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Entries from June 2012


Flowering artichoke (c) Kristin Espinasse. So sad to have lost this beauty in our garden. Thankful to have saved its seeds!

A big thank you to the ladies who welcomed me yesterday to their bookclub in Marseilles. Merci beaucoup Cari, Julie, Agnès, Andrea, Anne, Cris, Olivia, Lisa, and Christiane for reading Words in a French Life and for your very encouraging feedback--as well as for the cheers to keep on this writing path!

Today's picture: Last winter's frost killed many of the lauriers roses,  or oleanders, in our part of the Vaucluse. Here at home, we lost this flowering artichaut; the local bees used to buzz round and round it, attracted by its bright purple fleurs.

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    : to buzz, hum; to drone; to murmur

Audio File:
listen to Jean-Marc's sentence in French: Download MP3 or Wav file

Pendant la période estivale, lorsque la nature, les fleurs et les vignes expriment toute leur beauté, les cigales, les abeilles et les taons bourdonnent autour de nous. During summertime, when nature, the flowers, and the vines express all their beauty, the cicadas, the bees, and the gadflys buzz all around us.

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

The following story was written one year ago...

The Sound of Wheat

The morning Mom left I fought the urge to crawl right back into bed. I might have slept all day, behind closed shutters, in a room as dark as a smarting heart. I didn't dare "go there"; instead, there was work to do including stories to write and beds to make. Besides, who could sleep with all the racket outside the bedroom window?

I tuned into the sounds filtering in from the countryside, where the grapevines are so full of leaves you can no longer see the ground beneath their green canopy. Rising from those mysterious depths was a familiar buzz one hears only in summertime: les cigales. They were awake now—only, much too late for Mom to enjoy their song! What should have been an exciting event—the first cicadas of the season!!!—left me feeling even more saddened. What a dirty trick played by the trilling "tree crickets"! They might have had la courtoisie to appear one day earlier in time to tickle a dear mother's ears!

Following Mom's departure, it took a forced change of perspective to set a despondent daughter back on track and, finally, I had an inspiration: Wasn't that, after all, a clever way for Jules to exit: on the wings of cicada song!

In the spirit of changing perspective—and not letting a sunken heart color reality—I headed out to do some errands and discovered that the technicolor world outside my door was still intact.

There was that field of bright yellow tournesols, just outside the town of Orange—yet another first of the season.  I regretted not pulling over to the side of the road to snap a picture of so many sunny faces. Perhaps I would get back to it?

And there was that roadside fruit stand—a one-woman show featuring a grandmother, a rickety old bagnole, and a trunk filled with abricots à gogo! It was a little too late to stop for those and so I sped on by....

After finishing errands I found myself rushing home and wondering about that change-of-perspective that I had set out on. What was the point of good intentions when, in the end, you were not willing to stop and look and taste and listen! I'd missed the cicadas, I'd missed the sunflowers, I'd missed the rickety trunk of apricots!

In a whirl of regret, I almost missed the brightness entering my car from the side. I turned to its source and began to gaze at a striking champ de blé!

Pulling off the side of the road I lowered the car window and wondered: Have you ever listened to a field of wheat? Stick your ears out now! Écoute! The sound is gloriously sizzling! 

I sat silently, letting the melody of wheat, along with the lazy, late-spring breeze, envelop me. Earlier, I had rushed right on by the other splendors of the countryside, and here was my chance....


Cars sped by but it was the wheat that now captured my eyes. I could just see the braided wheat tips crowned by those bleached feathery locks. Each blade of wheat might have been a soulful singer and an endless field made for a mesmerizing chorus!

I shook my head in appreciation. And I asked once again, Have you ever stopped and truly listened to the sound of wheat?


Not everyone has the chance to live near a field of grass. But many other mind-altering melodies surround us. Share some of your favorite sounds with us here the comments box or leave feedback on today's edition.


Book Update / Editing help needed!  Help proofread the storyVadrouille! Please click here to begin

French Vocabulary

la cigale = cicada

la courtoisie = courtesy

le tournesol = sunflower

la bagnole = car (jalopy)

un abricot = apricot

à gogo = galore

un champ = a field

de blé = of wheat

écoute! = listen! 

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The next wine-tastings here at the vineyard are on July 3rd (4pm), July 12th (5pm), and July 16th (4pm). Leave a message here in the comments box, or via email, to reserve your seat beneath the mulberry tree!

Photo above: Jean-Marc is gearing up for another honey harvest. We are saving jam and pickle and mayo jars... getting ready for the next mise-en-bouteilles! Read about the previous honey bottling in the story "The Control Freak and The Honey Harvest"

Meantime, Jean-Marc continues to make wine! Here's some good news: Domaine Rouge-Bleu is now available in Japan! Order our wines online here.

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend! 


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Flower steps
In case you're wondering: my husband gave me permission to write the following story! Here he is with his tattered and sagging sacoche. (side note: the bag has been on its last leg since 2004, and just keeps going and going and going!) Photo taken in 2010 in Caltagirone, Sicily. 

fouiller (foo-ee-ay)

    : to rummage through something (a pocket, a drawer)

Audio File: hear Jean-Marc pronounce the following French sentence: Download MP3 or listen to Wav file

À l'hôpital d'Orange j'ai fouillé dans la sacoche de mon mari. At the hospital in Orange, I rummaged through my husband's bag.

Mas la Monaque

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

Several weeks ago, after rushing Jean-Marc to the emergency room, I was asked by the night shift nurse to provide my husband's papiers d'assurance. Zut! I was afraid the nurse would ask for those! 

