New French words, including "chamaillerie" and A Dieu to one of our chickens...

La ciotat shore
I am going to bookend this edition with beautiful photos, to help balance a sad topic today. Here is a picture of our beautiful shoreline in La Ciotat, the city we live in--with Grandma, our our golden retriever, Smokey, and our chickens. You will learn many new French words at the end of today's story, so please read to the finish.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday afternoon when our plumbing backed up and all our toilets were en panne, I had this ominous feeling that the coming week would be un cauchemar

Then, at 4 am, ce lundi matin, my hens woke me. It wasn't un cri de détresse, more of a chamaillerie. Jealous by nature--especially when it comes to food--the chickens push each other around for the best spot on the fence, where they prefer to sleep each night. Once in a while one of them gets knocked off and wanders around the garden clucking until found and helped back up on the fence. 

Suddenly I heard my Mom, who was calling for me from the porch below. I threw open my bedroom shutters to find Mom in her slippers and pajamas. "One of your chickens is loose," Jules said. "I'll get my shoes and see you outside."

I met Mom in the garden and by then she'd collected the errant poule--the rusty brown one. We put her safely back in the pen, but, the next morning when I went to feed the chickens, I saw white feathers everywhere. Des plumes partout!

Mama, my white hen, was on the ground! At that terrible moment, my own Mama ran up, sparing me of having to look too closely at our 3-year-old hen. Mom held our hen, examining her from head to talon. C'était étrange. There was not one mark on her entire snow-white body, meaning an animal hadn't gotten to her. And we do not have hawks here on our city block, though we do have hungry goélands (but seagulls are not known to attack hens). Could she have been poisoned? ...Yet all those feathers hinted at some sort of struggle.

We may never know exactly what happened to our hen, and I am very sorry to share this sad tale today. But the alternative was to crawl under the bed covers and let the heavy blanket of sadness do its thing. After the stress of our plumbing situation (now fixed, merci Jean-Marc!) it seemed the best thing to do was to keep things flowing, including these tears. 

I want to end with un grand remerciement to our snow white chicken, Mama--you brought us so much more than eggs! We called you Colette when we got you, but you quickly became "Mama"--first in pecking order and forever in our hearts.

Mama chicken hen

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en panne = out of order, broken
un cauchemar = a nightmare
un lundi matin = a Monday morning
un cri de détresse = a cry for help
une chamaillerie = squabble, quarrel
c'était étrange = it was strange
la poule = chicken
des plumes partout = feathers everywhere
le goéland = seagull

Kristi and hens

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


A French wine and jam contest (with a nautical theme and a seaworthy crew...)

The Bitter Orange Wine and Jam confiture marmalade contest participants in La Ciotat
Ahoy! Ohé! Participants (or pirates...) at Sunday's mischievous marmalade contest. Notice the historic grue, or crane, in upper left. Today's "words of the day" are submerged in the following story. Hunt for them like a deepsea treasure--or walk the plank! se faire jeter par-dessus bord! Mille mercis to Christiane, from La Ciotadenne, for the pictures that illustrate this post. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
 by Kristin Espinasse
At the end of an unfamiliar driveway, near the historic old port of La Ciotat, Jean-Marc and I hesitated to get out of our car—partly because it was so windy and partly because we were unsure of le lieu. We were studying the facade of a 1950s bungalow, une maison de plain-pied, when the various nautical accents came into view. This had to be our friend Laetitia’s, newspaper journalist by day...and feisty capitaine by moonlit night.

Laetitia had invited us to her annual concours de confiture, or jam contest. While we were too late to enter, we could still be a part of the marmalade magouilles. This regatta of the senses was born one year ago when the massive bigaradier, a bitter orange tree behind Laetitia’s house, almost capsized under the weight of its sour load. Rather than let so much perfectly good fruit go to waste, our capitaine mapped out a new course—un concours—for the stranded fruit.

Bienvenue au Domaine du “Léticiota”
Given the tree is located at the end of two ultra mini rows of vines, Letitia dubbed the event "Le concours de confituriade et Vin D’oranges amères du Domaine du Léticiota." Which just goes to show you don’t have to have endless fields...to be a domain. All you need is an endless possibilities mindset—something our artist-capitaine has by the boatload!

There she was now, our suntanned capitaine with shoulder-length blond waves and a smile that would melt a pirate's heart. “Bienvenue!” our hostess waved, as we blew in with the Mistral, landing pil poil among a convivial circle of locals. There in the sunny side yard, we met the accidental “confituriers” who had previously been given a box of sour fruit and un défi: make jam and wine with these sour oranges! (The wine category is a new addition to this seaside citrus adventure.)

