A Beautiful Escape via the French word échapper belle

Mediterranean pebble Beach at Plage Mugel La Ciotat France
Today's story takes place in La Ciotat, not far from the beach. 

ECHAPPER BELLE

(ay-shap-ay bel)

    : to have a close call, a lucky escape; to let off the hook

L'ECOUTE: Practice your French Listening Skills. To hear the French in today's story, click below. Next, check your comprehension by viewing the vocabulary list (farther down).

Listen to the vocabulary list, click here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Is there a word in French or English for when you are avoiding your To-Do list... by shopping instead? And does going grocery shopping count? En milieu de semaine, there were a lot of things I could be doing instead of hanging out at the supermarket, such as:

  • applying for French citizenship (but it's so much easier to renew my titre de séjour every ten years!)
  • completing the colorectal kit offered by the French government when you turn 50 (as I did 3 winters ago...)
  • working on Mom's bureaucratic papers before she is deported!

Ah well, as Scarlett O'hara famously said, Après tout, demain est un autre jour! Today, there's Monoprix--France's grocery/clothing/home store all wrapped up into one! But before rushing over to les allées de tentation, better exercise un tantinet of delayed gratification and shop for food first.

Touch screen and french produce scale for weighing fruits  vegetables

In this supermarché you weigh the fruits and vegetables yourself, using une balance and its accompanying touch screen (with photos of all the produce). Searching the screen, I could not find the picture of the onions. But it was there a minute ago! It even reminded me I needed onions. So where was the picture now that I was back with my sack full of oignons? The universe was playing tricks again. I looked around hoping for a Good Samaritan. Finally, I marched over to the only other scale.

An elderly man with a hunched back stood weighing a small bag of abricots. Glancing into his chariot, I saw a dozen more bags of unweighed produce and a battered cane he had tossed inside. The Man Sans Canne looked so calm and peaceful as he took his time at the self-serve station. A flash of admiration erased any memory of The Onion Dilemma, and I quietly returned to the other scale (where, incredibly, the onion was back on the screen!). Leaving the produce department, I kicked myself for not having the courage to say something to the man, to this last bastion of le bon sens. Here was more than a man--here was an inspiration. I hope to be eating like him and solo shopping like him (my own cane tossed into my chariot) well into le trosième âge!

Studying my family's grocery list I saw "ice cream, raspberry jam, and another quatre-quart (kids love this rich, buttery poundcake for the 4 o'clock goûter. No more kids in the house, but Grandma loves this treat!). Having gotten some eggs I rounded the bend and.... Chariots of Fire! There he was in the dairy aisle! Alas, I missed a second chance to say something, anything, to The Man Sans Canne. Instead, I hurried off and, rounding the corner, the handle of my own chariot (a smaller, two-wheeled poussette de marché) slipped and the cart fell, its contents tumbling out.

(Ouf, the carton of 12 eggs was intact!)

"Vous avez échappé belle!" another shopper exclaimed. 

"Oh, oui!" I smiled, quickly making a mental note to share with you, dear reader, the wonderful French phrase which literally means "a beautiful escape". Echapper belle also means to be let off the hook, which reminds me of hooky.... We'll end with that: the reminder to play hooky de temps en temps. Why not play at the grocery store? It might lead to a beautiful escape and some meaningful encounters, too.  

FRENCH VOCABULARY
en milieu de semaine = midweek
un titre de séjour = residence permit (see la carte de séjour...)
Après tout, demain est un autre jour = after all, tomorrow is another day
les allées de tentation = aisles of temptation
un tantinet = a smidgeon, tad, wee bit
une balance = weighing scale
un abricot = apricot
le chariot = shopping cart, trolley
le bon sens = good sense, common sense
le troisième âge = later life, old age
le goûter = snack, afterschool snack, afternoon tea
la canne = cane
ouf! = phew!
échapper-belle
de temps en temps = from time to time, now and then, occasionally
Caddie grocery cart in french chariot
It's amusing, isn't it, to read a stranger's grocery list. And judging from the crossed out item, it looks like they finally found the onions, too! :-)

Highlights from the archives:
Review the five senses in French: la vue, l'ouïe...
Check out The Most difficult French words to pronounce (and add your own in the comments to that post)
A family vacation in Queyras (the French Alps), pictured below.

Queyras France Alps

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you 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 committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed 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 (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


How to say "shortcoming" or "vice" in French + recipe reminder: "La Tarte Tomate"

Street in la ciotat France climbing vine morning glory blossoms
"Take a new road each day," Mom says. Like that, I discovered this quaint, unfamiliar rue on my way to our little Baptist church here in La Ciotat. The vine-flanked ruelle was as peaceful as the photo, with neighbors chatting at a window sill and laundry fluttering in the breeze. 

TODAY'S WORD: un défaut (day-fo)

    : fault, flaw, shortcoming, vice

la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read the French vocabulary in today's post:

Vocabulary List, click here to listen to the French


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Coucou! I love this two-syllable, cozy French greeting for "hello, hiya, hey there, salut"--all very warm ways to reconnect after a brief absence. How did your summer go? Did you thrive or just survive? (Or a combination of the two?)

Ah, c'est la vie! 

That is life indeed and, if you are new here, life or la vie quotidienne is the subject of these posts. Life and all of its joys and absurdities. Because family life is the heart of this journal, now is a good time to reintroduce you to our lovable (mostly--on a tous nos défauts!) cast of characters:

JULES: the matriarch of the family and my mom. Jules came to live with us here in La Ciotat 3 years ago. Time flies and so do her trusty friends: all the neighborhood birds who she feeds. 

