Burlesque in Burgundy... (A Cheeky Cabaret to Celebrate a friend's 50th birthday)

If you are here for the photo of the semi-clad dancers, you’ll need to click over to the blog for the full version of this steamy letter! 

Today's French Word: le déguisement

    : costume, disguise; dressing up clothes, wearing fancy dress

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in today's séduisante story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Audio file, click here

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Tarzan is Happy"

En route to Burgundy to celebrate a friend's cinquantenaire, Jean-Marc was having difficulty shifting gears in our jeep. His right hand was swelling up from une crise de goutte ! I was feeling so sorry for him until our conversation switched from his gouty arthritis to details about our weekend rendezvous with twenty friends. Ever trying to fit in with the French, I had asked my husband multiple times about the dress code. Each time his response was the same: he didn't have any information in particular.

Getting information out of my man is like pulling teeth! Une vraie galère!

Considering how cold it might be en Bourgogne, I decided on black jeans and a black col roulé for Saturday night. But now, an hour away from Gevrey-Chambertin, busy helping my husband shift gears, I saw an update on his phone from the group we were meeting up with. Scrolling through his messages, a few words jumped right off the screen.


Suddenly Jean-Marc yelped in agony as he returned his swollen hand to the steering wheel, but this time I didn't respond "Pauvre-toi!" I was too busy feeling sorry for myself, picturing all the wives in exquisite evening attire. When the torturous thought had run its course, Reason had its say: Oh, laisse tomber tout ça! What would it matter in 100 years? Besides, this would be a good exercise in l'humilité

But humility is also knowing when to ask for help. Our 6-hour drive over, we joined our friends for lunch at La Part des Anges to savor specialties including Boeuf bourguignon, les escargots, and la volaille de Bresse. During a lag in the conversation, I fessed up about my clothing predicament and, illico, one of the women offered to lend me an elegant chemise. Parfait! Merci! 

(Speaking of “fessing up”... Did you know fesses in French means "butt"? If that seems off-topic read on...)

That night at the beautiful Castel de Très Girard hotel the women were dressed to the nines, but after the festive evening began they ditched their gowns and slipped into itsy-bitsy costumes for a spicey mise-en-scène.... 

There was a hush as the guest of honor sat in the middle of the party room, his back to the door. Soon we heard a rumble from the “jungle" when Serge Lama's song, Et Tarzan est Heureux, came on. The door opened and a delicate Geisha took tiny tiny steps towards our newbie Cinquantenaire, fussing over him before shuffling off stage. Next, a saucy cowgirl galloped in... after a few whips of her lasso she exited stage left in time for La Policière to saunter forth and issue him a ticket (which she tucked beneath his belt). As each dancer sashayed her way off stage, the audience belted out the song's joyous refrain....

“...et Tarzan est heureux!”
“...et Tarzan est heureux!”

Tarzan did indeed look happy! The burlesque continued with a voluptuous visit from “L'infirmière” (the Nurse), the sensual “Pilote d'avion,” the steamy “Soubrette” (that's a cheeky way to say Maid) and finally, The Birthday Boy’s own wife, and you have never seen a more ravishing (and provocative) Pirate! 

With forward and backward flips of their skirts à la Folies Bergères, all wives (or most all wives...) returned center stage. By now my husband had completely forgotten about his excruciatingly painful gout

Quant à moi, I wasn't sure whether to feel left out or enormously relieved not to be shaking my booty beside the other femmes-séductricesOh, laisse tomber! All that mattered was whether our beloved guest of honor was having a good time on his half-century mark. Just then, the song’s refrain seemed to confirm it:

Et Tarzan est heureux!
Et Tarzan et heureux!

I leave you with a photo (many thanks to our friends for permission to post it!) and a sound file of the catchy Tarzan song. The lyrics are un peu osé! Here are the first lines in English...

JPEG image
Et Tarzan est Heureux

When you sleep near your husband
For the three hundred thousandth time
Doesn't it happen to you sometimes
Dream that he's someone else?
And when you roll in his bed
Meowing like a young cat
Don't you sometimes hope
That Tarzan is behind the door?...

(For all lyrics in French and in English, click here)

Listen to "Tarzan est heureux", click here

le déguisement = costume, dress up clothes 
séduisant(e) = seductive
en route = on the way
le cinquantenaire
= 50th birthday
une vraie galère = a real pain, a real chore
la crise de goutte = an attack of gout
La Bourgogne = Burgundy 
le col roulé = turtleneck
la soirée gala
= gala reception
pauvre-toi = poor you
laisse tomber tout ça
= forget about all that
la part des anges
= "the angel's share" refers to the wine that evaporates during fermentation
le boeuf = beef
la volaille = poultry
illico = right away, presto
la chemise = blouse
la fesse = cheek (bottom)
les fesses = butt
la mise-en-scène = setting up the scene
l’infirmière = nurse
la soubrette = maid
quant à moi = as for me
les femmes séductrices = seductive wives
un peu osé = a little daring

Wearing my dear friend’s chemise. Thank you, Isild 💕
Crise de goutte
Photo from several years ago. A clay poultice (covered with a Harry's Bread sack) to help alleviate Jean-Marc's gout. For more about his painful gouty arthritis, click here

That's all for this playful edition! If you enjoyed it please share it with a friend. Take care and "see you" next week.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Aviner: a French verb having to do with winetasting

Cork painting wall Nuits St. Georges Burgundy
I've seen a lot of corks in my day, but have never seen them so displayed... picture taken in the village of Nuits St. Georges, in Burgundy.

aviner (ah vee nay)

    : to rinse one's wine glass with wine before sampling another wine

Example Sentence:

Avant de déguster un nouveau vin, il faut aviner le verre.
Before tasting a new wine, you must rinse your glass.

