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July2005 094
Today's story continues from Châteauneuf-du-Pape ("New Castle of the Pope"), the ruins are pictured here.

Bestselling books on/about France:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
 2. Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir
 3. Exercises in French Phonics

en-tête (on-tet) noun, masculine
    1. heading
    2. headline

Audio File & Example sentence
Example, taken from the French version of today's story, listen here:
Download MP3 file
  or  Download Wav file

Cet en-tête évoque à coup sûr pour les connaisseurs les fameuses "Lettres de Mon Moulin" d'Alphonse DAUDET. (see the translation in paragraph 1, line 2, below).

Letters from my Terrace
by Marie-Françoise Vidal

"Setting the Stage"

Isn't it a bit presumptuous to choose this title for the little series of articles that I promised myself to write from my Provençal village? This column title definitely calls to mind, for those connoisseurs, the famous "Lettres de mon moulin" by Alphonse Daudet. He wrote the charming pages for his Parisian friends, after making himself at home in an authentic Provençal mill near Les Baux-de-Provence.

More modestly, of course, I would like to share what I observe from my little terrace. It is a balcony from a village home that is nothing like a classic terrace overlooking a garden. No! It's just a little observation post, nested in between houses terraced beneath the ruins of our (village's) medieval château. I go and sit there during the good season, from April to September and provided that the tempestuous Mistral isn't blowing.

My terrace is, at most, 10 square meters and opens onto a landscape that enchants me. In the foreground, the old, irregular rooftops of houses that we overlook, pile up one over the other. Then, the view overflows... rising up to the hills that are covered with vines. Finally, in the background, a long musical line designs itself, making up the asymmetric curbs of Mont Ventoux. These three visual strips each have their own graphism and color. That (strip) which designs the rooftops is like a rug of uneven clay tiles, clear, and accentuated by a few chimneys. That which designs the vines offers geometric lines of parallel vineyard rows, which follow the curves of the field. It is a faux checkerboard effect, now austere and scrubbed in winter, green in summer, then blazing red in autumn. The last relief strip, far away, always colors itself with a note of blue or mauve. The mineral scales, of the Dentelles de Montmirail, and the ever white summit of our "Giant of Provence" add light to the ensemble.

View the original French text for this story, here

Facing this landscape, I am facing east; therefore, it is the occasion to take part in the sunrise and also the full moon. The show moves from left to right then in the other direction at every solstice, permitting me to witness the ballet of the seasons.

From my terrace, therefore, I hang over my neighborhood. It is an old (in our home a beam is engraved "1311") and modest quarter in our village. The residents are, for the most part, descended from old families owning small amounts of land, the newcomers are agricultural workers and, recently, young couples have moved in, fleeing the city.

The population of this neighborhood changes inexorably, therefore, with the departure of the "ancients". I hardly ever hear the patois that is the Provençale language, tinged with local character.

Village life follows the general evolution of the customs and habits of life: each his work, his hours, his car, his sports, his leisure... which changes the social interaction, leaving, of course, the good times of village community but nothing that can equal what I knew when I came to move here, as a young married woman, in 1968.

From my perch the stones talk to me, for they keep the memories. Thinking about my village, I see it again as it was with its slowness, its security; there's that feeling of oneness that I have with it, that feeling of being in a big family.

So there you are, the stage has now been set. I'll meet you here again, and we'll share these memories, little anecdotes or other little modern-day narratives.

*     *     *

DSC_0043 Tante Marie-Françoise works  as a speech therapist (orthophoniste) and enjoys helping children who have special needs.

Note: The original French version of this story is posted here. Enjoy it! Meantime, thanks for saying "bonjour" to Marie-Françoise in the comments box. I know she will enjoy "meeting" you! She'll be back in a week or so with a very funny story called ("La Routine").

PS: Re today's translation (by me...): beg to differ? Honey, you don't even have to beg (I believe you!). Just add your own translation to one or more of the beautifully poetic lines written by my French aunt. Thanks for using the comments box, so that all might enjoy the update. (...and thanks for your help!)

French Word-A-Day archives:

Care to read some more stories? Here's a bilingual column from my son, written 5 years ago...

End photo: "Birds of a French Feather". Read the message, below.

Would you like Jules to paint this one? Let her know, in the comments box. P.S.: she'll be here soon. Please wish her bon voyage!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
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♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


photos © Kristin Espinasse. The view of Mont Ventoux ("le Mont Chauve")
as seen from the village of Sainte Cécile. "See it" from the village of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in today's new story column!

