In the village of Sarrians: a slice of scenic life. Don't miss out on the whole pie at Cinéma Vérité.

empreinte (ahm-prehnt) noun, feminine

    : print, trace, mark

empreinte génétique = genetic imprint
empreintes digitales = fingerprint
empreinte de rouge à lèvres = lipstick mark

Audio File: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronounce the day's word, terms, and example sentence: Download MP3 or Download Wav

Elle a laissé une empreinte sur ma joue. She left her mark on my cheek.


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

Standing before the tall iron gates to the Gare D'Avignon train station, my aunt kissed me firmly, once on each joue. When she pulled back, I noticed her eyes begin to water and I looked away, focusing instead on her "Apple Polish" lipstick. It is her signature rouge à lèvres and she, the affectionate embrasseuse, often leaves a trace of it on those she loves.

On the way home from the gare, I decided to positiver: to not focus on my aunt and uncle's absence, rather to turn the lonely ride into a Sunday drive (opting for the scenic and free route nationale instead of the autoroute).

Twenty minutes into the trip and the signs for Courthézon went missing.... In their place were signs to Monteux. That's odd, I thought, until it dawned on me that I had taken a wrong turn.

I decided to not try to track back and, instead, let serendipity be the guide. Might as well enjoy the unplanned spree and so much floral scenery! I rolled down my window, inhaling the sweet scent of Scottish broom.
  Scottish Broom (c) Kristin Espinasse

The yellow-budded bushes are scattered everywhere this time of year. In contrast with the yellow buissons, ripe red coquelicots flanked the country roads and cherry trees bowed loaded down with their bright red bounty. Adding to the color fest were the frilly dresses and clacking heels which offered an oh-so-french summertime appeal.

Coasting into a suburban district, I soon recognized the village of Sarrians and pulled off the road along the tree-lined boulevard Albin Durand. Recognizing a favorite French façade, I snapped a few photos before setting out on a petit périple through the village.

I remembered a large cour where Mom and I had admired a pretty patch of belle de nuit. Now, two years later, I have the same flowers growing in my own garden. Lost in nostalgic souvenirs I ambled past les belles, snapping a few more photos along the way.

When next I came out of my photo stupor, I noticed a woman smiling at me. I could just make out her face beyond the glare of a windshield. Beside the car there was a bucket of sudsy water. I approached the friendly car washer and greeted her:

"It is all so beautiful," I explained, pushing my camera aside. The woman looked to be in her mid fifties. Her short blond hair was thick and wavy. In the place of maquillage she wore a healthy, natural glow.

The car washer smiled and I noticed how her sourire was unusually sympathetic. It reminded me of the other villagers I had just encountered: strangely, they were all smiling back at me in that same endearing, empathetic way. How comforting this was after leaving my family back at the train station.

I saw the bottle of window cleaner in the car washer's hand.
"Je vends ma voiture," she explained. I stood back and offered an appreciative glance (but, between you and me, the car was real rattletrap. I hoped my new friend was trading up...).

"Je vois. And what will you be driving next?"

"A Renault!" she answered, citing a newer model. This was good news indeed!

We chatted like that for a moment and I couldn't help wonder about her ever affectionate stare and that sympathetic smile which mirrored the locals that I had saluted earlier.

"Well, I should be moving on," I announced.

The car washer nodded, and her sympathetic stare went on to meet the sides of my face.

"Au fait," she said, pointing to my joues, "You have lipstick prints."

Lipstick prints!

My hands flew up to my cheeks and I remembered those friendly French faces which now flashed before me:

the old man on the bike whose smile seemed over-polite
the little girl grinning sweetly, ever indiscreetly
the young man who said salut (hoot hoot!)

How sympathetic they had been to the lip-smacking situation, never stopping to point it out, and, in so doing, keeping their own dignified clout.

Meantime my Aunt was halfway to Paris, hopefully giggling like gangbusters (or, at the very least, like sugar snatchers).

