Percer & How to say earrings in French

What does pêle-mêle mean in French? And how to say carpet (moquette)

Pêle mêle ( = confused, rushed, disorderly) shop in French Alps (c) Kristin Espinasse

Photo taken in Barcelonnette



higgledy-piggledy, any old how


Jean-Marc pulled into the snow-n-slush parking lot behind l'Equipe Hotel, got out and searched for the entrance. Ignoring the two-foot-tall board marked ENTREE, he side-trekked around the back of the building. I think he purposely misses these "how-to" signs and, in so doing, he turns life into one man's perpetual back-to-nature quest (and French boot camp for his prissy American bride).

Max, Jackie and Miss Priss followed, dragging our bags up the steel-grated stairs reserved for employees; we hiked around the brasserie to find ourselves back on track with the normal guests who approached the hotel in a conventional fashion.

Three hours earlier, just before heading out for the French Alps, I'd talked my style-unconscious husband out of his Glad Bag valise so that this time we were not stealing past other hotel guests—me with a duct-taped suitcase, the kids with a plastic laundry basket "drawer-for-the-weekend" and my husband with two hefty garbage bags (the deluxe kind with built-in handles, and not the cheap ones with the detachable plastic yellow string), contents thrown in pêle-mêle.

In the Ubaye valley, where the village of Enchastrayes is nestled, the nearest town being Barcelonnette, we were greeted by three French mutts—which explained the surprise-on-ice we'd sidestepped out on the Path Less Traveled. The dogs' owner stubbed out her cigarette before checking the reservations book.

"Chambres 15 and 16," she said, pulling two keys from a wallboard of 23 hooks.

Max pointed to the keychain and quizzed his sister: Did she know what the small, abstract wooden carving represented?

"Un castor!" she correctly guessed.

We climbed four levels of moquette-covered stairs, pausing to catch our breath in front of a needlepoint wall hanging, its thick yarn mustard, orange and black... looped loosely across a cotton canvas. Plastic flowers, now faded, punctuated each landing.

Two floors up, Jean-Marc pushed the long metal key into the keyhole at room 15. He had to tug the door forward as he turned the key to the right and to the left (this tugging and key jiggling was in response to an indice he was discovering in real time—as he watched a demonstration given by the young woman standing next to a vacuum cleaner and cart two doors down.

No framed needlepoint art in the rooms, just more plastic flowers and more synthetic-carpet tile. Each side of the bed in room 15 had candle lighting—except a plastic flame stood in for a fiery one. Behind a vinyl accordion door, the bathroom, which included a plastic flamingo pink shower head draped over decades old robinetterie, smelled like a porta-potty.

"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted. "It smells like a hospital."

"Oh," I said, encouraged. The kids' room was a repeat of our own, except that it had twin beds.

The stringy sound of a violoncello filtered in from chambre 14, the cellist's glorious musical notes almost canceling out the infant's cries from the room above; such wailing from deep in the icy French woods, along with the bow and string (sans arrow) next door, seemed in keeping with one Frenchman's return to the Land Before Time, and the hotel decor, though not prehistoric, had that barbaric feel with just the right dose of vulgar to temper Miss Priss's great expectations.

I watched my husband unpack his bags with gusto, and it occurred to me to face our circumstances with a similar verve or joie de vivre.

With a little effort, I could begin to see our surroundings in a new light: no longer did the room feel oppressive. With renewed thinking, I began to feel a flutter inside my spirit, as a new sense of adventure was born. One that would sustain me, again and again, each time my husband reserved a hotel room....

French Vocabulary

l'entrée (f) = entrance
pêle-mêle = in confused haste
la chambre = room
le castor = beaver
la moquette = carpet
un indice = clue
la robinetterie = plumbing
la joie de vivre = joy of living


====Note: any text from here, on, will not be included in the book.=====

Your edits here, please!

Thank you for scouring this story for any typos or blips or inconsistencies in formatting (for example, all chapter titles should look similar to today's formatted title. All French words (in the story) should be in italics... etc). I appreciate your efforts to help me. Thanks again! Click here to submit corrections.



