Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés - to live happily, live hidden. But what does this really mean?

My desk and almond blossoms

Recently I was telling some new friends just exactly what it is I do for a living. Since October 27th, 2002, I have maintained an online personal journal in disguise as a French Word-A-Day. That is to say, in order to get people to read my essays, I've dangled a carrot outside of my writing window. That carrot is the "word of the day." And here you are, Dear Reader--receiving more than you bargained for!

It hasn't all been wine and roses. (Well, there has been plenty of wine, none of which I drank after February 2003...) But you already know that. The question is: do you know too much? I hope not. For I have done my journaling best to "Keep it light. Keep it educational. Keep it inspiring." And for those tricky times when only the truth of a situation would enable this narrative to continue, without too much confusion, I tread carefully, sharing enough information to get us all to the next chapter of this French life.

If all this sounds like adieu--far from that! Loin de là! For as long as I have carrots in my garden...I will be dangling them out of my virtual French window.

Amicalement,

Kristi

*    *    *

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

    : to live happily, live hidden
    : great honors are great burdens

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

The French have a popular saying: Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés. (To live happily, live hidden). But what do these words really mean?  And where does the famous saying come from? Discover, today, the wise fable by Florian (Jean Pierre Claris de Florian), in French and in English. You'll also be able to hear the poem, read aloud by Jean-Marc.


LE GRILLON

Un pauvre petit grillon
Caché dans l’herbe fleurie
Regardoit un papillon
Voltigeant dans la prairie
L’insecte ailé brilloit des plus vives couleurs
L’azur, le pourpre & l’or éclatoient sur ses ailes.
Jeune, beau, petit-maître, il court de fleur en fleur,
Prenant & quittant les plus belles.
Ah ! disoit le grillon, que son sort & le mien
Sont différents ! dame Nature
Pour lui fit tout, & pour moi rien.

Je n’ai point de talent, encor moins de figure ;
Nul ne prend garde à moi, l’on m’ignore ici bas !
Autant voudroit n’exister pas.
Comme il parloit, dans la prairie
Arrive une troupe d’enfants.
Aussitôt les voilà courans
Après le papillon dont ils ont tous envie :
Chapeau, mouchoirs bonnets, servent à l’attraper.
L’insecte cherche vainement à leur échapper,
Il devient bientôt leur conquête.
L’un le saisit par l’aile, un autre par le corps ;
Un troisième survient, & le prend par la tête :
Il ne falloit pas tant d’efforts
Pour déchirer la pauvre bête.
Oh ! oh ! dit le grillon, je ne suis pas fâché ;
Il en coûte trop cher pour briller dans le monde.
Combien je vais aimer ma retraite profonde !
Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés.

Click here to listen to the poem in French: Le Grillon The Cricket fable by Florian Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés 


Cricket grillon sketch
  image and text from Wikipedia

THE CRICKET

(AKA "TRUE HAPPINESS")

A poor young cricket, small and shy,
Passing retir'd his summer hours,
Beheld one day a butterfly,
       Flitting among the flowers.
Of ev'ry color, ev'ry hue,

The gaudy insect well might boast.
From flower to flower it gaily flew,
Alighting where it pleas'd him most.
"Alas!" the pining cricket sigh'd,
"What diff'rences us two divide!
While Nature does so much for him,
For me she nothing does at all.
I'm void of sense and coarse of limb,
With figure despicably small;
I'm heeded not, am lone and lorn,
And might as well have not been born."
But while the cricket thus complain'd,
A sudden uproar round him reign'd;
A troop of children rushing by,
Came hunting for the butterfly.
With nets, and hats, and kerchiefs too,
The gaudy insect they pursue.
He struggles hard to get away,
But falls at last a helpless prey.
One seizes on his wings of gold;
Another at his body aims;
A third upon his head lays hold;
In short, each one the insect claims,
But leaves him mangled, dead, and cold.
"Ah, ha!" the cricket said, "I see
What 'tis a brilliant thing to be.
If such the cost to those who shine,
I ought no longer to repine;
But to live happy I must be
Contented with obscurity."


Order a copy of the Fables of Florian.

Buy the song "Le Grillon" by Florian...start your 30-day free music trial

Le papillon the butterfly

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Eblouir + A quote that will make you leap out of bed each morning

Church door in Roussillon France
"For my part, I am constantly dazzled by the phenomenon of life." Pour ma part, je suis sans arrêt ébloui par le phénomène de la vie. - René Barjavel Do not miss the entire quote. Use the link below (when reading this by email) to click through to the online version of this post, where you will hear the recording in French.

EBLOUI
(from éblouir, to dazzle)

    : dazzled, awe-inspired, blinded; carried away

Improve your French pronunciation with the book Exercises in French Phonetics
With the Kindle Paperwhite E-reader you'll enjoy reading with larger fonts.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

I was about to tell you the story of an amazing encounter... when I got sidetracked looking up the word éblouir. A web search led me to a French sci-fi author and his dazzling thoughts. I leave you with René Barjavel's words, read aloud by Jean-Marc. The English translation follows...don't miss it.

