
la supérette = mini market, grocer
le mendiant, la mendiante = beggar
passe inaperçu = goes unnoticed 
l’animalerie = pet shop, pet supply store
un antivol = antitheft device
une épingle à nourrice
= safety pin
malin = clever
illico = right away (see the post for more)

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Rusty and Betty, the baby tourterelles, are doing great. We are thrilled they have remained in our yard, and often fly down to peck for seeds in the garden.

Serenity prayer priere de la serenity sicily italy
Do you know The Serenity Prayer in French? Learn the words and enjoy the calm and peace this poem brings. Bon week-end. Enjoy.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


A Happy Ending + "To Fly Away" in French

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One dove, Betty (pictured beside Mama), remained in our care until Sunday...when she successfully took flight. Read on for an update on her brother, Rusty, and his trick on local tourists :-) Your edits to this post are helpful, appreciated, and incorporated as soon as possible. Merci.

TODAY'S FRENCH WORD: "s'envoler"

    : to take flight, to fly away, to fly off

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click  here for the soundfile


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The baby birds have successfully flown our makeshift coop. Quel soulagement! But eight days into the doves' rescue we were holding our breath after one of the oisillons took off in an erratic flight, landing above the busy street corner at the edge of our lot. 

As trucks shrieked by and hungry seagulls flew overhead our eyes were trained on the teetering tourterelle, Rusty. How he surprised us when he suddenly took flight after his last feeding in the garden (when I filmed this video). And there we thought his sister, Betty, would be first to fly the nest--Betty with the deep cat stratch along her side and giant gash in her back. "Betty is like those who've had a near-death experience," Mom remarked. "She is determined to live life to its fullest!" Betty was the first to jump up onto the box-nest's edge, first to venture out around the garden, her body scabbed, her wing missing too many feathers to fly straight. How she'd survived that bloody attack still amazes us (she went on to fall into the low-lying fountain, where Jackie scooped her right out. Shivering and wet, our little feathered fighter soldiered on). 

Each day we watched the baby doves grow stronger, thanks to regular feedings by Mama and Papa Dove, and my own Mom's loving care. When sibling, Rusty, took off last week, ending up in the flowering Arbre de Judée (a bad omen?), he remained there past sundown, his head tucked into his fluffy chest. That next morning I feared finding him lying stiff in the garden after a cold, rainy night, but there he was on that flimsy perchoir, same pitiful position. I hoped he'd caught a few of those raindrops in his tiny bec (Mother Nature was kind in sending a misty shower and not the pelting rains we've had in the past). 

That afternoon Rusty changed positions on that branch, assuring us all he was not in some kind of coma. And now, by facing our garden vs. facing the busy street, he seemed better off: he would recognize his nursery, below (the grassy area where he and his sister were placed each day of their weeklong rehabilitation). He could also see and recognize his caregivers as we regularly waved our arms and called to him, "Rusty, Rusty, Rusty!" By day three we were dumbstruck over how the tiny creature could survive without food or water (there were no signs of the parents feeding him). Meantime Mama and Papa Dove continued feeding Betty thanks to all the dog croquettes Jules fed them.

But finally, we were elated to discover Mama and Papa feeding Rusty. No wonder he survived the past 3 days. He was being nurtured all along. We even saw him fly from his branch to the telephone pole higher up, beside the tree, where one of his parents would join him for regular feedings.

By Saturday night, Betty was raring to go. Only her flight pattern (on her brief take-offs a meter above ground) was irregular. It was that maimed wing keeping her grounded. Yet she was determined and all but broke out of my hands when I brought her back inside the last two nights. It was sad to have to leave our little wild bird alone for the night, sans frère, in Mom's  bathroom, not a leaf in sight, but when I discovered the toilet seat open I flipped. Betty was set to be released in the morning, but what if she had a freak accident the night before!

"Mom! You must remember to put the lid down!"  Poor Jules was exhausted after 10 sleepless nights, caring for her fiesty new roommate. Leaving Mom's studio that night, I feared a second twist-of-fate. What if the lid was left up accidentally and Betty flew into the toilet bowl?.... But to remind Mom once more to be cautious would be hurtful. Il fallait lacher prise. It was time to let go and have faith. 

