“La Douloureuse”: A funny way to say “the check” + A Tourist Trap, Beware!

213B9A91-95F6-48F3-A626-DD72D76BC1BE
Handwoven fishing baskets on La Maddalena Island, off Sardinia. Read about how we got trapped in a tourist net in today’s missive, and learn another meaning for la douloureuse. Speaking of pain, my eye surgery went well. Thank you for your kind notes.

Today’s (Slang) Word: la douloureuse

  : the check, the bill, “the painful”

AUDIO: Click the link below to hear the example sentence + all the French vocabulary. Then scroll down to check your French comprehension.

Click here for thr MP3 file

L’argot s’est enrichi d’un mot charmant. La note à payer, connue sous le nom d’addition, s’appelle, depuis quelque temps, la douloureuse. Slang has been enriched with a charming word. The bill, known as “the addition,” has for some time been called “the painful.”— Aurélien Scholl

In books: How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

La Maddalena c’est le royaume du poisson! Jean-Marc said, and from the selection of fish on display outside the island eateries, I could see why.

It was our second day along the Italian archipel, and we had reservations at a restaurant recommended by our Airbnb host. Seated now among the stylish clientele, I began to feel uneasy in my sundress and mismatched wool cardigan. Tant pis! I was in good company. There across the table sat my husband, wearing his favorite T-shirt: “Real Men Drive Tractors.” Regarding evening attire, we might be slowing down... But in affaires of the heart we are making good progress. For that I raised a glass of acqua frizzante as my date reached for his Vermentino and we toasted to 28 years of marriage. Tchin-tchin!

They say novelty is one key to a good marriage and something new for us is letting me pay the bill. All these years my husband has handled l’addition, for a “pain free” transaction. Even if the debit is coming out of our mutual account, I don't feel it so much when my spouse takes care of the check. I became aware of this when traveling to the US last month, when Mom surprised me with $500! “It will make things a little less painful for you while on vacation. Enjoy your time with your sisters and your dad and use this to help with the restaurants.” How generous of Jules to offer me spending money to make the bill—or “la douloureuse”—as they call it in France, a little less painful.

Les Oursins Dans Ma Poche? It isn’t that I have prickly sea urchins in my pockets, preventing me from reaching for my cash. It just depends on the situation. While spending is one thing, giving is different matter and something that doesn’t hurt at all (as Jules says: it feels good to give!). But overpaying, that’s another story and so on with ours….

Jean-Marc and I had settled on the pasta and fish (I would order the pasta, he would order the fish and we would share our main (and only) dishes. But when we learned the fish of the day didn’t have a set price (it was listed at 7€ per 100 grams) we asked the waiter for just one serving or “fish for one” figuring we were within our budget.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said he, “we only have turbot in that case.” Having never had turbot, I figured he was apologizing for having only a substandard fish “for one.” “It’s ok, I’ll have the turbot!” I decided, certain it was the best deal on the exotic fish menu….

For a substandard fish, that turbot was magnifique! It was a flat fish, similar to sole, and very delicate looking. The waiter carved it for us and we each had a palm-sized portion to go along with the pasta dish we were splitting. I ordered cheesecake for dessert and Jean-Marc ordered an extra spoon for his “taxable” portion as he calls it. (The kids and I call it Get Your Own the Next Time! But the kids, all grown now, weren’t here and so the bill would be even less—or should have been....

Holy cow! No wonder the French call the check “la douloureuse.” The meal we shared cost 108 euros. Just as I was resigning myself to pay the painful note, Jean-Marc smelled something fishy….

“Sixty-six euros for the turbot? But that’s impossible. We ordered fish ‘for one’!”

“But maybe we should have asked the price?”

“One serving of fish is around 500 grams. They are charging us for almost one kilo!” An argument ensued when the manager came over. “This is NOT fair!” my husband insisted, giving his final word. With that, the manager pointed to the bill and drew a line through the 108 euro total…JM and I were hopeful… until the manager scribbled “100.” 

Fifty euros per person was not unreasonable for our anniversary dinner, and I just wanted to pay the bill (more than ever) and leave before the scene got any bigger. But my husband wouldn’t let that fish go! On the way out he stopped the manager, who was in the middle of serving clients on the terrace. Next, Jean-Marc raised his finger and wagged it like never before. Wag, wag, wag! “La prochaine fois qu’on vous demande un poisson pour une person ne servez pas un poisson facturé pour deux persons!!!” The next time someone asks for fish for one don’t charge for a fish for two!!”

I stood there feeling as awkward as my dress until, finally, I grabbed my husband by the arm, sunk my fingernails in and the finger-wagging stopped. Next, we stumbled off, one of us shaking in indignation, the other struggling along in slippery sandals. 

We passed several more eateries on our stroll back to the rental apartment, and I wondered just how many other tourists were in for a surprise when la doleureuse arrived. Meantime, my husband walked silently. It was time for some humor to dispel the mood, and what better than a play on words?

“We’ve got to remember never to order turbot again. It’s the most expensive fish!” 

“No it isn’t,” JM corrected me. “All the fish cost 7 euros per 100 grams.”

”Well then, you might say we were ‘turbo’charged!”

So that’s my fish story, dear reader. I would love to read about your own mistakes or any tourists traps you yourself fell into while traveling. Thanks for sharing and see ou next week.

***

80EAB965-1AC3-4A73-8C47-9ECFE2036DAD

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

le royaume du poisson = the kingdom of fish
tant pis = oh, well
les affaires = articles of clothing
l’acqua frizzante = sparkling water
le Vermontino = a grape variety from Corsica, Sardinia, Liguria, and Provence
tchin-tchin! = here’s to you!
la douloureuse = the check, “the painful thing”
avoir les oursins dans la poche = to be a cheapskate, “to have sea urchins in your pockets”

In books: Her Own Legacy by Debra Borchert. A Woman Fights for Her Legacy as the French Revolution Erupts. Order here

 

60BCAF9A-1618-474E-A52B-24ACDAE8C161

The port of La Maddalena 


7D916F1E-CEB5-48DB-B178-8286012F72B3
A cheery eatery near our Airbnb

3ACE34BC-71B7-4A1C-9A55-799E6946FF44
ACEACD3B-4A56-4F74-B994-694502C8A75F
Can you read Jean-Marc’s T-shirt via the reflection in the window?

