Cool Raoul


Dog Days in Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse

How many, like this little gal, dream of riding a scooter through France? Photo of "Ephie" (effy) taken last week in Colmar. Never miss a word or photo, receive word-a-day via email or by RSS updates (for Yahoo, AOL, Google and more).

un rêve (rev)

    : a dream

Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Share with us, here, your Best tips on learning French!

Example Sentence & Sound File:

J'ai fait un rêve. I had a dream. --Martin Luther King

*note: Jean-Marc tells me that "had", and not "have" is the popular French translation (at least it is the one that he is most familiar with), though MLK's exact words were I have a dream. How would you translate the famous quote? Your thoughts are welcome, here, in the comments box!

un mauvais rêve = a bad dream, nightmare
fais de beaux rêves! = sweet dreams!

Reverse Dictionary (notice how rêve is missing from these translations...)
Life is but a dream = la vie n'est qu'un songe
to be in a dream = être dans les nuages, dans la lune
everything went like a dream =  tout est allé comme sur des roulettes


"La Douce France" by Michael Wrenn

For those of us dyed-in-the-wool francophiles, it is a difficult question. Why do we like France so much?   The answer is more likely to come, not in sentence answers, but rather in paragraphs.  Many will start by telling about a French teacher long ago in high school who either inspired or tortured them, then there was a photo in a textbook or magazine, or a film that awakened something inside that beckoned us, not unlike the sirens of antiquity, to come to France.

But why France?, so many ask.   The French can be so difficult, so finicky, so hard to understand.   And yet, that becomes part of the challenge: not only to conquer this beautiful but beguiling language, but to understand and know the country and its people.   In the end, France dominates our hearts, our dreams, even our very souls.

Some of us came to France and immediately fell in love. After hearing more of Kristin Espinasse’s story, I find that we both share in that we came to France to study and were at first charmed, but had to go home and return again before we realized that la Douce France is where our hearts longed to be.

Kristin and many others like her have built their lives here.  They pursue their dreams, and have beautiful families.  Others, like me, have to be content with frequent trips, but I consider myself lucky to have a career where everyday I can teach young people about a land and a language that I love so much that I have devoted my entire career to its study.  It is my vocation and my avocation.  There is a special pleasure that comes when I am able to bring my students to France and share my love with them, and when I see that they, too, begin to love this special place, then I am a happy man....

Even with frequent trips to France, when I am back home in California I long and ache with all my heart to be in l’Hexagone. Especially in those darkening days of autumn and winter, when a trip to France seems like a lifetime away in far-off June, I find myself missing France.  It is in those times when Kristin Espinasse has become for me a tresor d’or.  Through her blog, she sends me a beautiful gift, three times a week, which allows me, for just a few minutes, to come back to my beloved France.  And as a petit bonus, she helps this old professeur as she manages nearly every time to find some word or expression that is either new to me or long-forgotten, despite all my education and work.

Not only does Kristin share her world with us, a world where languages and cultures intersect, but she opens her life to us and brings us in, sharing with her devoted readers her joys, fears, hopes, and dreams.  And by extension we share in the dreams of her beloved husband Jean-Marc, mother Jules, the children, the extended family and her friends.  Through her writing, we are drawn in, and we become part of this special world that she and Jean-Marc have created.  In viewing the comments from readers, it is immediately apparent that I am not alone in feeling this sense of a virtual family, all thanks to the efforts of this amazing writer.

As a reader for many years, I had longed to meet in person someone with whom I felt I shared so much.   When the offer came to come to Ste. Cecile, and to bring along my dear students, well there was no question, we were going.

That is how we found ourselves on a warm 4th of July afternoon, sitting under a mulberry tree, just feet from the vineyard as a few sprinkles fell and offered a little relief from the muggy temperature.  Jean-Marc showed us his old vines, and spoke to us about his winemaking; the students got to taste the fruit of his labor.  Kristin shared about the writing process while the youngsters intently listened to her anecdotes and observations of life in France.  Smokey and Braise vied for attention and calins from the students while the cigales sang and reminded us that we were surely in the South of France, not the Napa Valley.


Here, two people were not only opening up their lovely home with its view of the graceful vineyard, le Mont Ventoux and les Dentelles de Montmirail, but sharing their very lives with those who just happened to be there on that particular day.

As our autocar pulled away and we headed down the driveway that was lined with the rosemary and lavender that Kristin had pruned, I had a few words to share with my students to sum up our visit.  I said to them, “You have just met two people who followed their dreams.  If you like what you saw, perhaps it is time for you to start to think big, to dream, and begin doing the work that will make that dream come true.  Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams...”

As you can tell from Kristin’s and my words, this was indeed a very special visit.  Even with both of us writing our hearts out, we can’t quite seem to capture the magic that was felt on that warm afternoon under the mulberry tree.  Perhaps the answer is in something that was said many years ago by one of my former students when I asked him why he enjoyed his trip.  I don’t really know, he responded, but there is just something special about France.

Michael Wrenn, Professeur de lettres
Saint Helena, California

Kristin, Michael, and California students--the ones our teenagers (away at horse and basketball camp!) were so upset to have missed!


Le Coin Commentaires
Did you enjoy Michael Wrenn's account of his visit? Can you help to answer Michael's question: Why do we like France so much? Just what is it about "la Douce France" that has us longing to return to l'Héxagon? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, in the comments box.

French Vocabulary

la Douce France
 = sweet (beloved) France; a common moniker made even more popular by a Charles Trenet song

l’Hexagone = a euphamism for France, based on the shape of its borders

un petit bonus = a little extra, an added bonus

un tresor d’or = a golden treasure

un professeur = a teacher, professor

les calins (m) = caresses, displays of affection or pets (of affection), in the case of animals

les cigales (f) = cicadas, a locust-like insect found in the South of France, known for its chirping sounds

un autocar = a tour bus

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             Thank you, Nicholas Howell, for these pictures!


MY HABIT is Amazon's new private fashion sale site offering up to 60% off hand-picked styles from designer & boutique brands, featuring apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories. New sale events start every day and typically run for 72 hours. Click here to discover MY HABIT.

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Language and Love
"King of Spain": please don't miss the Gallic love story of how I met my husband... and mistook him for un roi. Read the introductory chapter to my book "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language", click here. (The photo, above, was taken (by Jules) on Mother's Day, several weeks before our 17 year anniversary).


Capture plein écran 11072011 093235
Has anyone read this book? I am wondering whether or not to order it!: The Summer of Katya: A Novel

In the golden summer of 1914, Jean-Marc Montjean, recently graduated from medical school, comes to the small French village of Salies to assist the village physician. His first assignment is to treat the brother of a beautiful woman named Katya Treville. As he and her family become friendly, he realizes they are haunted by an old, dark secret . . . but he can’t help falling deeply in love with Katya. Read customer reviews, here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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