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following text

Il ne suffit pas d'être en vie, il faut être vivant . C'est à dire savoir à chaque instant qu'on est au coeur d'un prodige et être en contact, en harmonie avec lui. C'est difficile, mais lorsqu'on parvient à en prendre conscience, on en reçoit un perpétuel émerveillement qui paie au centuple des effors que l'on a consentis. .. Le plus souvent, nous voyons, mais nous ne regardons pas, nous entendons, mais nous n'écoutons pas. Les choses nous bousculent au lieu que nous portions la main sur elles. Nous devrions en disposer pour notre bonheur, et ce sont elles qui nous possèdent pour notre angoisse. Pourtant chacun de nous est au centre de tout, au milieu de l'univers entier. Chacun de nous possède les portes que le créateur (ou la nature, comme l'on voudra) lui a données pour y pénétrer. Mais nous oublions de les ouvrir. Pour ma part, je suis sans arrêt ébloui par le phénomène de la vie. --René Barjavel


ENGLISH TRANSLATION
(It's a rough translation. Feel free to offer corrections in the comments box, below)

It's not enough to be alive, you have to feel alive as well. That is to say, we have to know at every moment that we are in the heart of a prodigy and we are in contact, in harmony with it. It's difficult, but when you realize it, you get a perpetual wonder that pays back a hundred times the effort you've made. Most often we see, but we do not look, we hear, but we do not listen. Things jostle us instead of us getting a grip on them. We should get rid of this for our happiness, and it is this that brings on our anguish. Yet each of us is at the center of everything, in the middle of the entire universe. Each of us has access to the doors that the creator (or nature, if we prefer) has given him to enter. But we forget to open [those doors]. For my part, I am constantly dazzled by the phenomenon of life. --René Barjavel


The immortals rene barjavel

Some books by René Barjavel
The Immortals - "This book is a masterpiece of politic/fiction. Barjavel shows amazing mastery and errudition in creating an incredible fiction that happens to fit all the major events in the world during the cold war." Amazon reviewer. Order the book

Une Rose au Paradis - "Love this book, but he is also my favorite author." -Isa
 
Ravage - (French edition) "what would happen if there was suddenly no electricity, and no way to bring it back? This scenario is visited by Rene Barjaval in "Ravage". Hauntingly predictive, this book will make you think" -Amazon reviewer
French door in Les Goudes fishing village Marseilles France
Searching my photo archives for a door to illustrate today's quote, I found this one (taken in Les Goudes fishing village in Marseilles). It reminded me of why we don't always open the proverbial door: because we are so often distracted by all the flotsam that hides it.

Church door window in Roussillon France Provence
Feedback from a reader of this word journal....

I found this blog by accident around 2004 and was enthralled with the concept. As a school administrator and former French teacher, I encouraged my language teachers to use the blog as a resource in their classes. For years and years I have been a devoted francophile. Kristie, you provide a service that includes entertainment and education. Your photos are inspirational. I look forward to reading your blog as often as you can write it. Do not stop! --Gabrielle

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


"The world is violent and mercurial--it will have its way with you." Listen to this in French, don't miss the lovely end. + Paint in Provence

Abstract and Figurative artist Tess Baker paint in provence France La Ciotat pepper tree
The world is violent and mercurial--it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love--love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.” Tennessee Williams (photo of my friend Tess Baker, founder of Paint in Provence.)

Today's Word: MERCURIEL

    : changing (mood), fluctuating, inconstant, variable...

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following quote:

Click here to listen to mercuriel

Le monde est violent et mercuriel--il fera ce qu'il veut avec vous. Nous sommes seulement sauvés par l'amour--l'amour l'un pour l'autre et l'amour que nous mettons dans l'art que nous nous sentons forcés de partager: être un parent; être un écrivain; être un peintre; être un ami. Nous vivons perpétuellement dans un bâtiment en feu, et ce que nous devons en sauver, tout le temps, c'est l'amour. -Tennessee Williams

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Tess came to visit this weekend! She's my longtime painter friend from England, who calls tomatoes toh-mah-toes, says things like "mercurial" (to describe the sea), and calls me Darling  (as in Daar-ling, we must get together soon!).

We decided to have lunch in Bandol so that Jackie and Tess could see each other, too. Jackie is my 20-year-old daughter and she's studying art in Toulon, and waitressing on Sundays for some argent de poche....

Jackie waitressing at Le Jerome in Bandol France with abstract figurative artist Tess Baker

If you happen to be in Bandol on a Sunday, stop in to see Jackie at Le Jêrome. And if you are looking for a recommendation, Tess and I highly recommend the pièce de boeuf. It's outstanding--charred on the outside, cooked à point. After lunch, Tess snuck around the corner, with Jackie, to stuff a big tip into the art student's pocket because in France all tips are collected by le patron, and little of it ends up in the pockets of workers. Jackie insists her boss is fair about this, but Tess wasn't taking any chances, having worked in French restaurants over the 4 decades she's lived here.

Abstract Figurative artist Tess Baker in La Ciotat France painting lessons Provence

After lunch in Bandol, and before our stroll beside the--mercurial--sea here in La Ciotat... Tess suggested we sit down and paint. Quelle idée! I haven't felt that self-conscious since blowing into a giant hunting horn during a proper lunch in a château. I thought my pants would rip right open (and that maybe more than my pants would rip as I let it rip trying to force air through that giant brass horn!). 

I felt this kind of vulnerability now. Sensing my fears, Tess had an idea. "We'll paint that lovely willow tree! Let's simply focus on a section of it. We'll paint those branches..." And the way she said it ("braahn-ches") kind of suckered me into this unexpected watercolor session.

My attention was scattered as I watched people walking by our house, sometimes slowing to view the artistic activity here in our garden. Not only was it nerve-racking to be painting beside an artist, but we now had a mobile audience. One of those passers-by was my 8-year-old golden retriever, who parked himself beside my chair. Smokey wanted to play artist, too! which reminded me: just play!

Smokey golden retriever red beret artist
"Notice the light hitting the side of the leaves, Tess was saying. "Now see the darkness on the other side. Let's start with the light...." Tess had already made several vertical brown strokes on her canvas. I hurried to pick up a paintbrush but it felt as awkward as chopsticks. And which one to use? Thank God there were only two. Mimicking Tess, I picked up the big one.

Tess was painting away with a shade of green...but where was this color green in the paintbox? A childhood rhyme came to mind, as I struggled to remember color mixing...yellow and blue make green... (or did yellow and red make green?) 

"Here, you can use the color I've already mixed," Tess offered. "Just start sploshing it on!"