In the distance, not far from where Laetitia and boyfriend Jean dock their 1939 voilier, the famous shipyard grues of La Ciotat could be seen, rivaling an Eiffel Tower view. After an apéro, braved amidst the icy wind and an onslaught of ashes (we were seated beside the bbq) our seaworthy hostess clapped her hands and quickly got down to business naming the contestants, the 4-man jury, and the Hussier (yikes, that’d be me! But what was a huissier? (Presently my spell correcter suggests “hussy”. That's garce in French!).

“Your task” Laetitia informed me, “is to make sure these pirates behave! The judges must not talk to each other, and no one is to see this scroll," our capitaine said, handing me the ultra confidential document with the names of the confituriers which correspond to the numbered jars and bottles.

Jam contest judges
Ils trichent? Do you think they're cheating?

First abord we’re Maryline and Jean-Marc. The jam judges disappeared behind the wooden ship maquette in the kitchen. I followed, making sure the two didn’t go adrift...share notes and the like….. no worries there, the two worked as if their lives depended on it (or walk the plank! se faire jeter par-dessus bord), The judges dipped their spoons into the marmalade, the colors of which recalled the shades of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Next, Maryline debarked and Jean, Laetitia’s rugged co-capitaine, came on board with Jean-Marc, this time to judge the 4 wines. Between gulps of water, and much re-tasting, they carefully rate the homemade vin d’orange...
IMG_0229

Meantime, the island savages outside were getting hungry! It was nearing 3 pm when the wine- and water-logged jury finally emerged in time for the crew to dig into lunch à la bonne franquette. Everyone brought something to bbq (hats off to Hervé and Didier who manned the flammes). In addition to the bbq fare, Michel, president of the association to protect ancient boats, brought a spicy pecorino, and Maryline, passed around her handpicked, marinated mushrooms. Miam miam!

Jean-marc kristi
Now that everyone was relaxed, it was time to hear the results. The hussy and the head jurist stood…Jean-Marc read the results before announcing a number... after which I searched the sheet for the corresponding confiturier winner. One by one the gagnants shot up and did a little happy dance. Each winner was rewarded by an unexpected, and sometimes quirky, cadeau on the part of our hostess-capitaine, who declared that all the jam and wine here in la CIOTAT, at Laetitia’s...will here-to-for be known as “confiture et vin de “Léticiota”.

I leave you, dear reader, with Laetitia’s colorful notes, below, which will fill you in on the juicy details. (Warning: the end of this edition gets messy, as I have copy/pasted the text message from Laetitia--originally destined for our group only--and included a google translation in English, I  am in a hurry now to make lunch for my son, who's arrived unexpectedly, so please overlook the errors and just enjoy the colorful highlights.)

(P.S. follow me here on Facebook, where I will upload a video of the magouille or shenanigans, at the next chance!)

Presents and wine

Laetitia's Notes:
Le Concours de Confituriade et Vin d'oranges amères du Domaine de Léticiota a été récompensé sur les bases suivantes:
1- couleurs aspect
2- senteur orange.
3- texture consistance
4- amertume et sucre
5- goût traditionnel
6- Goût spécial insolite.

7 confitures en concours et 4 vins sous l' œil de notre huissier de justice des calanques Kristin Espinasse. Les fiches techniques de chaque chef ont été révélés après la proclamation des prix et aucune réclamation n'a été retenue bien que certains aient ajouté du rhum ou de l'alcool dans leur vin. Les jury pour les confitures: Jean-Marc de la cave le Vin Sobre et Maryline. Pour le vin les jurys était Jean Paquiero et Jean-Marc. Étonnant le résultat des jurys a toujours concordé dans le résultat total des meilleures confitures et vins. Pendant que le jury délibérait au coin bar résultats = Pour la confiture 1er Caroline et Pierre Yves. 2 execo du 2e prix Didier et Marilyne. 3e Laetitia et Jean. Pour le vin 1er Michel, 2e Hervé Pour le prix déco d1orange au clou de girofles pour Marie.🤝🤝🤝👏👏👏 l'extérieur un superbe barbecue cuit au feu de bois par Didier et Hervé sous la surveillance de Michel. Nous avons apprécié canard porc et gigot, merguez et saucisses... le tout dehors pour ne pas faire participer la covid. Merci à tous pour cette excellente journée un grand temps de préparation mais ça valait le coup et à refaire! La journée s'est terminée par la présence de Jean-Claude Goudon navigateur ciotaden et sa femme, le vainqueur de la Virtual Regatta du Vendée Globe de presque 1 million d'inscrits il est arrivé 1er des concurrents hier à midi après 69 jours sur son ordinateur !
Group

Laetitia's Notes in English (translated by Google)
The Domaine de Léticiota Confituriade and Bitter Orange Wine Contest was awarded on the following bases:
1- appearance, colors
2- orange scent
3- texture, consistency
4- bitterness and sugar
5- traditional taste
6- unusual special taste

