la conduite accompagnee


I was standing on a medieval bridge, over the Nesque River, when I took this photo. I did not notice the tiny mouse until I posted the (larger version of this) photo at Cinéma Vérité. That's when Margaret pointed out la souris. Next, Newforest commented on the"la girouette" and, like that, we all learned the fanciful French word for weather-vane!

 Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel: A Novel (fiction): Camille Claudel, an old lady confined to the Asylum for the Insane in Montdevergues, France, reviews her life. Order this novel.

rigolo, rigolote (ree-go-low, ree-go-lowt) adj

    : funny, comical

Also: rigoler (to laugh)

Meet-ups: We'd LOVE to see you!

Kristin will be in Paris on March 1st at Shakespeare and Company (Talk begins at 7 p.m.)
Jean-Marc will be in Iowa City next month and elsewhere in the States... meet him!.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

At the cheese shop in Pernes-les-Fontaines, the woman in line ahead of me stepped up to the counter and this is what she said:

"Je voudrais de l'Emmental." As an afterthought she added, "sans trous."
"Vous voulez de l'Emmental sans trous?" the flummoxed fromager questioned.


My mind began to wonder about this "trou-less" transaction. Did the customer really ask for Swiss cheese without holes? Was this possible? Was it prudent?

But before I had the time to further try my mind, a proposition was put forth:
"Mais,"argued the cheesemaker, "the holes are the best part!"

A collective nod could be seen from beyond the cheesemaker's vitrine as the clients in the fromagerie agreed that les trous are, indeed, la meilleur partie!


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Have your say about the French word of the day or comment on today's story! Did you enjoy this edition? Then don't forget to forward it to a friend!

French Vocabulary & Sound File: Download Rigolo
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce these words: rigolo, rigolote

Le fromager est rigolo!
The cheesemaker is funny!

Je voudrais de l'Emmental (m) = I would like some Emmental
sans trous
(un trou) = without holes
Vous voulez de l'Emmental sans trous?
= you would like some Emmental without holes?
le fromager
= cheesemaker
mais = but
la vitrine = (shop) window
la fromagerie = cheese shop, cheese dairy
la meilleure partie = the best part

A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey

Just showing off my new medal. Whaddaya think?

You can barely make-out Mom's medal, just above my nose. It reads "Braise" (BREZ) of course. Our phone numbers are on the back, in case we forget them. (This is the embarrassing part. I mean, as if I'm absent-minded...! I may be furry, but I'm not a forget-me-not! Wait a minute, I AM a forget-me-not!)


Smokey (Which, by the way, rhymes with QI or "quotient intellectuel"—that's "IQ" in English. Only, we dogs have "High-Q")

 Eggplant caviar
Eggplant Caviar: use with toast or crackers as an apéritif. Lovely alongside hard-boiled quail's eggs (as my mother-in-law serves it!) Order a jar!

Rosetta Stone French Level 1, 2, & 3

Fluenz French 1+2 

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


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Hi Kristin,
Great story! I love Swiss cheese and I would eat it with or without the holes. You know what is "rigola"? When I read the word of the day all I could think of was the commercial for the Swiss cough drops. I don't know if everyone has seen the commercial of the man on the mountaintop singing out "Ri-co-la"....
Have a great day and weekend!


I noticed that while in Paris Emmental did not usually have holes, but if I asked for Swiss Cheese, it had holes. Was that just my market I wonder? I liked the one without holes too, because it made a better sandwich on a baguette. The holey stuff is less cheese, of course, if you are dieting!

Bill in St. Paul

You're looking good, Smokey. Just remember to be gentle with your mother and Gramma K, they're not as young as you are.

I love cheese but got taken in when we were in Sarlat in the Dordogne. The young lady selling cheese, recognized us as Americans and instead of speaking to us, pointed at each block of cheese and made the sound of the animal that it came from. We tasted the sheep's cheese and I mimed that I wanted a thin slice of it. She cut the piece across the whole cheese wheel so that I got slightly more than a kilo for 25 euros! We ate that cheese throughout the rest of our trip.


Avec trous, sans trous -- I'll take good French cheese any way I can get it. At home I don't have un casse-croute of cheese and bread before dinner, but in France it's une habitude.

Smoke has just exploded in size overnight, hasn't he? Do the French microchip their dogs so any vet office or shelter can locate the owner more quickly? My babies have chips plus tags with three phone numbers and an address. I don't believe in taking chances. But since they know where their food bowl is, they've never wanted to stray far.

Ophelia Paine

Great story, Kristin! And I love the Smokey pictures. Keep meaning to send them to my mom who adores golden retrievers.

Vocab question --- When you want to say that something is funny, is it more common to say drole, marrant, ou rigolo? Are there differences between those three?

Bonne journee from a "word nerd."


Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Sans trous! A delightful exchange and what a great salesman that le fromager. I will have to ask my fromager, Michel Lemmerling at Bon Appetite in Princeton, NJ if there is an Emmental san trous like Jeanne found in Paris. Monsieur Lemmerling is from Brussels and so far has had an answer to every question I have put to him. He makes his own truffled brie.

Since you are sporting "medals" during this Olympic season, one wonders how you and Braise earned them. Was it the two-dog bobsled? The x-country relay? Super G? Or could it have been the ever entertaining pairs figure skating?


Eileen, I haven't seen the commercial you are talking about, but, does the singing of “ri-co-la” in that commercial sound like what you hear when you first click on: ... ?

This is a little "détour" from the word of the day, but I must admit that, when I am at a French airport on my way back to England, I always look for a packet of Swiss “Ricola” (the Swiss Herb Drops) ... delicious, very soothing, and ideal to suck when you get blocked ears in the aeroplane! (ok, I know, sucking any other sweets could also do the trick, but I must as well have a 'Ricola'!

As for the adjective “rigolo”, indeed, it could apply to this funny little mouse on the top photo. “La petite souris est très rigolote”! (the little mouse makes us laugh)

... and today, the story of the “fromage sans trous” est “une histoire rigolote”!
In fact, there is a geographic link between the Ricola sweets mentioned by Eileen and the cheese of the story. Both of them come from ---> Switzerland!

Betty Bailey

Wish we had a nice swiss cheese chez moi. It looks wonderful and nothing better with ham on luh sahn-weech ;-). I'll check out Central Market, Southlake, Texas tomorrow. You've given me a craving!

But eggplant? Not so much!


"Rigolo", the word of the day, is also a noun. If you are “un rigolo” (une rigolote), “un p'tit rigolo”, “un sacré rigolo”, you are a joker, a comedian and you make everybody laugh.... but, you may also be a type of person who never takes things seriously and, sorry, I wouldn't trust you.

If the woman ahead of you didn't want any hole in her Emmental, she should have asked for “un morceau de GRUYERE”!... yet, another Swiss cheese, but, unlike the Emmental, it has no hole in it.

Quite a clever link between the top photo with a tiny mouse on the weather vane... and the second photo with an enormous piece of Emmenthal... that wonderful Swiss cheese full of delightful holes!
.....talking about Swiss cheese .... No, I do not have a 'Swiss cheese' plant in my house, with holes emerging with age...

Back to our holy cheese of the story:
"Le vrai Gruyère n'a pas de trous" (= true Gruyère cheese doesn't have any hole)... "mais l'Emmental a plein de trous" (but the Emmental cheese is full of them).

In recipes, on the list of ingredients, you may see: 150g de Gruyère râpé = 150g of grated Gruyère cheese -- no trouble to grate a piece of cheese "sans trous". Just imagine taking a chunk of Emmental and trying to grate it (cheese... and holes)!!!

PS: not sure whether mice prefer Gruyère, Emmental or Cheddar - a French mouse may not have heard about Cheddar but might be keen to have a try.


Bill, b-aaah, mooo-h! I'm on my way to Carrefour. Do you dare me to try this with the fromagère there? :-)

Julie, I was just wondering the same... not sure about the microchips. Jackie says they'd be expensive, in her "wants to be a vet one day" opinion. But she likes the idea and so do I.

Ophelia, Re which of the following words--drôle, marrant, or rigolo--is most often used when we want to say something is funny... this is an excellent question for Newforest. I usually say, "c'est drôle". I have heard "c'est marrant" often. "c'est rigolo" (from Newforest's last comment: c'est une histoire rigolote" sounds like it would work nicely too....

Suzanne, loved your Olympics reference. You have me laughing at the "sight" of our dogs competing in the two-dog bobsled.

Newforest, I'm off to Google that Swiss cheese plant you mentioned. Also, I had always wondered about the difference between Gruyère and Emmental. Once, at the supermarket, I had to ask another shopper about the difference (for a recipe) and she kindly reassured me "c'est pareil" (it's the same thing). She must have meant (ça a le même goût / it has the same taste.


Thanks for link about Jean-Marc's tour. I'm happy to learn he'll be in Twin Cities (MN). Does the Alliance Française know about his visit? They put out weekly e-mail updates and would probably publicize his tasting. Try

Janice Hunter

I love your website and have passed it along to all of my French speaking friends. Your photos are so artistic and I can't wait to read about your life in France. I also loved the books listed on the side bars of your web page. I seach them and then run to the library to find them. They were a great source of books about France and by French authors. What happened to it? it no longer appears on your website?

Bill in St. Paul

Kristin, LOL, that's EXACTLY what the young person sounded like when she was trying to tell me what the source of the cheese was: b-aaah and mooo-h!