I glanced over at Tess's own canvas, wondering what all those verticle brown lines were for?

"Those are the branches, darling," she explained, but all I could see (ahead of me) was the green of the leaves!

"Do you need to get your glah-ses?" Tess hinted.

Oh, yes! Mais bien sûr!

Finally seated, still feeling ill-at-ease before the blank canvas, I bargained with my art teacher: "OK, I'll paint--but only if I can throw it away in the end!

Tess agreed and before long I was settled in. If those paintbrushes felt like chopsticks, the act of painting felt like picking up slippery noodles with those foreign utensils, or brushes. Why was this so difficult for me? I began to think about Tess's former students, and the wonderful works of art I'd seen with my own eyes. And here I could not even paint a leaf--not even an abstract one (as we'd agreed to do, to simplify).

"Just let go!" Tess said. I brushed aside all the torturous thoughts and got on with the moment. When else would a chance like this come around again? A little while later I was giddily painting right over my braahn-ches and trees....with a shower of crimson wings (red for determination? Wings for freedom?). Feeling more and more relaxed, I went to re-dip my brush into the glass of water. That's when I noticed how close the cups were...

Teacup kristi painting


"Tess, What are the chances I've dipped my brush into my teacup?" I wondered.

But my good friend brushed aside the worry, "Oh, I'm sure I've done it dozens of times myself. Carry on, darling!

And like that, we sipped our colorful tea, and painted gleefully. The tourists strode by and the pepper tree swayed gently, mimicking Smokey's golden tail as he snoozed on and off beneath the artist's table.

 *    *    *

Post note: Later, when I went to prepare dinner, I was surprised to find my little painting tucked into the window above my kitchen sink. Tess had set it there...in case I had a change of heart. I was glad it didn't end up in the poubelle. The little work of art was, after all, a sweet souvenir of our time together.

Pepper tree paints
Come to France and Paint Provence With Tess. Read about the time she brought her students to our vineyard, in the story "French Toilet Paper & Other Disasters" (disasters which had nothing to do with painting!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
l'argent de poche = pocket money
pièce de boeuf = piece of beef, side of beef, tenderloin
à point = medium rare
le patron = the restaurant owner
quelle idée! = what an idea!
la poubelle = garbage

Drawing lessons

Read Patricia Sands book set in Provence, order Drawing Lessons here.

Also, Beautiful watercolor illustrations of Provence, click here for this sketchbook
La Petite Aquarelle watercolor paint set from France. Order here
Valrhona chocolate from France, and more in French groceries, here
All-new HD Fire Tablet - and many other tablet models here.
Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.

Kristin Espinasse paintbrush watercolor abstract painting in La Ciotat France French shutters
For those who enjoyed the opening quote, on art and love, here's a post from the 2010 archives. Open up your eyes and your senses and enjoy!

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Maraicher: Flirting with the produce guy? Non. C'était autre chose.

Tomatoes artichokes farmers market maraichere
In today's story, was it a flirt or a crush? 

le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market
 

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage. 

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

"Even Church Mice Behave Like Smitten Kittens"

   by Kristi Espinasse
   


If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"

Farmers market france maraichere maraicher produce marche
                        farmers market in St Cyr-sur-Mer

The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraîcher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 

***

Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.

 

(This story was originally posted in 2012. If you missed part one of this story, read it here.)  

Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

la politesse = good manners

le maraîcher = truck farmer

quelle horreur! = how embarrassing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well

But you are in France Madame by Catherine Berry
* Read Catherine Berry's But you are in France, Madame.
* And for The Adventures of Tintin, order here
* Everyone should have a kitchen compost bin. Order here.
*In French skin care: La Roche-Posay

Farmers stand in st cyr-sur-mer produce france organic

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


The French are always saying this word. But they're NOT talking about money!

My desk and almond blossoms
Parlez peu, écoutez beaucoup, voyez tout et faites en sorte d'en profiter. Hear this in French and see the translation, below. (picture of my former "writing desk with a view". I just learned, yesterday, that we have an almond tree in our new back yard...after it bloomed this week!)

PROFITER

    : make the most of
    : enjoy

Click here to listen to today's word and phrase with "profiter"

Parlez peu, écoutez beaucoup, voyez tout et faites en sorte d'en profiter.
Speak little, listen a lot, see everything and make sure to enjoy it all.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...

    by Kristi Espinasse

My father, known for his sunny disposition, swears his secret to happiness is the fact that he can't remember what happened yesterday. I get this forgetful trait from him (I would have preferred to inherit Dad's happy-go-lucky gene instead)!

When I can remember to, I try to exercise my mind before falling to sleep by using the age-old prière d'examen or examination of conscience. It is a review of the day in which one tries to glean lessons from the all the bumps and scrapes....as well as the high notes of the day!

Reimagining the ignation examen

               (So enjoying the ideas in this book! Order here)

Such a day in review is a worthwhile and valuable tool or outil for living a more meaningful life. But a small snag (or two...) kept me from continuing this thoughtful practice throughout January: One, my memory (turns out ce n'est pas fastoche to remember every event of the day). 

The other thing that deterred me from examining my day, was the rub-your-nose-in-it factor. The truth is, January got off to a bad start and I blame it all on jet lag. C'est tout la faute du décalage horaire! We landed in Marseilles in a million little pieces, just in time for my belle-mère's funeral, the next day. I'll never forget my sister-in-law meeting us at the airport. And my daughter's boyfriend was there too, to surprise her with a bouquet of flowers!  

We all left the airport in two separate cars (the lovebirds in the other). I sat in the back seat as Cécile drove Jean-Marc and me home among the bistro lights in Marseilles (we'd gotten lost and were making our way out of the city's maze). Above us, the night surely held stars, but I could not see them from the backseat window. Already my mind was fogging over from exhaustion, dehydration, and grief. That, in a nutshell, is my excuse for January's grumpy beginnings--and the emotional scrapes that followed (how easy it is to take everything out on the person closest to you, the one you are wedlocked to!).