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


Redémarrer: Bonjour. An update from Kristi

Sunny English sheepdog
In Denver, I got to meet "Sunny", my sister's 5th chien de berger anglais ancestral, and enjoy a longawaited reunion with family. Read on and bienvenue to new subscribers. Delighted to have you with us! 

Today's Word: redémarrer

    : to restart, start again, to get moving

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following 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 file

The eightHave you read The Eight? It takes place in France, is loaded with history, and Mom loved it! Order it here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Et hop-and just like that-summer is over. The French call this time of year la rentrée, "the start of the school year" or simply the return from vacation for those of us heading back to work. It is time to redémarrer or restart this blog with a quick update from our home in La Ciotat.

From the Rocky Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea...
It feels good to come home to France after a solo, three-week visit to Colorado. And like anyone returning from a getaway I have a lot to catch up on including, apparently les mites! Hungover from jetlag I stood in our kitchen pointing to le plafond as my husband balanced himself atop our wobbly dining table, a sharp wooden stick in his hand. You need such weapons to scratch the buggers loose from from their encrusted nests. Allez! Oust! Begone unwelcome weevils! Get out of my oatmeal, get out of my rice, get out of my life!

It is time to calm down and focus on writing and it doesn't come easy after a two-month pause. Writing for a living means the brain is constantly churning. Everything is grist for the mill! The mind chatters possible sentences, edits phrases, rearranges ideas and words only to scatter when facing a blank page. All that brain sweat for nothing. Two summers ago I decided to go on summer break "just like teachers do," and rest my head. I still don't know whether that's a good idea or not. I think this summer taught me that writing regularly is more than a healthy discipline--it is an anchor.

There, I've said everything but what I came here to tell you. Let those previous paragraphs be a warm up and now let's sprint to the finish with a recap of my time in Denver: After 3-and-a-half years apart from my family, I had the chance to see my sisters, Heidi and Kelley, and our Dad for a belated 80th birthday celebration. While this was the highlight of my trip, so were the many hugs from my niece and nephew, and seeing the two off to college at CU in Boulder. I also got to experience a “Tailgate party” before the CU football game, and, back in Denver, savored enough Mexican food and pastrami sandwiches and Triscuits to hold me over until the next time. Oh, and we discovered Elk burgers (thanks Rondo and Tom!) and Colorado corn so good it makes organic French maïs taste like cardboard. I will need to better explore the French farmers markets during corn season--and update you.

Kelley-heidi-Dad-Kristi
My sisters Kelley and Heidi, our Dad, and me in Boulder.

Other highlights included a special gift delivery from a reader (see painting below), keeping up with my sister on daily walks with sheepdog Sunny (Heidi is a jet plane while I'm a hangglider) and a sober dance in the rain at a biker bar! But I'll save that one for now. A writer must always have a story up her sleeve and the option to leave it there!

Now, back to those pesky pantry invaders and to other areas needing attention and care here at home. Tell me, how are you and how was your summer? I would love to hear about it in the comments. And thank you so very much for reading these French-infused updates, moths and all!

Amicalement,

Kristi

Edits to this post are welcome and appreciated. Merci beaucoup!



FRENCH VOCABULARY
Are any of the following words new to you? Which is your favorite term and which is hardest to pronounce? 

le chien de berger anglais ancestral = old English sheepdog
bienvenue = welcome
redémarrer = to restart
et hop! = and that's it! and just like that!
la mite = moth
le plafond = ceiling
allez! = go on!
oust! = get outta here!
le maïs = corn
amicalement = yours

 

IMG_4064

Thanks, artist Judy Feldman, for this precious rendition of our dearly departed dog. Those eyes! That tongue! That soft, silky, golden hair... That's our Smokey! Hard to believe he's been gone two months.  

IMG_4112

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


Lunch in Arles, "Séjour" in Camargue, wild horses and a cool rancher's hut

Flamingo bird park in camargue
Les flamants roses--pink flamingos in the Camargue. More photos from our weekend in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on my Instagram (please follow for upcoming entries), and all our recommended addresses are at the end of this post.

Today's Word: un hébergement

    : accommodation, lodgings

French Audio/Listening:
 Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the MP3 file



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

One perk of getting older and traveling sans les gosses is better accommodations! When I think back to some of the doozies my husband has rented--a flea-ridden room in Madrid, a stinky suite in Barcelonnette, or a bunk (yes, just a bunk--shared with strangers) in Queyras --I can't believe how far we've come. The key to this betterment (besides having more flouze than we did as newlyweds) is an agreement Jean-Marc and I came to years ago: he will do the trip planning as long as I do not complain about accommodations or scheduling.

Fair enough, wouldn't you say? Especially if you are like me: not a details person. I would rather do anything than work out so many particulars of a family vacation: what transportation we will take, where we will séjour and eat and sightsee. My husband enjoys organizing trips so why not let him handle our itinerary? I'll take care of the snacks (never travel without un en-cas, my sister Heidi taught me that), the cleaning, and how about the retelling? As Anaïs Nin said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." So let us briefly relive the past weekend and thank you Jean-Marc for so many great picks...from restaurants to local attractions--tu as tellement bien choisi!

Our dépaysement began with a meal in Arles. A freezing Mistral wind accompanied us up and down the corridors of old Arles as we searched for the restaurant Jean-Marc had reserved, but I did not complain--and was rewarded by a gallant proposition: "Would you like my coat?" Jean-Marc offered. His gesture was enough to warm me through and through. No coat needed, and before long we were tucking into Le Gibolin, its warm and velvety vapors escaping the kitchen, thawing us instantly. 