The next morning I hurried to Mom's studio, around the side of our house. Jules was getting ready to feed Betty (oh, thank God!) but Mama Dove was waiting in the garden to feed her, too. "Let's go!" I said. "Are you ready?"
"We are ready," Mom replied, answering for herself and Betty.

Out in the garden Mama and Papa were now feeding both siblings, Rusty (who'd returned to his flimsy branch, just the right size for his little feet?) and Betty there on the grass. After mama bird flew off suggestively, Betty surprised us by flying up to the hammock! Only, when she began eyeing the east end of the yard, beyond which 4 neighbor cats live.... Mom asked me to stand guard. "Mom!" I said, "we can't manipulate the situation. We've got to...."

And just as I stood arguing, Betty flew off the hammock and landed on my head!

How good her little scratchy purple feet felt in my scalp! Mom and I exchanged looks of delight along with smiles as big as the flying leap Betty just took.

I slowly walked my passenger to the nearest perch (our tall table, facing the front of the house). Betty hopped off of my head and onto the table where she carefully thought over her next move. Suddenly, she flew up to the rooftop beside our porch, then up again to the highest toit. A perfect choice! From there she could hop onto the gigantic cedar tree with its endless branches.

Mom and I were clapping and whistling in celebration when next Betty disappeared into the dark green network of branches: How would we find her again and if we did, how would be know which bird she was?

Turns out there are several ways to identify a baby collared dove: 1) they haven't yet developed the black with white trim "half collar" around their necks 2) their feathers are dark but will become a light gray after their first molt 3) their distinct gazouillis or baby chirps set them apart from adults.

It's two weeks now since we found those fledglings in the yard. And just yesterday Betty flew back to our garden to peck the ground alongside her ravenous parents. We guessed she’d be in Paris or Miami by now, such is her adventurous character! Rusty is still up in his same tree, amusing us with his antics, such as his finicky eating...

As Mother and son perch high up on the telephone pole (where Russ sometimes ventures), one feeding the other, a shower of large crumbs rains down on the sidewalk below. 

"Mom," I say, elbowing Jules. "You've got to crush those kibbles before feeding them to Mama! Rusty won't accept them that way."
"Honey, I'm doing the best I can," Jules says, rolling her eyes.
"That's true. And those baby birds would never have made it without you."

Mom is visibly touched by the recognition. And with that, we sit back and enjoy the moment. The sun is beginning to set, Betty’s finding her way around the gigantic Cedar tree, and Rusty is spitting out more of his dinner, showering unsuspecting tourists who are returning to their cars after a day at the beach. This is just the happy ending I was hoping for, and more :-)

***

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Top photo: Betty, not yet ready to fly, only wishing to. Above: Perched on her box beside the artichokes, waiting for a parent to fly down and feed her again. Smokey is lounging over there on the right.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

s'envoler = to take flight
le soulagement
= relief
un oisillon = baby bird, nestling, fledgling
la tourterelle = collared dove
L'Arbre de Judée = Judas tree
le perchoir
=roost
le bec = beak
sans frère = without brother
lâcher prise = to let go
le toit = rooftop
le gazouillis = chirps

Dove  golden retriever  garden
Mama and Papa, whom Jules has fed for 3 years. And that is the high table (a former, ailing Palm Tree) from where Betty flew. She landed on the roof, left.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Les oisillons: baby birds fall into our yard + caring for injured and baby chicks

tourterelle baby doves
These baby doves were discovered in our garden one week ago. Don't miss the story, below. See any mistakes in today's post? Your edits are helpful and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

TODAY’S FRENCH WORD: un oisillon 

: baby bird, chick

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the soundfile


EXAMPLE SENTENCE
Vous POUVEZ remettre un oisillon dans son nid. Contrairement à un mythe très répandu, les parents ne sentiront pas votre odeur si vous le touchez (l'odorat des oiseaux n'est en général pas très développé).

