montagnes russes

On the fold-out bed, comparing notes. From left to right: Aurélie, Jackie ("Jackie from Scotland""), and I. More harvest photos on the way....

montagnes russes (mohn tan roos) noun (f,pl)

: roller coaster


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

A full day. What more can one hope for but a full day? Yesterday was one of those: plein!  

Here is but a compte rendu:

  • Max began lycée
  • Our golden retrievers ran away
  • The grape harvest began
  • And, finally, a second edition!

With equal parts excitement and emotion, we rode the roller coaster, with its mountains of grapes and its valleys of escape (where were the dogs? Where had they gone?!)

During uncertain times it helps to remember: we are but passengers. We ride the montagnes russes, we do not drive or conduct them. The best we can do is to buckle our seat belts and have faith (or wear a crash helmet).

So it was that at the end of the day... the grapes were picked and the wine was already being made. And, before the moon rose over Mount Windy, I looked east and offered one more plea:

Come home! Braise! Smokey! C-o-m-e h-o-m-e!

My eyes bore into the field beyond, vines laden with ripening fruit. I was scanning night's horizon when two flickers of Golden light caught me by surprise, putting a stop to these wildly roving eyes.

Post note: After a 10 hour escapade, Smokey made it home first, followed by Mama Braise. Grateful, thankful, reconnaissant - what word can describe the feeling? No words, finally, only jumping and squealing.

 Le Coin Commentaires: 
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French Vocabulary

= full

le compte rendu = a run down, report 

le lycée = high school

montagnes russes (fem. and always used in the plural)  = roller coaster

reconnaissant(e) = grateful



Our two newest harvesters: Daniel-Gérard, left, and Alexis, right.

Sharing recipes... stay tuned!

Smokey and his belles de nuit. Gone is the cone! He is healing beautifully.

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Sion @ paris (im)perfect

Wow, that *is* a full day! So glad the dogs finally came home. You must have been so worried! Definitely a roller coaster. (Also, do you have any idea why "Russian Mountains" became the way to say roller coaster in French? Sounds like a story there - and it's new vocab for me!)

Mon Petit Avatar

montagnes russes (mohn tan roos) noun (f,pl) : roller-coaster ou
montagnes rousses = roller-coaster?

Peut-être j'ai eu tort en lisant. En tout cas, merci pour tous vos efforts pour me faire savoir les mots!!!

Jens, Copenhagen, Denmark

So happy to hear about the homecoming of the dogs (maybe you should consider writing a fantasy story about what they had been doing all day long).

Le lycée is more than just school, I guess, isn't it 'high school'?

Have a fine and full harvest.

Maragaret Dennis


Montagnes Rousses indeed! Congratulations on the start of the harvest. The roaming dogs had me very worried. I can't imagine your anxiety. Are you going to tell us more about that or are the two wanderers not sharing the details with you?


Julia Leikin

Kristin, is the expression "montagnes rousses" or "montagnes russes"? You may be interested to know that in Russian the name for roller-coaster translates to "American mountains"!


Thanks for the word a day. Good vocab refresher. Today's word "montagnes russes" is spelled correctly in the e-mail subject line but is spelled incorrectly ("rousses") at least twice in the body of the e-mail.

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Merci Dieu. A happy ending. I guess Invisible Fencing is unrealistic?

And, Smokey's face looks so much better already!

Suzanne in Monroe Twp,, NJ

Seeing flashes of gold as your wandering retreivers returned home reminded me of the time our Westie, Mr. Darcy, escaped into the harvested corn field behind our home one autumn. It was growing dark, pouring rain when I heard a shout from our neighbor Rosemary, "I see something white moving around in the field!" Sure enough, it was our wandering Westie. We have since installed green chain link behind the split rail fence and it is bured 3 inches into the ground. Westies are terriers and terriers love to dig up the earth!

So please that we will be arriving in Vaison at the farmhouse just minutes before your tv spot airs on the 25th. If la vendange is over and you would like us to cook for you that week, let's find a time for the Espinasses (including aunts and uncles) to come to Lou Roure for dinner and a swim. In any case we plan to visit you and Chatueau Banneret.