After a lunch of roasted butternut squash stuffed with pasta and veggies (Jean-Marc loved his main dish), we were on our way to the flattest part of Provence, made up of pools of water: La Camargue! Pulling up to an iron gate behind which two independent cabins with their grass rooftops were set back from the waterfront, I looked over at my driver. Jean-Marc, you really outdid yourself when you found this authentic rancher's cabin! Newly renovated, the white-washed walls, the wooden touches throughout, the seafoam green tiles in the bathroom...this little abode was so thoughtfully decorated and it instantly transported us into its cozy luxury. 

Cabane de gardian
Ours was the hut on the right.... and this side of the water is another narrow strip of land where wildlife filed by....

From the one-room cabane de gardian with its mezzanine (and échelle leading up to the bed--this steep setup is not for everyone, but Jean-Marc insists my  80-year-old father could climb up and down that (unattached!) ladder during the night), we could look out a low-lying window with a panoramic view of the glorious marsh. Note: low-lying because of the low-lying roofline above the window, typical of these Camargue ranch cabins which sport a thatched rooftop measuring well over half of the building's height.

The view reflected in the window
A selfie from the yard looking into the hut. That's a fake heron on my right, but there were many real and exquisite birds--and more....

What a view! Our little cabin was 20 feet from the marsh, or étang (is there a difference?), where pink flamingos, an industrious and very cute castor, and--surprise surprise!--a local jument grazed. That docile horse, which graced our view of the horizon all weekend, was the icing on this Camargue cake. 

IMG_3077
La jument. The mare.

Our romantic weekend included two nights dining in (Jean-marc brought a selection of cheeses and a steak from his wineshop-épicerie, and we bought pastries from the local baker in Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer where we strolled along the seafront each afternoon. 

"This is the best hébergement you have ever found!" I praised my husband, and praise, I am learning, goes a long way! I wish I knew this as a young bride, wish I'd counted the goods instead of the bads. Thankfully, we've made it this far along our marital journey and no looking back except to count our lucky stars!

"Could you live here?" I asked as Jean-Marc drove us the 1.5 hours home the last day, past fields of wheat-colored reeds and cattle feeding. "No, it's too flat for me," Jean-Marc admitted. He's headed back to the Alps this weekend, for his mountain fix and I (une casanière at heart) am happy to be home, though ready to follow my husband when wanderlust hits him next. Bye for now and please share your experiences/recommendations for the Camargue, as we will surely go back...with our grown kids, nos gosses--and Grandma Jules and dear sweet Smokey, too! Papa, get that flouze ready! 

***
Cabane de gardian camargues
The cabane next to ours (I believe the owner lives there, but she was away).


A FEW ADDRESSES FOR THOSE WANDERING  AROUND THE CAMARGUE

Le Gibolin restaurant in Arles--delicious!

Parc Ornithologique Pont de Gau--where you'll see more pink flamingos than you ever thought possible! (Do not miss my Instagram page, where you'll hear the unusual sounds they make)

La Cabane du Pêcheur--Jean-Marc absolutely loved this lively restaurant with three unique seating areas (we chose the indoor "antiques" tent, where statues and various treasures surrounded us). You could also eat at the lively bar: loud music and a saloon-type atmosphere or sit outside by the marsh where the bbq is full of fish: sole, loup, rouget...

Domaine de Méjanes--our last day we visited a park bought and created by Paul Ricard (of the famous pastis), where you can take a charming train around the property to see wild horses, more flamingos and the breathtaking landscape of la Camargue. Not to be missed.

And here's the AirBnB listing for the Cabane de Gardian where we stayed two nights.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
sans les gosses = without kids
le flouze = cash, dough
le séjour = stay
un en-cas = a snack
tu as tellement bien choisi = you did such a good job choosing
le dépaysement = change of scenery
le castor = beaver
un hébergement = accomodation
la cabane de gardian = rancher's hut
la mezzanine = wooden loft
une échelle = ladder 
une jument = mare (horse)
un étang = pond, pool of water
casanier, casanière = home-loving, homebody
Papa = Dad


LES ARCHIVES: Do you have time for another story?
The story Pêle-Mêle features a memorable hotel room in Barcelonnette where we lodged when our kids were little.

La jument the mare horse in Camargue
Do you see la jument

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


Demain il fera jour: A reminder not to take work (life, everything) too seriously + Escapade to Porquerolles Island

Bike rental on porquerolles island France
If today's word is too easy for you, détrompez-vous. Think again. This letter has a lot more to offer when you read to the end.

Today's Word: la plage
1. beach
2. track of music
3. time span, range

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and English

Porquerolles, ses plages de sable fin, ses eaux turquoise et transparentes. C’est un véritable paradis à quelques minutes de la presqu’île de Giens en bateau. -Hyères Tourisme Porquerolles, its fine sandy beaches, its turquoise and transparent waters. It is a real paradise, a few minutes away from the Giens peninsula by boat.
 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sand, Pétanque, Sea urchins and a "Be Here Now" mindset

Lundi dernier, on my husband’s 54th birthday, we boarded une navette and cruised over to the island of Porquerolles. It was the week before France's 3rd confinement and this 3-day getaway was like a large breath of liberté before lockdown.

The ferry was almost empty. We huddled at the back of the shuttle, enjoying the open-air seating with the other passengers, some dressed in shorts, some in sundresses, all of us wearing masks. Within 15 minutes we arrived in Paradise. Like the other two islands in the Îles d'Hyères, Porquerolles is known for its crystal clear, turquoise waters and fine sandy plages. There are few cars on the island (only those needed by the local businesses), bikes are the way to get around.

"I prefer to walk," I said to Jean-Marc, as we headed past some bike rental shops and made our way to La Plage d'Argent, a 25-minute marche from town. The scent of eucalyptus filled the salty air as we passed fields of wildflowers, a vineyard, and an impressive community garden full of potager beds! "Maybe we should move here?" I challenged Jean-Marc.
"Pourquoi pas!" said he, kiddingly. We would probably get island fever after the first month. Et puis tout se sait sur une petite île! On a little island, there are no secrets!