7 jams in competition and 4 wines under the watchful eye of our bailiff of the Calanques Kristin Espinasse. The technical sheets of each chef were revealed after the proclamation of the prizes and no complaint was accepted although some added rum or alcohol in their wine. The jury for the jams Jean-Marc from the cellar Vin Sobre and Maryline. For the wine, the juries were Jean Paquiero and Jean-Marc. Astonishing, the jury's results have always matched in the total result of the best jams and wines. While the jury deliberated in the bar corner results = For the 1st jam: Caroline and Pierre Yves. 2 execo of the 2nd Didier and Marilyne prize. 3rd Laetitia and Jean’s. For the 1st, Michel’s wine, 2nd Hervé. For the decoration prize of orange with cloves for Marie outside a superb barbecue cooked over a wood fire by Didier and Hervé under Michel's supervision. We enjoyed duck, pork, merguez and sausages ... all outside so as not to involve the covid. Thank you all for a great day a great preparation time but it was worth doing again! The day ended with the presence of Jean-Claude Goudon, navigator Ciotaden and his wife, the winner of the Virtual Regatta of the Vendée Globe with almost 1 million registrants, he finished 1st among the competitors yesterday at noon after 69 days on his computer!


SELECTED FRENCH VOCABULARY

AUDIO: Listeb to Jean-Marc read the vocab list
Ohé! = Ahoy!
le lieu = place, spot
une maison de plain-pied = bungalow
le concours = contest
la confiture = jam, marmalade
la magouille = shenanigans
le bigaradier = bitter orange (tree)
pil poil = smack dab
un défi = challenge
le voilier = sailboat
la grue = crane
miam miam! = yum yum!
le cadeau = gift

Pirates and friends

Laetitia and michel

Kristi and laetitia
Bbq

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Seaside in La Ciotat + learn a dozen useful words (and hear some drunk French) in today's edition

La Ciotat beach
Let's jump right into today's narrative and improve our French! The audio and vocabulary list follow...

When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE...! and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette, and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépé—les oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.

***

Kristi and SmokeyThe interesting thing behind today's story, written in 2006, is how the various details have almost all come true! While we do not live in Brittany, we do live near the beach, where my husband enjoys catching sea urchins. Missing from this story is my dog (born 6 years after I wrote the piece). I could not have imagined the joy Smokey would bring!
 
FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to all the vocabulary below

le troisième âge = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped, a vintage Mobylette
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God

Now for some "Drunk French"-just for fun, see the video below (click on the image or the arrow, center, to view it. Turn up the volumn).

Walking in the sea in winter wetsuitCan you see the locals braving these icy waters? Wearing wetsuits they walk through the sea daily.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


To Cope in French + Waking up in France to an attempted coup d'état back home

Coastline in la ciotatAs upsetting as it is to wake up to news of an insurrection, most concerning is the effect it could have on our personal relationships. That is, at least, the biggest thing on my mind this morning. The following thoughts began as a pep talk to myself. 

Firstly, hang in there! Tenir bon = tenir le coup
What if the antidote to un coup is to tenir le coup? Such is the definition for tenir bon: to endure, withstand, weather the storm, stay the course. To tenir bon means simply to cope. Nous devons tenir bon!

Tears flowing, a fast-growing knot in the throat, sudden sadness/despair...followed by anger. Did you have a similar reaction when you watched a mob storming our capitol several hours ago? Here again are two words that may help during destabilizing or upsetting times: Tenez bon!

Weather The Storm
The worst possible outcome of this political storming is its power to divide us. No matter which side you are on you won’t be able to win over the other, already entrenched in his or her beliefs. So what can you do? Until you find a peaceful answer, tenez bon! Weather the storm in love and dignity.

I leave you with a cheerful photo taken last Sunday. The dog's tilted head speaks volumes. Tell me what he is saying in the comments.

Amicalement,
Kristi

Dog in front of barber
Both photos in today's edition were taken here in La Ciotat. Please share this blog with someone who loves France. Merci d'avance!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Rendre l'Ame: My Laptop Died + Christmas lights in the Old Port of La Ciotat

Christmas lights wooden boat pointu
Read to the end of the story for a helpful relationship tip ♥.

Today's Word: rendre l'âme

    1. to breathe one's last breath (person)
    2. to stop working forever, to give up the ghost (object)

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Mon ordinateur portable HP a soudainement rendu l'âme.
My laptop suddenly gave up the ghost.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

My computer died the day after Christmas. Thankfully I had finished composing my blog post, and as the next billet was due in a week, I could remain (somewhat) calm in time to trouver une solution!