You CAN put a baby bird back in its nest. Contrary to a common myth, the parents will not smell you if you touch it (birds' sense of smell is usually not very developed). --intra-science.com

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A week ago, Thursday, Jean-Marc and Jackie found baby birds in our yard, below the 20ft palm tree. My husband was getting ready to BBQ some salmon when he stepped back and almost crushed something under his shoe: a nestling, with all its feathers, scraggly looking and weak. Moments later our daughter discovered a second oisillon, severely injured and bleeding. There were scrapes all along its side, on the wing, and a deep, large gash on its back from un prédateur? Un chat?

I hurried and got a box, set a towel inside, and ran around the side of the house to Mom's studio. Jules shot into action: examining the doves, she began to wash the wounds of the injured one with water and drops of Bétadine. As she cared for them, Mom kept repeating, “They are big, these babies are big,” giving us all hope the lost ones would make it through their ordeal.

These fledglings were tourterelles turques, or Eurasian collared doves–very common in our neighborhood. Lucky little rescapés! To think their life hinged on a banal and flippant decision: earlier there was a question of cooking our lunch (fish) on the BBQ or in the frying pan. I kept hesitating until, oh let Jean-Marc cook outside--less of a mess in the kitchen! We would never have found the struggling oiselets had JM not gone out to the yard. Surely the cats would have come back in that scenario….

After lunch (the little orphans with us on the bench), Jules disappeared, leaving the helpless birds to Jackie… I didn’t understand why Mom would abandon her doves (we voted Jules as Chief Nurse) until she returned a while later having done a crash course via YouTube on how to care for fallen or injured birds. Apparently we had on hand all supplies needed, including dog croquettes… and the human touch, which Mom said was the most important ingredient. As Jules cradled the injured birdling, my thoughts slipped out, “Mom, haven’t you ever heard you’re not supposed to touch a baby bird? The parents will reject it!”

Jules wasted no time arguing. Tearing up her favorite wool nightshirt, she swaddled each chick. Emmitouflés, snug and warm they were carefully fed "un velouté de croquettes" (enough to nourish and hydrate them) before being placed near the heater in Mom’s tiny salle-de-bain.

I didn’t think the injured one would make it through the night, but early the next day I found Mom awake, feeding one of the nestlings, who now had a name: "Betty." I knew right away the other was "Rusty," after Mom’s dear, departed brother.

We took Rusty and Betty outside to the “nursery” (the center of our garden, beside the weeping pepper tree). There on a carpet of delicate white flowers we set the baby birds. The sun and fresh air began to dry Betty’s wounds. If it wasn’t amazing enough to see them alive Day Two, Day Three presented a miracle when a couple of doves landed beside the box and began feeding the baby birds!

It was no other than Mama and Papa, a pair of doves Jules befriended 3 years ago. So tame, they feed right out of Jules' hands and have landed on her head and shoulders dozens of times. Here they were, taking turns feeding Rusty and Betty. But were these fallen chicks their offspring? I didn't think so, but Jules insisted they were!

I noticed the parents opening wide their beaks for the babies to reach in and feed (I always thought it was the other way around, with the mama putting the food into the baby's beak).  "
This is good!" I said to Mom, happy she would have relief from the regular day/night feedings. 

"And the good news is I don’t have to teach them to fly!" Mom smiled. Sacré Jules. I could just see her flapping her wings!

They next days were a treasure, with our family gathered in the garden for the 3 or so daily feedings, in which Mama and Papa flew in to nourish the babies, who began trembling each time they were ready to eat (see video below). If it was awesome to watch the feeding you should have seen these fierce protectors dive bomb any bird that came near our yard (parts of which are now covered in feathers). They even chased the cats away!

Sacré Mama and Papa. I never did understand why Mom named the doves this way (always wished she'd come up with something zippier--Suzette and Fritz, for example. But now I see it clearly. Mama and Papa have come into their names.

This morning I went to get Rusty and Betty from Mom's, to put them out in the "nursery." Mama and Papa flew in immediately and began feeding their kids. Jackie and I sat chatting on the edge of the little pond/fountain, Smokey beside us, as usual. (Mama and Papa practically walk over his paws to get to where they're going and the baby doves find it normal to have a giant golden retriever looking over them.) This morning was one of the loveliest and when it came time to put the baby birds back into the box.... Rusty flew up to a branch!