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la gare = train station
la gare d'Avignon
= Avignon train station
une joue
= jowl, cheek
le rouge à lèvres = lipstick
une embrasseuse (un embrasseur) = a kisser, one who kisses
positiver = to look on the bright side
la route nationale = highway
l'autoroute (f) = motorway, freeway
le buisson = bush
le coquelicot (syn. le pavot) = poppy
petit = little
le périple = journey
la cour = courtyard
la belle de nuit ("lady of the night") = botanical name "marvel of Peru" flower (Mirabilis jalapa "The four o'clock flower")
le maquillage = make-up
le sourire = smile
je vends ma voiture = I'm selling my car
je vois = I see
au fait... = by the way...


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Kristin, I love it! Of all things to have on one's face, I think rouge à lèvres is up there among the best. Charming, indeed.

Pouring rain in otherwise extremely hot and muggy Kansas City.

Bill in St. Paul

I prefer the routes nationales to the autoroutes because, as you, Kristin, know, you see more of French life and the countryside. You have those serendipitous events like a wrong turn that take you to places where you wouldn't necessarily have gone on your own.

So who in the story was more polite: those that just smiled at Kristin and her rouge à lèvres or woman who told her?

Our Golden Theo was with Braise, he didn't like oranges either.

Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

HaH! Very sweet and funny story, Kristin. If only we could ALL always wear our kisses proudly through each day. It's funny but when I've had that happen I feel bad wiping them off. I guess you aunt got the last laugh!!

Bill, I guess the woman who told her (only after a brief casual conversation) handled it best - gently and politely.

I can't wait to try orange slices with our dogs!!

Virtual rouge bisous to everyone today!

Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

Oh - I meant to ask:

une embrasseuse (un embrasseur) = a kisser, one who kisses

I would have thought this would be "one who hugs, a hugger" using the "embrace" part of the word. Is it a general interchangeable term for hugger AND kisser??


Ah, c'est mieux d'avoir été embrassée que jamais embrassé à tous...

Jules Greer

I love this story Honey, keep visiting the villages and meeting the lovely locals.



Georgia Catasca

I love what you have to say about life--Word of the day is a highlight in my life.

We have rented one of your sponsors. We rented Loire Valley Brehemont. A beautiful house - just 1/4 miles from the Loire river.

The young man who lives in that village (700 people) his name is Scott Porter. His mother owns the house we rented.

We rented for a month -June1 to July 1 2011. Yes 2011. almost a year from now !

Euro exchange is good now.

We have been to the Loire Valley before. Maybe this is our last trip to France. I am 75 years old and my husband is 84. SOO time is short!

Our son will be there with us and maybe my daughter. We also will invite friends .

The young man Porter is American - went to training l in US and in France-He will meet us at the house( i may have said he lives in the village we will be staying.

Thank you for saying wonderful about life

We live in a tin village in Corrales, New Mexico USA



I wish my aunties were still around--I'd proudly wear their empreinte. Enjoy the moment while you can. Tempis fugit.


Your children are lucky that they will have these stories to read to their children. What a wonderful legacy you're creating!

A cool early morning here in Manhattan Beach, California.

Pat Cargill

Such a tender sweet story - to love and be loved, to carry the imprint of her rouge a levres on your cheeks symbolizing the moment of your aunt's departure and her affection and then giving those you met a very happy moment...just wonderful.

Jean(ne)  Pierre in MN

Such a nice story today, with love all around. We have taken the road many times from Avignon, Monteux, Carpentras, Sault, and I hope it is still as lovely 20 years later. The French half of the family is now in Carpentras--wish I were there.
Rainy, coolish in the Twin Cities today, good for the plants.


I look forward to your blog and enjoy its sweet spirit and insight into French life and language. I was sad today, though, to see an ad from the so-called "Right to Vote" initiative here in California. From what I have read, it's less to do with anyone's right to vote than with power companies trying to protect the way they do business.

I understand the need to generate funds to keep the site going, but hope we won't need to see any more ads like this on it. I guess I'd better buy more from your links and make a donation soon! We all want to be able to read your work for a long time!