Delightful story and tie in with the mouse and the cheese very witty indeed... And thanks to the other sweet ones who responded I learned about cheese and how to order it correctly or eat it for a month... and order holes no holes -- who would have thought but again it is the cheese capital of the world No!
Eileen, I have seen the commercial you are talking about, all fits ...
Hope your husband enjoys his trip -- Iowa it is cold there...I am in the Northwest - is he coming to this part of the USA? I wonder.


There was a tray with Emmental samples and apple slices at the store yesterday. It tasted a bit creamier/less nutty than cave aged Gruyere(which is a favorite at this house).

joie  carmel,ca

I will take any Swiss or French cheese(sans ou acec tros, a glass of pinot or merlot and a nice rustic bread and I am a very happy camper. The mouse was so cute on the girouette. I like that word! It feels so French. I stayed in a mas on the Nesque in 2001, and as I remember it was more like a very small canal? getting ready to rain here.


Does anyone know what makes the holes in Swiss cheese?

I love, love, love that big boy Smokey!! And the little part of his tongue that hangs out, although I am sad that it has to, due to his attack. Good looking medal, I must say!

Going to be sunny and in the mid-50's (F) today in Atlanta...woo hoo! And only 1 week ago we had a few inches of snow.

joie  carmel,ca

Best cheeses for a fondue....Guyere,Emmentaller and Alpenzeller....equal amounts!

Christine in Salt Lake City

What a great story! But how did it end???? Did she buy the cheese avec trous?

Newforest: We would love to hear how you became such an expert in the French Language. Please do tell!

Kristin: Maybe you could do a little spotlight column on Newforest one of the days?

Sunny and a little warmer (45 F) today in Salt Lake


Hi Everyone!
Thanks for sending the link to Ricola Newforest! That is exactly what I remember from the commercial.


If you always wondered about the difference between Emmental and Gruyère, you know now -visually speaking- it's a question of “trous” for the first one and “pas de trous” for the other one.
Emmental is creamier. Gruyère is stronger, but I haven't eaten any Gruyère or Emmental for a long time ... so, I am unable to give more detail about their taste.
For the same reason, I wouldn't be able to compare the taste of the French Emmental from La Savoie (in the French Alps), with the taste of the Swiss Emmental.
Last time we went to France (Biarritz, March 2009) we always had some “fromage de brebis” (une brebis is a ewe) from “le Pays basque” (the Basque country) - the 2 favourite ones being “l'Ossau-iraty” and “l'Etorki”.

Jackie Sand

What a great story! When I was 12, with one year of French under my belt, my favorite aunt took me to Europe for the first time (and influenced the rest of my life in the process). Bravely, I walked into a luscious-looking fromagerie in Lucerne and proudly asked the fromager for "un morceau de fromage suisse", hoping to buy some emmenthal. He looked at me and smiled broadly, saying, "Mais mademoiselle, tous nos fromages sont suisses!".(My dear, all of our cheeses are swiss!).
Who knew that our "Swiss cheese" had a "real" name???


Jackie, Thanks to your charming story, I've just realised now that in the US, Emmental is called "Swiss cheese"! What about Gruyère then? Is it... "the other famous Swiss cheese"?
I'm far from an expert on Swiss cheeses, but, apart from Emmental and Gruyère, I know 2 more (only 2... out of, maybe, a few hundreds) with names funny enough for me to remember: "le Vacherin" (vache = cow) and the other one is also the name of a dish -> "La Raclette" (racler = to scrape /something/ clean)

Hello Ophelia,
Here are a few essential points about the 3 adjectives you mentioned.
---> Adj “drôle”
- funny / odd, weird, unusual, peculiar
- also funny / amusing (for a story, a film, a play, a comedian)

---> Adj “marrant”. It is a familiar word
- It means funny, comical
- used in the negative (pas marrant) meaning boring, depressing, grim
- Verb “se marrer” /s'amuser = to have a good laugh

---> Adj “rigolo” also belongs to the category of “familiar” words like marrant
- funny, amusing, odd, in a nice and pleasing sort of way - more childish and charming than the adj “drôle”
- Verb “rigoler” = to laugh, but also to have fun, to joke, to kid


Hi Kristin,
Im brasilian and have found your website by chance two weeks ago. I really love to read you. I study both english and french and your writings are so interesting. Congratulations!

Lee Isbell

To go off today's topic, back on Feb. 10, a reader asked for information about reasonably priced French language courses in the south of France and several suggestions were offered then. I wanted to pipe up with a language school I’ve attended on two different occasions, but their website at the moment doesn’t show a current schedule. I’ve contacted them about the school’s status and they will be resuming classes in September 2010 after a break for family reasons. The first time I was there in 2006, they’d recently had their first baby; they’d just had another one when I returned in 2008.