Donkeys on porquerolles island
The donkeys are slightly camouflaged. Can you see them, left of center?


"Regarde! Il y a des ânes." There were a trio of donkeys in the maquis. A sign posted nearby said that these animals help débroussailler, or clear away of the dry undergrowth which could lead to fires. "We could have used those!" I said to Jean-Marc, remembering the yearly visits by the police to our vineyard, threatening une amende if we didn't get our property cleared before the heat of summertime.

This reminded me: the last chapter of our vineyard memoir was due tomorrow! I also had a blog post to create and send out in 3 days... and a sinking feeling told me today was the deadline for my France Today article on Cairns (or rock stacking in France). I knew when Jean-Marc planned this escapade, that it would fall right in the middle of a week of deadlines--but this trip was his birthday present. I began to sweat over this decision to put everything off until our return, when a little voice within piped up....

Aujourd-hui, c'est aujourd'hui!  Today is today!

Everything in life needs a balance, especially for those who are self-employed and pressuring themselves to stay on top, to not slip or fall behind. If there is one life lesson that I cannot seem to learn it is this: Keep it in the day! A chaque jour suffit sa peine. Be here now! L'instant présent! Or, as Jean-Marc's Mom always said, Demain il fera jour.

Tomorrow is indeed another day! I reached into my bag, grabbed an apple and began eating. I never eat when walking. And I am never late with work. And I never play pétanque (but would, by the end of our périple). 

Ironically "nevers" don't exist on Never Never Island. Et heureusement! I took another bite of my apple and caught up to Jean-Marc, who was heading down to the beach. Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! I said. Happy Birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire! Thank you for this getaway, ce dépaysement! With that, we set down our only beach towel (having forgotten to pack another), and kicked off our shoes. Feet in the sand, I unpacked our picnic: last night's omelet tasted delicious on the beach, along with bites of poutargue (a sliceable mound of dried fish eggs--we're addicted!), an avocado, cheese and the main course: les oursins! Jean-Marc put on his wetsuit and headed out to the rocky edge of the beach where he found the urchins among a lot of seaweed (an astuce learned from a friend. Normally they're found clinging to rocks). 

Our stomachs full we shared the beach towel for an afternoon nap. The next two days were rebelote--or much the same: long leisurely walks to the beach, a simple, delicious casse-croute (and more oursins) followed by un roupillon. It was a wonderful birthday celebration, and a good break all around. And when thoughts of work returned throughout our stay, so did my belle-mère's wise words about keeping it in the day:

Demain il fera jour.

 

Porquerolles
More photos on my Instagram

FRENCH VOCABULARY
détrompez-vous! = think again
lundi dernier
= last Monday
la navette = shuttle, ferry boat, water bus

le confinement = quarantine
la plage = beach
la liberté
= freedom
la marche = walk
pourquoi pas? = why  not
le potager = vegetable patch, kitchen garden
tout se sait = there are no secrets
regarde! = look
un âne = donkey
le maquis = scrubland, shrubland, brush
débroussailler = to clear (dry grasses)
une amende = ticket, fine
une escapade = getaway, break, trip, escape
A chaque jour suffit sa peine = Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
demain il fera jour = tomorrow is another day
le périple = journey, trek
et heureusement = and thank God for that!
le dépaysement = change of scenery
un oursin = sea urchin
une astuce = tip, trick, hack
rebelote = same thing again
le casse-croûte = snack
le roupillon = nap, siesta
la belle-mère = mother-in-law

 

IMG_0705
Domaine de l'ile - one of 3 vineyards on this island full of character. See more photos of this paradise:
https://www.french-word-a-day.com/2013/04/what-to-do-on-porquerolles-island-que-faire-sur-l%C3%AEle-de-porquerolles.html

IMG_0702
Jean-Marc and his urchins cutters or coupe-oursins, and on the right urchins on the half shell.

More stories: The last time we went to Porquerolles, our kids had a wild party at the house, click here

Read about the creative "mop spear" Jean-Marc invented while on the island: more here


IMG_0727


Kristi and Jean-Marc
Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! Bye for now and remember to enjoy the day by living in l'instant présent.

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


Boui-boui: Jackie and I lick windows in Miami while Jean-Marc gets stuck in immigration

Signs in key west floridaKeeping this French language journal going is a joyous struggle: there is joy in writing it and there is a struggle in maintaining it. Your help is not only appreciated--it keeps me employed. One very helpful way to support this site is to buy a book for a friend, via this link. Or scroll to the end of this post for other options. Now on to today's story, packed with useful French vocabulary in context. Enjoy and bonne lecture! 

Today's French Word: un boui-boui 

   : a small, cheap restaurant, a greasy spoon

Audio File: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read in French:  

À Freeport, une île de l'archipel des Bahamas, je me suis arrêté pendant 10 minutes dans un petit boui-boui pour avaler des ailes de poulet. In Freeport, an island in the Bahamas archipelago, I stopped for 10 minutes in a small greasy spoon to woof down some chicken wings.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A Quick Jaunt to the Bahamas from Miami? Quel Calvaire!

***
All the mask-toting travelers at the airports in Miami, Marseilles, and Munich, made me ill-at-ease, but, apart from the coronavirus scare, our trip to Florida to visit our 22-year-old daughter went relatively smoothly.

Now relaxing on South Miami Beach, my husband suggested a day trip to the island of Bimini--a 4-hour boat ride aller-retour--I knew right away I didn't want to go. The old Kristi would've tagged along (and moaned and groaned the whole intrepid way). But the new Kristi simply released her thrill-seeking husband to court the unknown all on his own. "I'll spend the day with Jackie," I asserted, and so followed my instincts this time around...

...and was spared The 20-hour épreuve my husband would soon suffer....

On Sunday morning Jean-Marc's alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m. causing Jackie (asleep on an air mattress on the floor of our studio rental) to stir and me to ask a few pertinent questions: sun hat? water? ESTA* papers (in addition to his passport, would he need some sort of Visa or waiver)?  