Talk about flower power!
The combined strength of your sympathies--via lilies, rosemary, snow drops... pansies--has put a smile in our hearts as my family and I continue to read each and every one of your colorful condolences sent in to honor Grandma Audrey. Merci beaucoup!

Please accept the following gift in return: something my French aunt showed up with on Sunday (along with her chestnut cake--and I promise to post that recipe sometime!)...  Enjoy now a new rubrique* here at French Word-A-Day: a column titled "Lettres de Ma Terrasse" written by Tante Marie-Françoise. Enjoy this upclose and very personal look at Provence. Meantime, merci encore for your joyful words, virtual flowers, and so much more.

*today's word: la rubrique (f) = column

Lettres de ma Terrasse
"Planter le décor"

(Enjoy this taped introduction to the following story, in French. MP3 Wave )

N'est-ce pas bien présomptueux de choisir ce titre pour la petite série de chroniques que je me suis promis d'écrire de mon village provençal?

Cet en-tête évoque à coup sûr pour les connaisseurs les fameuses "Lettres de Mon Moulin" d'Alphonse DAUDET. Il avait écrit des pages délicieuses pour ses amis parisiens en s'installant dans un authentique moulin provençal près des Baux de Provence.

Plus modestement, bien sûr, je voudrais faire partager ce que j'observe depuis ma petite terrasse.

C'est une terrasse de maison de village qui n'a rien d'une terrasse classique donnant sur un jardin. Non! C'est juste un petit poste d'observation niché entre les maisons étagées sous la ruine de notre château médiéval. Je m'y installe à la bonne saison, d'avril à septembre et à condition que le mistral tempétueux ne souffle pas.

Ma terrasse d'à peine 10 mètres carrés s'ouvre sur un paysage qui m'enchante. Au premier plan se superposent les vieux toits inégaux des maisons que l'on domine. Puis la vue déborde sur ce mouvement montant des collines couvertes de parcelles de vignes. Enfin, en arrière plan, se dessine la longue ligne musicale des deux courbes asymétriques du Mont Ventoux. Ces trois bandes visuelles ont chacune leur propre graphisme et couleur. Celle des toitures est comme un tapis inégal de vieilles tuiles d'argile claire rehaussé de quelques cheminées. Celle des vignes offre les lignes géométriques des rangées parallèles du vignoble suivant les courbes du terrain. C'est un effet de faux damier tantôt austère et épuré l'hiver, tantôt vert l'été puis qui s'enflamme de rouge en automne. La dernière bande des reliefs lointains se colore toujours d'une note bleue ou mauve. Les écailles minérales des dentelles de Montmirail puis le sommet toujours blanc de notre "Géant de Provence" ajoutent une lumière à l'ensemble.

Face à ce paysage je suis face à l'Est; c'est donc l'occasion d'assister aux levers de soleil et aussi de pleine lune. Le spectacle se décale de gauche à droite puis dans l'autre sens à chaque solstice me permettant d'assister au ballet des saisons.

De ma terrasse, donc, je surplombe mon quartier. C'est une partie ancienne (dans notre maison une poutre est gravée 1311...) et modeste du village. Les habitants sont pour la plupart issus de vieilles familles de petits propriétaires; les nouveaux venus sont des travailleurs agricoles et depuis peu s'installent de jeunes couples fuyant la ville.

La population de ce quartier change donc inexorablement avec le départ des "anciens". Je n'entends presque plus le patois qui est la langue provençale teintée de particularisme local.

La vie du village suit l'évolution générale des mœurs et des habitudes de vie: chacun son travail, ses horaires, sa voiture, son sport, son loisir... ce qui change la convivialité -- Restent bien sûrs de bons moments de communauté villageoise mais rien qui puisse égaler ce que j'ai connu en 1968.

De mon perchoir les pierres me parlent car elles gardent les souvenirs. Contemplant mon village je le revois comme il était avec ses lenteurs, sa sécurité, le sentiment de faire corps avec lui et d'être dans une grande famille.

Voilà donc, le décor est planté. Je vous donne rendez-vous pour partager ces souvenirs, de petites anecdotes ou d'autres petits récits de la vie d'aujourd'hui.

Marie-francoise Tante Marie-Françoise (seen here making a traditional lavender wand)--when she is not harvesting her family's grapes--works  as a speech therapist (orthophoniste) and enjoys helping children who have special needs.

Note: The English version of this story will be posted on Friday! Meantime, thanks for leaving your comments for Marie-Françoise in the comments box. I know she will appreciate them!