Listen: Hear our daughter, Jackie, pronounce today's word: Download moquette2.wav

chambre moquettée = bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet
faire poser de la moquette = to have a fitted carpet laid
la moquette murale = fabric wall covering

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Jules Greer


I love this vignette. I don't remember ever reading this story, which makes me so happy to have this in my memory bank now. The thing I like most about this story is that it really places you and your family in the exact state of your life at that time. Very little money for travel, but JM is going to make sure that his family has the experiences and memories of life in 2006.

In 2011 you all have canvas luggage - HURRAY!

I am not even going to attempt to correct anything on this post, but I do think it is worthy of publishing because it sets the tone of your financial circumstances at the time.....who would ever think that in a few more years you would be staying at resorts in Spain and Corsica and Morocco. Life's journey is so wonderful.



Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, Mom! I will reconsider this one. I am so glad you took the time to read and comment on this vignette :-)

Diane Scott

What synchronisity! This is the first one I zeroed in on because you sounded so doubtful of its value -- but it is absolutely delightful! Your writing syle is almost poetic in its rhythm. Honestly, this is one of your best works. I can feel, and smell, and sense all that you have described. And your children's exchange provided a much-needed distraction for an already distracted mom!


To me, this story should be centered on the irony between your desire for order (what are you feeling here?)against Jean-Marc's hasty style of travel and the hotel's sounds of confusion. The moral: What we want isn't always what we get! Also, start the story at the beginning as you are packing and proceed from there. Thanks for your fearlessness in allowing us, your readers, to comment.


This is a wonderful story...I captures a sense of place that you can close your eyes and imagine! I have stayed in places like this at times as well. Love your husband with his plastic like mine who started out at work (self employed) with his plastic bucket briefcase filled with paper manilla files :-)...surely this is style!

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- I love ALL these stories. The "drawer for the weekend" made me laugh out loud and tears came to my eyes (Sap that I am) when I read your story about the sapin and also Faulkner's quote.

I like your re-thinking the title of your book, too, because these stories have a richness and universality that go far beyond accounts of daily life in France. In addition to your detailed, charming descriptions, your humanity, insights, and loving spirit towards the people you encounter are what draw me the most -- AND your self-deprecating sense of humor.

Bon courage for the next two weeks.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, dear Ophelia! By the way, your comment would be a perfect blurb for my book... Ill be asking readers to write a blurb... so please consider letting me use yours (Ill be making a specific post for this request, so that all blurbs (is there another word?) will not be lost!

P.S.: Mom a.k.a. Book Director, is in charge of choosing blurbs -- if I dont wear her out before that point!


Carmen Clarke

Put it in. It's gritty.

Jules Greer

Hi Ophelia,

Just because you are the first to realize that I do have many tasks in front of me I am going to give you a PASS on making the list of blurbs.



p.s. I used to like to think I was directing Kristi's life - was I in for a surprise!

Kaaren Kitchell

Hi Kristin,

I agree with your Mom--include this story.

Suggestions: "style-unconscious husband."

Spaces between each of these three "characters:"

"Chambres 15 and 16," she said pulling two keys from a wallboard of 23 hooks.

Max pointed to the keychain and quizzed his sister: Did she know what the small abstract wooden carving represented?

"Un castor!" she correctly guessed."

Spaces before and between Jean-Marc and you speaking:

""No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted, "it smells like a hospital."

"Oh," I said, encouraged. The kids' room was a repeat of our own, except that it had twin beds."

(Just fine-tuning suggestions. It's already great the way it is.)


Kristin Espinasse

Kaaren, I think Ive gotten the needed spaces in (to separate the characters dialogue). If anyone reading the latest version sees otherwise--please comment!

Once again, this is new to me, and your recent comments, Kaaren, have been a real eye-opener. ...This also means the all of the stories to come (to be edited) will need such breaks. Now to get them all in! 

P.S. I know understand what Jeanne was talking about by I think you are missing a space. That space is a new paragraph. OK - gotcha!

Sheryl Allen

Hi Kristin, one teeny comment - I think moquette is strictly wall to wall carpet - maybe someone else has already commented on that.

and perhaps not the sort of comment you're searching!...anyway - I love your site, recommend it to many and look forward to its arrival. Thank You. Sheryl Allen

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Sheryl. So glad you mentioned this. I vaguely remember this souci - from when I first posted the story.