Jean-Marc threw on his yellow and green Brazil soccer jersey, his old swim trunks, and donned his purple Phoenix Suns casquette in time to catch a shuttle that would take him to the port in Fort Lauderdale. As he rushed out the door into the cold dark street, I stretched cozily across the bed, enjoying the extra space and une grasse matinée. 

By 9:45, Jean-Marc was four hours into his journey to the Bahamas (and still waiting for his boat in the Fort Lauderdale terminal...). Meantime, ma fille et moi were en route to a leisurely breakfast at The W Hotel on South Beach. And quelle chance! Jackie's manager treated us to a free buffet, in thanks for Jackie's excellent service as a waitress at their establishment. Qu'est-ce qu'on est fier de notre fille! As we enjoyed les gaufres with heaps of cream, strawberries, and syrup, Jackie mentioned that Papa needed help with his odds-n-ends (yellow, green and purple...) wardrobe. "Your Dad is into vistas and not vêtements... Seashores and summits, not style or trends," I laughed, trying to imagine just where he was now in his adventure: snorkeling beneath turquoise waters? Sunning on a pristine Bahamas beach? Kissing a mermaid? (as he threatened to do when I declined to go with him).

As we ate we were blissfully unaware of Jean-Marc's own petit déj : he had only managed to down a coffee, too seasick from being stuck on a ferry boat. Turns out after that 45-minute shuttle from hell (crazy driver!) and the 2-hour wait at the port terminal, our day-tripper finally made it onto the boat for the 2-hour crossing...only to be redirected away from Bimini owing to rough waters! It was too bumpy, too dangerous to let passengers disembark. So the ship set sail to another island. 

Jackie left a gigantic tip for our waitress and thanked her manager before we left the 5-star hotel and headed to Miami's Design district to faire du lèches vitrines (that's "window licking" in French, i.e. window shopping). A few hours later we had a delicious snack before Jackie needed to head to work for her 4 p.m. shift.

By this time, still on an empty stomach, JM had earned his second pair of sealegs, having finally made it off the rocking boat. He had traveled 10 hours only to get back on a little bus that would drive him 30 minutes across Freeport island in time for 15 minutes of tourism (if you included the greasy chicken wings and beer he wolfed down at a God-forsaken boui-boui).  

Back at our cozy studio, Jackie showered and left for work while I enjoyed a few quiet hours to organize our bags for the next day's journey to Key West. So good not to have to rush! At 6 pm I put on a pretty necklace, some lipstick, fluffed my hair and headed back to the W Hotel for a solo dinner and the chance to see my daughter in action. Her colleagues gave me a grand welcome and showered my daughter with affection, assuring me she was in good company. One of the waiters opened a bottle of champagne in my honor, delivering it to my table with a flourish. I was sorry to have to refuse it, and how ironic that this happened a very special date: This week I celebrate 17 years of sobriety.* 

As I sat sipping bubbly (l'eau gazeuse) and being treated to a four-course meal (including lobster!) I did not know my poor husband, nary a chicken wing in his tummy, was about to be stuck in some hangar in Fort Lauderdale, nor did I realize he did anything other than snorkel or kiss mermaids for the day in the Bahamas....

When Jackie returned to our rental after 11 pm, her Dad was nowhere in sight. By midnight we were sick with worry until a message came through: JM was stuck in immigration. "What if they keep him?" Jackie worried, having had a few of her French friends experience the horror. 

At 1:15 a.m. our intrepid traveler returned from his bumpy ride (still swaying back and forth as he walked) and gladly ate the 5-star take-out from the dinner Jackie had helped treat me to, via her employee discount. After a glass of rosé and a full tummy, our marooned (if only in buses, terminals, and boats) daytripper sank into bed and was out like a light. The old Kristi would have been furious he was kissing mermaids in his sleep. But the new Kristi said, Let him dream his dreams. He deserves it.

Post note: Jean-Marc says the immigration officers were watching the Super Bowl, which took place that day in Miami, and that this is the reason for the delay in passport check. 

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

bonne lecture = happy reading
le calvaire
= cross, ordeal 
un aller-retour = round trip, return trip
une épreuve
= ordeal, trial
la casquette = baseball cap
faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in, to lie in
ma fille et moi = my daughter and I
quelle chance = what luck!
Qu'est-ce qu'on est fier de notre fille! = how proud we are of our daughter!
une gaufre = waffle
Papa = Dad
un vêtement = item of clothing
le petit déj(euner) = breakfast
faire du lèche-vitrine(s) = to go window shopping
l'eau gazeuse = bubbly, sparkling water
un boui-boui = low quality eatery

ESTA = Electronic Papers for Travel Authorization

Jackie and Jean-Marc in Key West
Jackie and Jean-Marc in Key West.
Jean-Marc in Key West

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


Dépaysement - one of Jean-Marc's favorite French words!

IMG_20171116_104503

After a recent dog-walking clash there was no time to linger in the comfort zone of home, dwelling on a negative experience. Une nouvelle expérience awaited just around the corner of North Africa.... 
  

LE DÉPAYSEMENT

    : change of scene

* dépaysement can also have a negative connotation, for it also means "culture shock" or  "disorientation" 

AUDIO FILE - hear Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French

Dépaysement sentence

J'enregistre ce message vocal à l'aéroport de Nador où nous avons passé trois jours de complet dépaysement dans ce pays le Maroc, en visite de differents lieux comme Saidia, Tibouda, et la Lagune de Nador. I am recording this message at the airport in Nador where we have spent three full days of a complete change of scenery in the country of Morocco, visiting different places like Saidia, Tibouda, and the Lagoon of Nador.

High quality vacation rental in the heart of Provence. Recommended by readers. Click here for photos


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Like a gourmand who is already devising his next meal while enjoying the present one, those who have been bitten by the travel bug are plotting the next destination even as their return flight is touching down in their hometown.