They had to be in here somewhere.... I set Jean-Marc's sacoche on the counter, unbuckled the tattered leather flap and began searching for some papers—the kind my husband would have folded and stuck into his wallet... or maybe in a side pocket? After a few fruitless attempts at locating the insurance documents, I tapped on the glass divider window to alert the nurse.

"When you find them," the nurse persevered, "pass them to me here." As he spoke, he pointed to a little cutout in the glass wall, through which I could transfer the needed paperwork.

"Il n'y a pas le feu!" the infirmier assured me. No, there was no rush. An emergency room visit in France could last three hours or more! That ought to be enough time to go through the entire contents of Jean-Marc's sacoche, which was something between a briefcase and a men's purse. My husband has a mobile office inside that bag! and room for a bottle of wine or two, which he tucks inside whenever he visits his cavistes in Marseilles or Paris or Portland. Finding those papers inside Ali Baba's* bag was going to be an adventure!

Entering the salle d'attente, I noticed a handful of other accidental insomniacs. Like myself, they had found themselves here in the middle of the night because of an accident or illness of a loved one.  The gray-haired woman, seated alone, looked distraught—though the young twenty-something women with the toddler running between them seemed bored. I took a seat next to the man with the dark mustache and beard, facing the pretty young women.  I wondered whether they knew each other? To whom did the child belong? The brunette or the blond? Was the man the grandfather?

No time to play connect-the-dots, I needed to find those insurance papers! Still, I couldn't help wondering what sort of catastrophes had struck the others' loved ones? Perhaps, they were wondering the same about me?

Only a dislocated shoulder, I would assure them... if perchance they happened to ask. When they didn't, it was the least I could do to maintain a cheerful demeanor to reassure them. On second thought, perhaps I looked a little too happy as I sat there rifling through my husband's bag?

Perhaps they thought I was taking advantage of my husband's absence... to go searching through his private affairs? That's it, they think I am snooping! 

After all, no sooner had I sat down in the waiting room than I began rifling through the manly sacoche. Obviously it was not my own. They knew it was my helpless husband's! In their eyes I might be nothing more than an insecure housewife taking a cheap shot at uncovering some sort of double-life of the man who had disappeared into the emergency room!

 Just when I began to suspect—and even invent—a few more condemning thoughts coming from the others in the salle d'attente, my eyes fell on a little piece of paper inside my husband's bag. As I studied the scratchy handwriting the room around me disappeared completely. Gone were the paranoid imaginings, gone was the connect-the-dot curiosity. A bigger question began to form in my consciousness.

Just what was this? My heart thumped slowly as I pulled out the flimsy piece of paper, letting the bag fall aside. 

I read and reread the handwritten notations which appeared on a cut-out piece of paper (wallet-sized) which seemed to be part of an official document; it read:

Je soussigné (here, my husband had written in his name, in all caps)... exprime par la présente mon choix de la crémation après mon décès. Je demande que mes cendres soient (here my husband had filled in the blank line to read "...que mes cendres soient) déversées dans la Méditerranée"... to which he specified "(Marseille)."

I (here, my husband had written in his name)... presently express my choice of cremation after my death. I ask that my ashes be (here my husband had filled in the blank line to read "... that my ashes be distributed in the Mediterranean sea"... to which Jean-Marc specified "Marseilles)."

A few fearful and mysterious moments passed before I regained awareness of where we were in the grand scheme of things: we were OK—especially HE was OK (only a displaced shoulder!), and this was just some sort of carrying card—a cremation card (did we even have these in the States?), dated September 2004, a card that I had not seen before, for whatever reason. But everything was all right. Any such events were in the far future... only, some of us had thoughtfully left instructions in the event of....

 My poor dear husband, ever so responsible! Though I was surprised by the carrying card, I was not surprised by Jean-Marc's instructions. I might have guessed. I only wish I had the courage to write some instructions of my own, and to imagine as beautiful a resting place one day, far off, with him. Yes, the Mediterranean!


Post note: Aside from the sea, I had always imagined we'd be buried near to each other, something that may no longer be ecologically friendly or feasible? Though, I hate the thought of drifting away from my love!


Voilà -- difficult topic tackled! Is this too creepy or upsetting a subject to talk about? Would you be willing to write your burial (drifter?) instructions on a carrying-card? Have you? Do you know what your parents' wishes are? Your spouse's? Your significant other's? Are you too superstitious to talk about it?

Thanks for sharing here in the comments box.

P.S. I finally found the insurance papers! They were next to Jean-Marc's organ donor's papers from France ADOT. In addition to those, I found Jean-Marc's Carte Nationale de Donneur de Sang Bénévole

For more about organ donation, do not miss The Story of Nai, by reader Maureen Templeton-Adams. The story begins very close to home, here at our vineyard. Begin reading here.


Hello red-penners. I hope you see this note. Please have a look at the story Pissenlit (on similar topic as today's story!) and let me know if it's a keeper or a loser. See the comments box at the end of this post, to leave edits or suggestions. Thanks!

French Vocabulary

le papier d'assurance = insurance paper

zut = darn!

la sacoche = satchel, bag

la salle d'attente = waiting room

Il n'y a pas le feu (Il n'y a pas le feu au lac !) = there's no rush! (literally "there's no fire on the lake")

un infirmier, une infirmière = nurse

un caviste = wine seller

Ali Baba (from the popular French expression une caverne d’Ali Baba, or "vast collection of things")


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Christine cmkmax
Chris visited us a few years ago and I meant to post her photo... getting to that now! Next time we'll get a close-up!   Left to right: Jean-Marc, Chris's cousins Elizabeth, Heather, and David, Chris's hubby Fred, Kristin, Christine (that's Chris!), and daughter Laura

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend! 