Find out where to buy our Domaine Rouge-Bleu wines, here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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My grandmother is on a journey. I hope there are French bikes in Heaven!

le paradis (pah-rah-dee) noun, masculine
    : paradise
    : the gallery, the gods

le Paradis terrestre = the Garden of Eden
le paradis fiscal = tax haven
l'oiseau de paradis = bird of paradise
aller au / en Paradis
= to go to Heaven

My Grandma Audrey passed away yesterday. My sister made the call and I could hear the news in her voice before the words were delivered.

"I tried to call her several times this week..." I answered.
"I did too," Heidi assured.

I thought about the nursing home, where my grandmother spent the last season of her life. I pictured a television on the wall, from which inspiration often struck her, at which point she would become the heroine from the latest show... or infomercial:

"I'm wearing my pretty white sundress," she told me, last time we talked on the phone. "We're having a beauty contest this afternoon--and *I* am in the running!"

"Do you think you'll win?" I asked, playing right along with this latest production, "The Nursing Home Beauty Contest".

"Oh, I'll give it my best shot!" Grandma said, and I could almost hear her smoothing down her "dress" in pride and admiration of it. But a sundress in snowy Salt Lake City? I could never tell, during one of these conversations, whether Grandma was pulling my leg or, more likely, living in her imagination. Her voice was always so clear, sprinkled with a touch of Southern Stubborn.

* * *

"She is in a better place now," my sister stated, comfortingly.

I have to believe that Heidi is right. Still, as I look into the mirror this morning, at the long face staring back at me, I find my faith faltering again.

"If I truly believed in Heaven," I reasoned, I wouldn't feel guilt or regret right now--but relief! I'd feel happiness for my grandmother...."

* * *

I am spending the morning renewing my faith, not because it comforts me--but because faith is the "Instructions" book that guides me when I don't know where to step, when I can no longer see....

I am picturing my beautiful grandmother in her flowing white sundress! Beyond a shadow of doubt, it's now clear to see that my Grandma Audrey won that beauty contest, yes siree!; plucked up as she was in the night -- right out of her nursery home bed in time to collect her prize--that golden crown: Heaven's glimmering halo over her head.

*  *  *

Post note: During a recent call to our grandmother, my sister wanted Grandma to be sure to know that Jesus was waiting for her, and that she, too, would see Grandma again one day. Grandma joked, "That's what they tell me."

Last night at the end of her telephone call, Heidi encouraged me to call our mom, with whom she had just shared the news. "Remember," Heidi said, "(Our) mom has lost her own 'Mommy'." That last word went right to the heart and I could almost see my mom's plump 5-year-old hand, reaching up to try and clasp her mother's, ever searching for that connection.

Now for a request: Because my mom, "Jules", and my family read this column--and each and every comment--I would like to once again ask you to send *virtual* flowers to the comments box--this time for my Grandma Audrey and also for her loved ones: Jules, my Aunt Reta, my Uncle Rusty... also for my sister, Heidi, and my cousin Mike. 

Just pick a person & send a virtual fleur (i.e.: "tulips for Uncle Rusty from Rémi in Beaverton" or "kangaroo paw for Heidi from Gretel in Sydney" or "a magnolia for Aunt Reta from Fred & Nancy").

Click here to access the comments box (wait a few moments for it to load...), then instantly send in your flower.

With much appreciation (and dare I say love?) for bringing cheer to my family and me. I can't think of a better way to rendre hommage to Audrey. I hope you will agree.


Grandma Audrey with Jean-Marc (2005)
Visiting Jules, in Mexico (thank you, Mom, for the photos).

With all our love, Grandma!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


La mise-en-scène: doesn't this scene look staged? Walking through the villages of France sometimes makes you feel as if you've stepped back in time, to post war Europe... until you see the modern cars at the end of the lane. Photo taken two weeks ago, in the town of Camaret.

I am excited to announce our first debate here at French Word-A-Day... and that's about as French as this edition will get! Read on, in today's story.

la mise-en-scène (meez-on-sen) noun, feminine

   : the "putting on stage", stage setting

Six years ago, almost to the day, I learned a life-changing concept: one that returns to me this morning, as a flood of emotions float upward to the underbelly of my skin, electrifying the surface. When God created sensitivity, he gave an extra dose of it to me! Strike a line through that last sentence or, rather, that last word--for I am not alone: artists, writers, musicians, plumbers, preachers--and even highfalutin Frenchmen, can feel the same way and, I suspect, do.

