la marche (Italy, part 1)

contrefaçon (Italy, Intro)

Not far from Ventimiglia, is the quiet village of Coldirodi.

In_a_paris_moment_1In A Paris Moment by Meredith Mullins "... makes us want to rush out and look at the world, not just Paris, but all the world." --Mary Pope Osborne

une contrefaçon (kontr-fah-sahn) noun, feminine
  1. imitation, counterfeit, counterfeiting
  2. forging, forgery, fabrication, infringement
  3. pirating

Contrefaçon comes from the verb "contrefaire" which means to imitate, to falsify, to mimic, to disguise, to infringe, to feign or to distort.

La politesse n'est en elle-même qu'une ingénieuse contrefaçon de la bonté.
Politeness in itself is only an ingenious disguise of goodness.
--Alexandre Vinet

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

The drive from our medieval village in France to the seaport town of Ventimiglia, Italy takes only an hour and a half. It is a breathtaking ride most of the way, with the glimmering Mediterranean sea below and, east of Nice, hills peppered with villas, the colorful facades showing a charming patina from age and the salty sea breeze.

In Ventimiglia there is a jewellery shop on every street and perhaps as many liquor stores. Shop windows are gushing with bottles of Ricard* and Italian grappa, and for those who like l'or* Ventimiglia has gold à gogo.* Perhaps the idea is to put a little wind in your sweetheart's sails* before venturing in to purchase that ring or collier?*

On many a street corner you'll see a man dressed in a flowing boubou,* Louis Vuitton handbags dangling from each arm and more monogrammed purses bursting from a duffle bag... all knock-offs. While Ventimiglia is known for its smoking deals on jewelry and alcohol (due to a lower liquor and jewellery tax) and for having one of the largest outdoor markets in Italy, it also seems to be the capital of...

"Contrefaçon," my husband says, filling my coffee cup with steamed milk.
"What is contrefaçon?" I ask, passing the breakfast muffins.
"You know, FAKES."
"Si, si," says Sonia, the innkeeper. "But if you want a Louis Vuitton, one that even the boutique sales people can't tell is faux, see Fernando next to the fish stall, just past the flowers. He has the season's new collection before the real line hits the shops! You cannot tell the difference!"

We are not in Ventimiglia for LV purses, alcohol or flowers, but to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The Italian Riviera is a good choice for its proximity to chez nous,* for its gastronomy, for its seaside allure and for an exotic change of scenery. (Exotic because we can't speak Italian and such foreignness has a way of throwing a warm pink hue on everything.)

"Ventimiglia is known for la joaillerie* and alcohol," Sonia confirms. "But also for its beauty!" she says, waving her arm out to the turquoise blue Ligurian sea. We are seated on the terrace at the most eclectic lodge I have ever seen. Jean-Marc found the secluded B&B via an internet search and made reservations illico.* The former convent is practically perched over the sea and overrun by purple vine flowers, fig trees, lavender, blackberries and bamboo.

The stairs inside the house have no edges but are worn and sloping from eight hundred years of being tread upon. The white-limed halls are covered with black and white photos of Hollywood stars. In our room's library, I find an odd assortment of books including a thick volume of the collected stories of Jane Austin, a book titled "Psychopathia Sexualis" and a "Dictionary of Marine Insurance Terms".

The breakfast Sonia has made us is as eclectic as the convent itself. We begin with dessert: crème caramel and a peach yogurt. Next, there is a tray of cantaloupe and Italian ham followed by a deep-fried omelet with sliced hot dog. Sonia then brings out an apple cake and a plate of fruit which resembles lychee but smells like a rose. "From my garden," she says.

I notice Jean-Marc isn't eating the hot dog omelet or the apple cake and I end up eating it all, not wanting to hurt our hostess's feelings. On I went, feigning hunger or, to get a little more kilométrage* out of today's word: "en contrefaisant la faim."

                                              *     *     *
For past chapters in this story, visit:

Italy, Introduction
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

References: Ricard = a brand of French pastis; l'or (m) = gold; à gogo = in abundance; to put wind in one's sails (from the French idiom "mettre du vent dans ses voiles") = to get a little tipsy; un collier (m) = necklace; un boubou (m) = a long robe worn in parts of Africa; chez nous = at our house; la joaillerie (f) = jewellery; illico = right away; le kilométrage (m) = mileage

French Pronunciation
Listen to Jean-Marc recite today's quote:
La politesse n'est en elle-même qu'une ingénieuse contrefaçon de la bonté.
Politeness in itself is only an ingenious disguise of goodness. --A. Vinet
Download contrefacon.wav

contrefaçon littéraire = an infringement of copyright
contrefaire une signature = to forge a signature
contrefaire sa voix = to disguise one's voice
saisir des contrefaçons = to confiscate counterfeit (objects)

Mediterranean_women_stay_slim_too_1 Mediterranean Women Stay Slim, Too: Eating to Be Sexy, Fit, and Fabulous!

Italian_sketchbookIn My Italian Sketchbook, 30-year-old artist Florine Asch follows the tradition of the 18th century Grand Tour, when writers, architects and members of European high-society embarked on long journeys around Italy, taking in key cultural sites, often sketching as they went.


Vendange2004 013
Photo taken in 2004, on our 10-year anniversary.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Jules Greer

Oh Kristi, this is so sweet. You look like lovebirds. XOXO MOM

Jules Greer

Did you put my photo in the box? XOXO MOM

Kristin Espinasse

OH, Mom. This is so cool that your photo is showing up. Did you update your Typepad profile today? This is my guess...

Pat Cargill

I agree, Jules, this is sweet - warms the cockles of my heart. Ventimiglia sounds like a great destination, after passing through the vinyards of Domaine Rouge-Bleu and tarrying in Aix-en-Provence, etc.

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