Diane Scott

I love the first picture of the lovely salmon-colored wall bearing a veritable "brocante" of treasures. "I spy" something feline which I would love to have by my side porch door next to my sign, "Attention, chat lunatique!"

On another note, your article in today's "Bonjour Paris" - "The Coattails of Cricketsong" is a delightful "melody" of prose! "Slow down": "why not" indeed!


You have touched my heart again, Kristin.
Here I am with a lump in my throat(comment dit ça en français?) and welling up with the poignancy of memories and departures.

My grandmother used to leave bright red empreintes de rouge à lévres too. Wish I hadn't been in such a hurry to scrub them off.
I guess the difference is that as children life expands forever before us with no need to hang on.

May we all know the empreinte of the sweetness is on our hearts, if not still on our cheeks.

Love the reveling and revealing of the flowers in your early summer environs. So much is like Northern California. Getting drunk like a bee on the fragrance of the broom blossoms. Another pesky but glorious invader.

Lee Ann

Every time I try to listen to the audio file, I cannot get it. A message said "Problems with this Web page might prevent it from being displayed properly or functionning properly." Do you know why this is happening?
P.S. Merci pour la photo de Smokey.

Leslie in Massachusetts

I remember seeing the Scottish Broom everywhere in the Côte d'Azur area and learning its French name. It's genêt.

Barbara Andolsek Paintings

A similar situation happened to me, but with yellow/gold dustings from a flower I had just smelled at a local market. It tickled my nose so of course, I brushed it with my fingers smearing the lovely goo all over my face! When I finally arrived home, I laughed out loud when I saw what it. At least it was a lovely shade! Thanks for sharing this great story. Hoping 'our' Smokey enjoys his orange.


Dear Kristin, Your serendipity was so welcome today. I must admit, I have let life get in the way of me savoring your thrice weekly posts lately. Suzanne brought me to my senses the other day pointing out your post the other day. I must not let myself get distracted again. These thrice weekly "mini vacations" offered by your incredible skill of putting your observations and encounters into words are far more important that the work a day life that drags us down.

Thank you. I am in much better spirits now. I feel like I want to look in the mirror and discover lip print on my cheeks!

Margaret in muggy North Carolina

Marianne Rankin

What is "Bonjour Paris"? I did a quick Internet search and it seems there is a newsletter from a site with that name. Is that where Kristin's article is? If not, where is it?

Speaking of "genet," it is the source of the name "Plantagenet" (as in the Plantagenet line of kings in France/ England). I don't remember who started the custom, but one of the early Plantagenets used to put a sprig of the plant in his hat, and the name stuck.


gigglegiggle ..."love"ly story! Nothing like a little rouge to polish the apples of one's cheek!

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Wonderful, sweet story! Always a treat to escape with you...if only for a few minutes. I adore your passion and enthusiasm, you see beauty in the everyday moments that make up this magical life. Thank you for sharing with us!



What a charming story! The smiling locals recognized your empreinte de rouge a' levres as something special. Perhaps it made them remember times when they too were left with a visual reminder of someone's affection...

And a photo of Sarrians as well!

Jennifer in OR

I'm getting the feeling that the French window is like the American front yard. This is where you display your personality and style, pretty flowers, color. I've never seen American windows decorated like the French, but maybe it's just that I live in the country? Do the country folks in France with beaucoup hectares still decorate their windows? Just curious!

Diane Scott

Hi Marianne! I have included the link to "Bonjour Paris." Kristin's article appears as "Kristin's Provence" and appears on the left of the home page in a red box entitled "Paris France Stories." It is a greatly informative blog. -- Diane

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Georgia and friends, thank you for these cheery comments and thanks, Diane, for posting the Bonjour Paris link. 

Lee Ann, not sure why the sound file isnt working. Perhaps try changing browsers (to Mozilla, or IE, or Google Chrome?). Is anyone else having a problem accessing the sound files?

Kathy, I think the ads change depending on what region you are in. Im not sure how they work, only that they are automatically generated. Sorry for any offensive campaigns... 

Karen, we need Newforests help (hint hint NF...) what to we say for hugger and for kisser and (or) can embrasseur be used for both?

Marianne Rankin

Diane, thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

Lee Isbell

For Lee Ann, I'm not sure how other people download the sound files, but using IE, I right-click the link and select "Save Target As," then save it in a file ("French" in my case) in My Documents. When I Open the saved file, my computer plays it with Windows Media Player.


The name of the Count of Anjou who, in the XII century, used to put a sprig of “genêt” in his hat is Geoffroi “Le Bel” (Geoffrey 'The Fair' / handsome). He was the first one to use the “Plantagenêt” name. He married Matilda of England and became Duke of Normandy. Their son Henry II of England founded the “Plantagenêt” dynasty.

Years ago I saw a magnificent “plaque émaillée” = enamel plaque (copper plate) representing the 'handsome' Geoffroi. The effigy, fixed on the top of his tomb in the cathedral of le Mans, is now in the Musée de Tessé (“Le Mans”, France).
Click here (and worthwhile re-clicking to enlarge)

Thank you for the link. Plenty to read in the 'Stories' section. When I clicked on “Kristin's Provence”, I realised I had read the first two stories a few weeks ago, so I caught up with the latest two! Excellent!
... and there are many other stories from other authors ...

The bright yellow flowers of your “genêts” ('broom') reminded me of the same bright yellow flowers of our “ajoncs” (= 'gorse') in the heathland parts of 'The New Forest' (South-East of England).
Main differences? Gorse is prickly, its flowers have a coconut scent, and although at their best in March and April, you can see flowers more or less all the year round. According to the old saying:
‘When Gorse is not in bloom, kissing is out of fashion.’ (Ahaah!)

Gorse bushes:


Hi Kristin, here is my response to your 'hint hint NF' ...

About the word “embrasseur” = a kisser? Yes but..............
It's not used very often. The word underlies the fact the person who is "un embrasseur / une embrasseuse" has a tendency to kiss too often, “à tout propos” (= constantly), “sans arrêt” (= all the time). It can be used in a pejorative way or to make fun of that person, or ... with a certain sense of humour!

I cannot think of any French word for “a hugger”. Remember the French give more easily and spontaneously “une poignée de mains” (a handshake) than a hug!... and there are so many words to describe “une poignée de mains”!

Here is some useful Vocab around the subject:

→ “embrasser” = to kiss. “A kiss” is “un baiser” (also “une bise”, “un bisou”) . Be careful! "Donner un baiser" / "faire une bise", … is fine. The problem is with the VERB “baiser”. Nowadays, this verb has taken a sexual meaning, so, important to bear that in mind to avoid any embarrassment!
The verb “embrasser” which gave the English verb “to embrace” is now used for: 'to kiss' (on cheeks, on lips).

→ s'embrasser = to kiss each other

→ “Prendre (quelqu'un) dans ses bras” = to hug. Remember Edith Piaf's song: “La vie en rose”? ("Quand tu me prends dans tes bras... etc....)
→ “Serrer (quelqu'un) dans ses bras” = to give a big hug

→ un câlin = a cuddle (mother to baby and young child)
(verbe “câliner”, faire un câlin)

→ une cajolerie = a cuddle, but here, it involves caresses, tenderness and sweet words full of flattery
(verbe “cajoler“ = to flatter and make a fuss over somebody)
→ “un cajoleur” = “un enjôleur”, “un séducteur” ...

→ “une étreinte” is an embrace that shows affection and love
(verbe “étreindre”)

→ as for “une accolade”:
In the Middle Ages, it used to be the ceremony in which, after a long training, a man became a knight by a touch on the shoulder with a sword. Nowadays, it is 'an embrace' between two official people (mayors, politicians, members of clergy) meeting each other during an official visit / ceremony (nothing 'affectionate' about “une accolade”!)