I dread this space that I am in, but recognize it as the engine behind the words that sometimes flow out of the fingertips, onto a blank screen: oh, the ills of Inspiration! Hold on a minute... isn't that the ego talking? He who likes to convince us that it is the Self's HARD WORK--and pain!--that bring forth art. What a crock!

As thoughts continue to dart back-n-forth, I raise my arm to catch one of them, watching in amazement as it almost drives a hole (the sheer force of faith, landing) through my tattered catcher's glove. I look into my glove, beyond the steam, and read the message:

"One can change her mind. P.S.: Lighten up a bit!"

I am reminded to pull that chain in my brain and so flush out a rush of ravaging thoughts, such as this one that just crept in: "Easier said than done." The minute I pull that chain, reflux happens; determined, I pull the chain again (sort of off topic, but if you say that last bit--pull the chain again--with an English accent, it kind of rhymes... at least in *my* mind. Whatever.) And there, dear reader, goes the mind: Hither and thither, but whither? Whither???

Back to the "life-changing concept", which the subject in today's photo reminds me of: "la mise-en-scène". I thought this might make a good topic for debate. One thing I struggle with is remembering my "part" in this film that is Life. So here's a question for you:

If life is a stage, are you the director or the actor? Which part makes you feel more at peace? Tell us your answer in the comments box.

Story Archives
Care to read another essay? I posted this one "The Car Accident: or How to Meet Your French Neighbor" over at Twitter and Facebook, yesterday.

All photos taken with this camera.

In the town of Camaret there are not cabarets, but the shutters close their eyes and blush anyway.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


On the outskirts of Camaret: Gallic Graffiti

façonner (faah-so-nay) verb

    : to work, shape (metal); to fashion, mold (clay)

Listen to the verb conjugation of the French word façonner:
Download MP3Download Wav

je façonne, tu façonnes, il façonne, nous façonnons, vous façonnez, ils façonnent =>past participle: façonné

I love it when my French aunt comes over on a Sunday, with her chestnut cake, a smile on her face, and stories of Provence which she'll often illustrate. I learn even more when Uncle Jean-Claude tags along to assist in the story telling with his musical accent--a mixture of Africa, Toulouse, and Provençal sing-song.

Dimanche dernier,* we were contemplating dessert (should we go for a walk first... or dive right into the gâteau de marron*?). That's when Aunt Marie-Françoise noticed the roof tile set on the kitchen counter.


I answered her questioning gaze. "I plan to use it... for a light fixture!"

DSC_0040 In its current incarnation, the old tile is a vase--perfect for holding colorful branches and flowers plucked up during a stroll through the campagne.*

"C'est très ancien,"* Jean-Marc added, before offering a brief a history of the roof tile, an artifact that Michel, our builder, had uncovered while renovating le toit.*

With that, Uncle Jean-Claude picked up the tuile* and set it before the light. He began reading the cursive etched into the surface. "... à fait...30 juin..." It looks like a name, he noted, offering: "André à fait (le) 30 juin."

"Too bad the year wasn't noted." With that Uncle Jean-Claude shrugged his shoulders, passed the tile to his wife.

"Say..." my aunt began, "Did you know the history behind these tiles? They were handmade here in Provence... par les femmes!* And here's where my aunt's French factoids never cease to amaze me:

"The tiles were shaped with the help of a woman's thighs!" Aunt Marie-Françoise pointed out the tile's pretty curve.

"Thighs?" I questioned. Cigar façonnage* immediately came to mind... somehow lending credibility to this amazing story.

We took turns placing the long, wide tile over our own thighs, impressed by the Rubenesque dimension of the artifact, which slipped off our legs. This got me thinking about thigh surface, and "working space"--how Cuban women had a certain advantage over the French, cigars being that much smaller, lighter.

Imagination kicked in and I pictured a cigar production line, Cuban skirts hiked up, Prudery pitched out the door, cigar smoke following in her wake.

Next, I pictured a roof tile production line: heavy clay slabs awaiting "fashioning," French skirts hiked up even higher, prudery pitched out the door... together with those hampersome skirts.

Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(Your turn to help out: select and define some of the French words in today's story. Share your translations in the comments box, for all to see and enjoy.)

French Girl KnitsFrench Girl Knits: Innovative Techniques, Romantic Details, and Feminine Designs by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes: Superbly fitted and fashioned in luxurious yarns, these imaginative patterns follow four thematic vignettes inspired by French daily life, film, and history.