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

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♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Writers and artists know all about gleaning, or le glanage--they regularly glean for ideas and inspiration! Here's Robyn Mixon's painting "Chez Domaine Rouge-Bleu." (See Robyn's photo farther on.)

glaner (glah-nay) verb

   to pick, to gather, to glean


Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following text: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quand vous ferez la moisson dans votre pays, vous ne moissonnerez pas vos champs jusqu'au bord, et vous ne glanerez pas ce qui pourra rester de votre moisson; vous laisserez tout cela au pauvre et à l'immigré. - Leviticus 23:22

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you.


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

In the dramatic opening scene of her memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls is riding in the back of a New York taxi, wondering whether she has overdressed for the party to which she is headed, when she sees something that knocks the wind right out of her Park Avenue sails.

Out there on the curbside, an older woman wearing rags is rooting through a dumpster. On closer look, the garbage picker is Jeannette's own mother! 

As I read the page-turner memoir, I could only imagine how a daughter's heart seized up on seeing her intelligent, artistic, and once athletic mother resort to rooting through the trash. What had brought her to this? And, more curiously, why was the waste picker smiling?

It wasn't until I saw the fascinating documentary, The Gleaners and I, by French filmmaker Agnès Varda, that I began to see this touching scene quite differently, and even to recall a few gleaning episodes of my own. Before writing about those, I will share some of the eloquent descriptions I gathered from viewers' reactions to The Gleaners:

... a wonderful documentary that reminds us of how much we produce and waste in the world and how the disenfranchised (and artistic) make use of that waste to survive... The characters Varda encounters are equally compelling and interestingly are not portrayed as whiny or blameful of others for their situations: they simply state how they live and we are left impressed with their ingenuity. (anonymous)

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when we are introduced to a wizened Chinese man in Paris living at home among a heap of dumpster gleanings. He has taken in a boarder—a happy-go-lucky black man who hunts the day long for discarded food and items that he himself will repair and give away to those less fortunate than himself. "Somebody might need this," the ragpicker says. Evenings, the Chinese man will cook up the dumpster chicken in one of the ovens that his resourceful roommate has brought home. As the men prepare to dine together, seated on crooked chairs and ever amazed by their "fortune", I have to reach over and hit the pause button. Have you ever seen such sweet faces, such sparkling eyes, than on these two lovely men who care for one another and for others? 

In another scene, we observe a clean-cut wirey man stooping here and there as he scours the market stalls in Paris at the end of market day. Here and there he pops a broken piece of celery or apple or lettuce into his mouth... "Beta carotene! Vitamin K! I'm a biology major," he explains, adding that though he earns a salary, he still needs to eat and by the way, he's vegetarian! He admits that cheese is a little more difficult to find, but there's plenty of tossed out bread. We later learn that though he holds a scientific diploma, this biologist chooses to sell papers outside the train station. In a touching "who'd have thunk it?" scene, we see the same garbage picker volunteering his time, each evening, to teach refugees English. His carefully illustrated blackboards featuring, among other objects, a handdrawn bike and its phonetic word equivalent, attest as much to his selfless and caring soul as to his professionalism and skill.    

There are several other heart-awakening moments in which Agnès Varda steadies her lens on the outcasts who in turn teach us more about the art of living than we will ever glean from the pages of any New York Times bestseller on the subject. The rag-wearing, sometimes toothless characters could write volumes on the subject. Meantime they have more meaningful pursuits: getting by, while managing to smile at life. 

As for my own dumpster days—as a priviledged child—I'd root unselfconsciously through the trash bin (one we shared with the neighbor), ever amazed at the ongoing source of riches (in this case--cans of Hamm's beer which could be recycled for cash after stomping the cans flat!). Our neighbor, a single, middle-aged woman, regularly replenished the trash bin with this blatantly underestimated source of income! I began to feel sorry about her loss, which to me related to her pocket book and not her liver health (I had no idea that all those cans equalled addiction). 

I regret losing the desire to salvage things (publicly, at least, though the occasional foray through a stranger's trash still happens), but I am grateful to live here in France, where gleaning is alive and well and rooted deeply in the culture! How many times during family outings has an uncle or a cousin or a grandma stooped to pick up a tumbled down apricot or a chestnut, or paused to uproot a lonely asparagus or a bunch of herbs from the edge of a neighbor's yard. "Have you seen what they charge for this at the markets?" my in-laws shake their heads. Soon they'll make up a fresh batch of herbs de provence--more fragrant and delicious than can be found on any supermarket aisle. 

When my husband returned from the States after his multi-city wine tour he brought me an unexpected surprise: two charming rush-bottom chairs!

"I found them in the airport parking lot," Jean-Marc explained, "beside the dumpster." I admit, if he had brought those home 15 years ago--as a consolation gift for his two week absence, I might have been hugely disappointed! Nowadays, I don't want the ill-fitting T-shirt that he had quickly rung up at a pricy airport trap shop. (I'd rather have a couple of bars of chocolate, or, in this case, some adorable chairs!) 

Each time I look at the chairs, I feel the same kind of affection one feels when looking at some of the characters in Agnès Varda's documentary. They are quirky. They are imperfect. They are charming. They are lovely. And, as one of the men in the film said, "they are needed."