So glad that the guys made it home; that the harvest is in; that you can find a bit of rest.

Anne Wirth

Happy to hear that the dogs returned OK. Perhaps the excitement of the harvest was too much for them and they wanted a rest or as said before, they wanted their own adventure. Where do they go, Mom and son?
Maybe neighbors saw them roaming around.
Now that the harvest is in and wine is making, what fall adventures follow?

Diane Scott

Good Heavens! “Roller Coaster Days” like that one make for entertaining stories (as in today’s blog) only when they end happily. Kristin, you must have been so careworn by the day’s end and yet, as is required by all moms and, in your case, good hostesses, your smile must remain plastered on your face even though your heart is heavy.

With no good segue to employ, you said Max began lycée. What is your daughter’s grade school called? My 13-year-old is in middle school, with high school to follow, and, I have three in university. How does France divide the phases of education?

P.S.If either Daniel-Gérard and Alexis are "available," I'll send my eldest daughter, Annalise, on the next plane over!

Diane Scott

Excuse me. That would be either "or" . . .

Jeanne Robinson

Thank you for the photo of Smokey, minus the cone, and the belles de nuit. A warning, however! That plant is nicotiana, or flowering tobacco. It has very high levels of nicotine and is considered poisonous -- keep away from children and pets. Love you.


Diane, "careworn" is the right word. The harvesters (who were physically worn!) offered wonderful encouragement and sympathy! As Karen said, an invisible fence is unrealistic -- so we have to keep the dogs inside or chained. And, as Anne mentioned, it's not easy for them to be confined what with all the activity.

Re French school: Lycée, where Max is now, is similar to high school. Then, collège (where Jackie will be on Monday, for her 2nd year) is equivalent to middle school. Would anyone else like to comment on the other school years?

Re the new harvester men: one is single!...

Suzanne, that is an offer we can't refuse! Thank you!

Geoff, thanks for your helpful note! montagnes rUsses it is.

Margaret, re where the dogs were: my guess is down by the river, for a siesta on a sticker bush! They came home covered with them. And Smokey loves to hunt for rotting carcases. When he returns home we all WILT with the first whiff of him!

Jens, now there's a great story prompt! Merci!

Sion, no idea why the term is used.

Julia, funny and ironic about the Russians term for the same.

Jeanne, Yikes! I hadn't realized that the plant is poisonous nicotiania. Thanks for the info!


Daniel-Gerard - that good-looking AND in to wine? :)

Claudette Kunsay

Bonjour Kristin ! Bien heureuse que Maman Braise et Smokey soient revenus après leurs aventures ! Bravo pour la récolte des raisins et le vin ! les fleurs que vs appelez "Belles de nuit", au Canada si je ne me trompe, sont appelés en anglais "4 o'clock" ! Smokey doit être soulagé de ne + avoir à porter le"cône" ! Vive les vandenges! et les chiens libres !


Don't you hate that stomach lurch/heart in your mouth feeling when the dogs run off? The poodles did that a couple of times and it was terrifying. Glad Braise and Smokey are back safe at home.
Quite the handsome crew you have at Rouge Bleu!

Jacqui McCargar

Kristi, hilarious that Smokey likes rotting carcasses! He must have been the one that downed the dead mouse last year when I was puppy-sitting!See you in about 10 days!

Maria Cochrane

Kristi - I so identify with your dependence on God for everything. I was reading Oswald Chambers (his devotional is called My Utmost for His Highest - it's also available on line) and one thing he said all week I've been chewing on. It's not what happens to us (that's determined by God) but our reaction. I have had to repent multiple times this week when I started to complain inwardly about the present or worry about the future.
We have cats - and we have depended on God multiple times for their safe return.

joie  carmel,ca

At least the dogs have the countryside to "roam" and find their way home. Much better than the episode in Marseille when Braise and her bethrothed took off. Lollying by the river on a soft summer day...why not?

gail bingenheimer

Bonjour Max! Il est bien évident que la scolarisation n'est plus un privilège mais un droit. (It is quite obvious that schooling is no longer a privilege but a right.)

Pat Cargill


This will give some insight into the Russian Mountain idea of roller coasters.

Whatta busy day, an anxious day!

Dear Smokey B Dokey, Usually I tell you how much I adore you, etc, etc; however, today I must wag my finger un peu--just un peu, and say: despite the diversions binging around the homefront, you should not use that as an op to go a-hunting, a lolligagging, a mosey-ing around, or whatever you and chere maman did! Were you celebrating the removal of your Elizzybeaten collar. Liberation is indeed a heady experience, mais, c'est important: pls do not run away and scare everyone half silly. Even reading about it after the fact gave me heart palpitations.
HOwever, nothing has changed: you and Mama Braise are the best and your huge fan club send bisous aplenty. ttfn, AP


As with everyone else I am glad the dogs made their way home. I would be a mess if our dog tried that. Huskies are known to roam, so we have been lucky. Have a wonderful weekend! People are waiting here to see if the Hurricane makes it way this far inland. I am off to get soup for two sick teenagers. What a way to end summer vacation.

Take care

Diane Scott


If a latino Golden can do the merengue, I see no reason why your Gallic Goldens cannot be taught the Can-Can!!


What a day for you Kristin. Glad that the harvest went well. It is unusual see two little recipe books - I keep mine in a file or on the computer and will have some on my Iphone for traveling.
Glad that the dogs returned, but I know how anxious you were until you saw them in the field. Our husky used to get loose and go to the neighbors up the road and harass their chickens. She'd be gone for 3 - 4 hours and come home exhausted. Then our German short haired pointed would run away and bring back everything from kids swimming pools to shoes. Plus, dogs love to find the smelliest things in which to roll - dead fish or anything dead.
Now you need to relax, have a glass or 2 of wine and just enjoy the last days of summer.

Leslie in Massachusetts

Merci à Pat pour les infos sur les montagnes Russes et la raison pour laquelle elles sont ainsi apppellées. Kristin, excellent choix du mot du jour pour aujourd d'hui. C'est un nouveau mot pour moi.


I could kiss Smokey. Thank you so much for the lesson.



Those babes....I know how you feel, my kitties torture me! : )

Abby Lazar

Heavy Sigh! What a day you had, Kristin. That said, Smokey looks so sweet yet so handsome sans collar. He and Blaise must be very sweet dogs...please hug them from this devoted fan!



In Spain roller coaster is also Russian Mountains (Montaña Rusa)

Pat Cargill

At the end of the day, as it is here in Roanoke, VA, it is all about Big Old Fat Love, the love we have w/family, friends, and the extraordinary love we share w/our pets. Our connection w/them is truly spiritual. Blessings abound thanks to our 4-leggeds.

Ye-haa and whoop de doo for the big Holiday Weekend - Labor Day. No comment.
May all be surrounded by those you love, and held in the Warmth of the Connection. It never leaves us. The Connection.

Marianne Rankin

Pat C., thanks for the info on the roller coaster.

I encourage the Espinasses and others of you with pets to try not to worry too much if your cats/dogs/other don't return immediately. Animals have an amazing sense of direction. They know where home is. Of our three cats, one almost never goes outside, but when she does, and once or twice has even been out overnight, she is back the next day.

In regard to French education, I think it's like this, but please correct anything that isn't accurate. I think the grades are also numbered backwards, starting with the highest number and counting back toward "1" or "terminal" for the final year. True?

Ages 3-5: maternelle (nursery/kindergarten)
Ages 6-11 (or 10?) ecole primaire, elementary school
Ages 7-14 college (= late elementary/ middle school in the USA
Ages 15-18 lycee, high school. I believe students can leave after a couple of years. If they attend a couple more, it's roughly equivalent to the first year or two of U.S. college, at least if you pass the bac (baccalaureate, a comprehensive test in all or most (?) subjects
Is it true that students admitted to the university don't pay tuition?

I wish Max and Jackie a successful academic year.