Our hometown was Marseilles when I moved to the Hexagone in 1992, and it was my future husband who had (still has) the travel bug. I am a true homebody, une casanière, or have become one after reaching my ultimate destination (La France). Even if I am thankful for a husband who regularly tugs me out of my comfort zone, I still cannot shake the resistance I feel when I hear his now familiar words: Et si on va à.... How about if we go to...

It was on the tail end of our September périple to France's Island of Beauty that Jean-Marc suggested we go to Rome "la prochaine fois." When you live near a major airport and have access to low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryan air--you can easily and cheaply voyage to a rainbow of Mediterranean destinations all for around 60 or 80 euros aller-retour. And, if you are my husband, you can find a good bargain hotel sur place!

So it was that on Tuesday we stood in line for our next adventure--et c'est le cas de le dire!  I had left it up to Jean-Marc to surprise me about the destination (this being a good exercise in going with the flow). But on the eve of our departure, I needed my husband to break his silence and let me know which city we were flying to--it would mean the difference between packing boots (for Rome?) or sandals (for Greece?) or a parka (for Russia? No! he was only teasing about ce dernier!). 

But it never occurred to me that I might need to pack a headscarf....

*    *    *
Nador Morocco
Coastline near the border of Algeria....

To be continued (click here for part two). Meantime, I would love it if you would share your own experiences traveling to a culture different than your own. Did you make any faux-pas? What surprised you about the country and its ways? Any negative experiences? Or mostly positive ones? 



FRENCH VOCABULARY

une périple = trek, journey
la prochaine fois = the next time
aller-retour = round trip
un casanier, une casanière = homebody, homebird
sur place = on site
c'est la cas de le dire! = you can say that again! 
ce dernier = the latter

Build your vocabulary by reading one more story from the archives. This one, in which my mother-in-law is about to reveal the names of all my husband's ex-girlfriends, is a fun way to boost your French! 

Max and jean-marc espinasse

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max (all grown up now!) in Texas and in Portland. 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed

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


Join us here at home + A Santorini Caper

Gary-group-winetasting

Join us tomorrow at 3:30 pm for a winetasting. Jean-Marc and I are happy to welcome you here (near Bandol). Confirm at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

More tasting dates: October 3rd and October 19. Email the address above, for more info.

TODAY'S WORD: la câpre

    : caper

le câprier = caper plant

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
Download MP3 or Wav

Il y a longtemps on trouvait des capres dans les restanques de Provence, mais aujourd'hui ils ne sont plus cultivées, car ils ne sont plus rentables. A long time ago you could find capers among the rock wall terraces of Provence, but today they are no longer cultivated, as they are no longer profitable.

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...
by Kristin Espinasse

I first discovered caper leaves while eating lunch at Sigalas vineyard in Santorini. Having crashed my sister's Greek vacation, I was now calculating how many pieces of charcuterie I could slide onto my plate without seeming greedy. I noticed how Heidi and her friends enjoyed ordering many dishes and sharing them--an amicable practice to be sure--but for those who are impatient and food obsessed, it is torture to hold back in the name of good manners when your eyes are begging to try two of everything!

Heidi-kim-friends

When a plate of appetizers was passed to me, I chose one slice of pastourma, a match stick of goat's cheese and a sliver of roasted red pepper--regretfully leaving the salami that shouted "take me! take me!" Somebody else would appreciate it getting it. And sure enough, my husband snapped it up as soon as the plate circled back to him, adding it to the unrestricted choices he had made earlier and washing it all down with white wine!

Grrh! I sipped on my fizzy water, and ate slowly while keeping an eye on the next platter. "I think those are caper leaves!" my friend Kim said, passing me a plate of pureed fava beans (really split peas--but that's another story!). "Try them!"

I scooped up a (small) serving of puree, adding one--oh heck, three!--dark green marinated leaves to my plate. The pureed beans being garnished with chopped red onion, I grabbed those too.

One of the mysteries of life is this: you never know where or when a new passion will hit. And just like that you hunger to discover all you can about something to which you once gave short shrift. Chewing on those tender round leaves set the mechanics of my mind in motion: capers! I must know more about capers! And isn't it funny how the moment you become aware of something it appears around every corner?

Walking back to our rented apartment, looking out over the volcanic cliff to the turquoise sea, I noticed a magnificent specimen jutting from the rocky falaise. There it was! The caper plant! So that is what it looked like? Beautiful!

After the first sighting, I accompanied Jean-Marc to another vineyard. As a colleague at Hatzidakis Winery presented the organic domain, I looked around and noted many signs of permaculture - from the composting banana peels and withering zucchini tossed into the vines at the entrance--to the office trailer which sported a second roof (a thick layer of grape stems! Instead of tossing them, the stems were used to insulate the building) this winery was obviously sensitive to nature, and here was someone who could surely tell me more about capers! A plant that will take on more and more importance in the coming years of climate change (capers like arid soil and can grow out of a rock!).

As my husband drank in every word about his new favorite Santori wine, I dared cut into the conversation. "Excuse me, but could you please tell me something about capers?" Eyeing Jean-Marc, I said my mea culpas - pleading with him to be patient. He'd had his wine, now let me have my capers!

The vineyard man smiled. "Nobody has succeeded in cultivating capers on the island. You won't find caper farms here. The plants are wild!"

"I've managed to find some seeds," I explained, telling about the pod I'd harvested from a plant outside a tourist town.

"Good luck planting them in France," he said. "If they grow here, it is the local ants that help them along."

I imagined the ants consuming the seeds and leaving the droppings deep in the crevaces of the rock walls where these plants (weeds, really) grow. "Well, we have plenty of ants! I announced. Argentinian ants!" If an argentinian ant can conquer France, it will surely know what to do with these historic seeds.

Capparis-spinosa
"Illustration Capparis spinosa0" by Otto Wilhelm Thomé (1840-1925) - Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz, via Wikipedia

That night in bed I began a google frenzy and learned even more about capers, notably their medicinal value. Those who suffer from arthritis (rheumatism) and gout would do well to increase their consumption of capers! I would be adding the berries and leaves to my husband's meals very soon!