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

Expensive Spit

Yesterday we were late, late, late, to a very important Burgundian date! "Je déteste être en retard," Jean-Marc admitted, as he circled the car round the block once again in search of the exclusive address. You wouldn't know it by the neighborhood, where clunky cars such as our own were parked (where was the private jet landing and where were the Jaguars?). And the (abandoned) front office--which we would eventually find--with its modest table and chairs, would not give away this vineyard's forte: that of making the rarest wine on the planet.

Found loitering beneath the rain in the parking lot, Jean-Marc and I apologized as we were escorted, dripping wet, down some steep concrete stairs, into the subterranean tasting room. Almost slipping off a step, I was glad to have worn sensible shoes--and not the high heels that I'd wanted to.

Coming out of a dark corridor, rows of dusty bottles behind us, we stood peering into the sacred room, which stood, VIP after VIP, peering back at us!

Jean-Marc and I "sklunked" like thieves into the small stone-vaulted salle de dégustation.  I don't know whether it was our lateness or a feeling of out-of-placeness, whichever, we were very fortunate to take part in this private tasting... having been smuggled into the appointment by a wine writer* and friend.

I watched Jean-Marc kiss Robert, then proceed to greet the others in the group. I followed my husband's example, planting two bisous on our friend's joues... and I kissed the next VIP and the next, quickly changing to handshaking when I realized my gaffe (Jean-Marc had only kissed those he knew, c-à-d, the other wine-makers smuggled in by Robert, characters we'd had the chance to meet last year in Sicily).

From here on we tried to quickly and discreetly blend into the group, which was currently being asked to "aviner". "Pardon me," I eventually asked, wondering whether it was wrong to break the silence... "but what does "aviner" mean?" I could not resist the urge to know this verb.

The man with the houndstooth coat and silk scarf lowered his chin and studied me, his eyes now perched above his glasses: "it means to rinse out your wine glass". 

Robert broke the silence by conjugating the verb and so putting it to practice: "Avinons-nous, everyone?" and with that glasses were rinsed. Because I had no glass to rinse (having turned down the offer to taste the rare wines--I hoped this was not Gaffe Number Three), I stood and watched, awkwardly. That's when Robert handed me his camera. "You seem to know how to take photos," he said with a smile. "Would you like to take a few for me?" What a relief it was to find employment! I set off to capture the event, now feeling very much in my element. 

But when the man in the beautiful coat and the low-lying glasses mentioned: "...photos are for your private collection only..." I nodded obediently. It was dommage to not be able to share these images, but I was grateful, nevertheless, to keep my job! 

Driving home that evening, I couldn't help but ask my husband, Chief Grape, about the rare wines he had tasted: were they really that good? Jean-Marc confirmed that they were.

"Gosh, it must have cost ten bucks a sip!" I pointed out, only to notice the amused look on Jean-Marc's face. "Let's just say that each time a guest spat out the wine into the spittoon, it was like spitting hundred dollar bills!"

"Sans déconner!"" No longer did I wonder about my "missed chance" to taste the exclusive wine. I was just thankful not to have wasted one cent!


Postnote: In the car ride home, as Jean-Marc savored the wine, which lingering on his tongue, I was savoring another rare and precious commodity: my sobriety.  

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, questions, and comments of your own are welcome in the comments box. Don't be shy, join us in this cosy community corner! Click here to leave a message or to guess where this wine tasting took place

* read about wine writer and friend Robert Camuto, just below...

French Vocabulary

je déteste être en retard = I hate being late

la salle de dégustation = wine tasting room

bisous = kisses

la joue = cheek

dommage = too bad

sans déconner = no kidding!

c-à-dire (c'est-à-dire) = that is to say

Update! (this just in from Suzanne, a reader): I think deconner comes from the word "con" ... so it's a stronger and more vulgar meaning than "no kidding"! When I was growing up in Cote d'Ivoire, my French mom would have washed my mouth out with soap. I know it's commonly used, I say it all the time, but it's more like " no shit!" . " "Sans blague" or "sans blaguer" is what I would say...but I definitely cracked up when I saw "deconner"!!



And many thanks to Robert Camuto (check out his latest book), for inviting us to join the Sicilians in Burgundy! Robert will begin a USA book tour next month. Don't miss it! Check out this page for details.




Capture plein écran 23022011 101519
In other books: Paris Café by Noel Riley Fitch:


In this droll, delicious little volume, Fitch and Tulka provide an affectionate portrait of the Select Cafe, one of those famous Paris eateries that have served as candles to intellectual moths--French, American, and otherwise--for nearly a century.


Order a copy and help support this French word journal. Note: once you have entered Amazon feel free to choose any book or product (from books to dog biscuits!). Your purchase of any item will help support this free language journal. Click here to enter Amazon.

This is our 15-year-old, Max. Behind him is one of our cement tanks, where visitors have signed their names :-)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety