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.


  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

 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 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. 

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


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
= 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
= 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.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety