Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher (These boots are made for...)

Maison de village in saint chaffrey alps
Village home in Saint-Chaffrey, Southern French Alps

Today's word: la botte

    : boot
    : bundle (sticks)
    : bunch (radishes)

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Eh bien, ces bottes sont faites pour marcher et c'est exactement ce qu'elles vont faire. --Nancy Sinatra
These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...by Kristi Espinasse

Our drive up to the Alps was getting off to a bleak start. Not five minutes into our trip and we encountered a monumental embouteillage, only this time it wasn't les gilets jaunes protesters--it was VINCI--the company in charge of the motorway. It was they who had closed les péages. I looked out our passenger window to a sea of commuters who would not make it to the office by 9 a.m..... 

Jean-Marc began driving on the road's shoulder, passing two lanes of stalled vehicles to reach a raccourci farther up on the right. Following a caravan of renegade drivers, we weaved back down through La Ciotat...to shimmy up the backside of Cassis. There we broke off from the southbound traffic and entered the freeway north--not a single car ahead of us now. It was surreal--like the day after the end of the world, and only the two of us remained.

On the opposite side of the autoroute, heading toward Marseilles, thousands of cars were backed up. Little did they know what lie ahead. Les pauvres!

The two of us carried on, three-and-a-half hours northwest to Serre Chevalier--where a group of mountain towns are niched among the southern French Alps. It was there, 24 years ago, on the banks of the rivière Guisane, that Jean-Marc proposed to me. But that was not the reason for our return....

We were there to celebrate the 50th birthday of Jean-Marc's friend Fred (godfather to our son Max). It was Fred's parents who loaned us their apartment years ago, for Jean-Marc's special plan. As we drove past Saint-Chaffrey, I looked up the street to where that old telephone booth used to be--the one Jean-Marc slipped into to phone my Dad and ask permission to take my hand in marriage. He burst out of that phone booth like Superman, having transformed from a bachelor to a near-married man!

Nostalgia courses through me when we return to les Hautes-Alps. It was here our children learned to ski, and here where we have our longtime mountain friends--a group of athletic bon vivants who love nothing more than to wake before the sun rises and hike 8 hours (mountain peak to mountain peak?) in the summertime. They are funloving, hard-playing professionals--and for years I have watched them from a distance...in awe.

Coincée, bloquée, compliquée--or simply lacking confidence--I often find a pretext to stay in our cheap hotel room rather than pile in with a houseful of extroverts while les sportifs go downhill skiing or meet for a daylong randonée. I don't have the gear and have all the fear. Part of this (the non-idiosyncratic side) goes back to a mistake I made years ago when Jean-Marc took me to the top of the mountain to une piste noire.  It was there I learned I could not ski. I eventually inched my way forward, on my bottom, cussing all the way down the icy, steep slope. (This explains why I no longer cuss, or dire des gros mots--I used up every single expletive on that day!)

While the black diamond (the word for a vertical ski run?) was Jean-Marc's mistake, I regret to this day that I didn't sign up, then and there for ski lessons. And so, for all these years I've stayed in my room, which only alienated me from our mountain friends who came to know me as Jean-Marc's femme sauvage. In the end, I didn't even bother to go to the mountains, but sent Jean-Marc off on his own.

This time something shifted in my brain. It might have been all the walking (and some running) I have done since September. Or my state of mind (improved from physical exercise). Somehow all those blocks--or one of them--lifted! And when we walked into our friend Guillaume's ski shop, I marched right up to the sales girl and said je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas! 
Hautes alps piste trail hiking boots ski de randonne
Hiking while Jean-Marc does cross-country

Having found a solution to a fear (slipping) I've held on to for ages, I followed my husband to the nearest piste and chased him right up the side of the mountain (OK, a small section of it) but I may as well as arrived at the summit of Mont Blanc! That is how good it feels to overcome something that has held you back for a very long time.

At Fred's 50th birthday party, I joined our friends and danced the night away in my new hiking boots. The faux-fur trim is an affectionate nod the femme sauvage at heart who is, little by little, climbing her way out of her hotel room--to the dance floor and beyond.
Non-slip bottes de neige
Visit our mountain friends here:
Guillaume's ski shop 
Benjamin and Virginie's restaurant (menu pictured below)
Lionel's Bière Alphand
Hervés Hotel (not the cheap room I mentioned in my story!)

Le white restaurant at serre-ratier benjamin melquiond


la botte = boot
un embouteillage = traffic jam
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
le péage = toll (booth, bridge)
VINCI = partner to the French government, this company is in charge of many of the roadways throughout France
le raccourci = short cut
les pauvres = poor things!
bon vivant = one who enjoys life
coincé(e) = uptight
sportif, sportive
= athletic, sporty type
ski de randonnée = ski touring
une piste = track
je voudrais des bottes qui ne glissent pas = I would like non-slip boots
merci = thanks
femme sauvage = wild, unsociable woman
Little chalet of dreams
A stone chalet in the Hautes-Alps. Do you enjoy reading about this part of France?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
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Fastoche Loaf--you must make this savory bread (via this cool hack for the favorite French yogurt cake!)

Cake o gateau sale
You must make a cake salé! It is everything from a casual main course to a late-night snack in bed (extra good warmed--just like the sheets this time of year)....

Today's word: le cake salé

    : loaf, savory cake

Audio File & Example Sentence: click here
Le mot « cake » s'est étendu à un gâteau salé... fait avec des légumes, des olives, du jambon, etc. On parle alors de « cake salé ». The word "cake" has been extended to a salty cake ... made with vegetables, olives, ham, etc. This is called "salty cake".

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...by Kristi Espinasse

A Cake Hack?

Ever since I learned to make my brother-in-law Jacques yogurt cake--and after watching the French bring delicious savory loaves to various fêtes--I have wondered about the possibility of combining the two: that is, using the easy-to-remember cake recipe... for a savory loaf. Savory loaves are practical, economical, and among the best comfort foods! If you need further motivation to make one then listen to my Mom who, on tasting the slice you see above, exclaimed: Why make bread when you can make this?! 

And what could be better than knowing recipes by heart? This is what the handy-dandy yogurt cake recette allows us to do (it brilliantly uses the yogurt's container as the measure. No need for measuring spoons or cups or balances, and in no time you are able to toss together a delicious entrée or dessert! Having mastered the super fastoche yogurt cake, I've been on the lookout for another easy offering for my family or something to bring to a social gathering--like my friend Cynthia and Ian's crémaillère in Bandol (I brought the gâteau de yaourt...but now I wished I'd taken along this cake salé--because it is my family's new favorite it'll soon be yours!).

Cooking with smokey yogurt cake savory loaf
        This recipe tastes better when you make it with a family member or friend.  

Tésté et approuvé
So the cake hack worked. Génial! All I did was follow the traditional yogurt cake recipe while ignoring the sugar part. Here's a reminder for the yogurt cake recipe....


- one small (individual size) container of plain yogurt (reserve for measuring the remaining ingredients)
- flour
- sugar
- vegetable oil
- three eggs
- one package levure chimique (that is 2 teaspoons of baking powder)

Instructions (Easy as 3-2-1...):

Fill/empty the yogurt container...
...3 times with flour
...2 times with sugar
...1 time with vegetable oil (if I'm out of vegetable oil, I'll use olive oil or butter...)

Crack 3 eggs into a mixing bowl, and beat until mixed. Add one container (around 150 grams) of plain yogurt. Add 1 measure of oil (half the amount, if you prefer), three measures of flour, and mix in the  savory ingredients... here are the savory ingredients I added for our cake salé or savory loaf:

- 1 can of tuna fish
- large handful of black olives
- sauteed red onions
- fresh tomato
- salt, pepper, herbs of Provence
-a generous sprinkling of chia seeds on top make an agreeably croquant topping for this savory loaf!

Pour mixture into a cake pan (I like this kind with removable bottom ) and put into the oven at 180C (350F) for 25 minutes. (temperature and time vary--keep your eye on the cake and use a knife to test the center. When le couteau comes out dry it's ready.

Enjoy with a simple green salad. Hide a few slices for your late-night snack!

Update: The second time I made this recipe, I used leftover mussels which I shelled, added grated gruyère, black olives, and sunflower seeds--not to forget the crunchy chia seeds on top! It was nice and moist, but a little bland (I'll stick to tuna next time! And think about feta cheese for a nice kick). The olives really make it and are a part of the most traditional version--and for a reason! Some like to chop up the olives for a better distribution throughout the cake. Next time I might try anchovies and capers. What do you think? What would you add to this versatile cake salé? Add your suggestions in the comments below.

Cake sale savory cake wheat grass germe de ble
Those sprouted greens in the back are Les blés de la Sainte-Barbe--a Provencale tradition I learned from Jean-Marc's family. My husband sprinkles the wheat grains on paper towels, in three different coupelles and (my Mom) waters them until the new year. It is said:

Blé bien germé, c'est la prospérité pour toute l'année. (Wheat well-sprouted is prosperity all year.)


la fête = party, gathering
la recette = recipe
la balance = scale (for weighing)
une entrée = starter, first course
fastoche (from facile) = easy-peasy, a walk in the park
la crémaillère = housewarming
le gâteau de yaourt = yogurt cake
lé cake salé = loaf
génial! = brilliant!
tésté et approuvé = tested and approved
la levure chimique = baking powder 
croquant = crunchy
le couteau = knife
la coupelle = small dish

Golden retriever make yogurt cake
Don't miss the video Smokey and I made for the yogurt cake. Click here

Golden retriever kiss yogurt cake

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
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Do you miss the vineyard? + A handful of French vocabulary

Looking back
Looking back. Photo by my Mom.

A question I am sometimes asked is: Do you miss the vineyard? The answer is often the same: I don't look back. (One exception is when I am going through the blog archives, and come across a lively story like today's....)

le sanglier (sahn glee ay)

    : boar, wild pig

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

I was surfing online, looking for information on how to discourage wild boars from gobbling up our grapes, when I stumbled into a forum at aujardin.org wherein a poor soul, one with the same dilemma as my winemaking husband's, wrote:

Ici les sangliers font de véritables carnages dans les vignes : ils reconnaissent les meilleures grappes et nous les dévorent juste avant qu'on les vendange (d'ailleurs, ils ont même la délicatesse de ne manger que les grains puisqu'on retrouve les rafles de la grappe encore accrochées à la vigne) !

Here, wild boars make a veritable carnage in the vines: they recognize the best grapes and devour them right before the harvest (what's more, they have the finicky tendency to eat only the fruit, given that we find only the grape stems left on the vine)! 

Jean-Marc would sympathize with this downhearted farmer--given that we spent a part of Saturday morning out in the field, among the vine rows of ripe grapes, testing a solution to The Gobbling Boar problem.

"Mais, regarde ça!" Jean-Marc pointed to the grape clusters, which were still intact--yet missing several bites full of fruit. Putain de merde! Ils mangent que les meilleurs!

Seeing the butchered fruit, Chief Grape was hopping mad, and his vengeance would come soon enough, only, in an animal-friendly way....

ACME Transitor Radio Repellant
(would Wile E. Coyote approve?)

Jean-Marc reaches into a bag that he's been carrying and produces what looks to be like talkie-walkies, but, to my dismay (for it might have been fun to shout "Over and out!" in French--not that I know the translation) turn out to be transistor radios.

"Marche par là," my husband instructs, and I walk south, passing one, two, three... seven, eight, nine vine rows. My job is to march until I can no longer hear the sounds issuing from the transistor radio that Jean-Marc is holding.

As I advance, I occasionally become distracted--for the nearby garrigue (from which all the wild pigs issue) is draped in bright red berries! There are little white flowers which set off the tiny crimson balls and I'm about to reach for a bouquet of flower-berries when my husband shouts:

"Tu entends toujours?"

"Oui, oui.... j'entends! Oui, oui, je t'assure!"

As I walk on, I fall into further distractions, wondering, this time, which radio station we are listening to? What if the current program (some sort of noisy political debate) ends... and the next program contains classical music? Wouldn't, then, Jean-Marc's experiment backfire? I pictured the wild boars arriving en masse, lulled forward by Mozart and the inspiring symphony in the vines....to some sort of sanglier Shangri-la, where they would "find the light"... and a bounty of grapes to boot!

Never mind. It isn't my job to question Chief Grape; my duty is to go along with his latest inspiration or invention: this one being The Wild Boar Buster (after the Dust Buster, which was invented by some other lucky duck, else why would we be trying to scrape together a living on a boar friendly fruit farm?!)

When I can no longer hear the static voices on the radio, I stop in my tracks, turn back, and flap my arms suggestively, or in a way that suggests that even a boar could hear no more. I watch as Chief Grape sets down one of the cheap transistor radios--just beside the gnarled and woody base of a very old grenache vine. Voilà, repellent number 1 is en place. Our mission continues in much the same way, I, advancing in spite of distractions (this time I just had to reach for une poignée of romarin... and it was too tempting not to bend down and study an impressive ant colony).... each time Chief calling me back to the present étude with "T'entends? Est-ce que t'entends?"

"Oui, oui... je t'assure. J'entends!"

As I walk on I wonder about rain, about wind, about any number of kill joys--make that kill ploys--that might carry off or damage the repellent radios that Jean-Marc is leaving throughout the parcelle. But these concerns are nothing compared to my next souci. It occurs to me that hunting season begins next week and that this field will soon be alight with chasseurs! These hunters/locals might have snickered when learning about the music played in Chief Grape's cellar (a comforting concerto with a positive influence on the wine that rests there), but what will they think this time--when they discover that the renegade winemaker is planting radios in his vineyard?

It's no use fretting about my husband's reputation. Besides, I know what he would say: "Laisse les parler!" Let 'em talk! 

Meantime, between the cheap radios and the chasseurs, I'm done worrying! Up to the poor wild pigs to fret this time--though I secretly hope, next time I look out the kitchen window, to find them dancing a jig, or swaying a slow waltz.

*    *    *

Breizh grapes
         Our first golden, Breizh, protecting the grapes. 

French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the story: Download MP3 or Wav file

mais regarde ça = look at that!

putain de merde = @$!#

ils mangent que les meilleurs! = they're eating only the best!

le talkie-walkie = walkie-talkie

marche par là = walk that way

la garrigue = wild Mediterranean scrubland

tu entends toujours? = do you still hear?

une poignée = a handful

le romarin = rosemary

le souci = worry

Smokey and Biscuit
Smokey was born on our first vineyard, nine-and-a-half years ago. Yesterday he received an early Christmas present from my Mom. Meet Biscuit! Smokey held Biscuit in his mouth for the longest time, his tongue wagging as an audible groan of thanks welled up in his vocal chords. Have you ever heard the gratitude of dogs? If happy tears had a sound, it might be this!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue writing and sharing these educational posts from France. Your contribution is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi
♥ Send $10    
♥ Send $25    
♥Send the amount of your choice

"Bonjour Kristi, I've been a reader for years and thought it time to support your blog. Thanks for your frank and genuine stories that have opened a door into real French life."

NEWSLETTER SIGN-UP: Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own free subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here