No wonder they needed a little break, since students live in the family home and Magali cooks the meals as well as teaches the daily classes. She or her husband take students on regional visits in the afternoons. This is a true immersion experience and Magali is an excellent teacher.

They are located in Noves, just a few kilometers south of Avignon, and I’d be pleased to recommend them: . Keep an eye on their website for dates/prices for upcoming courses.


Now I'm confused about the pronunciation of Smokey's name.

I thought it was pronounced as in English.

From your note it seems it is pronunced like the latin qui. or did I minunderstand.


Someone wanted to know if Gruyère was known as "the other Swiss cheese." I've never looked for Emmental here but now I'm curious. I just buy my husband Baby Swiss for his sandwiches. However, at my store Gruyère is called Gruyère (which I favor over Swiss for my recipes).


Just found your blog and I am so excited! What a great idea- extremely helpful way to learn french (putting it in context) Makes the language very tangible and I can't wait to improve- my goal is to be fluent by the end of the year.

Christine in Salt Lake City

Thanks Lee!

Linda Chandler

Ah, Smokey, you are a handsome devil these days. Your whiskers are prize-winning. I'll bet you would enjoy an occasional bite of fromage yourself.

Christine Dashper

Hee Hee, I love this fromager. Of course the holes are the best bit!

Smokey you are growing into a fine looking chien, votre famille look after you well.

Thanks for the laughs Kristin



Hi Julie,

I never heard about 'Baby Swiss' cheese before and needed some help from Google to find out about it!
First of all, I found out that the American 'Swiss cheeses' are mass-produced imitations of the original Emmental and Gruyère varieties (very famous cheeses made in Switzerland). I certainly wasn't aware of all these imitations!

Then, I found a bit more about your "Baby Swiss" cheese (mild and creamy with lots of little holes) and about the man who developed it in the US, in the 60s.


Yet another Swiss connection, and the one that taught me the meaning of "trou" so long ago, is the wonderful painting by Dominique Appia "Entre les Trous de la Memoire". Check it out -
Thanks for yet another interesting post, Kristin!


For Erin--the holes in cheeses are created when, during the aging process, the bubbles of gas cannot escape.

For the various translations of "funny" in English-- I have always heard "marrant" and "rigolo" used to describe things like comic strips or TV shows. Correct, Newforest?

Kristin--That Smokey is a major cutie! I bet the neighborhood female canines are all over him! His residual issues from "the attack" just make him more rogue-ishly handsome. I think his gold medal is very appriopriate during les Jeux Olympiques.

Marianne Rankin

Strange - When I saw the girouette picture in Cinema Verite, I had thought that the mouse was a cat (a small one).

Smokey is a good-looking fellow. In regard to microchips for the pets, I think they are at least $50 each in the USA, which is one reason we haven't yet "chipped" our three cats. They rarely go outside, but do have collars with name tags and phone numbers.

I've seen both traditional "holey" Swiss cheese in American grocery stores, as well as Gruyere. They aren't at all alike. From time to time in the deli section I've seen, although not paid much attention to, Emmental cheese, and had no idea it was considered equivalent to Swiss. My favorite of all cheeses is Camembert.

In regard to "all cheeses are Swiss," I recall on a visit to France years ago, eating some soft cheese that came in tiny containers, called "petit Suisses." Maybe it was a brand name. Tasty, plain or with sugar.

The fromager didn't miss a beat with "the holes are the best part." I'll tell that story to friends!

The Riii-coooo-laaa in the Ricola commercials sounded a lot like yodeling, which I'm sure was the intent. The horns were probably ten feet long.


Jackie - In my reply to you, 'Swiss cheeses' only meant 'cheeses from Switzerland' - not the American imitations, which I only discovered when I wanted to find out what Julie meant by: "Baby Swiss" (see my post to her)

Yes Mary - Have a look at my reply to Ophelia.

Oh! Marianne, "Les Petits Suisses"... mais oui! It's a sort of "fromage frais" isn't it? - but I'm pretty sure they come from Normandie. They used to be made by "Gervais"... I don't know why they're called that name. How interesting!


Smokey is looking good. All healed?

Ophelia Paine

Un grand merci, Newforest!



You made me laugh, I love this story. How quick and cleaver of the storekeeper to say the holes are the best part! Thank you! Having a heat wave on Long Island it's over 35 degrees F!

Marianne Rankin

Newforest and all, when I ate "petit Suisses," it was in 1972 in France. I hope if I ever get back there, I can find some petit Suisses to eat again. I've never seen them in the USA. If anyone knows a brand name, I'll look for it.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Fred,

Sorry for the confusion. Yes, Smokeys name is pronounced the English way. The French call our dog Smoh-kay :-)


Smokey is looking cool and ofcourse his medal is so cute. Hope he is excited about his new medal!

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