I hope you will enjoy Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I as much as I have. Read more about it here. (View the first part of the documentary at the end of this post.)

 If you haven't read her memoir, order Jeannette Wall's Glass Castle. You won't be able to put it down!

Related posts: Read about Abbey Pierre and his mission to care for the homeless. Click here.

 Le Coin Commentaires
Please share your own gleanings on "the gleaning life". Will you admit to dumpster diving? Or do you find it repulsing? What sort of finds have you dragged home (from a field or a trash can or a market stall -- apples? bread? parsley? (one homeless man in the video called the parsley he found "a lovely bouquet"). Thanks for sharing your thoughts here in the comments box.

I could watch this video again and again -- which means it is a welcome addition to one's video library! Don't forget to order a copy of Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I (click here), the DVD includes a "Two years later" segment, in which some of the characters in the documentary are revisited. The documentary makes a thoughtful gift for any Francophile or for anyone interested in art or movie making or frugality or recycling. Order it here.

 Helpful Customer Reviews:

Film maker Agnes Varda turns her camera lenses toward modern day gleaners--the poor, the dispossessed, the ecologically aware and the alienated--to paint a new but still somewhat romantic image of those follow along behind the parade of life, picking through its remains. - Jean E. Pouliot

I enjoyed seeing parts of France not normally seen on the screen or by tourists. In fact in some ways this documentary could serve as a kind of travelog so widely does Varda and her camera travel about the French countryside and cities. - Dennis Littrell

This isn't just about people surviving as scavengers. That's some of it, but it's also about people making art from left objects/trash, and some have philosophical views on the waste our society produces. - Wendell

 Click here to order The Gleaners and I

Robyn & Al Mixon
To my left are artist Robyn Mixon and her husband, Al, who joined us for the May 16th wine-tasting.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Bunk Beds (c) Kristin Espinasse
"Bunk beds". Smokey (upper bunk) and Braise demonstrate one of today's vocabulary words: les lits superposés. (P.S. Thanks to 14-year-old Jackie for her helpful photo styling. She managed to get our dogs to bunk together. Not an easy task!) Thanks to The Dirt Divas, Doreen and Malou, for all of the beautiful flowers that are currently thriving in my garden!

BlossomingBlossoming in Provence is a book of essays on French life. Each colorful vignette is salt-and-peppered with French words in context, making language learning facile comme bonjour!

When you order a copy in paperback or in e-book format, your purchase helps to support this free French word journal.


*Note: to read this book on your computer or other mobile device, you may need to download one of the free Kindle Reading Apps.

le lit (leuh lee)

    1. bed
    2. layer (of earth, ash, potatoes...)
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Audio File: Today, listen to Jean-Marc read the French words in the next two columns! Enjoy! Download MP3 or Audio File

le lit pliant = folding bed
le lit d'ami = spare bed
le lit conjugal = marriage bed
les lits superposés = bunk beds
les lits jumeaux = twin beds
le lit à baldaquin = four-poster bed with canopy 


faire lit à part = to sleep in separate beds
faire le lit = to make the bed
au lit! = time for bed!
clouer au lit = to be stuck in bed or bed-ridden
mourir dans son lit = to die of natural causes

Reverse Dictionary

bed head (hair)= les cheveux chiffonnés
bed linen = la literie
bed wetter = un pissenlit (Note! This term is pejorative--except when using its original meaning: "daisy")
water bed = le matelas à eau
to go to bed = se coucher
to go to sleep (child) = faire dodo
to get up on the wrong side of the bed = se lever du pied gauche 

BOOK UPDATEFor our Red-Penners or voluntary editors... here is the next chapter in the Vignettes book I am working on. Let me know if the four paragraph story "Tourterelle" is something to keep... or something to delete! Click here.

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

Things that come to mind when I think of French beds.


French beds are narrower than the beds in California King-size America—though bigger beds are catching on, and you can now find draps measuring 180 x 200 cm.


What about bed skirts? The translation exists (le cache sommier) but where are these clever hide-its? Are they the exception (like shower curtains?) in France?

And now's the time to talk about pillows, which are square or tubular and not often rectangular. The tubular pillows even have a name: le traversin (does the name come from the pillow's way of traversing the head of the bed?)

Note: the traversin may also be known as le polochon (bolster), from which we get the term "pillow fight": le combat or la bataille de polochons! (But you can still say bataille d'oreiller, if you prefer!)


Apart from mezzanines, French beds tend to be lower to the ground. I know a few French women who put blocks beneath the foot end of the bed. The elevation seems to soothe their jambes lourdes.


Funny bed-associated words like le sommier (box spring), le drap (sheet), la couette (duvet), le pot de chambre (chamber pot), la bouillotte (hot water bottle), la moustiquaire (mosquito net)....


Back home we call those plastered morning locks "bed head". Here, the French call this condition les cheveux chiffonnées. (Update, thanks, Millie, for writing in with these French synonyms: cheveux ébouriffés, cheveux indisciplinés, cheveux fous)


Smokey offers a popular solution to bed head, or les cheveux chiffonnées: le chapeau!

Smokey says, "Dad and Mom get bed head too! The condition is embarrasing to Dad (just look at that expression on his face!). Mom could care less about messy hair--give her a cookie and all vanity goes out the window!" (Sam, pictured left, and Mama Braise).

Le Coin Commentaires

What are your minimum requirements for a good night's sleep? Have you ever slept in a French bed? Do you keep something to drink on the table de nuit, or nightstand? Windows and curtains open or closed? Ear plugs or background noise? Click here to join in the discussion.