JEAN-MARC: a.k.a. "Chief Grape", my French husband, who began two vineyards in Provence. He currently runs a wine shop ("Le Vin Sobre") when he is not plotting his next sport adventure, like a triathlon in Spain

MAX: our 26-year-old son, who had the nerve to choose a career in wine after we made the difficult decision to sell our vineyard! (Now he dreams of having vines of his own!) Meantime, he works near Aix-en-Provence and loves the wine business.

JACKIE: our 23-year-old daughter, born and raised in France and who felt the need to discover her American roots. She currently lives in Miami where she is trying to decide whether to return to Fashion design school, learn finance, move to a new state or return to France....

SMOKEY: our 12-year-old golden retriever who survived a two-dog attack as a puppy. Scars and all, he keeps on trucking--and caring for my Mom (a job he assumed 3 years ago) keeps him going.

EDIE: our 3-year-old chicken who bosses everybody around.

KRISTI: founder of French Word-A-Day.com, I grew up in Arizona, moved to France in 1992, and began this French word journal ten years later, as a way to carve out a place in my dream profession: writing. Thank you for reading and for keeping me employed!

YOU. Saperlipopette! I nearly left out a most important member of our French Word-a-Day family. YOU. It would mean a lot to all of us here if you would introduce yourself in the comments section below. What city do you call home? What's your favorite past-time? Are you old enough to remember WWII? Thank you. I look forward to reading your words and I thank you for reading mine as I gear up for a new year of postings. Bonne rentrée!

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY
la rue = street, road
la ruelle = lane, narrow street, back alley
la curiosité est un vilain défaut = curiosity killed the cat
coucou = hey, hi there
salut = hi
c'est la vie = that's life
la vie quotidienne = daily life
on a tous nos défauts! = we all have our faults!
saperlipopette = goodness me! good heavens!
bonne rentrée = have a good fall (happy back-to-school, return from summer)
amicalement
= yours (way to sign off a French email or letter)

Tomato pie tarte tomate petunias

LA RECETTE DU JOUR: La Tarte Tomate
Visit the tasty recipe archives and discover this most delicious way to use some still-in-season tomatoes. Click here.

Tomato pie tarte tomate yellow and red  tomatoes
Click the recipe link above this photo for easy instructions on how to make a tomato tart.
Window in la ciotat
I leave you with a homey scene from La Ciotat, France. Prenez soin de vous et à bientôt!

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you 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 committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed 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 (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!


A few recent photos, "the best days of our lives", and a strange French word for hoarding

Grotte st marcel bidon ardeche pools cave underground
A grotte (La Grotte Saint-Marcel) we visited in Ardeche, on a recent getaway in a rented camping car.

Last month I didn't have the guts to tell you that I had planned on taking the entire summer off from faithfully updating this French word journal. Instead, I promised, "I'll check in with you in June..." Let that be a lesson that putting off the inevitable only takes the joy out of borrowed time!

This pause kind of feels like borrowed time, but now that I've confessed I'll own it: I will cherish this summer and all that's in it: my 74-year-old Mom, our 84-year-old dog (in human years), our seemingly 100-year-old chicken, my kids (grown now, but coming for a visit soon), and my husband, who somehow fell to the end of this list....

Speaking of years/age/time... I will share with you a favorite phrase I've begun repeating each day. I hope you will too, even if you don't feel it. "These are the best days of our lives!" I love singing this reminder to my Mom, who I am happy to report, is on DAY 11 of regular walking. You could say our late afternoon stroll is one of the blessings this summertime break is giving us. 

Another is good food!

"I feel like I am at The Ritz!" Mom says, every time I bring her lunch in bed. I am now taking the time to prepare a meal for Mom each day. I began this vacation by baking chocolate chip cookies, which we ate every day (until day 9 of our "challenge"). Since, we are enjoying (in the place of cookies) seasonal fruit: les cérises, les abricots, les pêches et les figues... As for lunch, we are having a lot of grilled and chilled items that can be saved in Tupperware and arranged colorfully on a plate the next day. I love having on hand grilled eggplant, grilled salmon, as well as potato salad, lentil salad, chickpeas, boiled eggs--and I have found some delicious cooked shrimp at Monoprix... Admittedly, crumbled feta ends up on just about everything! It all tastes delicious on a hot summer day, and the effort is minimal when you plan ahead. 

Apart from planning, I am clearing out. I have been sticking to a "7 things a day" goal for ridding our home of stuff or "le superflu." Even on days when motivation is at its lowest, I can still manage to clear 7 pieces of paper out of a pocket or a purse or a sack. Even a small receipt counts and it all adds up, doesn't it? I now realize that even if I cleared 7 things daily for the rest of my life I would never run out of le superflu (and we are not hoarders! This brings up an interesting (if useless) French word for today: la syllogomanie = compulsive accumulation). 

Speaking of superflu, that may be the theme of this petit sabbatique: identifying and eliminating the excess in my life in order to focus on and spend more time with the essential. I can assure you that this blog is an essential. And that makes you, dear reader, an essence--an indispensable quality of it. After all, I wouldn't be here writing today if it weren't for you. Merci beaucoup!

Amicalement,

Kristi

P.S.: my husband is back at the top of my list...after he almost got thrown out with the slow-cooker. Ouf!
For some juicy summer reading, click here to read our passionate vineyard story, in our memoir "The Lost Gardens".
 

IMG_1487
I'm also taking a break from social media, WhatsApp texts, email, and the rest... for a good rest. Take care and enjoy your July/August as well. Hugs from here, from Smokey and me. (My Mom, Jules, took this photo.)

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you 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 committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed 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 (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!