Oh!... and "une accolade" is also a curly/wiggly/squiggly bracket {...}

By the way, in the first half of the XX century, at the bottom of a letter, you would send to your friends and family some “Baisers affectueux”
You can still do that, of course, but “Grosses bises” (= love and kisses / kisses and hugs) has become very popular. “Bisous” (masculine) can be used instead of “bises”.

Nothing stops you to send your love to a good friend by writing: “Je t'embrasse”
- with some extra: "Je t'embrasse affectueusement".
- and even a bit more: “Je t'embrasse bien affectueusement.”

PS – “le baise-main” is out of fashion, but I must admit it felt like a privilege to receive that mark of “respect + affection + gratitude” from a few gentlemen in Eastern Europe in year 2000, and again, in year 2003! This was for a few specific occasions. On a daily basis, the same people always gave me “une poignée de main très cordiale” (friendly handshake) but never kissed my cheeks or never ever gave me a hug.

Marianne Rankin

Newforest, thanks for your interesting comments on French, as always. And thanks for the picture of Geffroi le Bel and his hat, which I'd never seen before. I hadn't known he married Matilda; did you know that Matilda fought for the throne against King (at least briefly) Stephen? And I enjoyed looking at the gorse.

Did you take your online name "Newforest" from the New Forest website?


I live on the outskirt of this beautiful "région forestière" first called "The New Forest"... in the year 1079.

If you like History, Wildlife, here is a website I invite you to explore:


In your charming story, something puzzled me.
Bearing in mind that:

1 - “la pommette” (= cheekbone) represents “la partie haute de la joue” (higher part of the cheek),

2 - “la bajoue” represents “la partie basse de la joue” ( lower part of the cheek / flesh under the lower jaw)

3 – "les empreintes de rouge à lèvres" were quite noticeable, even for the old man on his bike …

I would have thought your aunt gave you a kiss on each of your “pommettes” rather than on your “bajoues”. On your photos, I cannot see any 'hanging flesh' in the lower part of your cheeks... but I can see your "pommettes saillantes" supporting a great smile (or is it the other way round?)

Then I concluded:
'Dear Auntie' must be smaller than Kristin... Her kisses might have just reached the lower part of your cheeks rather than your prominent “pommettes” (?)

All in all, "heureux hasard pour cette charmante histoire", gorgeous scenery, and lovely interraction with the locals. Great!

and "merci pour la photo", with its intriguing connection between a cat, overlooking all these bird cages - so tantalising - and Ooooh, only one blue budgie left... chatting away to the passers-by.


Hello Ahulani,

'I have a lump in my throat' =

-> "J'ai une boule dans la gorge" (same picture as in the English expression)

You could also say:
-> "J'ai la gorge serrée".

Karen (in Towson, Md) Whitcome

It's Friday and I just checked back to this post to see if we'd had any clarification on "une embrasseuse" et VOILA!!

So “une étreinte” is an embrace and "embrasser" is to kiss. Got it.

I'm left ever curious as to the size of Kristin's auntie. (hint hint KE):-)

Thank you Newforest - I am always amazed at your vast knowledge and as always you are so helpful and you inspire me to learn more about this wonderful language that have.

Marianne Rankin

Newforest, thanks for the URL. I'm looking forward to learning more about the "new forest" from 1079 onward.

Do you all notice how one thing leads to another which leads to another? I really like learning new bits of information; even if they aren't immediately useful, they are interesting.

Rita Kennon

Thanks for the great post in your blog. I enjoy the word a day, since I really need to brush up for an upcoming trip. I long to see France again. There is no place in the world like it, the scenery and the smells, and wonderful food. ---and with your help I won't mangle the language too badly.

Lee Ann

Please thank Lee Isbell for the advice on listening to the audio. It worked!



I too like to take the "D" roads and see les petites villages. There are so many quaint villages with winding streets and wonderful squares with markets and people playing pétanque. They are so photogenic.



Your story leaves a lovely warm glow. Thanks for sharing it.

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