Colorful, vintage "quad" roller skates. Je les adore! How about you? And do you rollerskate? Also, if today's word doesn't interest you, there are a dozen more useful terms to discover in the story below.
FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY: les patins à roulettes
: roller skates
FRENCH AUDIO: Click the link 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.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy"
Vintage roller skates are back, making me nostalgic for the good ol' days when I'd fly out of bed and lace up my patins à roulettes. Off I'd glide round and round our trailer park, freer and happier than I've ever been.
I've wanted to skate for years now, but there never was a suitable place pour patiner (cobblestone paths when we lived in the village, then gravel driveways at our vineyard). Now that we're in a neighborhood paved with smooth chaussées, I admit something else's been keeping me from donning skates: self-consciousness. I'm too embarrassed to wobble around on wheels in front of my neighbors.
A 9-year-old Jackie rollerblading with Breizh (Smokey's mom) in the seaside town of Fréjus.
All that changed when my daughter drove us to Roller'n Co skate store in Marseilles last week. Chihab, a professional skater with a stylish afro and a cool name (Chihab means étoile filante, or shooting star) assisted us, recommending inline skates with heel brakes for more balance. Turns out those retro quads with toe stops are conducive to backward falls. Houlà! With that, we added protective gear--un casque, wrist, elbow, and knee pads--to our achat.
With so much paraphernalia to tack on, it took a while to get ready our first time out. I remembered Chihab's advice to wear jeans for extra protection, and cautiously descended our front stairs, sur mon derrière....
Jackie and I began on the narrow trottoir in front of our house. Just like riding a bike, skating came right back to us as, knees and posture slightly bent, we glided down the wide boulevards of our voisinage, on our way to La Voie Douce. Having good quality gear and a professional bootfitting by a skate tech made all the difference: these Rollerblades fit like paws! (Did you know the French word for skate--"patin"--comes from the word "patte" or paw?). Even with our new paws, we had a few close calls, mostly while navigating multi-level surfaces (sidewalk endings were the worst!).
Finally, we were on the smooth, wide pedestrian strip known here as La Voie Douce ("The Gentle Path"). This ancient railroad track, now a repaved sentier, runs from the town center all the way out to the train station here in La Ciotat. It's an ideal piste on which to practice le patinage. We joined (and sometimes dodged) walkers, runners, bikers, wheelchairs, and mothers with strollers, along the path, flanked by blooming wildflowers and nice grassy patches to land on, si nécessaire. When it came time to turn back we noticed the downward slope. "Attention, Maman!" my 24-year-old coach called out. Pumping the back brakes of our skates, it was smooth sailing most of the way, until we reached the turn-off for our neighborhood and encountered a road full of potholes (the French call these "hens' nests" or nids-de-poule). Cautiously "walking" down the street we eventually lost our balance and had to hold on to a fence the rest of the way.
Ouf! Back safe in our neighborhood, we encountered one last obstacle: another downward slope or pente. For some reason (fatigue?), I wasn't having the same luck with my freins as before, and began to lose control until I "caught" a telephone pole. "Mom! Take my hands," Jackie said, skating towards me.
"Yes, you can."
"We'll both fall down!"
"Mom, let go of that telephone pole and take my hands!"
There was no taking no for an answer. I let go of the pole and grabbed onto Jackie's hands. "Tu vois," my daughter said, smiling as we advanced in an awkward dance, swooping, swerving, laughing, and teetering. As we got closer to home a few of the neighbors looked on and, funnily, it didn't matter anymore. We were too caught up in our joy ride to care.
* * *
Jackie recorded a few short, funny videos of my first time back on rollerskates. Hit the arrow in the center to start the clip. Then hit the arrow on the right to see the other short clips. Can you see the footage, above? If not, visit my Instagram and swipe left to see the 3 videos.
le patin à roulettes = roller skate
patiner = to skate, to ice-skate, roller-skate
une chaussée = road
houlà! = yikes!
un casque = helmet
un achat = purchase
sur mon derrière = on my behind
le trottoir = sidewalk
le voisinage = neighborhood
La Voie Douce = The Gentle Path
la patte = paw
le sentier = path, way
la piste = strip (of land), runway
le patinage = skating
attention, Maman = careful, Mom
le nid-de-poule = pothole
une pente = slope, incline
le frein = brake
Improve your French via these vocabulary roundups from Spring 2017. You'll discover colorful words and stories you may have missed.
French Roll: Misadventures in Love, Life, and Rollerskating Across the French Riviera. From the icy peaks of Germany to the steamy beaches of France, this coming-of-age story begins when Michael, 19, gets a letter from his girlfriend asking him to meet her in Barcelona. He quits his daredevil job at the top of the German Alps and plots a risky two-month trek across the coast of southern France — alone, on roller skates. He leaves his alpine friends behind to follow his heart with only a backpack, ski poles, and roller skates. Order the book.
La Voie Douce in La Ciotat. Have time for another story? Learn the French word for "objective", "goal "or "aim" here.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety