Jules update + Which of these French words is new to you?: guet-apens, tuyau, épuisette, taule, couvre feu, comme si de rien n'était, arroser, pantoufle...

Max spear fishing in La Ciotat beach
My son, Max, spearfishing here in La Ciotat. In today's story, his grandmother Jules goes fishing in the garden, while I reel in a boatful of new French words for you. Enjoy, and please share this post with somebody who loves France or the French language. Merci!

Today’s French expressions: avoir la pêche (vs) aller à la pêche

  : avoir la pêche = to feel great, to feel happy
  : aller à la pêche = to go fishing

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence in French:

Quand ma belle-mère, Jules, a la pêche...Elle va à la pêche!
When my mother-in-law, Jules, is feeling energetic, she goes fishing!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi ESPINASSE

“I feel good!”  my mom announces, stretching out her arms beside the budding fig tree. “Look how rosy my cheeks are!”

En effet! After hibernating all winter, Jules a la pêche. Her energy stores are full and she is ready to return to work as our resident Tuyau Operator, in charge of watering all the flowers and veggies. It’s about time Sleeping Beauty woke up. Les hibiscus ont soif!

Mom surveys the wild garden and its unruly grass, its patches of buttercups, dandelions, grape hyacinths, and, oh—look at those two-foot-high beanstalks! Our front yard has come to life, just like Mom and her furry, elderly assistant, Smokey (who’s put on a few pounds after guarding Grandma all winter. The two share the afternoon goûter in bed, and I suspect it’s not the only snack for nos aînés gourmands!).

Plus de Pantoufles!
When Jules, in her black Converse high tops, marches past her favorite Papillon chair, you know she means business. No contemplating the clouds today, c’est l’heure d’arroser.

I pass by the fountain on my way to meet her, and the water begins to tremble. Can you believe that’s 4 dozen baby koi rushing to the surface? The doves use a similar attention-getting strategy, going as far as to knock on the window until Jules gets up to feed them! Everyone is hungry now that winter is over, ou presque

Un guet-apens? (An ambush?)
Jules grabs the long wooden pole and net—the épuisette—and plunges it in and out of the water sending petrified poissons darting toward the papyrus for cover.

“I caught 5!” Mom gasps, upending the net and watching the fish land in the copper jam pan (a recent gift Mom picked up for us at la Coop Agricole). 

“Hurry! Get some water in there!” Mom signals, as the fish flop around their copper tôle, or prison.

Les yeux ébahis, I scramble to fill the copper jam pan with water before the fish (that's slang for inmates!) go into shock. Visiblement, Mom’s energy is running ahead of her again. If you think her motor is charged, you should see Smokey! Our 11-year-old golden retriever has leaped over the fence and is trespassing in the neighbor’s yard, probably eating the cat food again! “Smokey! Reviens ici!” Whereas moments ago our senior chien jumped over the fence, he is now crawling under the flimsy barrier, comme si de rien n’était.

As you can see, I’ve got my hands full keeping these thrill-seekers in line. But I’m not complaining. I’m too dazzled by the koi swimming in the copper jam pan. Jules has the coolest ideas and her creativity is enough to wake a zombie (or anyone feeling lethargic during a pandemic!).

“It would be a fabulous centerpiece for your next dinner party!” Mom adds, easing into her butterfly chair. Time now to contemplate the clouds, and think up more adventures in this era of couvre-feux and confinement.

--
Post note: No photo of the fish in the bassine à confiture, or copper jam pan. When I tried to recreate the scene it wasn’t as easy as Mom made it look! 


Fish in pond
FRENCH VOCABULARY

un jeu de mots = a play on words

en effet = indeed

avoir la pêche = to feel energetic 

le tuyau = garden hose

avoir soif = to be thirsty

le goûter = snack

la pantoufle = house slipper

nos aînés = our elders

le gourmand = food lover

arroser  = to water

ou presque = or almost

un guet-apens = an ambush

une épuisette = pole and net for collecting fish or clearing  leaves from the pond

en taule  (en tôle) = in the slammer, prison

le poisson = fish

visiblement = clearly

reviens ici! = come back here!

le chien = dog

comme si de rein n’était = as if nothing were amiss

couvre-feu = curfew

The paris library
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Smokey in papillon chair
Or senior chien, Smokey is doing great. Don’t miss this story of Mom’s papillon chair, click here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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Adieu to a beloved Poet + favorite French words, in honor of Herman Meyer

Sospel  France Eglise church french architecture
This photo was taken on February 16th, at 3:21 p.m. in Sospel, France. Marveling at the heavenly ceiling and the mysteries beyond, I was unaware of a friend's passing on the very day.

ADIEU, HERM
I have been carefully collecting a list of interesting French words since the beginning of this month, in hopes of sharing them with you someday. I never imagined I would use them in a eulogy. L
et's learn some vocabulary now while remembering an honored war veteran--and fellow desert rat (from Phoenix) whom many of you know from the comments section of this blog. 

"Une Lubie"
That's "hobby" in French. One of Herman Meyers's passions was la poésie. More than une lubie, poetry was a gift this 90-year-old outdoorsman and electrical engineer shared with the world. Right up to the end, Herm posted his poems on his blog Poems, Photos and Stuff and sent them privately to cheer up friends. He eventually collected his rhythmic verses into an anthology "that may leave you smiling, pull at your heartstrings and/or leave you in tears..."

Herm's book

"Flambant Neuf"
"Brand new"—Herm, who would have turned 91 on May 23, wasn’t flambant neuf. He would have had fun using the brand new term in a stanza. Most of his works were inspired by photos. His book is aptly named "Pic Poems and Stuff". Don't you just love the "and stuff" which hints at the author's way of not taking himself too seriously?


"Le Système D"
"Plan D"--I learned this term in the comments section of this blog (thanks Sheryl!). Jean-Marc tells me the D is for débrouiller which means to deal with it. How would Herm want us to deal with his departure? What is Plan D?!

"Zinguerie"
Plan D rhymes with zinguerie, a word I saw painted over a (plumbing?) shop while passing through Monaco last week. The term has something to do with zinc... which, come to think of it, is sort of the color of Ham Radio (OK, that was a stretch, but I'm determined to share the words, in the order in which I've learned them, into today's tribute. Hang on, it'll get more chanllenging soon!). Just to say Ham radio was an early passion of Herm's that eventually led to extensive radio school training with NATO in Fontainebleu, France!

"Péché Mignon"
Now there's a fun phrase meaning "guilty pleasure" and I have a hunch Herm would have incorporated this phrase in his picture poetry, where he shared his love of hiking, the Southwest, cowboy culture, friendship, family, service to others, and all creatures great and small to name a few. Perhaps one of Herm's guilty pleasures was repetition (mais bien sûr, he was un poète!); his favorite expression, shared now and again in the comments on my blog, was this gem:

C'est la vie, c'est la guere, c'est la pomme de terre!
(Literally: That's life, that's war, that's the potato!)
(Herm's translation: "Stuff happens!” Of course he’d say “stuff”! This poet wasn’t stuffy or smug!)

Herm
"Herm on his daily ride around the park" (title of an email he sent)

"C’est commode"
"It’s convenient"--In one of Herm's last emails of 2020, this passionate outdoorsman announced his hiking days were finito! From then on he rode, et c'était commode! Of course he "poemed" the news:

As time passes by for this aging man
I'll keep doing the exercises that I can
But, instead of the cross-country hiking
I'll stay active with my in-the-park triking

"Se Gâter"
"To take a turn for the worse"--I learned this reflexive verb while out on a walk with Jean-Marc. "Le temps se gâtent" he said, as the bright sky darkened. Returning home, I found an email from my friend Karen in Phoenix, who shared the news of Herm's passing. 

"Sans Déconner"
"No kidding" (Just a cool Southern French phrase you hear--even in Paris! It doesn't really fit in this section. But we're going to make it fit, just as Herm did with his rhyme gift.)

I received a courriel from Herm's wife, Sharron, who shared about Herm's joy reading my blog.  Sharron left me with a compliment as she signed off:

"I always fondly called you his "other girlfriend." Please share this with your mom, he was also a fan of hers too.”

"Frimer"
"To show off"--Because Herm didn't talk a lot about his service to the United States, let's show off for him here.
 In 2018, he was honored as a war veteran, and selected to go on the Honor Flight--an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.

"La Pénurie"
"Shortage"--Now Herm has passed to the other side, the mysterious Ever After. Let us all make sure there are no shortage of words for our word wrangler to work with, as he writes his poetry from the hereafter, l'Au-delà.

Help honor Herm by sharing a favorite French word in the comments section just below. And share what town you are writing in from. Merci beaucoup (I have a feeling Herm would say Merci buckets.  He was comfortable enough with words to have fun with them :-) 

"La Houle"
Swell--That's "swell" as in "ocean waves" but it may as well mean swelled or swollen hearts. To Herm's wife, Sharron, his 3 adult boys, Brien, Craig, and Neal, and to all who love him, our collective hearts go out to you. May the favorite French words that follow in the comments, send waves of comfort your way.

Tu vas me manquer. I am going to miss you, Herman Meyer! Sans déconner!

Signed, 
"Your Other Girlfriend"

 

Herm hike in the desert
Read more about Herm on his blog and his book of "pic poetry" Photo: Herm leads a group of Francophiles at a meetup in Phoenix, in 2011. That story here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Kicked out of Monaco + On the road to the Riviera in our electric car + 22, v'là les flics + pictures from Sospel, Menton, Nice

Sospel
Sospel, France. February 2021. What with La Crise Sanitaire, it has been over a year since Jean-Marc and I traveled and courted adventure. Recently, we hit the road in our electric blue ZOE and were pleasantly surprised at how far it took us--all the way to the Italian border from La Ciotat--on one full "tank". (Jean-Marc had une borne de recharge installed at his wine shop, where he and his clients may charge their electric cars. C'est commode!).

For our 4-day escapade, we considered France's "Island of Beauty" (an overnight voyage via ferry) but were dissuaded when the Corsican getaway called for a PCR test for Covid. That is when Jean-Marc mentioned Menton, only a two-hour drive from our home. The moment my husband suggested it, visions of bright yellow citrons danced in my head. Bonne idée! I agreed and, fast as you can say Vingt deux, v'là les flics! we were on the road, heading toward a needed change of scenery just a stone's throw from the Italian border.

Any fantasies of traversing that frontière (for a meal in Badalucco or a stroll in St Rémo...) were soon nixed when, on day two at the bustling farmers market in Menton, a few locals relayed the latest government orders. "Il ne vaut mieux pas. Vous serez arrêtés et détournés," warned the octogénaire, handing me my change along with her homemade "confiture 3 agrumes," and bay leaf branches from the riviera hinterland.

Jean-Marc quickly offered a Plan B: A visit to Sainte Agnès. Allez, chiche! I agreed, sharing that my artist friend Tessa lived there many years, and it would be good to finally see the perched village and hike up to the chateau ruins above it (Jean-Marc's idea, nevermind it was freezing outside). But with cafés closed because of Covid, the next best way to warm ourselves would be a brisk hike. As we climbed the medieval stone steps I noticed the ground was covered with le verglas...it looked like somebody had dumped a giant snowcone over the hillside. Mittens and wool bonnets would have been good to bring along, but who packs those for a trip to the sunny Riviera?

Jean-Marc and Kristi at Allez Hops beer shop and brewery in Nice

The rest of our séjour was warm, cozy and colorful! (photos of Sospel, below), including a trip to see our friends who run Allez Hops! a boutique beer shop and micro-brewery in Nice. Dan, Julie, and their daughter, Gab, thoughtfully welcomed us with a cheeky--make that chalky--message on the ardoise outside their shop--and even had delicious rootbeer waiting for the abstème in our group! It was wonderful to catch up with our friends, and we were set to see one more copain the next day.... 

Every trip has a misadventure or two and for us that came on the last day, at the border of Monaco, after a couple of flics ordered us off the road. I rolled down the passenger's seat window and fumbled for my mask. "Vous venez d'où?" the policeman with salt-n-pepper hair asked, beginning his interrogation.

"Menton." Jean-Marc replied, from the driver's seat.
"Vous habitez en France?" The officer asked, noticing our license plate, with its two-digit area designation (13 for Marseille, where we bought our car).
As the two wrangled in French, I was about to elbow my husband to just answer the policeman, and quit with all the explanations! but that would not be very French of him, would it? Every Frenchman (mine, at least) must have their say! 

"Je vous ai demandé où est-ce que vous habitez?" The policeman persisted.

"La Ciotat," I replied. "On vie à La Ciotat!"

"But we are here to have lunch with our friend--un Monégasque." Jean-Marc insisted.

"You'll need an affidavit from your friend." The police responded. Zut! Only one day ago we could have wandered aimlessly through Monaco, the rules had changed overnight! After a little more wrangling, Jean-Marc relented, or so it seemed. Taking the next exit, he phoned his friend, who arranged a clandestine rendez-vous, and so smuggled us back to his place for calamari... Everything happened so fast, it was only after I took another bite of octopus that I realized I had once again gone against my gut in order to go with the flow!

"Is it good? Do you like it?" Our smuggler Monégasque asked.

"I do, but... Have you seen My Octopus Teacher?"

If that sounded like an obscure question, dear reader, you haven't seen this documentary, but back to our ethical dilemma involving cops and calamari, because I know what some of you are thinking: Shame on you, Kristi, for sneaking back to your friend's house! How irresponsible of you! What do you have to say for yourself?! We are waiting for an answer!

All I can say is Thank you for waiting! From here on out, I will listen to my conscience, whether it tells me to skip the octopus or skip town! Or skip the comments section of this blog which has taken a slight turn since the new year, with just enough negativity to have me weigh every single word for fear of offending someone, somewhere, somehow. And that makes for a lot of stress in writing and sharing my stories. 

One step forward, two back. Just like you, I am doing the best I can. And the best I can do is to get out of bed each day and go to work, avec ou sans peur. I am extremely grateful for this job as a full-time writer. Thank you for your understanding, for your trust, and for your support. It keeps me writing in an era where speaking to a friend (let alone an audience!) is akin to walking in a minefield. Watch your step! 22 v'la les flics! (Watch out!)

Amicalement,

Kristi 

Room with a view in Menton
Room with a view in Menton

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la crise santitaire = health crisis
une borne de recharge
= charging station, charge port for electric car
c'est commode = it's convenient
dépayser = to experience a change of surroundings (more here)
bienvenue = welcome
une escapade = getaway (travel)
le citron = lemon
une bonne idée = good idea
Il ne vaut mieux pas = better not to
Vous serez arrêtés et détournés = you'll be stopped and turned away
Vingt deux, v'là les flics! = a slang expression for "watch out!", literally Twenty-two, here are the cops!
la frontière = border between countries
la confiture = jam
l'agrume (m)
= citrus fruit
allez chiche!
= you're on! let's do it!
un périple = trek, journey
le verglas = ice
une ardoise = slate, blackboard, chalkboard
l'abstème (m,f) = person who doesn't drink alcohol for one reason or another
le copain (la copine) = friend
le (la) flic = cop
le carrefour
= roundabout, intersection
le séjour
= stay
monégasque = resident of Monaco
zut! = darn!
avec ou sans peur = with or without fear

Sospel balcony
Colorful patina in Sospel
The colorful town of Sospel. Not a lot of tourists, plenty of local characters.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you regularly enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am commited to sharing a sunny update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France, while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.