I ran to get Mom, who hurried out. Jules's reflex was to get Rusty down off that branch (a rainstorm was coming in...) but as she approached the parents flew in and Rusty took off in a spectacular arc over our yard landing in the tree on the corner of our lot (above the busy crossroads in our neighborhood). He's been there now 8 hours, his parents looking on from the telephone pole beside the tree. 

Should we get a ladder? Toss a ball near the branch? Will he survive the night? He must be getting cold. What will happen to little Rusty? The overall feeling (beside helplessness) is to leave the parents to take over from here on. But why aren't the stealth dive bombers moving him along, steering their young one back to the nest? 

Please send good wishes Rusty's way. Meantime Betty is back with Mom. Ever a fighter with those battle scars, she's ready to fly too. But with the rain coming in we want to keep her dry and warm a little while longer.

I worry about Jules as much as the nestlings. She's put her everything into nursing them back to life, and she didn't get to say goodbye to one of the little ragamuffins, as she called them. I want this story to have a happy ending for the birds and for my Mom, but will have to stop here and cross fingers. Bonne chance, Rusty and à demain, j'éspère.

Click the arrow in the screen below to start the video, or view directly on my Instagram

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

un oisillon = chick, baby bird
un petit oiseau baby bird
tomber = to fall
blessé = hurt, injured
le prédateur = predator
le chat = cat
le nid = nest
la Bétadine = Povidone-iodine, a popular antiseptic 
la tourterelle = dove, see "lovebirds" in French
l'orphelin, l'orpheline = orphan
un (une) rescapé(e)
= survivor
un oiselet = baby bird, chick
la croquette = dog biscuit, kibble, dry food
emmitoufler = to wrap up warmly, to swaddle
un velouté de croquettes = cream of kibble soup
la salle de bain = bathroom
sautiller
= to bounce, jump
voler = to fly
soigner = to care for
à demain, j'éspère = see you tomorrow, I hope
IMG_3407
The blossoming tree where Rusty landed. See him camouflaged there in the center? 

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Slang in French for "to have a bite to eat" & La Loco (a delicious Italian restaurant in Cassis)

L'ardoise French menu at La Loco italian restaurant in Cassis France
A sympathique place to eat in Cassis. That's Max's pal, Antoine, and a couple of furry customers trying to get into "La Loco"--an Italian Restaurant facing the train station 1.9 miles above the Cassidian Port.

FRENCH EXPRESSION
: “casser la dalle”

    : to have a bite to eat (slang)

SOUND FILE: Click the link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the sound file



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Casser La Dalle à Cassis"

"J'adore cette route!" my son, Max says as we zoom up and down the backroads of Cassis in our electric, blue bagnole. On our right a tiny vineyard cradled in a slope, looking left, a chalky white cottage perched above the road.

Windows down, inhaling a pine-scented breeze, it’s refreshing to break free from restrictive planning (moments ago I had been trying to figure out how to divide yesterday's salmon miettes with my son who unexpectedly returned home for lunch. And now here we were, immersed in the Cassidian countryside, after Max suggested we eat out.

A call rang in via the car's bluetooth connection and with it a stream of argot tickled my ears as I listened to Max and Yann's conversation (selected phrases follow):

"Ça va, Gâtée?" How’s it going, Bro*? (Max responding to his close friend).
Je suis avec ma mère, on va casser la dalle à Cassis.” I'm with my mom, we're going to get a bite to eat in Cassis.
T’es toujours à ton taf?” Are you still at work?
"Oui, on vote cet aprèm. Tu vas voter blanc?" Yes, we're voting this afternoon. Are you turning in a blank ballot?

Gâtée, casser la dalle, taf...I burned that slang into my memory as we fired up the hill and the train station came into view. And there, tucked into the south side of the street behind the hedges, was the eatery. “It's called ‘La Loco’,” Max explained, “after ‘locomotive’." Well, choo! choo! that made sense. Less clear was why the name of the restaurant was nowhere to be seen. Hmm. A secret-private insider address?

To be sure, La Loco had a lot of locals. Not a foreign accent to be heard and at least three of the diners had a dog.
"Salut Zoé! Salut Antoine!" We kissed Max's friends, working there, and met "Francesco" (François) the owner and chef, before settling at a table beneath un arbre on the sunny terrace. The plane tree's leaves were just coming out, but the thick trunk and branches were enough to shade us from the midday soleil.