Tune Up Your French: Top 10 Ways to improve your spoken French
Chestnut spread imported from France

From the French Word-A-Day archives

Care to read another story? How about this one, concerning a certain Frenchwoman's practical joke. (Looking back, I can now laugh at it!)

"Modern" roof tiles in the town of Visan.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice


Welcome to Sunday morning in the French wine-making town of Rasteau, a smile around every corner... Read on, in today's story column. All photos © Kristin Espinasse

un sourire (soo-reer) noun, masculine

    : smile

Just a smile for you today. For more about the French word "sourire" visit the smile post.


On a photographic escapade through the town of Rasteau, I ...

...met a foul-mouthed French dog (photos, below)
...watched an immigrant scrub her tiny window sill with soap and water--
...made a mental note for once and for all to plant a vine of passion fruit!
...gazed at a stone Virgin Mary, wrapped in ivy, high on a hilltop
...heard a scream (the cranky dog's owner, calling the latter home?)--
...observed a moment of silence before a WWI memorial statue--
...wondered what all the dormant, flower-bare window boxes might look like in springtime, summer, autumn... anytime but winter--
...and glimpsed this sunshiny reminder to smile (taped to the window of an inconnu*; see it below)

But you know the saying: it is those things that you've left undone that you'll regret one day. And so:

On a photographic escapade through the town of Rasteau... I failed to:

...skip to the other side of the street to say hello to the lady washing her window sill--
...wander into the café, where the locals were playing cards, and saluer* BONJOUR Messieurs!*
Snap a photo of the charming, chipped iron gate beyond which a window dressed with lacy curtainettes screamed, "I am Provence, hear me roar!" (I couldn't imagine who might be watching me back, through the fine veil of *privacy*: it seemed right to respect the other's). out to the man behind the open garage door and say "In America, we open our garage doors on Sundays, too!"
...climb onto the rail and slide down two flights of cobbled stairs: wheeee!

...steal the Valerian growing out of the stone walls, sporting raspberry red flowerettes even in wintertime!
...take a minute to rest--on the bench facing the hilltop church--and confess my sins which mostly stem from impatience, impatience even to sit down and smile for a while.

I leave you with that message that I saw stuck to this window framed in green, my favorite color. If you would like to help translate it, please do so in the comments box, for all to see and enjoy:

DSC_0048 Un Sourire
(listen to this text: mp3 or wave)

Un sourire ne coûte rien et produit beaucoup,
Il enrichit ceux qui le reçoivent,
Sans appauvrir ceux qui le donnent.
Il ne dure qu'un instant,
Mais son souvenir est parfois éternel.
Personne n'est assez pauvre pour ne pas le mériter.
Il crée le bonheur au foyer, soutient les affaires,
Il est le signe sensible de l'amitié.
Un sourire donne du repos à l'être fatigué,
Il ne peut ni s'acheter, ni se prêter, ni se voler,
Car c'est une chose qui n'a de valeur
Qu'à partir du moment où il se donne.
Et si quelquefois vous rencontrez une personne
Qui ne sait plus avoir le sourire,
Soyez généreux, donnez-lui le vôtre
Car nul n'a autant besoin d'un sourire
Que celui qui ne peut en donner aux autres.

PS: One last regret: I didn't stand there before the sourire sign, scratching my head like Columbo, reciting the lines of the Sourire poem
aloud (for the secret benefit of passers-by). How else to call attention to the wonderful words therein, so as not to keep them to oneself?


Comments, corrections...and stories of your own... always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

*French Vocabulary: saluer = to say hello; bonjour, messieurs = hello, gentlemen!

Archive Pics
If you follow this word journal on Twitter or Facebook, then you might have seen these articles posted over the weekend.
Over a dozen ways to say "Darling" in French
"To be going down hill" and more pente idioms and photos from 2005

Cartes-postales Cartes Postales: an album--with vintage flair--for post cards

SmartFrench Audio CD : beginner level

Berlingot Featured product:
Les Berlingots

The Berlingot is a tiny sweet in the shape of a cube, or dice. Its name is said to come from the game of jacks, or osselets which was called berlingaù in Provençal.


I just loved this green house... with the upside down green wheelbarrow and overall chaotic feel. I could have photographed it from another angle--if the little yippy-yap yowler in the front hadn't chased me off his terroir.

(c) Kristin Espinasse
And yet another passion fruit vine, draping itself across France.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice

la Grande Ours

Sun-bleached in the town of Visan. photos © Kristin Espinasse. What do you see in this photo (and, re the word of the day, I promise you won't find a bear--or even a Big Dipper--hidden behind those lacey curtains!). Share your observations in the comments box.

At the not-so-enlightened age of thirty-four, I learned that the Tooth Fairy did not exist least not in France. Here, they call that toothy thief in the night "La Petite Souris". The Easter Bunny disappeared next... only to resurface, this side of the "pond" as a bell! So why should any of us be surprised at how the French "see" the Big Dipper?  Read on, in today's story column. (More about France's version of The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy in my book).

la Grande Ourse (lah grahnd oors) noun, feminine
    : "The Big Bear" (The Big Dipper)

turn up the volume and listen to the French word "la grande ourse" & quote below:
Download (wave)   (mp3)

On donne le nom d'Ours à deux constellations de l'hémisphère boréal qui sont proches du pôle arctique, et dont une s'appelle La Grande Ourse et l'autre, La Petite Ourse...  Dictionnaire de l'Académie françoise by Académie français

Help interpret the above quote. Write your translation in the comments box. Merci!

by Kristin Espinasse

Home renovation has recommenced here at the wine farm and, with it, the reassignment of chambres.* Our eleven-year-old is now sleeping in her brother's room, bunking with Braise-the-Dog, Jean-Marc and I have taken over the guest room, and Max has claimed Grandma Jules's cool digs (the lit de camp* beside the window in my office).

"Bonjour, Maman. Those are water chickens!" Max informs me, as he wakes from a deep slumber. I am at my desk, reading email during the quiet morning hours. Water chickens? I wonder if Max is still dreaming.  That's when my mind recalls the odd echoing from moments before...

"'Poules d'eau'!* So that's what that noise was!"
I think about the birds and their funny French name. I picture them, like ducks, out there on the water, where soon bright yellow "irises of the marais" with push up like pâquerettes.* Spring is in the air!

"You see so many things from here!" Max continues, thoughtfully, and I realize that my son is indeed awake. He is looking out the window toward Monsieur Delhomme's potager, just beyond the ruisseau* where record rainfall recently threatened to flood the potato, leek, and lettuce patch just beyond.

"...comme la constellation de la Grande Ourse," Max says, citing an example.
"What's that?" I say, returning my gaze to the sleepy boy.
"La constellation de Grande Ourse? Oh, those are the stars that line up to resemble a casserole.

"Casserole?" My mind soon registers a pan with a long handle. "Ah, yes! We call that the Big Dipper ..."

"La Grande Ourse... The Big Bear..." I mumble. "Why don't they just call it a casserole--if that's what those stars look like?"

"Parce que les Français sont bizarres!" Max answers and, just for the record, he said it, not me!

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci d'avance!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la chambre (à coucher) (f) = bedroom; le lit (m) de camp = cot; la poule (f) d'eau = moorhen; la pâquerette (f) = daisy; le ruisseau (m) = brook, rivulet


Ours-brun Read to a child in French (and improve your own français while you're at it! Enjoy the classic Ours Brun, dis-moi...

Le Petit Prince: French language edition (or enjoy this story in English).

Savon de Marseille : a classic in many French households!

In Music: C'est L'Amour: Romantic French Classics

Fred Birthday 148
Loitering in France

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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They say "when one door closes... une autre s'ouvre..." See another photo, below. photos © Kristin Espinasse

souscrire (soo-skreer) verb

    : to subscribe

A Day in a *Newsletter's* Life...
They say "change is good" and I've been trying to subscribe to this mighty morsel of sagesse since last summer... when the email listserver for this newsletter doubled in price. Ouch! (Make that: Aïe!).

Around about that time, I began losing long-time sponsors. Then, almost as a premonition of what was to come, website ad revenue--designed to cover web/newsletter expenses and, dare I say, to help support our family of 5 (can we count Braise-the-Dog?)--dropped... to but a shadow of its former "self".

"Le crash" or the economy "happened" -- even here at home (literally), where a heavy-handed housewife watched, in awe, as her home-spun business buckled. That's when this "little newsletter that could," found itself operating on fire wood!

"Well," I thought, looking at the bright side,
"fire wood can be good--
though central heating is that much more pleasing!"

Of course these email broadcasts aren't fueled by fire -- but what else--if not "wood"--rhymes with "could"? If you have enjoyed these sometimes quirky, hopefully informative emails on French life... then please be sure to follow me as I move my list over to a more affordable alternative!

