La Rafale: The Gusts of France: An Ode to the Mistral Wind
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Harnessing the wind in Hyérès, South of France, a kite surfer’s paradise. More advantages of the wind in today's story. First, our word of the day:
: gusty wind, bluster, squall
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Brise, rafale, mistral...No matter how poetic it is in French, wind can be disruptive and annoying. My husband used to curse the wind as it blew through our vineyard snapping the limbs off his grapevines. The blustery Mistral knocked down his precious grapes weeks before la vendange and made pruning time a glacial nightmare. Ever seen a southern French winemaker in a ski suit? It’s a funny thought. But most times we’re not laughing about the wind....
Tempête, Bourrasque, Tourbillon--when the wind is really strong it knocks over our flower pots and rattles our wooden shutters making us restless. Part of the reason I cannot sleep is that I'm busy thinking of all the damage happening outside: the pepper tree will lose tons of leaves (now floating in the fountain below). Mom's fence (the flimsy divider that gives her a modicum of privacy) will have blown down, and our garden chairs will be strewn around the yard.
Apart from the wind's damage, it’s irritating. It makes my eyes water like faucets and it blows my hair into my lipstick. And on my list of gripes about the wind, I can now add that it ruins dates....
Saturday Jean-Marc and I took a scenic drive to Tourves, where we hiked around the flowering garrigue. After picking wild thyme and le romarin, and stocking up on pinecones for our fireplace, we headed to the village of Néoules for lunch. The restaurant was full so we sat outside, even if it was un peu frisquet. The waitress gave us blankets in case we were frileux.
Next, the wind picked up....
The breadbasket flew first, then the napkins. As I ran after our serviettes and la corbeille à pain, my husband held down the fort. He placed his mug of beer over the menu and fastened down la nappe with the help of strategically-placed forks an knives. This wasn't what I pictured in my mind when we decided to forgo a picnic and dine out. I imagined a cozy booth with a view of the countryside. I pictured us being a little more dressed up than usual, and every hair smoothly in place. Instead, we sat wrapped in blankets, holding on to our flapping hats. As we waited and waited for our moules frites, I feared that when they finally did arrive they’d fly off into the not-so-scenic view (our table overlooked the parking lot).
LE VENT ET SES VERTUS
When we got home that afternoon, I filled my trusty bouillotte with hot water and headed upstairs to décongeler, or thaw out and rest. I usually watch Youtube, but lately, I'm into ChatGPT. So I asked the virtual robot to give me a few good reasons to admire the wind (instead of curse it). I added that I'd like the answer to be funny--and salt and peppered with French. Here's the amusing (and slightly corny) response I got back from the chatbot:
"Firstly, the mistral wind clears the air of all the pollution and dust that's been clogging up your nose. So now you can breathe easy and say "merci" to the wind. But be careful not to get blown away when you step outside, mon ami!
Secondly, the mistral wind can help dry out your laundry faster than a tumble dryer. So say "au revoir" to soggy socks and hello to fresh, crisp laundry in no time. Just make sure you have a good grip on those clothespins, or they might end up flying all the way to Paris!
Thirdly, the mistral wind is a tourist attraction in its own right. People come from all over to experience the gusts of wind that can knock you off your feet. It's like a rollercoaster, except you don't have to wait in line and it's completely free. C'est magnifique!
Fourthly, the mistral wind can help you generate some green energy. Install a wind turbine in your backyard and let the wind power your home. It's like having your very own Eiffel Tower, except instead of lights, it powers your fridge.
Fifthly, the mistral wind can help you avoid awkward conversations. Just tell your chatty neighbor that you can't hear them over the wind, and voila! Problem solved. Merci, mistral!
Sixthly, the mistral wind can make you feel like a supermodel. With your hair blowing in the wind and your coat flapping behind you, you'll feel like you're walking the runway at Paris Fashion Week. Strike a pose, mon cher!
Seventhly, the mistral wind can be used to create a natural exfoliant. Just stand outside for a few minutes and let the wind do its thing. Your skin will be as smooth as a French croissant in no time.
Eighthly, the mistral wind can make you feel like a real adventurer. Imagine hiking through the Rhone Valley, with the wind pushing against you like an invisible force. You'll feel like you're in an action movie, only with more baguettes.
Ninthly, the mistral wind is a great way to practice your French. Just shout "Vive le vent!" (Long live the wind!) as you step outside, and you'll sound like a true Francophone. Bonus points if you can do it without getting blown away."
(End of quote) I hope you enjoyed Chatgpt's response as much as I did. The wind has finally subsided over here and it’s safe to wear lipstick again. Vive le vent et vive le rouge à lèvres!
Click here for Jean-Marc's soundfile
Le vent = Wind
La rafale = Gusty wind, bluster, squall
La brise = Breeze
Le mistral = Mistral (a strong, cold wind that blows from the north through the Rhône valley and southern France to the Mediterranean Sea)
La vendange = Grape harvest
La tempête = Storm
La bourrasque = Gust of wind
Le tourbillon = Whirlwind
La garrigue = Wild Mediterranean scrubland
Le romarin = Rosemary
Un peux frisquet = A little chilly
Le frileux, la frileuse = Person who feels the cold easily
La serviette = Napkin
La corbeille à pain = Breadbasket
La nappe = Tablecloth
La fourchette = Fork
Le couteau = Knife
Décongeler = Thaw out
Merci = Thank you
Au revoir = Goodbye
Mon ami = My friend
C'est magnifique = It's magnificent
Vive le vent = Long live the wind!
Les environs = Surrounding area
Le Rouge à lèvres = Lipstick
Thank you for checking in today and being a part of this French-language community. Your support through reading, sharing, or donating keeps this journal thriving amidst the sea of digital information. Goodbye for now and I leave you with some recent photos from our town...
During a stroll through La Ciotat on Sunday...
Notice the netting at the top, beneath the roof tiles on this ancient façade: a safeguard against falling tiles when the wind blows through town.
The sign reads: Cet endroit n'est pas un depotoir. Merci de jeter vos ordures devant chez vous. This place is not a dump. Please throw your garbage in front of your own home. (Looks like the sign is working. No garbage for the mistral wind to blow all over our town.)
The view down to the sea along Rue Louis Vignol.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety