fleurs de cimetière


Hunchback of Notre Dame (c) Kristin Espinasse
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (spotted near the famous church). 

vantard,e (vahn tar, vahn tard) noun

    :  a bragger, boaster

se vanter = to brag
vanter = to praise, to speak highly of 
vantardise = bragging, boastfulness
... know any more expressions or idioms? Add them here!

Sound File: I asked our daughter, Jackie, to give us an example sentence for today's word... note: having technical difficulties with the audio, here... you may need to put your ear to the speaker...  Download MP3 or Download WAV

(Le vantard dit): Moi je suis allé à Disneyland Paris et pas toi! 
(The bragger says): Me, I went to Disneyland Paris and not you! 

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

On the table de nuit, which doubles as a bibliothèque, I set down a steaming cup of Ricoré and lept!

"You see... I'm back!" I chirped to my daughter, bouncing up and down on the king-size bed feeling very much the Queen of Cozy in her soft robe and slippers.
...And this is my f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e  place to be, better even than Pah-ree!

13-year-old Jackie smiled as she surfed the net on my PC, in search of tonight's episode of The Twilight Zone. I promised my daughter I would be home by Wednesday night, that the time would go by dare-dare, and that we'd be back to our evening ritual of foamy hot chocolate or coffee and frissons. 

Having selected an episode (we decided to watch "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" again), Jackie became curious about my trip to the capital.

"How was Paris?" she asked.

Puffing up ever so conspicuously, I reached over to the book shelf, selected a hard-bound edition, and tossed it to my girl before rolling my eyes skyward with a nonchalant "no big deal". Still, it was impossible to contain a squeal:

Mommy saw this writer! I sang, pointing to the book I'd just tossed.

and this writer...

and this writer...

and this writer...

...and THIS writer!

One by one I tossed the books beside my daughter, who looked thoughtfully at the book jackets.

"You know him?" she said, pointing to a black and white author photo.

"Well... not him... but he was there... to listen to her:

                                                   Ann Mah

I told Jackie all about Ann Mah's talk at Shakespeare and Company bookshop, where writers and authors and readers came to hear and to be endeared by a journalist who shared about feeling strangely foreign beneath her own skin. As Ann talked about her experience in Beijing, punctuating her story with savory bits about Chinese cuisine, I looked around the room and spotted some familiar faces and not a few Francophiles... 

(That's Amelie, left. I also enjoyed meeting Irene and Susan and.... Wish I got more pictures...)

  Sion Dayson, Christine Buckley, me, and Leona Liu

I couldn't see just how many book lovers and writers were present, having arrived an hour early so as to secure a front row seat. Downstairs and outside the bookshop more "bookies" and foodies and expats and travelers listened in as Ann's presentation was broadcast throughout the store... and all the way out the front door!

                             With Ellen Fetu, professeur at the American School

                 Dean and Kathleen, so happy to have seen them again

After Ann's talk, Jean-Marc served up his Domaine Rouge-Bleu red wine and the conversations flowed even if the passageways within the historic shop did not. In fact, some could not reach the winemaker and the wine... and so we stood stalled, but smiling, inebriated by the convivial atmosphere.

 Can you spot the winemaker? Also at least one podcasting  blogger.

I met more writers the next night when I realized a life-long dream, that of participating in a salon or literary evening. Speaking of lifelong dreams....

My mind reels back twenty some years... to a forsaken strip mall off Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. I am sitting alone at a snack bar willing it to be a French café... only each time I open my eyes the same seedy strip mall shakes me from my reverie.

I have just signed up for classes at Phoenix Community College but the campus, here in my native desert, feels as foreign to me as a far off city. I am not so studious. I do not want to go to class. I want to sit and think and think and think!

Thinking. Yes! That is what I want to do: to be with the freethinkers in Paris! What were those places called? Salons! 

But how to get from this seat in a seedy strip mall... to literary Paris?

Back now, to the future... where I am seated in the salon of a trailblazing travel writer. When Karen Fawcett took over Bonjour Paris, some 16 years ago, it was one of the first sites on the internet about the "City of Light". Back then, the French government tourist office, with its own nascent presence in cyberspace, included Bonjour Paris on its links page. Talk about a link exchange, avec le gouvernement français!

Seated now, far from that somber strip mall, but here, on an 18th century tapis, writers surrounding me, I sit cross-legged, beside mystery novelist Cara Black who is munching on a salad of endive and mesclun.  We are talking about characters and places, research and writing. Across a table of half-filled wine-glasses there are others who have followed their literary dreams: Ann is present, and presently chatting with Janet. There is Courtney and Laurel and Christine, who Jean-Marc calls "Chris"... and then there is Sadie, who breezed in late, and stole all our hearts with her funny stories about Paris pick-up lines (and, more humorously, her sock-it-to-'em send-offs, literal "send offs" which had her would-be suitors running the other way).  

From time to time, Karen asks another question, to which one by one the salonistas (for this isn't fashion, but fiction!) answer: What about expat life? What about writing?  Robin is doubtful about this latest question, but I remember enjoying all of her stories when we both took a class at The Paris Writers Workshop last summer.

As for how I came to France and to write and to sit in this oft dreamed of salon tonight, I look across the room to the only man in attendance. Though Jean-Marc did not bring me to France he is the reason that I have remained. What's more, I might still be seated back in that strip mall, thinking, thinking, thinking, having never realized this writing dream, were it not for my hero, whose shared misadventures keep my pen on-the-go.

Post note: re today's word "vantarde" (bragger), I hope that so much "name-dropping" does not make me one of those! 

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box

French Vocabulary

la table de nuit = nightstand

la bibliothèque = bookcase

Ricoré = coffee and chicory beverage

Pah-ree = pronunciation for "Paris"

le frisson = shiver (in this example, from fear)

dare-dare = very fast

le gouvernement français = the French government

le tapis = carpet


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Smokey says: Moi, as a little whipper-snapper, one year ago...

...and when I was still healing beneath the jaw and the eye (remember those clay packs?!)

Books by the salonistas that Karen hosted at her soirée:

"Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself" by Ann Mah

"Moonlight in Odessa: A Novel" by Janet Skeslien Charles

"Sorbonne Confidential" by Laurel Zuckerman 

"Murder in Passy" (now available for pre-order!) by Cara Black

"Slave Hunter: One Man's Global Quest to Free Victims of Human Trafficking," by Christine Buckley

... and "Words in a French Life", bien sûr!


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