In fact, I really need to rename the story (moquette does not match its theme) 

Does anyone have an idea of how to name the story (it should be a French word that summarizes the theme of the story.

Huge thanks in advance!

Kristin Espinasse

Would renaming the story Pêle-Mell--after one of the vocab words-- work? :

pêle-mêle = pell-mell, in confused haste

As Denise mentionned, there is a hastiness and confusion in the atmosphere...


"side-trekked": to take a side trip
side-tracked: to be distracted

"Glad Bag": Gladstone bag, noun, A piece of light hand luggage consisting of two hinged compartments.

"as he turned the key to the right, an indice" When did this happen? We don't know why/when this woman gave Jean-Marc this hint - it just appears.

"candle lighting—only, a plastic flame"
"candle lighting - except a plastic flame"

You are the writer.
You can expand a word's meaning, or make up your own.
You would be in good company; Shakespeare. Write-on!!

Sharon Marchisello

I would make this into two sentences:
"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted, "it smells like a hospital."
"No, it doesn't smell like that," Jean-Marc retorted. "It smells like a hospital."

Kristin Espinasse

Sharon, two sentences it is! Thanks, just changed it!

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

If you have room for yet another comma, I would add one at the end of:
"we were greeted by three French mutts". Also, I agree with Della that the "indice" reference to the maid could be more clear--e.g., was it a hint as to which way to open the door or maybe which way to turn the key?

I hope you're allowing a bit of time to get some sleep during this marathon!


Just a real minor point - because you use italics to mark the French words, the italicised normal looks out of place - you could consider using quotes to get the same emphasis?

Nice story though, and I'd agree with the person who suggested pele-mele as a title, rather than moquette.


Hey Kristin,

I really liked this story, and agree with your mom: keep this story. Also, Pele-mele is a perfect title.

Sois Sage!

Olga Brown

I'd like to offer you my suggestions.
To me, as a fresh reader, the story seems incomplete. I would add one more paragraph at the end and finish it on an optimistic note, so it would not sound like a complaint on a hotel's web site. Something good happened after you, guys, arrived, and all those issues in the hotel did not spoil your vacation, n'est-ce pas? So,bring it to the end, make it smooth and nice and show that it's just small things. The main thing is that you had a good time with your family. It will be a great message. Just like you did in "Le sapin"
Hope, I did not offend you.
Montgomery, AL

Kristin Espinasse

I appreciate your thoughts, Olga. Ill have another look and see what I can do. I hesitate to add more text to the story, for, knowing me, I might upset the flow or the formatting--or worse--the ending might be contrived, if I do this in a rushed state (which Id be doing--yipes!--back to work now....) 

Kristin Espinasse

Nigel, you bring up a good point, one that I struggle with during the writing of these stories: because all of the French words must be italicised (sp?), it leaves little room for me to italicise certain phrases--the ones Id like to emphasize. I do not know how to solve this problem, and I often end up with over italics syndrome :-(

In a recent post, I solved the problem by using bold--or boldening the phrase; this brings up another glitch (for the text links are also in bold!... this leads to bold syndrome :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks Della and Charles, for your confirmation. Ive reworded that paragraph... I hope things are a little more clear now. If you are reading this... please let me know!

Kristin Espinasse

Olga, Im so glad you were bold enough to suggest a final paragraph! I decided to take the challenge--and to write one! I hope you will be pleased with the update, which is true to the experience we had, so many years back, when we stayed at that little hotel.

Writing that paragraph also made me realize that it was around that time that I began to change my perspective, in various circumstances. Read the update, and you will understand why.

Jules Greer

Oh Kristi you are so and your perspective have indeed grown in the last five years. It has been so much fun watching you grow.



Kristin Espinasse

Rebonjour, Della. I googled your Gladstone bag... now that would be a classy bag for my husband! Hélas, it isnt the bag I am referring to in the story (his was a plastic garbage bag, or a Glad Bag brand bag)

Thanks for the needed except -- much better than only, in this case!

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

I like the new title better, and the "indice" scene is very clear now. The final paragraph should round it out nicely. A couple of suggestions:

In the sentence "I watched my husband unpack his plastic bags, with gusto, and it occured to me to face our circumstaces with a similar verve or joie de vivre..."

1. I think the flow would be improved by removing the comma before "with gusto", but that's a matter of taste.
2. "occured" should be "occurred."
3. "circumstaces" should be "circumstances."

The phrase "One that I would sustain me" has either one word too many or one too few. I don't know if you intended "One that would sustain me" or "One that I hoped would sustain me...".


Kristin Espinasse

Charles, I am lifting my coffee cup to you this morning! Thank you so much for catching those errors--yikes--so scary the thought that they might have gone into the manuscript (the one I am daring to open up this morning, so as to begin to transfer the stories over, from the blog.

So, mille mercis, for coming back to check on this story!!

Jane Woodside

I would substitute "conventional" for "civil" in the second paragraph as it provides a clearer contrast with the "Path Less Traveled" that your family took. And that by the way seems the better title for this piece as it seems that at first you are noticing all the deficits of that path (as per the Robert Frost poem you are referencing) and then your viewpoint changes. This story has a lot in common with Sapin-- I am interested to see if you will organize your book by theme or chronology or perhaps something else.

Betty Gleason with blue pencil in hand

I am confused. In the 3rd paragraph it says you talked JM out of his glad bag valise, but later on her is unpacking plastic bags.

Otherwise, I can actually feel the nose of Mis Priss turning up at the unassuming surroundings until she blends into the spirit of the holiday.

Well done!

Kristin Espinasse

Jane, thank you for conventional - perfect!

And, Betty, great catch! I had added that new paragraph and forgotten about the plastic bag note in the earlier paragraph! 

So helpful!

Bruce T. Paddock

Good morning, Kristin -

Jules was right, this is an excellent choice. Again, I'm loving the little touches, like surprise-on-ice and drawer-for-the-weekend, and the fancy garbage bags.

If the sentence starts, “…he purposely misses these "how-to" signs and, in so doing,” then Jean-Marc has to continue being the subject. For example, “…and, in so doing, he turns life into one man’s….”
you could change the conjunction to allow a change in subject:
“…purposely misses these "how-to" signs, and when he does, life becomes….” Although the first one is stronger.

Comma after “…built-in handles.” I think it’s a style choice — not necessary, but helpful, so the reader doesn’t head down the wrong path, thinking the bag has built-in handles and something else. Arliss says it’s a rule. Go figure.

The parenthetical “the nearest town being Barcelonnette” is unnecessary. Most readers won’t recognize the name, and I kept thinking you mentioned it because it was going to reappear later in the story.

Later in that paragraph, you drift out of the past tense for a second. Should be “…which explained the surprise-on-ice….”

Comma between “she said” and “pulling two keys.”

Comma between “small” and “abstract.”

I’m not sure why “in mustard, orange, and black” is set off with ellipses rather than with commas or em dashes. (Unless, of course, the answer is “Because you want to do it that way.”)

In the next paragraph, comma between “long” and “metal.”

“Indice” means “clue.” In English, one doesn’t learn a clue, one picks up, discovers, finds, or gets a clue. (I’m sure there are others as well.) However, I don’t know what the construction would be in French — maybe one can apprendre un indice.

Also, the tugging and jiggling that J-M was doing wasn’t un indice, it was in response to the indice he got from the cleaning woman. Her tugging and jiggling was the clue.

“Realtime” is a variant spelling of “real-time,” which is an adjective (e.g., “real-time reports”). J-M was “learning in real time.”

In the next paragraph, you say “more plastic flowers.” Where were the first plastic flowers? I can’t find them.

“Synthetic carpet” is a compound adjective, so should be hyphenated.

I’d suggest “the newborn’s cries.”

Also, to me, “newborn” means within a few minutes or hours of birth, so I’d use “infant.” You, however, should do whatever you want.

(By the way, that whole paragraph is one giant run-on sentence that works beautifully!)

I know you added a new final paragraph. Did you mean to end both the last and the next-to-last paragraphs with ellipses?


Hi Kristin,
I'm too late reading these stories to add anything useful after the many helpful suggestions for improvement. Because your writing has a natural flow, I think that after making necessary corrections you should keep the stories as close to their original as possible lest you overwork a good thing. I love the way you describe conflicts that can happen for any couple with different expectations.
Bonne chance,

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