Mais tout d'abord, why had my laptop suddenly gone kaput? Had the foot of my chair crushed the cord? Had the grid finally shut down (a government-issued "blackout" as rumored by les complotistes... It sure began to seem so when a day later my iPad a rendu l'âme! Rest assured, I am not a conspiracy theorist (not unless, as someone once said, there is a conspiracy!)

Thinking it over, I recalled a string of unusual activity beginning when my husband bought me the HP (this, after my PC died). The new laptop never did work properly. After several glitches, I began to suspect there was some sort of magouille behind it all. Had the revendeur sold us the computer equivalent of a lemon?

To begin with, the laptop took at least  20 minutes to start up. Early on, I had to work around this issue. I'd fire up the machine in the morning, then go downstairs and pull some weeds, feed the chickens, make some tea and hopefully return to a ready screen. By then any writing I had composed in my head was lost. To say this loss was not unpainful is, to put it frenchly, une litote!

(une litote = an understatement)

In the next two years, as I updated my blog, typed up our memoir, and wrote articles for a bi-monthly magazine...the clavier began to disfunction, making it more and more "challenging" (litote! litote!) to write.    

--les guillemets ont laché (the quotes key no longer worked)
--pareille pour l'arobase (same for the @ symbol)
--et le pavé tactile ne marchait plus (and the touchpad stopped working). I resorted, instead, to a very old souris. At least it worked!

Then, this past week the numbers pad began to act up, and a few chiffres were now unavailable. Just as for the quote key and the arobase, in order to write (especially dialogue, which called for quotes) I had to copy and paste certain characters from another document, which entailed googling the letter or number, (i.e. writing the words "italics" or "arobase") and then manually transferring (copy-paste) the needed character. I also memorized several Alt combinations that would produce the needed punctuation (again, the most often needed were those " " and @, or Alt 34 , Alt64).  Imagine working this way! All the while trying to focus on the story you are trying to write. What is the definition of insanity?:

La folie, c'est de faire toujours la même chose et de s'attendre à un résultat différent. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. --Albert Einstein

I did try to solve the problem, spending time in online forums or googling "mes guillemets ne fonctionnent plus!" But none of the tips to recover the keys worked for me or my (contreband?) HP. After periodic efforts to solve the issue, I gave up, and because I am a pathetic fencesitter and will suffer obstacles rather than remove them, it took a complete computer breakdown to resolve this worsening situation.

As bad as it was to have a laptop gone kaput, it forced a change of circumstances. 

It was time to find a new ordinateur portable but just which one? L'embarras du choix! There began two days of torture for me and for my husband. Jean-Marc tried to help and in no time at all had narrowed things down to a Huawei Matebook d15, but I had my doubts as to how he came to this ultra-rapid decision. Price? The fact I could use my Paypal to purchase it? or did he simply choose the first thing he found?!!!

When I accused him of this much, let's just say he didn't take it well (litote! litote! litote!)!

It really wasn't fair to expect him to help me only to criticize his help (we've run into this issue before in our 26-year marriage: If left to do so, my husband is willing to make choices for me--where to eat, where to vacation, what color to paint the bathroom) as long as I do not complain about those choices! I finally understand his side, now that I am in a similar situation with another family member. Just like Jean-Marc, I find myself reminding my loved one:

I will help, but don't complain about my choices for you if you won't make your own! 

It was time to make my own choices. So why the resistance? Why not get a MacBook?! After all, writing has been my full-time job for 18 years. (Why the need to justify?) A high-end computer was certainly justifiable--as it was the main investment needed for my business. Now, on the other hand, looking at my husband's business...his beloved wine shop...it seemed he needed thousands of items and art on his walls!

Tu fais comme tu veux! my husband reminded me. You do as you want (and leave me to do what I want!)  

So, after a short-lived fight, the two of us swallowed our pride and went to DARTY--France's popular electronics store. As complicated as I could make this computer-choosing quest, and in desperation to get back to work ASAP, I pared things all the way down to the essential. I needed:

--un bon clavier (a good keyboard)
--un grand écran (a large screen)
--quelque chose performant et fluide (something efficient and rapid)
...or whatever was in stock! 

And we had 19.5 minutes in which to choose if I was to take my husband up on his offer to shop with me! (He needed to be at work by 10.) I walked out with a Lenovo ideapad L340, a laptop that may be better suited for video gamers, but the salesman assured me, c'est vite! Hopefully it would be quick enough to catch the Muse, or Inspiration, before she flew off once again!

Later, when I got home, my son pointed out the bright electric blue backlighting beneath the keyboard... Oh well, the fluorescent lumière adds a bit of disco to my writing routine. And my fingers have certainly danced across this keyboard while writing today's missive. Yippee, and thanks to my husband or I might still be on the fence instead of back in the saddle.