I returned home with several bottles of pickled capers and caper leaves - and those precious seeds! No sooner had we touched down in Marseilles, but I was in our back yard making mud balls.

"Seed bombs," I noted, posting the pictures on my Instagram, where I like to record the progress of our garden. Seed bombs are used by guerrilla gardeners:

The first seed grenades were made from balloons filled with tomato seeds, and fertilizer. They were tossed over fences onto empty lots in New York City in order to make the neighborhoods look better. It was the start of the guerrilla gardeningmovement. (Wikipedia)

 

  Caper-plant

Pictured: The first caper plant spotted outside our hotel and the seedpod I harvested from another plant. And there are the seedbombs I made with some green clay from my medicine cabinet, two parts soil from our vineyard and a sprinkling of seeds (the rest of the seeds were saved for another try at planting, this fall and next spring!)

It felt so good to have mud on my hands and to breathe in the scent of childhood, when passions came so quickly and when we followed them anywhere, without fear!  

So much more to say about capers, we have only scratched the surface. But I am out of breath now, having blurted out all I've learned so far.  Once I settle down, I will send more updates on Facebook or Instagram, if you would like to join me there, and please do!

I leave you with our anniversary picture and the message I left Jean-Marc, on returning from Greece. And yesterday, I got the perfect anniversary gift: three caper plants from our local nursery. Sure, I had already planted seeds, but, as the French say:

Il faut  mettre toutes les chances de notre côté! One must put all luck on our side! How true this is for plants and even for a marriage. (No! More than luck, marriage is patience and tolerance and love and forgiveness. The same ingredients I will use to tend my baby capriers!)

Anniversary-kiss

Happy anniversary, Jean-Marc. I remember walking down the street with you, in my neighborhood in The Valley of the Sun, and seeing that the brightest light was walking right beside me! Looking up at you, I recognized a dazzling star and I wondered if I could ever reach it (that is, did you like me too?). I am still amazed, 23 years later, that you continue to hold out your hand for me, so that I may join you on the all mountain tops toward which you climb. Sometimes I've gone kicking and screaming, but, more and more I go with steps of gratitude. And I wake up each day wondering what I would ever do without you.

CAPERS, BOOKS, AND MORE!
When you shop at Amazon you help to support this free word journal at no extra cost to you.  Order anything from caper leaves to French CDs. Simply click on my book page link, here, and then type what you are looking for in the Amazon search box. Thank you for keeping this in mind, next time you shop, and thanks for your support. Click here to shop.

Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals

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 Secret Revealed: word for rip current or undertow in French

Contrecourant
The photo Jean-Marc took of our daughter, before she momentarily disappeared.

The illusion of calm attracts swimmers. However, when great waves diminish, they (swimmers) are taken far away from the beach. When they try to swim against the current, they tire, weaken, and end up drowning. (See French translation below). 

Today's Word: contre-courant

: ripcurrent, pull of tide, undertow

Download MP3 or Wav

L'illusion de calme attire les baigneurs. Cependant, quand les vagues venant du large faiblissent, ils sont emportés loin de la plage. Quand ils essaient de nager à contre-courant, ils se fatiguent, faiblissent et finissent par se noyer. -from "Courant d'arrachement"  French Wikipedia entry.


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

"There is something I have to talk to you about." The seconds that followed my husband's startling statement were punctuated by heartbeats. Lying there in bed, in the old stone grange of a rented island cottage, my thoughts raced to guess Jean-Marc's next words. Our children safe in the next room, Jean-Marc said softly:

"Jackie disappeared into the ocean...."

The punctuated thumping I had felt earlier was coming straight from my husband's heart, which beat against my back as he pulled me closer. "I could not keep this to myself any longer...." he admitted.

Jean-Marc could not bear to relive the moment when he watched our daughter being swept out to sea, and now he resisted my efforts to comfort him. "I need to finish," he said, "please let me finish," he urged, as I assured him all was OK.

"I was on the shore," he explained, "taking photos of Jackie as she swam out with her bodyboard. The water was so calm. And then a giant wave rose up and Jackie disappeared! After the wave crashed, I scanned the water for her. Fifteen... twenty seconds passed and I still could not see her. She had vanished. I was quickly swimming out when I heard a surfer shouting, "She is over there!"

With his eyes steadied on his child, Jean-Marc swam towards the horizon.

*    *    *

When Jackie could finally share her own grief with me a day later, owing to a secret vow, she said: "Maman, j'ai bu la tasse. I swallowed a mouthful. When I came up from the water, the shore was so far away.... 

I tried to swim back but became exhausted. And then I panicked. I thought about my life, including our last fight, and did you know I always love you--

Then I heard Papa shouting, Swim! Swim! But I was afraid for him trying to reach me. It was impossible to reach the shore. We would both drown!

*    *    *

Jean-Marc continued to shout, "Get on your bodyboard!" Jackie did what she was told and soon father and daughter reached one another. They were met by a rescue team who helped them out of the water, to the shore, where they took Jackie's blood pressure before letting her go home. 

By the time I could comfort my daughter, a day later, I said to her, "Tell me everything you need to say. Get it all out." 

As she rested her head in my lap, I stroked her soft hair and listened. "Ce n'est pas facile à comprendre." It is hard to understand, she said. As her words trailed off, I recognized the voice of a survivor. 

Survivors
Smokey and Jackie.  When someone has returned from a traumatic experience, listen to them, for as long as they need to express their thoughts. 

Post Note: So why did my family keep this secret from me? Because, as my son says, "Tu es emotive." (My short response would be: "Yes, emotional. But with the strength to lift every lead-heavy hurt off of your heart for the rest of eternity. And that adds up to a ton of relief. So please accept it next time!") 

Thank you for sharing today's post with a friend, along with this tip (add your own): If you are caught in a rip current, swim across it, parallel to the shore.

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


Devoiler: The Secret My Husband Kept from me

Smokeys-excellent-vacation

Smokey's Excellent Vacation - We just returned from the Ile d'Oléron with all four--make that five!--members of our family. From a nightly game of Yam (Yahtzee) to regular forays to the ocean, we had a restful and memorable time together. See all the pictures right here. (And did you spot Mr. Sacks in the photo above?)