Through it all, my belle-mère's voice was as clear as the North Star: Ma ChérieMa Chérie. "My Dear, My Dear"..... Consoling, comforting, all-forgiving (if a little feisty at times: "You could have visited me more often!"). Yes, I certainly could have

After my own feisty month, I'm ready to return to a nightly "day in review." I don't want to underestimate the littlest thing, bonne ou mauvaise, that happened across my path today. Not even the whisper in my mind, right now--the words my belle-mère spoke the last time I saw her: "My Dear, Enjoy your journey." Ma chérie, profite bien de ton voyage! 


Sunflowers or tournesol from our vineyard
FRENCH VOCABULARY

un outil = tool
fastoche = easy
le décalage horaire = jet lag
la belle-mère = mother-in-law, stepmother
ma chéri(e) = my dear
bon(ne) = good
mauvais(e) = bad
profite de ton voyage = enjoy your journey

The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed. Click to order.

French Jacquard Dish Towels, order here.

Do you know the popular French breakfast drink, "Ricoré"? My belle-mère and I used to drink the 60/40 (chicory/coffee) mix all the time! You can order it, and many other French delectables here

Smelling the scent of capers and caper bush on santorini island Greece leather sandals
    Enjoying the beauty of a marvelous câprier or caper plant.

 

Caper bush on Corsica with capers and flowers
I leave you with a beautiful caper blossom. A bientôt!

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Les Gens are the secret to a long life + faire d'une pierre deux coups

Old port and fishing boats or pointus in La Ciotat France on the Mediterranean Sea

"To interest oneself in a lot of things, to be surrounded by people who we love--that's the secret to my longevity." -French actress Michèle Morgan. Listen to her words in French and see the translation, below. Picture taken in La Ciotat, where I bumped right into a reader of this word journal. Read Wendy's reaction below.

LES GENS

    : people

les jeunes gens = young people
les gens du monde = society people
les gens du voyage = travelling people ("gypsies" do not miss my Mom's story


AUDIO FILE AND EXAMPLE SENTENCE 

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence


S'intéresser à beaucoup de choses, être entourée de gens que l'on aime est le secret de ma longévité.

--Michèle Morgan. See her in the classic wartime film Passage to Marseille on Blu-ray or Amazon Video

Passage to marseille michele morgan

Passage to Marseille and many classic French films are available on Blu-ray or Amazon Video, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

  by Kristi Espinasse

My New Years resolution for 2018 was the same goal as last year: to think positively. What a disaster that turned out to be. Almost as soon as I set the intention, it was as though the universe clapped its hands and began rubbing them together greedily

I am a positive enough person. It's those stray negative thoughts peppering my day--and the occasional barrage of doubtful thinking--that I was aiming to obliterate (perhaps that is where I go wrong--this tout ou rien approach to things?). 

Ouf! It turns out positive thinking is not essential to good health. According to psychologist and author Susan Pinker you could be a very grumpy person and still live a long (and grumpy) life. More than eating well or exercise, it is social integration that leads to longevity. Les interactions en face-à-face are key to health and happiness.  This could be anything from saying bonjour to the postman...to acknowledging the bus driver or waving (however awkwardly) your neighbor. Each time we connect with somebody, however little that connection, we get (and give) good vibes. Good vibes = a vibrant life.

The village effect
       Susan Pinker's book is available here.

"Faire d'une pierre deux coups"

To kill two birds with one stone is a terrible (and terribly useful) expression. It sounds so much better in French where there's no mention of the poor birds: faire d'une pierre deux coups.

It means to complete two things with only one action. Don't you love such éfficacité? Walking is a neat example. It is an activity where you can clear your mind, strengthen your muscles, and come face to face with humanity. It was the first two benefits that got me out initially, but, lately it is the social interaction that is keeping me in stride with life. The most unusual things can happen while out on a walk. Last fall a homeless man kissed me (an innocent "bise"). That's another story, we're getting off track!

I have a few other examples to share with you about some heart-lifting incidents while out on walk, but we'll skip ahead to Wednesday's chance encounter. Wendy heard about La Ciotat from my blog and decided to discover the old port--having traveled here from Cotignac (where she and her husband, Ken, are visiting from Canada). At the moment she and Ken pulled into the public parking lot and got out of their car, I was speedwalking right past them, oblivious to the synchronistic moment. That's when I heard a soft voice... "Kristi?"

We stopped to have a coffee together in the old town, before Wendy and Ken accompanied me part of the way home. For the last part of my walk, I mused about how different each and every day is when you step out of your routine--and when you don't rush home for whatever may seem pressing.

Post Note: In regards to positive thinking...it wasn't such a désastre after all. I just went about it in a backward way. First, step out. The positive thoughts will follow.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

tout ou rien = all or nothing
ouf! = whew! phew!
la bise = kiss
faire la bise = to greet somebody with a kiss on each cheek

Do you already shop at Amazon for groceries or other needs? When you enter Amazon via a link in my newsletter, and then make a purchase, you help to support this free language journal. Merci beaucoup!

Sky blue La Ciotat T-shirt with fleur de lys. Click here.

Protect your skin when you walk: La Roche-Posay repair face moisturizer with spf 30. Click here to order.

The Bonjour Effect: The Secret Codes of French Conversation Revealed. Click to order.

Looking for a host or hostess gift? French gourmet sea salt gift set, for a taste of France

Kristi Ken Wendy Emmaus bookstore Cafe de l Horloge

Kristi, Ken, and Wendy. After coffee, we stopped into the tiny bookstore beside Le Café de L'Horloge. I believe it benefits Emmaüs charity (see this colorful bande-dessinée for the story behind Emmaüs). In the little boutique there is a "tirelire" (piggy bank) honor system where you put a few coins in for each book you select. Photo by Wendy, as you can see!