As for "what is the best computer for a writer journalist novelist" (a phrase I typed into google several times during my laptop search), let me give you the answer from my personal experience: the best computer is the one you use, whether or not all of the keys work! 

--
In the comments, I would love to know what computer you use and if you would recommend it. Also, have you made the transition to a MacBook and was the learning curve ok? I see Google has come out with a laptop, any thoughts? What about Dell? Finally, do you have those special computer glasses? Because, even with this big screen, my eyes are blurring. See any mistakes in this post? I thank you for your edits.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
rendre l'âme = to give up the ghost, to die
le billet = column, blog post, missive
trouver une solution = to find a solution
mais tout d'abord = but first off
un complotiste = conspiracy theorist
la magouille = scheming
le revendeur = reseller
une litote = understatement
la souris = computer mouse
le chiffre = number
lâcher =  give up
les guillemets = quotes, quotation marks
l'embarras du choix = so many choices
My new computer le vin sobre
From Darty, I headed to Le Vin Sobre, Jean-Marc's wine shop, where he offered to help me set up my new laptop. Notice those disco keys on the clavier! (Also, that's one of Mom's paintings in the background)

Christmas wooden  boat pointu
That evening, computer problems now behind us, we had a relaxing and romantic stroll at the Old Port here in La Ciotat. 

City lights christmas la ciotat port
All's well that ends well. Tout est bien qui finit bien.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Tout va bien se passer (French for Everything's Gonna be OK!)

La ciotat beach franceWelcome to the antépénultième post of the year. Read on for less obscure and more meaningful words! (This photo was taken this morning. Do not miss the end photo of a horse in the sea also taken here in La Ciotat.)

Today's Phrase: Tout va bien se passer

  : everything will be alright (it'll all work out!)

Click here for the sound file

   
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Round three of trying to compose a story for this last (second-to-last? or antépénultième) post of the year--in which I'd planned to share what's on my mind and, in so doing... en agissant ainsi ... cobble together an offering in the midst of les fêtes (au fait... BONNES FETES! By the way, happy holidays!).

Like so many of you, I have a lot on my mind, which is just the Devil's way of distracting us from our goals and dreams, and my goal and dream is to keep writing. Not because I enjoy writing (I don't. It can be torturous...), but because writing is an effective way to focus, to calm down, and, best of all, to find meaning in seemingly meaningless things. (The word manger is a timely example!)

I may not have a 'real' story to tell today, but I can write for writing's sake! And so as not to waste your precious time, I will add as many French words--autant que possible--for édification. That, after all, is why you and I are here: to improve or s'améliorer. You came here to improve your French, and I'm here to improve tout court!

At this point in our messy essay (this, the antépénultième paragraph? on verra!) I am doubtful as to just what these words are adding up to... except freedom (au moins pour moi -- at least for me). I hope this billet will free you, too, from whatever might be torturing you!

Back to writing... It is not my style to plug this many French words and phrases into a post. I would rather things happen naturally, and not forcibly.  Mais, on fait comme on peut, we do as we can... on days when we feel we can't. Otherwise said, if we do what we can on days we feel we can't...we are a little freer, less tortured, and enjoy more meaning in life.

I'd better end here while I still have your attention. Have I? Good, then please remember this: It is okay if you are stuck today. You won't fall terribly behind. You are not a failure or a loser or an imposter. Most importantly, You are not alone. And one more message for those who need it most: It will all work out. Tout va bien se passer.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
Tout va bien se passer = everything's gonna be OK
antépénultième = third to last
en agissant ainsi = in so doing
les fêtes = the holiday season
au fait = by the way
bonnes fêtes = happy holidays
autant que possible = as many as possible
améliorer, s'améliorer = to improve, to improve oneself
le billet = column, blog post
tout court = period, full stop
on verra = we will see
au moins pour moi = at least for me
on fait comme on peut = we do what we can

Horse and trainer in La Ciotat photo Kristi Espinasse
I'll end with Mom's favorite picture, taken a few years ago here on the shores of La Ciotat.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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French for 'Emptiness': Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide....

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Heartfelt remerciements for your responses to this award from La Renaissance Française. Your kind words are pure gold! Back now to the weekly chronicle. I'm eagerly rolling up my sleeves and I thank you for reading.  (Mince! just realized today's word (selected days ago) clashes with this opening message. Read on to find out why... and learn extra vocabulary and French phrases in the story.

Today's Word: le vide

    : emptiness, nothingness, void

Audio file: click here and listen to Jean-Marc read these French words:
Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide en forme de Dieu que rien de ce qui a été créé ne peux remplir. There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When my husband alerted me one of our hens was loose, I hurried over to the poulailler--a large enclosed yard where our 4 chicks and most of the neighborhood doves and pigeons congregate at feeding time. But as soon as our snow-white fugitive, 'Mama', saw me she hurried behind the narrow fence, out of reach.

Zut!
There was no time to chase down Mama if I was to make it to church on time. Tant pis! With any luck, Jules would see her from her studio window and put her safely back. On my way out, I quickly covered an artichoke plant to protect it from a wandering beak and hoped the lettuce et compagnie would be safe! Still, I worried about any fowl play, or damage I might return home to, what with a hen-on-the-loose... 

Strangely, the moment I walked out our front gate, poof! the worry disappeared...only to return hours later, on my way home from Sunday service. During the twenty-minute walk, I had been busy trying to memorize a quote our pasteur shared, by the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal:

Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide en forme de Dieu que rien de ce qui a été créé ne peux remplir. There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing.

Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide ...
I was in the middle of repeating the citation when Mon Dieu! Ma poule! I remembered the situation back home... Cautiously opening the front gate, I was surprised to see my chicken bolting across the yard, in my direction. Skidding to a complete stop at my feet, my hen abruptly turned and crouched down in an instant surrender. So I reached down and swooped her up.

As we walked quietly back to the fenced pen, my feather fugitive resting securely under my own wing, I murmured to her: Big world out there, hmm? Lots of fresh grass to eat, luscious lettuce, forbidden artichokes leaves... And now, after tasting all that you want to go back to your humble--cozy abode...

With each vérité, my hen murmured back, her eyes fixed on her now-precious enclos.
Yes, I understand, I do understand! I continued, sharing a famous dicton:

Un petit chez soi vaut mieux qu'un grand chez les autres. A little place, all one's own, is worth more than a big someone else's place.

A sweet quote, n'est-ce pas? This brings me back to the other citation I had been trying to memorize. Let's see, where was I... Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide en forme de Dieu...there is, in the heart of man, an emptiness... in the shape of God....

The two sayings have nothing to do with one another, but after trying to scribble some philosophy into a chicken story, I am suddenly all fowled up, and struggling to conclude today's offering. How about we combine both quotes and end with this proverb:

Home is where the heart is. Là où est le coeur, là est le foyer.



--
For more, don't miss Pascal's God-shaped Hole, an article in The Harvard Ichthus. And, special thanks to our hen, 'Mama,' for inspiring so many bilingual French quotes in today's edition. 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
le remerciement = thanks, acknowledgment
mince
= damn!
le poulailler
= henhouse, chicken coop
zut! = shoot!
tant pis = too bad
et compagnie = and the rest, and the others
le pasteur = pastor, minister
Il y a dans le coeur de l' homme un vide en forme de Dieu que rien de ce qui a été créé ne peux remplir = There is a God-shaped hole in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing
la vérité = truth
le dicton = saying, adage, proverb
un enclos = pen, run, enclosed plot of land
un petit chez soi vaut mieux qu'un grand chez les autres = A little place, all one's own, is worth more than a big someone else's place!
n'est-ce pas? = isn't it?
Là où est le coeur, là est le foyer = Home is where the heart is
Homme heart coeur
I was looking for photos to go with the heart/home theme in the last quote. Est-ce que ça passe ou ça casse? Does this one make it or break it? Would you rather see a photo of a chicken? :-)

Poulailler chicken pen

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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Le Ravin: Jean-Marc's car accident in the French Alps

Passion for provence
Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie tells the tale of Americans Gayle and Ralph falling for France on their Mediterranean honeymoon and finally making it home—over two decades later. Part love story, part travel tale, part can-do, this humorous, spirited memoir will have you packing your bags for Provence for a sweet sojourn or possibly a longer stay. Order the Kindle/ebook or the paperback. Worldwide distribution via Amazon.

Today's Word: le ravin

    : ravine, a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm...

Audio File: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the last sentence in his story, below.

A BILINGUAL STORY  by Jean-Marc Espinasse

(English version follows, below)

Puisque que la météo avait prévu de la neige dans les Alpes, je me suis décidé à partir tout seul ce weekend pour faire de la randonnée en profitant de cette première neige fraîche de l'année. J'avais déjà utilisé notre petit Jimny 4X4 pour venir dans les Alpes alors qu'il neigeait et j'avais pu vérifier que cette voiture avait une bonne tenue de route dans ces conditions là.

Mais ce soir, la neige était très glissante et vers minuit à presque 1 km de mon arrivée finale un petit animal a traversé la route. À vrai dire je ne sais pas si j'ai mis un coup de frein ou si j'ai mis un coup de volant pour l'éviter, ce qui est sûr c'est que la voiture est partie en travers et qu'elle est entrée dans le ravin. Vous pouvez imaginer l'effroi et l'horreur que j'ai vécu, ne sachant pas, pendant cette chute, si ce ravin était pentu, s'il était long, s'il y avait des arbres , une rivière... bref je me suis véritablement vu mourir. Cette descente infernale dans ce ravin n'a duré peut-être que deux ou trois secondes mais pour moi elle a duré une éternité.