French Vocabulary

le traversin = bolster (pillow)

les jambes lourdes = legs that feel heavy

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Hotels in France. Visit to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.  


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We end this lit edition with a makeshift bed and a question: where is your favorite, coziest place to sleep? Leave your answer here, in the comments box.

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a marmot. (une marmotte = someone who loves to sleep)

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


The sky above Mont Ventoux.

 s'éteindre (seh-tehndre)

    : to go out (flame), to die

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 file or Download Wav file

Une jolie lumière s'est éteinte. A lovely light has gone out.

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

A lovely light goes out...

Gus and Paulette wrote to tell me the sad news. Jeanne (aka "Charlotte") passed away on Friday, June 15th. Elle s'est éteinte à l'âge de 92 ans.  

"The captivating lady has passed on..." Gus wrote. "She was a remarkable woman, so full of life and a wealth of knowledge about France and the United States."


The last time I saw Jeanne, she looked so stylish in her slacks and avant-garde sweater.

"I love what you're wearing!" I whispered.

Jeanne looked down at her outfit, admitting: "I heard that you admired the jacket I wore last time I visited. I didn't want to let you down—so I was careful to dress up again!"

For a moment, I remembered what I had written about Jeanne, in a recent post. I had meant to write a colorful tribute to her (in honor of her colorful personality), but ended up hastily posting a photo, at the end of the edition, quickly noting our first encounter. Here's that photo and that hastily written caption:


Jeanne moved to the States in 1946. Though she visited France over the years, she only moved back recently, to be near her son. 

...Jeanne's mother spent the last 19 years of her life with Jeanne in the US... During a cross-country road trip, in which wizened mother and daughter discovered the States, Jeanne explained, "Mom never needed to stop to eat or to go to the bathroom! She just wanted to get back into the car and take off!" 

Jeanne's mom, who lived her life in France (minus the last nineteen years in the States, with Jeanne), answered her daughter's telephone with a polite, but question-stopping greeting: "I do not speak English," she said noncommitally.

Jeanne's mom wanted to join the French army... but just shy of 1 meter 50, she was not tall enough. In the picture, above, you can just spy Jeanne's lovely turquoise blue, brocaded jacket. Don't let her elegance intimidate you--she has a sense of humor that could relax a panel of politicians (which, by the way, is as much as I know to say about the current elections. I VOTE JEANNE!!!) Jeanne, come back and visit sometime!

Despite my pasted-together "tribute," Jeanne did return, soon after, to join us for another wine tasting. As we giggled beside the picnic table, Jean-Marc stood at the other end, giving his Domaine Rouge-Bleu presentation. We had a full group at the May 1st meet-up. All eyes were on the speaker, except when the giggles began again, at which point some of that attention may have dispersed.... 

 "I'd better quit talking," Jeanne said, and I quickly made the same vow: no more asking Jeanne questions until after the wine presentation!

We sat like that in silence, one of us now focusing on the speaker, the other still focusing on Jeanne. I noticed the classic accessories she wore: the gold stud earrings and matching necklace, un collier boules Marseilles. Unmistakably French! No matter how many years Jeanne lived in the States (over 50—ever since an American soldier fell in love with her in WWII Avignon...), she carried her Frenchness with her, via these golden touches and a very thick and charming accent.

That charming accent directed itself toward me, once again, as Jeanne asked, in whispered tones about my writing. I tried to explain the kind of stories I share—snippets of life in France. Jeanne chimed in that she loved writing too—letter-writing! But correspondence was becoming a lost art, Jeanne explained, adding, "and when people do write back, the letters are so boring! They lack imagination!" More chuckles erupted as we commiserated about the writing life. 

There were so many more questions I had for Jeanne, who encouraged me to stay in contact. 

"Come and see me in Avignon," she offered. "I would love to show you around!" Her French-American son, Richard—who had brought her to the wine-tasting—seconded the offer. "Come when you like," Richard said, in an American accent so different from his mother's. "We'd be happy to see you any time."

That was May 1st. I planned to visit Jeanne in the coming weeks, perhaps by the end of May? before the busy summer picked up.... I would wait no later than June. I would at least call! We might go to lunch and then go and see Jeanne's childhood home, at the Chartreuse, a former cloister. Yes, that would be a good plan! 

May flew by and mid-June came soon enough, along with the news of Jeanne's passing.


Like the clumsy letter-writers that Jeanne affectionately "complained" about, I have struggled here to find the words to honor my newest friend, who passed away unexpectedly—before I could know her better. As Gus noted, above, Jeanne had so much more to share with all of us. She told me that she might like to write her memoirs, via a series of letters. I secretly hoped she would send them to me. Jeanne's life was so much more interesting than any of the biographies or novels I'd read. More than a character, Jeanne a.k.a. "Charlotte" is a legend.

It is the French translation to this well-known song that speaks to me most. I hope it is a fitting closing to this tribute.

Ta chandelle s'est éteinte bien trop tôt. Mais ta légende restera à jamais. Your candle's burned out long before your legend ever will.


 This story is dedicated to Jeanne's son, Richard, and to Jeanne's friends Gus and Paulette—and to all those whom Jeanne has touched


Post note: It is thanks to Gus (pictured above) that I met Jeanne. Gus won the key that I wrote about here. It was thanks to Mom, who picked Gus--after reading his comment.