Marianne Rankin

Where I wrote "Ages 7-14" should be "Ages 12-14.


I love the use of the picturesque “montagnes russes” in the context of your “journée pleine d'aventures”... and wooow, what a day!!!
--> first day for “Max-le-lycéen”, and great hope for his last 3 years of secondary education! (Max 's starting his “classe de seconde”, isn't he?)
--> exciting starting day for the “grande aventure annuelle des vendanges” - Oh! the mountains of grapes getting higher and higher! Excitement passed through the readers...
--> and down, down with worries to the valley of “fâcheuses mésaventures” where two “évadés insouciants” in search of rotting carcasses, exciting bushes and hiding places made people wait so anxiously for their return...
--> and up, up, up again with the thrilling news regarding your second edition of FWAD Summer Stories 2009! Bravo, bravo, bravo! and a big round of applause!
--> down again at the end of the day, in spite of all the ups... Goldens still missing!
--> but a final up again when “les deux complices” are back home! What a big relief!

Dogs' freedom through vast green spaces is absolutely wonderful but it has its emotional side and fearful moments indeed! Kristin, you'll have to believe in their own flair and sense of local geography!

Thank you Pat for the link in English. Whoever reads it first will find the French explanation about the “Origine des montagnes russes” (see link below) more understandable.

Aurélie & Jackie from Sotland,
Are you at "Domaine Rouge Bleu" to help with "les vendanges"? or "la cuisine"? or both?


About Smokey and "Les belles de nuit"...

Smokey, I'm looking at your photo above and am so pleased to see your neck is now completely free! Ahaah! you're back to your darling “Belles de nuit” flowers - so..., I went back to FWAD, 23rd August. I seem to remember that on that day, Kristin was collecting seeds from various flowers. This is what I said at the time:
….[my dear Smokey, do not go and play in the flowerbed with all these pretty “belles de nuit”. Their seeds may look like funny little sweets, but they would give you a pretty serious tummy ache as they are poisonous. OK? No more trouble... and fully enjoy life! ]

Admire the flowers, of course, but stay away from their innocent and funny little seeds. They are indeed poisonous to pets -and humans- … but only a young child would pick them up and try to suck/eat them... as for inquisitive dogs ??? Hmmm...
See the very last sentence of this link:


The “Belles de nuit” [Mirabilis Jalapa] / Marvel-of-Peru / Beauty of the night, are also commonly called the '4 o'clock flowers' (as mentioned by Claudette). They come to life when my Morning glories roll up (roll down would be more exact) their petals! Oh well, vive la variété!
I agree with Jeanne who said the “Nicotianas ” are poisonous, but, as far as I know (and unless I am getting confused), the Nicotianas (tobacco plants) are a completely different plant from the “Belles de nuit”.

Julie Dufaj

Love the addition of more photos of you, the family, and your life.


With Smokey's surgery, will his tongue not peek out anymore?


Kristin, I just love your "word-a-day" and great stories.
I had a labrador who liked to roam and I was sick until he
came home. It's wonderful learning new french words and
expressions - don't think I will ever be fluent, but it's fun


I have labrador retrievers that have gone on many doggy adventures in the wine country here in Sonoma County of California. I don't know where the dogs have been and how they got there, but I can tell you and your readers about some of the pickles they have gotten into and where they have been retrieved. The socialite's pool from SF who has a second home down the hill, the Mill Creek Vineyards water feature at their tasting room, the abandoned swimming pool of a country neighbor about a half mile away, the dog run of a neighbor 5 miles away-they were covered in pig shit, and the best-the neighbor's wild pig trap. Poor Brutie had spent the night in the pig trap and had barked so much that he lost his voice. As I drove out for my trip to town, I noticed the pig trap door lowered. I decided to check the trap on my way back from town. Sure enough, I was ecstatic to find my dog in the trap. He didn't speak for a day or two, but I could tell that he was so happy that I had rescued him. He didn't leave my side for a whole day. Somehow I have been lucky to always "retrieve" my retrievers. Knock on wood my luck continues!

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