La voiture est miraculeusement restée sur ses quatre pneus puis elle a stoppé net. Heureusement j'avais ma ceinture de sécurité et j'ai été franchement étonné de savoir que j'étais en vie, sans aucune blessures. J'ai réussi à ouvrir la portière malgré la neige je me suis rendue compte de la chance que j'ai eue puisque la voiture n'as pas fait de tonneaux dans ce ravin très pentu. Il m'a fallu 30 minutes pour grimper, à l'aide des branches de buissons, les 15 m de dénivelé enneigés et rejoindre la route où un ami était venu à mon secours.

Après une très mauvaise nuit de sommeil je me suis réveillé sans courbatures et j'ai trouve les personnes qui m'ont aidé à remonter la voiture sur la route. Il a fallu un tracteur agricole avec un treuil, un porte-char pour amener le tracteur sur le lieu le travail et enfin un camion avec plateau pour pouvoir mettre la voiture accidentée dessus et l'amener chez le garagiste. Trois officiers de police sont également venus pour couper la route pendant cette opération délicate. Après avoir attaché la voiture aux câbles, le très puissant treuil du tracteur a réussi à la remonter au bord de la route sans aucun souci. Quel a alors été mon étonnement de voir que la voiture n'était pratiquement pas accidentée et que le moteur a démarré au quart de tour.

Le soir de cet accident, il y avait un tirage du loto historiquement élevé. Je n'ai pas joué à ce jeu mais j'ai quand même eu l'impression d'avoir gagné le gros lot. Je n'ai eu aucune blessures, la voiture n'a pas eu besoin d'être réparée et j'ai finalement pu profiter de cette neige fraîche, à l'origine de mon accident mais qui a également amorti et évité le pire dans ma course folle au sein de ce ravin.

ENGLISH VERSION

Since the weather forecast had called for snow in the Alps, I decided to go alone this weekend to hike, taking advantage of this first fresh snow of the year. I had already used our little Jimny 4X4 to come to the Alps while it was snowing and I had been able to verify that this car had good handling in these conditions.

But tonight the snow was very slippery and around midnight, almost 1 km from my final arrival, a small animal crossed the road. To tell the truth, I don't know if I put on the brakes or if I used the steering wheel to avoid it, what is certain is that the car took off sideways and so entered into the abyss. You can imagine the dread and horror I experienced, not knowing, during the fall, if this ravine was steep, if it was long, if there were trees, a river ... in short I truly saw myself dying. This hellish descent into the abyss only lasted maybe two or three seconds, but for me it lasted forever.

The car miraculously stayed (upright) on its four tires and then came to a stop. Luckily I had my seat belt on and I was frankly amazed to know that I was alive with no injuries. I managed to open the door despite the snow and realized how lucky I was since the car did not roll over in this very steep ravine. It took me 30 minutes to climb out, using the branches of the bushes, the 15 m of snow-covered vertical drop, and reach the road where a friend had come to my aid.

After a very bad night's sleep, I woke up with no body aches and found some people who helped me get the car back on the road. It took an agricultural tractor with a winch (a hoist), and a tank loader, to bring the tractor to the area and finally a truck with a platform to be able to put the damaged car on it and take it to the garage. Three police officers also came to cordon off the road during this delicate operation. After having attached the car to the cables, the very powerful winch of the tractor managed to raise it to the side of the road without any problem. I was astonished to see that the car was hardly damaged and that the engine started at a quarter-turn (of the key).

On the night of this accident, there was a historically high lottery drawing. I didn't play this game but still felt like I had won the jackpot. I had no injuries, the car did not need to be repaired and I was finally able to take advantage of this fresh snow, which was the cause of my accident but which also cushioned and prevented the worst in this mad race into the abyss.

 Jean-Marc cross-country
Jean-Marc enjoying the snow.

MVIMG_20190208_073838

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Remerciement + A gold medal from the French government!

Washington D.C. French_ambassador's_residence
I am delighted to share with you that I will be receiving a gold medal, La Médaille d’Or des Valeurs francophones, from the French government. This is a landmark in my near 20 years of blogging about the French language and culture. Sincere remerciements to Bernard Duhaime, president of La Renaissance Française, to the American Delegation, and to the French Committee for this nomination and award. And merci infiniment to you, Dear Reader, and to my family, for your support and ongoing encouragement over the years. This reward would not be possible without you!  (photo of French Ambassador's Residence by APK via Wikipedia)

Today's word: le remerciement 

    : thanks, acknowledgment

Sound file: Listen to my husband, Jean-Marc, read in French and in English:
Médaille d'or des Valeurs francophones--Cette médaille distingue les personnes qui se dévouent au développement ou au resserrement des liens linguistiques et culturels entre la France et les pays ayant la langue française en partage.