*To continue receiving this free newsletter, please follow these easy steps.*

1. Click on the following link to enter your email address

2.  Check your inbox* and find the confirmation message. Respond to it!

3. Unsubscribe to the former list via the unsubscribe link at the end of the "old" newsletter (sent by my wanadoo address). If the link is not clickable, then please copy and paste it into the browser window!

Many thanks for your support and for continuing to read this French word journal, still standing in its seventh year!

Please send any and all questions to the comments box, only--where answers & updates can be posted for all to see.

P.S.: While you're here, why not invite another friend to join French Word-A-Day? Forward this blog address, where a shiny new sign up box beckons.

... and, in France, when one wooden shutter closes... another opens up! photo © Kristin Espinasse

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
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Courtyard in Rochegude (c) Kristin Espinasse
In the moss-covered village of Rochegude... a courtyard, above, located beside the writer's den that I mentioned in a recent post.. 


parole (pah-rol) noun, feminine


   : lyrics; word (spoken)


Audio File: Hear Aunt Marie-Françoise pronounce the French word "parole":Download Parole   Download Parole

À la parole on connaît l'homme.  --PA Manzoli


Help translate today's quote? ...or share one of the dozens of French idioms and expressions that go with the word "parole" ("avoir la parole facile", "perdre la parole" "tenir sa parole"...). Thank you for using the comments box.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
A Photographic Interlude in the town of Rochegude 

Of the many ruelles that wind through the picturesque French town of Rochegude, at least one is carpeted green. "If red stands for royalty," I reflect, snapping a photo of the floor beneath me, "then green must stand for "grace"--and if I were a queen I'd walk on green!"




Stepping down some softly sovereign stairs made of stone and thick with moss, I spot a modern day carriage at the end of the path: it is, in fact, a classic car by today's standards. Admiring the shiny new paint on the Renault Quatrelle, I wonder: will the old bagnole be a good subject and, if so, how to best capture it?

"Make room for the lantern," I begin coaching myself, looking through the camera lens to the street light above. "And don't leave out the Town Hall... Oh--and it would be good to include these!" I think, looking down to the path before me, where a line of smooth, round rocks fills in what may have once been an eye-sore of a gutter. I notice how the stones add style to an otherwise ordinary cement landing, one which follows those velvety stairs.

Renault 4 or "4L" or "Quatrelle" (c) Kristin Espinasse


Approaching the old Quatrelle, I notice there is writing on the back, just beneath the window, and soon find myself singing the old tune that those words represent....


"Baby you can drive my car.... "


All but leaning onto the hatchback, I am now chuckling at some Frenchman's tongue-in-cheek finishing touch over that new cherry red paint: "Beep Beep, Yeh!"  Back in the States, it is common to see stickers on the backs of cars (wisdom in under a dozen words) but, here in France, such free philosophy is reserved for friends--and, occasionally, for enemies (during a traffic altercation or, in retail, when a sales clerk smarts back... or even when she doesn't).

I begin snapping several photos of the car when a woman with a stoller passes, only to stop in her tracks. I lower my camera in time to smile at the baby and to answer the woman's inquisitive stare. "C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas?" I offer.

Like that, Stroller Woman and I strike up a conversation ranging from old cars and collectibles... to joblessness and even weight loss! I learn that Stroller Woman suffers from phlebite and has just returned from Bollène, on foot, as part of her new exercise regime.
"Walking is the best sport!" I offer, cheering her on, happy to think up something to say.

When we have exhausted our repertoire of "Small Talk for Complete Strangers," conversation comes to an abrupt and embarrassing halt.

"Do you have internet?" I ask, the thought crossing my mind to post the photos that I have taken, along with a story, and thereby recruit a new reader--never mind that she can't read English.

"No," Stroller Woman says. "But I will give you my phone number!" I am caught off guard by the stranger's offer and, after an initial hesitation, I search for a pen.

"By the way, what does it say?" she asks.

I follow her gaze, over to the English lyrics on the old Quatrelle.

"Oh, that's a song from the 60s," I answer, taking a clue from the "Sixties" signature on the car.

Stroller Woman looks at me, expectantly, and I so I prepare to translate the song lyrics:

"Chérie, tu peux conduire ma voiture.... Non...  c'est pas ça.... euh..."*

I give it another go:

"BEBE, tu peux conduire ma voiture..."

Just then, another villager--and friend of Stroller Woman--appears, greets my one-woman audience, and ignores me. I nod, clear my throat and decide I'm performing for two. Best to start fresh with the lyrics:


"Bébé, tu peux conduire ma voiture!" My eyes are now bright and I think I've got the swing of it.