With special thanks to Gus's Paulette, who met Jeanne decades ago, in America, when both French women joined a group of French women expats. Paulette, thank you for sharing your Jeanne with us!



Jeanne, standing beside Maxine, who visited us for the May 1st tasting. Photo by Steve Tomashefsky. I regret missing the chance to have my own photo taken with Jeanne. Thankfully Steve got this beautiful photo of Jeanne and one of her admirers.

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

la SPA

Goose in Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
Note to self: hunt for wooden goose to put in upstairs window.  P.S. find wooden door beads, curvy curtainettes, and exotic leafery to dress up front door. What else is needed to charmify? Leave your answer in the comments box and play The Door Dress Up Game with us. What other animal might you replace the bird with? Would a bench or a chair add that bucolic air? Click here to comment.
la SPA (es-pay-ah)

: Société Protectrice des Animaux

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

La SPA, ou la Société Protectrice des Animaux... c'est dans un refuge similaire où on a trouvé Braise, qui nous a gâté deux ans après avec Smokey! The SPA, or Society for the Protection of Animals... it is in a similar shelter that we found Braise, who spoiled us two years later with Smokey!

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

 Today, a trip down memory lane...


Smokey learns to walk... thanks to a little nudge from Maman.

No, dear Smokey—only snakes can advance in this belly-to-the-floor fashion!

Encouraging kisses are allowed. One more bisou from Mama Braise and you're off!


Smokey, you're a natural! Allez! Keep truckin!


Smokey would now like to turn your attention to one of his favorite causes: La SPA! No, Smokey says--it's not where dogs go for a seaweed wrap or a mud mask! La SPA, as you have learned in today's post, is an animal protection/adoption organization in France. Even if you aren't looking to adopt an animal, you can take needed supplies--or even a donation--to your local shelter. Quelle bonne idée!

Smokey's Question du Jour:  What kinds of supplies do animal shelters need or accept? Colliers? Friandises? Couvertures? Help build this list by adding a suggested item, here in the comments box.

 And many thanks to the friends at SPA de CARCASSONNE for keeping us aware of the needs of some of our homeless friends.

French Vocabulary

coucou = hi there!

le petit mot = little message

la maman = mom

le bisou = kiss

quelle bonne idée! = what a good idea!

le collier = collar

la friandise = a goody (snack)

une couverture = a cover 

Following Wednesday's photo of those love-locks in Paris, you will enjoy Kaaren and Ricard's article "Locking for Love in all the Wrong Places" -- wonderful photos, too!


Pictured here with Uncle Jacques, "Kiwi" is a SPA girl too! Cousin Audrey (her French wine blog, here) rescued her.  Have you ever adopted an animal from a shelter? Share your story here, in the comments box.

When you buy a copy of Blossoming in Provence for your Kindle, your purchase helps support this free French language journal. 

 Please forward this edition to an animal lover!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.

la bourde

love-locks (c) Kristin Espinasse
After hearing about them and viewing the photos, I was very excited to visit some of the love padlocks, or love-locks on one of the bridges in Paris. Some fear that the growing number of cadenas d'amour pose a threat to the city's cultural heritage. I snapped this photo when I saw the "Honey Bunny" lock (in green, a little to the left)... once upon a time, our daughter's beloved and thread-bare side-kick went by the same term of endearment!

Got a Kindle? Looking to quickly increase your French vocabulary? Download "Blossoming in Provence", now in ebook format!  

la bourde (boord)

    : blunder, slip, mistake

 The French definition for la bourde is "une erreur grossière" and a synonym is la bévue.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word, these expressions, and the example sentence below: Download MP3 file or Wav file

faire une bourde = to goof up
raconter des bourdes à quelqu'un = to lie to someone 

Avez-vous entendu la bourde de Valérie Trierweiler sur Twitter?
Have you heard Valérie Trierweiler's slip on Twitter?

Note: This should read "Avez-vous entendu parler de..." or "Did you heard about...."

 Cui-cui! Tweet-tweet! Follow French Word-A-Day on Twitter. Click here.>

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

While everybody is so busy focusing on yesterday's Twitter fiasco or la bourde made by the French president's girlfriend... I'll slip in, now, to admit to an embarrasing blooper of my own—one that went pretty much unnoticed last February... when I reposted a story about a dear reader's death.... 

When the sympathy comments began flooding in, I realized my gaffe—that of failing to have mentioned that the post was une rediffusion! I just wasn't thinking! (I'm not sure the same could be said about Valérie Trierweiler and her boo-boo.... but then what business is it of mine to divine another's actions? It's enough work keeping my own behavior in line!)
Meantime, I trust our dear Ginny—who passed away in 2006—would find the humor in it, and would agree that, after all, we are only human.
Though Ginny passed away six springs ago, her character remains timeless. It is an honor to include this vieille dame de Californie (Ginny's own words) in the next story collection. Please help me to give Ginny the very best tribute, by joining me now, to edit this next chaper titled "Faire-part". 
Click the following link to begin editing:

French Vocabulary
la bourde = blooper
une rediffusion = rerun, repeat
la vieille dame de Californie = the old woman in California
le faire-part = announcement (of birth or marriage or death) 


Summer is here. Celebrate this with a glass of Rosé from our Rouge-Bleu vineyard ! 


Readers Diane and Gary visited us on Thursday. Fell in love with their sweet dogs!


Here's another photo of their dogs, Bonnie and Clyde. (Clyde is seated on Gary's lap.).

Our next wine-tasting is June 19th (and again on June 26th). If you can make it, leave a message in the comments box to reserve your seat beneath the old mulberry tree!


Smokey loves those love-locks, or cadenas d'amour in Paris, and he has a smokin' solution for the authorities who see them as a threat.... Get busy, Authorities! Dépêchez-vous!

Thanks for forwarding today's post to a friend who might enjoy it!

Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Very excited to tell you that Blossoming in Provence is now available on Kindle! Click here if you would like to order, and many thanks in advance!

un mouton (moo-tohn) noun, masculine
1. sheep, sheepskin
2. mutton
3. fluff (dust); piece of fluff

moutonnier, ière = sheeplike

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and the following expressions: Download MP3 or Wave file 


compter les moutons = to count sheep
un ciel moutonné = a sky covered with little white clouds
doux comme un mouton = as gentle as a lamb
le mouton noir = the black sheep of the family
être un mouton = to be easily led (to go with the crowd)
un comportement moutonnier = to behave like sheep
revenons à nos moutons = let's get back to the subject
un mouton à cinq pattes = a rare bird (person)


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

I meant to write a story about rooting through Jean-Marc's sacoche and finding something completely unexpected. Sitting there, in the emergency room, it took a few moments to recover from the découverte, and I will never forget what I learned that day about my husband. 

You'll have to wait for that story (please remind me if I haven't written it by next week!), as it is now time to edit the next chapter in Vignettes from the Var—so get out your red pens and click here to begin!


 Pictured, below left, Jean-Marc and his sacoche.

French Vocabulary

le sacoche = bag 
une découverte = find, discovery 


A sure gift for a Francophile--or a treat for yourself!:
I told you about this super cool Paris Metro cuff—a design find of my mom's! In case you missed it last time, here's the info:

Metro cuff
Paris Metro Cuff! It also makes a wonderful conversational piece -- to wear on your wrist.  A wonderful "conversation piece" for your wardrobe. Order one here.


That worried look... or is it one of supplication?

A Day in a Dog's Life: The Smokey Chronicles continue...

Braise (with eyes closed): Son, don't lose sleep over it. Compte les moutons!

Smokey! D'accord!... un mouton, deux moutons, trois moutons....

Braise: Zzzzzz.....

Smokey: Ma...

Braise: What is it now Smokey?

Smokey: J'ai faim! 

Braise: Well then quit counting sheep, Fiston! Count your blessings instead! Bon nuit, Smokey!

SmokeyFais de beaux rêves, Ma!

compter les moutons = to count sheep

d'accord = OK

un mouton, deux moutons, trois moutons = one sheep, two sheep, three sheep

j'ai faim = I'm hungry

bonne nuit! = good night!

fiston = son

fais de beaux rêves = sweet dreams

Petit chien, petit soucis! Little dog, little worries. When Smokey was a pitchoune, or "little one" ( photo taken Nov. 2009)


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


In Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse
                                          Recently, in Paris.

claquer (klah-kay)

    : to slam

Audio File: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence: Download Souler or listen to the Wav file

Ils n'arrêtent pas de claquer les portes et de hurler. Ça me soûle! They don't stop slamming the doors and shouting. It's driving me crazy!


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

(Click on the following numbers to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this story)

Pulling into the hotel parking lot I recognized Jean-Marc's voiture (the only one in France with an Obama sticker on the back). I was alarmed to see he had taken a place in the guest parking, one of two slots reserved for short-term stationnement. Ever since checking into the motel and receiving the 5 % discount, I had struggled to keep a low profile—and now here was my better half about to sound an alarm of indiscretion!

I hurried into the hotel, Jackie following close behind. Arriving at room 229 I recognized my husband's voice and understood that he was already on the phone, complaining to the front desk! This was a very bad idea given that there were only supposed to be two people in room 229 (earlier, I had requested a standard "chambre pour deux personnes"). Would the hotel now tack on a supplement for the extra person who just showed up? Worse, would we be accused of aiding and abetting a freeloader?

I would need to explain again our unusual situation to the hôtelier: we were in fact, the three of us—husband, wife, child—demeuring at the hotel for a short while. Some of us (Jackie and I) would stay the night, while others (it appeared) would appreciate a short reprieve from the noisy festivities going on back at home, where our 17-year-old was about to kick off his first all-night fête! Many of the teens had already arrived and a total of 35 would show up in the night.

Bon, no use worrying about our unofficial status any longer: my husband was now in charge (indeed, the room had been charged, in part, on his card!), so now HE could deal with the hôtelier, for he was now, officially, un client payant!

Time to put my mind at ease—if we were ever to get on with this weekend retreat! I set down my shopping bags and consulted, in my mind's agenda, my earlier plans :

...after the shopping, Jackie and I would stroll back to the motel for a swim, this after a nap and before an early dinner (just a few healthy snacks we’d pick-up at the supermarket), after which we'd tuck in early—one of us with a good book and the other with reality TV... what a mother-daughter mini-vacation this would be!

Some mother-daughter vacation! I watched, unbelievingly, as my husband settled in to my side of the bed—where I was to have my nap!—to watch the tennis match. Apparently Rolland Garros was underway. Jean-Marc grumbled about the statical TV (his reason for complaining to the front desk manager), but soon he was absorbed in the game.

I crawled over Jean-Marc, propped my pillow (minus the one he had snapped up!) against the headboard, and cracked open my book. That is when the solicitations began.