MILLE MERCIS
Thank you for your thoughful responses to the previous story, "Hostile." After reading your comments my Dad wrote to say, "Your readers are incredibly caring!"

I am deeply touched by your words and very grateful for this endearing writer-reader relationship. I hope it continues for a very long time! 

Amicalement,
Kristi


Today's Word: DEVOILER

    : to reveal, to disclose

dévoiler un secret = to reveal a secret
dévoiler ses batteries = to show one's hand (cards)
dévoilé = laid bare

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Toward the end of our vacation, I learned my family had been keeping a secret from me.  To the relief of my husband, I was not angry on finding out the truth. I was only surprised at how little my family knows me--to think it necessary to spare me the grief. 

Le secret was revealed late one night, after Jean-Marc had taken me into his arms for the second time. "There is something I have to talk to you about," he said. The tone in his voice was unfamiliar and it woke the inner stranger inside of me.  As different as we are to one another--as mysterious as our hearts are even to ourselves--our married souls occasionally reveal an ongoing conversation, so that we will be thinking exactly the same thing at the moment one of us voices it (if not in unison).

Except this time. This time I could not have fathomed what my husband was about to say--his thoughts being nowhere on the cusp of my mind. Even my trusty vibes had abandoned ship. Instead, like a drawstring that closes a hood, it felt as though my skin was shrink-wrapping around my bones, and I held my breath, wondering: What is he going to say next? 


(To be continued...  Click here to read Part 2)

 

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


covoiturage

Ride or walk
What's your favorite way to get around France? Walk or ride? If you said "ride," then today's covoiturage tip is for you! 


le covoiturage (ko-vwah-tewr-ahzh)

    : rideshare, carshare, carsharing, carpool

Audio File and Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav file

BlablaCar est un service de covoiturage economique, ecologique et convivial. BlaBlaCar is a carpool service that's economical, ecological and convivial.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Fill 'er up with passengers!

Certain members of my family are enjoying a new and inexpensive and efficient way to travel around France: le covoiturage!

This all began a few weeks back, when Jean-Marc traveled to the west coast to see about more grapevines (he just can't help himself!). Chief Grape was going to take the train, but that would limit him sur place (how to get to those hilltop vineyards?). That's when he discovered BlaBlaCar.  

"The Paris-based BlaBlaCar helps match up drivers and passengers for long trips across Europe while avoiding the regulatory issues that have tripped up Uber." -csmonitor.com


While BlaBlaCar might not help a passenger get from sea-level to the top of those hilly vineyards (the service is more for city-to-city travel), as a driver my husband could enjoy those benefits and more for his séjour in Collioure (the coastal town where he'd be lodging, not far from appellation Banyuls)! 

Faster than you can say VROOM!, Jean-Marc was loading his car with his beloved bike and a bevy of complete strangers! Finding the passagers was easy: all my husband had to do was type in his departure and arrival coordinates. BlaBlaCar then begins its interrogation: "would you be willing to pick up someone in Cassis? And in Marseilles? And in Montpellier?... All cities cited are right on the driven path, so a driver needn't go out of his way.

"The key competitive advantage of the company is that it’s much cheaper to share a ride than to take a train or a plane. The average 200 miles ride costs $25 on average." -Techcrunch.com article on BlaBlaCar

2cv
You never know what kind of car you'll travel in, when you sign up for covoiturage. But if you happen to get our car (a family van) it will be a little cozier than the one above--if not as charming!

This morning Jean-Marc headed for the Alps, where he'll be roughing it for next three days (I'm staying behind, to meet a few writing deadlines--or, to say it another way: I don't do well camping all night and biking all day with large groups of people!).

My husband left an hour earlier than scheduled, after the BlaBlarCar app informed him last night of a new potential passenger--just up the road in La Ciotat. 

"You're going to get up at 4 a.m. instead of 5, just so you can have one more passenger? Is it really worth it?" I asked, amazed.

But I don't need to hear the answer, I can already understand the satisfaction of filling one's car to the brim with paying travelers! (I'm remembering back to that solo and pricy aller-retour I made to airport in Nice last month, to pick up my daughter. Instead of paying $60 in gas and toll fees, I could have cashed in on a carfull of passengers and enjoyed some company along the way!)

"There's even a social aspect to it: The app's name derives from just users rate themselves on how chatty they want to be in the car, from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla." (Christian Science Monitor article on BlaBlaCar)

Speaking of my daughter, she is the latest fan of covoiturage. Recently Jackie opted for rideshare instead of taking the train from St. Cyr to Aix-en-Provence--saving herself 10 euros (15 euros one way to Aix, only 5 euros when you share the ride). She and her best friend were chauffered by a young law student from Sanary sur Mer. (Jean-Marc and I checked out his profile on BlaBlaCar's website and verified passenger feedback. We could also note his phone number, which is more than we could do had the girls secretly hitchhiked--as so many French kids do!)

When I called my Mom in Mexico, telling her about the new and inexpensive way to travel across France, she begged for a return visit. "I want to go to Aix... and Marseilles... and why not Paris!" Meantime she encouraged me to hop on the bandwagon. "Get out and see the world!" she cheered.

Now to get over my hang-up of sharing confined spaces. Maybe after that I'll go camping with my husband ... who'll then have to sacrifice one of his paid seats, just for me :-)

*    *    *
Post note: I wish BlaBlaCar had an affiliate program. I might have hit the jackpot after today's glowing review! Instead, the company encourages citizens to spread the word for free; in return we are making the world a little greener. How's that for compensation?

Ken kobre jean-marc espinasse

Kristi Ken Betsy Jean-Marc

What a chance to watch Ken Kobré (center) film Jean-Marc for Ken's documentary on rosé, "The Color of Wine." That's Betsy, Ken's charming wife and assistant, cradling a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. And there's Jean-Marc--can you see him in the window?

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