"Oui! Je vais être une star!I enthuse, now wiping my lashes, which are soaked with tears due to the cold morning air.

"....ET bébe JE T'AIME!" (This part automatically escapes my mouth and when I look over to the words on the car, I notice these particular lyrics are missing! In my embarrasement I skip quickly to the end):



By now I have to dry my eyes with a mouchoir, the wind having picked up and, with it, the rate with which my tear ducts pour out their watery, cold air barrier. When next I look up I notice my new friend, Stroller Woman, has disappeared! This, before I have even had the chance to give her my phone number.


I see her now, a little further up the street, making what looks to be a getaway--beneath the protective arm of a friend.

The two walk away slowly, cautiously--as one walks away from Insanity, or Madness... or simply a tone-deaf damsel in distress.

Le Coin Commentaires

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

Quatrelle (c) Kristin Espinasse



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renault Quatrelle (Renault 4) = kind of economy car with a hatchback, see it here; la bagnole (f) = slang for "car"; la phlébite (f) = phlebitis; C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas? = It’s amusing, this car, isn’t it ?; Oui! Je vais être un star! = Yes, I’m gonna be a star!; le mouchoir (m) = handkerchief



Books & More....

Young Adult reading: Vidalia in Paris  


Paris inspired art work sign:  Wall Clock - Café Du Parc

Lavender : all natural Provence Imported *Lavandin*


Film feature: The French Revolution (History Channel)

 On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization.




Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
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I wanted to move right in, on seeing this little gem (and writer's den?)--yesterday morning in the town of Rochegude. More photos after the story column, below. photo © Kristin Espinasse

saisir (say-zeer) verb

  : to capture, to seize

Audio File: Listen to the correct pronunciation of the French word "saisir", and hear the conjugated verb. Mille mercis to my brother-in-law, Jacques, for lending his vocal chords!: Download Saisir Download Saisir

Verb conjugation: SAISIR

je saisis, tu saisis, il saisit, nous saisissons, vous saisissez, ils saisissent => past participle: saisi

Today, we are sharing idioms, expressions, and sayings related to the French word "saisir". Thank you for opening up your dictionary (hardbound or online) and contributing something here*, in the comments box.

In the town of Rochegude, I snake silently along narrow ruelles* flanked by towering French façades. The villagers are waking up, now if only the sun's rays would appear--and just where my camera lens might command them to. I stare at the chipped and broken façades, as one might a newborn: with eternal love and a fierce sense of duty: how much time remains in which to capture their still-charming faces before another bulldozer or careless commerçant* captures them first? I watch helplessly each time a glaring metal poster board is drilled into the side of yet another creaking, cracking cabanon,* covering up an old painted-onto-the-stones sign, one that apparently no longer earns its keep according to the gods of advertising. "Au diable!"* I curse them. Haven't you the heart for these endangered works of art?


I will the sun to come out from behind the clouds, in time to liven the blues and greens in the painted shutters and the reds on the window sills that surround me. As it is, the colors are fade,* perhaps like the early-morning risers beyond the window panes, who'll soon powder their faces bronze--eternal summer in their hearts, though winter camps out on the window sill, weathering the tiles and whittling away at old, charming France.

Comments, corrections--or stories of your own!--always welcome, in the comments box, for all to enjoy:

More topics for discussion: Renovate... or rip down?: where does a culture conscious community draw the line? Share with us some laws that exist to protect France's architectural patrimony. What is most endangered across France's architectural skyline?

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la ruelle
(f) = lane, alley; le/la commerçant(e) = retailer; le cabanon (m) = stone shed, cottage; au diable! = to hell (with them !) ; fade = washed-out (also, tasteless)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Today's Quote~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      L'occasion. Notre seule pouvoir est de la saisir.
     The occasion. Our only power is in seizing it.
--Jean Grenier


I loved the book "French Dirt", and for those who love to write, check out Richard Goodman's new book "The Soul of Creative Writing". See them both, here.

Savon de Marseille/Marseille Soap with Pure Crushed Local Flowers

Watercolor Journeys: Create Your Own Travel Sketchbook

The castle at the top of the village of Rochegude.
Ze little would-be writer's den: colorful even sans soleil.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy and look forward to these posts and want to give something back, please know your contribution makes a difference! A donation by check or via PayPal is greatly appreciated.
♥ Contribute $10    
♥ Contribute $25    
♥ Contribute the amount of your choice