Wendy and Ken
Wendy is a retired social worker, and Ken is passionate about WWI history. He is soon to begin a blog on the topic. Now read Wendy's account of our serendipitous meeting:

Hi Kristi:

I want to thank you again for giving us some of your time yesterday. I am still feeling stunned at us bumping into you in that parking lot but basking in the glow of our chance meeting. As I looked back over the morning and the drive down from Cotignac to La Ciotat, I wonder at the purpose of the few traffic delays we had-one on the road where we had to pull over for 2 big transport trucks hauling enormous steel arcs and then traffic jams in La Ciotat. They all contributed to the perfect timing of our meeting.

When I gazed across the parking lot yesterday to see if you might know the parking lot rules, first I saw a lady with blond hair and then as you came closer, I wondered if it was you and then I thought, well let's try calling your name and if I am wrong, no big deal. When your face lit up, I was flabbergasted. What are the chances of this serendipitous event? I am still feeling so delighted. I have been following your blog for about 4 years and must say I look forward to it every time it comes in. I would like to mention that how you write really reflects the special person you are in real life.

It likely would be helpful for you to know a bit more about us. As you heard from Ken the deal was a month in Provence before we drove north in 2014 to visit all those military cemeteries of the fallen from the names on the Cenotaph in his home town of Cobalt in Ontario. He has been working on this research for several years a and it has been a great retirement project for him.

How did we end up in Provence? Well my friend from Ottawa and her husband (he was born in France) had been coming to Carces near Cotignac for the month of March for 20 years. They no longer come but she has given me info about the area. When I started researching possible villages, the internet indicated there is some English spoken in Cotignac due to the number of ex-pats. We only speak a little French so it seems like a good choice. And here we are-this is our 4th year of escaping some of our nasty Canadian winter by spending it in Cotignac. We have found a delightful apartment to rent with a good property manager and feel quite at home here.

Cheers,

Wendy

Kristi and Wendy
Kristi and Wendy outside Lecture Ephémère, the charity bookshop attached to Café de L'Horloge. 

Thank you very much, Wendy! Adding to the impossibility of our meeting, were the number of times that morning that I delayed going out for my walk. Finally making it out, I considered shortening my itinerary that day. I'm so glad I didn't! It just goes to show what good things happen when we go the extra mile.  

Ken and Wendy


Tumbling euphorbia rosemary and a parasol pine tree above a wall of graffiti

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


From Red Cross worker...to most read Frenchman in the world. The inspiring story of Marc Levy

Author Marc Levy
In the decade since he began writing, Marc Levy become most-read French author in the world. To all who dare to follow their dream... may today's interview give you wings!

un entretien (ontr-tee-en)

        1) an interview 

       2) management/service (a car check-up, etc...)

Audio File: Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file
 
Aujourd'hui, lisez mon entretien avec l'écrivain Marc Levy.
Today, read my interview with the writer Marc Levy. 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

Do you find it enormously reassuring to learn that someone's remarkable success happened later in life? Does it fill you with hope to discover that the respected novelist or chess player or... started out as a first-aid worker—unaware of a nascent talent within him? 

As a lifelong student of writing, nothing motivates me like another's bumpy or unlikely journey to literary success. It makes me believe that it's not too late to pen The Classic and Universal Story... the one that could be enjoyed by all generations till the end of time!

Reading about French author Marc Levy, and how he changed professions several times before happening upon his calling as a writer, I am encouraged to plumb the depths of my own vocational well. Could it be that in this mad pursuit of writing, chess is really my calling?

One thing's sure, French will open doors either way. So it's a safe bet to continue pursuing language! I think even Mr. Levy would agree. Enjoy his words, below, about France, culture, and writing.  

...And, after reading the interview, take time to consider: the dream job you are so passionately pursuing (or currently practicing) may be, after all, but a means to an even more stimulating and meaningful métier--the one your heart is diligently fine-tuning, while you are busy chasing your dream!

INTERVIEW WITH MARC LEVY

1. Why did you choose to leave France and make a home for yourself in the States?

Believe it or not, I originally left France to go to England, which makes me a terrible Frenchman. (There is a rivalry between England and France that dates back several centuries.) I had fallen in love with London and the British sense of humor, and I lived quite happily there for ten years.  I then moved to the States because I also harbored a deep love for New York City.  My son had also decided to study in the U.S., so my longstanding desire to be in New York provided the perfect pretext for me to follow him and play the overprotective parent!  But in all seriousness, I was attracted to the multicultural, multiethnic aspect of New York.  163 different communities and ethnic groups shared their lives there—it was as if the whole world had gathered in one place, and that place was New York.  It was a city in color that I wanted to be a part of.

2. You have a love for food and cooking.  What differences do you see in the American vs. the French approaches to cooking and dining?

The French cook with less of everything: salt, oil, sugar, sauce, etc.  It is fascinating to see, in fact, how much flavor you can produce when you do this.  But I’ve noticed that many new French restaurants are now adopting the trend of overusing ingredients.

The main difference between restaurants in Paris and New York?  The noise.  I’ve been in some restaurants where there is more noise in the dining room than food on your plate.  A restaurant in Paris that played its music as loudly as New York restaurants do wouldn’t last more than a week.  When we invite friends out to dinner, we usually want to talk to them, not yell at them.

Elle et lui levy
Read this one in French. Order ELLE & LUI here


3. You have an older son who was raised primarily in France and a young son whom you are raising in New York. What differences do you see in the French and American parenting cultures?


My older son was actually raised primarily in London.  It's a bit difficult for me to comment on contemporary French parenting culture, since I've been living outside of France for the past 15 years, but as far as I can tell, there aren't too many differences.  As parents, we all love our children with the same heart and want the best for them.