A solo diner arrived. Antoine showed Mademoiselle to the table behind us. "You can sit by Jean-Luc. Il est beau, n'est-ce pas?" A middle-aged Jean-Luc flashed a toothy smile before returning to nurse his beer, and the young woman with the green nail polish, Doc Martins, tattoos on her neck, graciously accepted the seat, which meant the two strangers would dine face to face after the awkward introduction. I was already feeling anxious for them when, in reality the two characters managed just fine, without my own awkward projections and assumptions. Oh, to feel that free! I need to get out more. 

"Salut!" Max shouted to a friend who walked in. We now chatted with Luca, who'd just finished "son taf." Taf! That’s the third time in one week this unfamiliar word came up. I wonder how many other words fly in and out of my ears, never to be registered. 

We paused to study the ardoise as Antoine went over the menu. Max recommended the Macaronnade: giant rings of pasta with meatballs made with fennel seeds, and Antoine suggested we share les blettes anchoïade —a swiss chard-anchovy-mozzarrela entree. What sounded un peu dégeu turned out to be délicieux. Max and I took turns soaking up the anchovy sauce, with some crispy baguette, until the plate was dry.

In the interlude between le plat and le dessert (a delicious tarte tatin) we soaked in more rays.“What do you call someone with no body and no nose?” My son challenged.
“Um, uh...I give up.”
Nobody knows!”

With that Max cracked up as only a francophone who understood English could (later, when I shared the corny joke with Grandma Jules, who got a kick out of it too. And you?)

Luca (not to be confused with toothy Jean-Luc) reappeared and we realized he'd been missing a while. "La plonge? Did they have you doing dishes," Max guessed.
"Every time," Luca laughed, raising his beer, before heading to Jean-Luc's table to pour some into his cup. 

This time Max disappeared behind the bar, returning with two grand crèmes. “I made a heart for you,” he said, pointing to the design in my coffee. Appetite satisfied, my cup full, the sun stretching its rays down on us, we were a long way from those cold, indivisible leftovers in our frigo. In two hours my world went from calculated and reduced...to expanded like the open heart floating in my cup.

Just when it seemed things couldn't get any better, I reached into my purse to pay. “Ça y est. C'est fait. It’s all taken care of,” my son smiled, having treated me to lunch.

  ***  

IMG_0718
Anoine, Max, and Jean-Luc (who also disappeared from his table...to lend a hand drying glasses). 

I hope you enjoyed today's tasty entry. Be sure to eat at La Loco if ever you are in Cassis. You won't have to fight for parking (as you do by the port) and you'll surely find good company in which to casser la dalle. Be ready to help with the dishes :-)

Address: La Loco, 29 Av. des Albizzi, Cassis (right across from the Cassis train station)




FRENCH VOCABULARY
casser la dalle = to have a bite eat
une route = road
une bagnole = slang for “car”
une miette = crumbs, scraps, leftovers
l'argot = slang
*ma gâtée = term of endearment, "bro", "dear" (not easy to translate...) This expression is now back in vogue after a certain rapper popularized it. 
un taf = job, work(slang)
l’aprèm = short for l’après-midi, afternoon
le vote blanc = blank vote, blank ballot paper
un arbre = tree
le soleil = sun
un casque = helmet 
salut = hi
l'ardoise = blackboard, menu
la blette = Swiss chard 
un peu dégeu (déguelasse) = a little disgusting 
la tarte tatin = upside down apple pie 
la plonge = wash dishes
un grand crème (un café crème) = coffee with milk
le frigo = fridge
Ça y est. C’est fait = it’s been taken care of

D4145DDB-075C-44EF-BA67-D8BAEE4B4AA9Max, bringing the café crème he made for me 

IMG_0719 (1)
Seated beside the beautiful plane tree. Max posted this photo on his Instagram, which explains the "Mom" and heart emoji on the tree.

Do you have time for one more story? "Cuellir", written in Les Arcs-sur-Argens when Max was  10-years-old, is a small window into our family life at that time. Though it paints the story of an organized, harmonious "team", we are most often trying to find that elusive balance et c'est la vie.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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