Gold Medal for Francophone Values -- This medal distinguishes people who devote themselves to the development or strengthening of linguistic and cultural links between France and countries sharing the French language. -La Renaissance Française


Letter from the Renaissance Francaise

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More than an honor, this award is a second-wind, uplifting, and a motivation to continue to peaufiner or refine, polish, and improve this weekly French journal--and it will keep me on my toes for an eternity (this last word reflects the accidental stars in the photo, above).

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


How to say cane (or trekking pole...) + photos from French Alps

IMG_20140102_143442
Our golden retriever, Smokey, and one of his many sticks. In today's story, Jean-Marc searches for the perfect bâton along the sentier to Fontenil, high up in the Southern Alps. Read along and learn a dozen useful French terms including a funny word for perfectionist...

Today's Word: le bâton

    : stick, cane, staff
    : le bâton de ski = ski pole

Sound file: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French and in English.Un alpenstock est un long poteau en bois avec une pointe en fer, utilisé par les bergers pour voyager sur les champs de neige et les glaciers des Alpes depuis le Moyen Âge. Les alpinistes francophones appelaient cet objet un "bâton". An alpenstock is a long wooden pole with an iron spike tip, used by shepherds for travel on snowfields and glaciers in the Alps since the Middle Ages. French-speaking climbers called this item a "baton".

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Le Fignoleur (The Perfectionist)

On a hike with Jean-Marc in Le Parc National des Ecrins, I discovered my husband's rare perfectionist side. This quirky behavior began after he picked up a fallen branch and, snapping it in two, carefully fashioned a walking stick. Advancing along a trail of faded pine needles, my guide reached for another branche d'arbre, examined it thoughtfully, and tossed the one he had been using.

Tu veux que je t’en fasse un? Would you like me to make you one? Jean-Marc offered.

Non merci. I needed both hands to fall on as we advanced up the rocky ravine, even if I felt surefooted in my tightly-laced bottes de randonnée.

Kristi at Ecrins national park

C'était dommage, Jean-Marc remarked, to have missed the changing colors of the beautiful mélèze trees. The leaves on these conifers were now a dull brown, but there were other vivid scenes to enjoy: the clear blue sky and the candy red berries on the trees in the fields we'd passed earlier, where the moist earth was upturned by wild sangliers in search of bulbs. 

"I didn't know there were wild pigs in the Alps...." I said, reaching to pick up one of the bulbs the boars had left behind.

Eh oui, my Montagnard replied, wrestling with yet another found branch. His foot pinning it down, he pulled one end of the branch until it snapped in two. Voilà! As he measured it against the previous stick, until the length was to his liking, I was about to tease him for such fastidiousness. Instead, curiosity won out. I wondered, was there a specific term for this stick Jean-Marc was so obsessed with? 

"C'est un bâton," Mr. Finicky answered. Such an ordinary word compared to these synonyms I would later look up, like alpenstock or trekking pole or shillelagh! 

"A good one should come up to your chin. Comme ça," Jean-Marc demonstrated, leaning against his latest find. "High enough to balance a pair of jumelles...." Too bad he had forgotten those binoculars. On second thought, Jean-Marc was so intent on finding the perfect bâton, he couldn't focus on much else—though he didn’t miss the chamois, when it clipped past, some 200 meters below us. Regarde!!

The fawn having disappeared from view, my husband began smoothing out the “handle” of his (6th? 7th? 8th?) bâton, using the rough bark of a larch tree to saw the tip. Running his fingers over the edges, Ça y est! It looked like this would be the one!

I watched my mountain man set off now, down the canyon, over a deep bed of crunchy autumn leaves. And it made me smile to see him stomp down with his feet, and tap the ground with his bâton, rien que pour le plaisir, just for the pleasure of hearing the sounds of fall. 

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

le bâton = stick
le sentier = path, way
le fignoleur/la fignoleuse = perfectionist
la branche d'arbre = tree branch
bottes de randonnée = hiking boots
c'est dommage = it's too bad
le mélèze = larch tree
le sanglier = wild boar
le montagnard = mountain dweller
les jumelles = binoculars

le chamois = fawn

Regarde! = look!

ça y est = that’s it
rien que pour le plaisir = just for the pleasure

IMG20201121110915
I regret not getting a picture of Jean-Marc with his beloved bâtons! For the moment, our roving perfectionist is busy finishing up his chapter, dotting every i and crossing every t, in hopes you will follow along with his (and our) vineyard story.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.