I suppose one subtle difference might be that in France, we focus less on the psychology of the child and more on his or her practical education.  For example, when I was at a friend's house, she had told her son he couldn't do something and he responded, "You're hurting my feelings!"  Our French friends laughed, as this is not very French—it would not garner a French child much sympathy when being scolded or told no.  Perhaps French parents are more old-fashioned, stricter in this way...or at least, mine were with me.

4. Some language learners are fearful of speaking English to a French person, afraid they’ll make an embarrassing mistake. Did you ever humiliate yourself in English? Any examples you are willing to share?

I do this every day.  One example that comes to mind is something I once said to a woman in the street. She was trying to light her cigarette, but her lighter wasn’t working, so as a proper French gentleman would, I offered her my own.  I asked her, “Do you want my fire?”  After she had left, the American friend I was with burst into laughter.  When I asked him what was so funny, he explained to me why that had been a ridiculous thing to say.  I was absolutely mortified!

5. Humor, or a good joke, is often “lost in translation”, making it even more difficult to adapt as an expat.  Did you ever find it difficult to appreciate the sense of humor in your adopted country, or to share your own sense of humor?

Yes and no.  Humor is one of the most important things in my life—it’s like a drug to me.  I have watched so many comedies and read so many books to try to better understand American and British humor.  What I have discovered is that the jokes we make are often very specific to culture, sometimes only understood in the country they are from.  For example, a joke about cheerleaders that Americans find hilarious would be confusing to the French, because we don’t have cheerleaders in France.

Living in a new place, you come to understand that it is much more difficult to share your sense of humor, but as implied in my answer to your previous question, sometimes you can make people laugh without knowing why.

6. There are some colorful expressions in French, such as “faire du lèche-vitrines” or “avoir un oursin dans sa poche”.  Can you share a favorite French expression?

One of my favorites is “Ce n'est pas tombé dans l'oreille d'un sourd”. The English equivalent is “It hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” or that the information has been fully understood, but translated quite literally, it would be “It hasn’t fallen into the ear of a deaf man.”

7. Regarding pronunciation, what do you think about accents? (i.e. when speaking English, do you strive to lose your own French accent? Conversely, what do you think when hearing someone struggle to pronounce French?)

I would love to do that—if only I could get rid of the “z” and say “the” one time, as it should be!  But in regard to hearing a foreign accent in French, I find it very charming, and never ridiculous.  Especially when an American woman speaks French, it’s so sexy.

Et si cetait vrai levy
Read this one in French, order here (scroll down for the English edition)

8. Regarding things getting lost in translation, how do you feel about having your French words—so thoughtfully chosen during the writing process—translated into English, or another language, now that your books are being made available worldwide?

It’s a real concern.  The initial English translation of my first book was so bad, it really killed me and almost ruined the story.  For a writer, finding a translator who understands your writing is as difficult as an actor finding the voice that will dub over his own.  (Dubbed voiceovers for foreign movies and television shows are very common in France.)  Translators are constantly underpaid and underappreciated, but their role is so important that they should really get a part of the royalties.  They aren’t just translating, but adapting the text, and to do so, they must be good writers.

When I received corrections for the English translation of my second novel before it went to print, I sat down with both versions in front of me, trying to go through and compare every word.  In the middle of this, the doorbell rang and the mailman arrived with the Chinese manuscript.  I went back to my desk and closed everything.  I learned that day that after a certain point, you must trust that the translator likes and understands your work, and wants to accurately reproduce it.

9. It is both fascinating and inspiring to read about your path to writing, and the failures that brought you there.  In one interview, we read about some of the words of wisdom you shared with your son.  You said, “The biggest mistake you can make in your life is to avoid any mistake by not doing anything.”  Could you please translate that into French for us, and so leave us with the courage to pursue our own dreams?

La plus grande erreur que tu pourrais faire dans ta vie serait d'avoir évité toute erreur en n'ayant rien fait.”

  If only it were true

Click here to order this book



A little more about Marc Levy

With 13 novels published over the past 12 years—all of which have been #1 bestsellers in France and many other countries worldwide—Marc has nearly 30-million copies of his books in print in 45 languages. 

Before his first novel, If Only It Were True, was published in the U.S., Steven Spielberg acquired the film rights for DreamWorks. The movie, Just like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, was a #1 box office hit. Since this remarkable introduction, US readers have not had easy access to Marc's subsequent works. Until now. Click on the book cover below, or link, to discover all of Marc Levy's books.
Ps from paris

Read Marc Levy's P.S. From Paris

Une autre idee du bonheur (French edition)

ATTWNSebookcover

...or read the above book in French. Order here.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Cassis recommendation + Une Tuerie: a popular slang term often used by foodies and bon vivants

Bar du XX eme siecle Cassis France tapas menu cuisine wine vin

Looking for an authentic wine and tapas bar in Cassis, France? Read on! 
 

UNE TUERIE

    1. to die for, killer, freakin' delicious

the original meaning of tuerie is: a massacre

LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc read the example sentence in French click here

Cick here to listen to today's word


Le gâteau au chocolat de ma maman est une tuerie!
My mom's chocolate cake is to die for!

Cassis france rue pierre

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

"A Parade of Little Plates"

  by Kristi Espinasse


As we walked down to the port of Cassis, strolling beside candy-colored buildings lit up by so much sunshine on a crisp January day, my husband quizzed me.

"So what do you think you'll have for lunch?" he grinned.
"Oh, I don't know," I played along. 
"Du loup? Ou bien...du magret?..." Jean-Marc persisted. Whether in French or in English, he was taunting me!

"Peut-être..." I tried to be nonchalant, or else show my weakness for eating--especially for pan-seared French bistro cooking which I trusted was on le menu du jour. But what an assumption that turned out to be! When Jean-Marc invited me along to his noon-time meeting with a couple of wine représentants, I imagined we would lunch in a cozy resto--at least that is what my man led me to believe when he told me about his meeting in Cassis.

But as we sidled up to the comptoir in a bar formerly frequented by local drunks, I began to regret the perfectly sound meal que j'aurais pu me cuisiner! The meal I could have cooked, had I not taken the bait! But who wouldn't be tempted by a visit to Cassis? I decided to focus on that part of the equation and forget about rotisserie chicken (or lamb chops I would no longer have). And just as I let go of expectations, one of the reps looked my way:

With the kindest eyes, trentenaire Maxime said: It must get very boring to sit through these wine-fueled meetings

The man who had the same name as our son must have caught me staring at the bar counter which was packed with opened bottles of wine. And he must have translated the expression on my face--a look that read what am I doing here? But he couldn't have read the rest of my thoughts: What--at 15 years sober--am I doing seated once again in front of a sea of open wine bottles? (I periodically asked myself the same question: what am I doing moving to a vineyard? What am I doing with a frigo full of wine samples? Married to a winemaker? Now a wine merchant? But two vineyards later, and many wine-fueled lunches (wait, where's lunch?) like this, and I've not fallen off the wagon, pas une seule fois!

Embarrassed to be caught looking so forlorn, I perked right up with the help of my bubbly drink (sparkling water, bien sûr): "C'est vrai--des fois çela me gonfle! True, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Mais, c'est aussi un privilège d'être parmi...vous (how else to say it was a privilege to be among the movers-and-shakers in French wine?). There are so many characters in the wine industry, so many stories, so much camaraderie that even a teetotaler can manage to fit in somewhere. I pulled my barstool up a little closer, and j'ai lâché prise....

"I smell eucalyptus!" Jean-Marc was saying, swirling his rosé and dipping his nose back beneath the rim of his wine glass. I giggled to myself, of course, that's your favorite tree... isn't it true how we become more sensitive to the things we...love? Just as Jean-Marc loves eucalyptus trees (and was now tasting them) I love characters. A wonderful group surrounded us now.....

There was the gentlemanly owner, Jacques, and his wife Marie (was there ever a more beautiful face? a mixture of Greta Garbo and the author of the bestseller Mange, Prie, Aime...).  Then there were the wine reps, Pierre and Maxime - jovial opposites, and obviously good friends and business partners. By the end of our meeting ("our" for I was now very much connected) we all agreed to meet up for an oursinade--a half day of sea urchin hunting.  And speaking of food--the very reason I'm writing to you on the weekend--like magic it began to appear from the back of the bar... where a distinguished Spaniard appeared, with plate after plate of savory tapas!

Fried calamari at wine tapas Bar du XX eme Cassis France


Ardoise or chalkboard menu at XX eme siecle wine and tapas bar in Cassis France
A mouthwatering array of tapas on the bar's "ardoise" or chalkboard menu

C'était une tuerie! There were crisp-fried calamari, lightly-crisped potato disks and a creamy aïoli sauce...and there were couteaux (razor clams, pictured at the end of this post, are a "fruit of the sea" with a long "knife-like" shell), melt-in-your-mouth Iberian ham, anchovies in oil, and addictive tomato-rubbed toasts or pan con tomate. Speaking of addictive, can you get drunk on tapas? I don't know, drunk is no longer a feeling I enjoy--but I felt agreeably woozy after the delicious défilé--or parade of little plates.


FRENCH VOCABULARY

le loup = bass fish
le magret (de canard) = duck breast
le menu du jour = today's menu
le comptoir = counter, bar
le trentenaire = person in their 30s
le frigo = fridge
ça me gonfle = it bugs, bothers me, I get fed up
lâcher prise = to let go
une tuerie = to die for
aïoli = Mediterranean sauce made of garlic and olive oil
le défilé = parade, procession

Adventures on the wine route

I forgot to say that this wine bar also hosts book signings. The walls of the bar are covered with large framed photos of French authors--but the owner happened to be reading a book by American writer Kermit Lynch. He was enthusiastically showing us the book, Adventures on the Wine Route

Wine reps Maxime Pierre and Jean-Marc
Maxime, Pierre, and Jean-Marc

Le Vingteme bar resto tapas wine in cassis france
If you go... here are the bar's coordonnées, or contact details:

"Le Vingtième" 
17 Avenue Victor Hugo, 13260 Cassis
Téléphone : 09 80 53 24 43

Le Vingtième is open from Wednesday to Sunday (winter hours) for lunch and dinner.

Le couteau de mer or solen or razor clams
Flowers and volets or wooden shutters in Cassis France

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Our Current Mess + Une Alerte Orange

Portrait of a woman in white by Susan Winkler
This book recommendation comes to you from...my wonderful dad! We chatted via Skype last night and Dad could not stop raving about Portrait of a Woman in White. If you love history, art, and romance--and are interested in WWII--buy Susan Winkler's book!

"Winkler takes a topic of growing interest, the recovery and return of art stolen by the Nazis, and weaves a story spanning 23 years about one family and one painting. Not a novel about the horrors of war... (but) the struggles of trying to reestablish a life when everything you know and love is gone." --Booklist Order this book


TODAY'S WORD: une alerte orange

    : Weather report warning of strong wind or other possible natural disasters


AUDIO FILE: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 

Alerte orange


Aujourd'hui à La Ciotat c'est une alerte orange - ça souffle fort et il faut se méfier des objets volants.
Today in La Ciotat it's an "orange alert" - it's very windy and you must watch out for flying objects.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

As far as this week's compte-rendu, why not start right in the middle of the mess--and pan out from there? I woke up this morning to find a pot of roses had tumbled into Smokey's water gamelle. The yellow roses were a gift from our chauffagiste, who got a lot of business from us, recently, when a slew of appliances broke down here at our 1960-built home in La Ciotat.

This week our plumber hit the jackpot when our plumbing system balked. After tearing apart our concrete patio with a marteau- piqueur, the workers (there are now two) revealed several of old pipes being strangled by tree roots (the "tree" in question is no more than an overgrown pittosporum. They crop up around here and grow into pipe-menacing arbres!). 

As I sit here unsure of when we'll be able to use the W.-C. again...one can always use a bucket?), I am as ready as you are to change the subject. I'd rather tell you about the bright yellow mimosa blooming in our neighborhood. It really made me smile to see those sunshine blossoms dotted throughout the streets this week. And it reminded me of one of the many delights of January! 

Mimosa flowers blossoms france january

Alerte Orange--Orange (level) weather warning
I was hoping to go out for a mind-changing walk this morning to see what else is blooming (and to escape the pounding of jackhammers and scraping of sewer pipes), but there is a  strong wind blowing through town (more than that pot of yellow roses, it is knocking down tree limbs and overturning outdoor furniture). So I'll stay inside wishing instead of walking--wishing that wild wind would upend certain trees and their pipe-strangling racines! Then up-up-and-away those gnarling, choking roots would go, along with our plumbing woes....

The good news is, once our plumbing is fixed and our electricity is rewired (an upcoming project)--and now that we've replaced our water heater and our home heater, too...our 1960s property will be up-to-date, or, as the French say, à jour. Sure, there'll be a few outdated things--like the bidets in the bathrooms. And did you know the French use le bidet for more than washing (private parts, clothes, and small dogs)? In a pinch, they're used for....le pipi! So would you in desperation, dear reader, toss out this bucket and use le bidet? Be honest...and let me know in the comments!


FRENCH VOCABULARY

le compte-rendu = update, report
la gamelle = bowl, dish (for animal)
le/la chauffagiste = heating engineer
le marteau-piqueur = jackhammer
un arbre = tree
le W.-C. = toilet
la racine = root
à jour = up-to-date

Mimosa flowers france january blossoms

Do you enjoy this free language journal and want to help keep it going all the way through its 17th year? Consider sending a donation to help with the costs and effort of publishing French Word-A-Day.

Although I have not read each and every email from you, I have enjoyed those I did in fact read. My goal is to eventually go back to the beginning. Wow what a goal. The donation is small but my gratitude is immense for all your efforts. --Deborah 


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Nearby town of Cereste

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie


Try this in the New Year: s'aérer l'esprit

Wearing wetsuits to walk in the winter sea in La Ciotat

Walking in the sea, mid-January, in La Ciotat, France. Some wore wetsuits, others (as in a man we saw just this morning) wear only an iconic Speedo!

s'aérer l'esprit

    : to clear the mind

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French words:

S'aérer l'esprit

s'aérer l'esprit. marcher, promener, gambader, sont des bons moyens pour s'aérer l'esprit
clear one's mind. (to) walk, walk, gambol, are good ways to clear the mind.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

I've always liked the idea of a "tool belt" when it comes to finding relief from a difficult, tricky, painful or otherwise impossible situation. Number one in my toolbag, or belt, as you well know if you have read this journal for a while, is scripture (bilingual is especially helpful). 

The second tool, or outil, I hinted at in the "enchanted" post: a good devotional, or little book of méditations quotidiennes.

And today's tool is the third (hammer? wrench? screwdriver? measuring stick! yes! much more positive-sounding--for we do grow each time we find ourselves gripping for a tool in our trusty belt). Here's that tool, and not necessarily in order of importance (for I have not yet mentioned family and friends--they are essential in our emergency sacoche à outils!)

Walking in Cassis France

LA MARCHE - that's it, Tool Number 3 is walking. What I especially like about walking is the multiple benefits that come from the single act of putting one foot in front of the other. Firstly, it is symbolic: it is a stepping forth. We literally cannot remain in the same (stuck) place when we step forth. Alors, en avant!

Then there is the change of scenery which must, if we open our eyes (for who walks with les yeux fermés?) change the picture (sad, fearful, coléreux?) in our mind. Of course it is possible to walk and remain focused on whatever is eating at us. We can literally see right through the objects coming toward us (such as other walkers). But if we refocus, say, on another ambulating soul, in time to glimpse the expression on their face - we realize we are not alone in our emotions. 

Yesterday, while researching the topic of walking, The title of a YouTube video caught my attention: Walking and Silence. Here's a man that decided, one day, to shut up or se taire (after thinking he knew everything) and walk across America. It was either this or become a monk. This black man with dreadlocks and I have at least two things in common: as a last-ditch effort we have both seriously considered living in a cloister. Pour toujours! And both of us have come to the conclusion that walking might be a more realistic place to start.

To start to find peace (or enlightenment? or resolution? closure? ...You fill in the blank!).

   *    *

Calanque of port d alon
A favorite place to walk is in the calanques or sea-inlets.



I would love to hear about your experiences walking. Tell me all the benefits it brings you, why you do it, where you do it--what you like to do when you're doing it (listen to music? chat with a friend?). Or, if you don't walk, tell me what you do to clear your mind. For that is the word of the day "s'aérer l'esprit). To comment, see the link at the end of this post. 

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris...

Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James

Women's Fitness walking shoes

Lastly, this book: Meet Peace Pilgrim, who crossed the U.S. on foot seven times with only the clothes on her back to spread her message of peace. She lived off the land and the kindness of those she met, sleeping outdoors, on cement floors, in parked cars and, once, on the front seat of a fire engine in Tombstone, Arizona. Whenever she ran into trouble – from blizzards to black eyes – her sole response was love. order here

Flowers at the port of Bandol France
If you enjoy this free language journal and find it helpful in any way, help keep it going with a small donation. Merci beaucoup!

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this French word story. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next letter, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving these posts. Your support is vivement apprécié. Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"I’m a high school French teacher, and I love how your blog gives me everyday vocabulary and glimpses of French character and tradition. Your gentle expression of your faith and rare transparency of emotion inspire me."
--Melanie