"Pousse-toi!" Jackie said, arriving with some just-washed strawberries. I did as my daughter ordered and scooted over, but not without reinstating my authority:

"Go and get a bath towel to put those on, or else those strawberries will stain the sheets!" I couldn't stop thinking about our duty as model hotel guests. How ironic it would be for our room discount to turn into a bill for damages!

Sandwiched in, now, between my daughter and my husband, I tried to concentrate on my book in spite of the noisy tennis balls and the drippy fraises. But when Jean-Marc asked me to pass him the snacks, I began to tick.

Tossing my husband the sack, I watched him dig in to my bag of chips and gulp down my bottle of water!

Well, if I had known he was going to crash our mother-daughter party, I would have bought snacks for all three of us! And I would have brought another pillow, too!  And now, what with the drippy strawberries, that makes only one towel to share among the three of us! 

No use muttering about it, it might hurt Jean-Marc's feelings... speaking of which, just what was he feeling and thinking before he left the house and the revelers?

"So what are your plans for tonight?" I casually inquired. I didn't want my husband to feel unwanted--even if this was mother-daughter territory onto which he had trespassed! Besides, he was partly paying for the room....

But a deal was a deal! Jean-Marc had agreed to chaperone the all-night party and had gone along with the idea of my taking advantage of the occasion by inventing the mother-daughter getaway vacation which was, presently, turning into a mother-daughter-father flight from the farm! 

"I thought I would take you to dinner," Jean-Marc explained, "then get a little rest before going back to the house."

"At what time?" I hoped not to sound unwelcoming or pushy, but I was curious to know just when our girls getway weekend would commence again.

"At one a.m."

One a.m.?! But Jackie and I had planned on getting a good night's sleep (hadn't we left the noisy  house for this very reason?) and tucking in early... and now we were doomed to hear the sounding of an alarm after midnight!

I was a little ashamed at the unwelcoming impulse which was revealing itself from deep within my soul (a selfish soul, after all?) Nevertheless, I pointed out a particularly threatening inconvenience:

"But there is only one bed here!"

"We'll make room." Jean-Marc was unconcerned. He reached into the bag for another handful of potato chips, before I snapped up the remainder.

"Give me that!"

So much for an evening spent reading beside the cozy table lamp! My place just got moved to the middle of the bed!

After a greasy all-you-can-eat dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, we retired early so that Jean-Marc might profit from a few hours' sleep before returning to the party to chaperone the rest of the evening.

By now I had resigned myself to sharing our cramped quarters with my husband, to giving up a quiet evening of reading and snacking in bed (the snacks quickly disappeared during Rolland Garros, and there was no use trying to read without a table lamp nearby!). So when Jean-Marc switched out the light, I tried to find a comfortable position between two notorious bed-hoggers. At least no one would steal the covers tonight, for I would be in the middle! With a bit of luck, the warmth might induce drowsiness and soon I'd be off to dreamland... just as soon as Jackie quit fidgeting and Jean-Marc quit grumbling.

"That is the last time I will eat at a greasy buffet!" my husband complained. It seemed he had a bellyache.

Quelle idée to go back for thirds and fourths! And bright idea to sample the Chinese wine! Maybe stick to a Rhône wine next time! I kept my opinions to myself, concentrating, instead, on the calm and peace that would come—surely a reward was in store for this patient martyr! Only, no sooner had Jean-Marc nodded off than a distant thundering began. 

It wasn't Jean-Marc's snoring, for it lingered beyond my husband's noisy breathing. The sound grew louder and louder until I could begin to recognize voices. Foreign voices!

A couple of tour buses had just arrived.

Soon the hallway was alive and kicking with Indians and Russians. Trampling up and down the hall, they searched for their rooms, jammed their credit-cardlike keys into the doors' lock boxes. 

 "Good night, sweet dreams!" The Indians wished each other, over and over and over, again. Funny how they were dabbling in English, here in France! Normally I would have found their gestures and accents endearing—if it weren't all so unnerving at this time of day. Nearly midnight!

Jean-Marc snored through it all. Jackie began to grumble. Ils n'arrêtent pas de claquer les portes et de hurler. Ça me soûle! 

I startled each time another door slammed... and then the music began! What on earth? The laughing and merrymaking continued until my mind came to grips with the invasion... and gave in. I fell to sleep.

When Jean-Marc's alarm sounded at 1:30, I woke up to a quiet room. The tourists had finally gone to sleep! After a noisy exit of his own (Jean-Marc had to slam the door—not his fault, as every door at the motel requires a good tug shut as evidenced by the tourists' slam-fest we endured earlier!).

Alas, I patted Jackie on the back, our mother-daughter rest had commenced! We drifted off to sleep, so nearly at peace.... When every alarm in our wing of the motel began to ring. It was now 5 in the morning!

Jackie and I listened to the tourists' wake-up calls, one of us amazed by her poorly executed plan to get away for the weekend—the other complètement dégoutée!

"Mom," Jackie cried. "We would have been better off at home in our own beds!" 

*** THE END! ***

 (Click the following links to read  Part 1 and Part 2 of this story)

Post Note: Max enjoyed his party. Jean-Marc drifted off to sleep at 4:30 a.m. (after Max turned down the music). Braise and Smokey received a special pass to sleep upstairs, in a room farthest away from the noise. Jackie and I checked out of the motel by 10, feeling a bit jet-lagged but happy to be home again! 



French Vocabulary

la voiture = car

le stationnement = parking

une chambre pour deux personnes = a room for two people

un hôtelier, une hôtelière = a hotel-keeper

une fête = party

bon = right

un client payant = a paying client

pousse-toi! = scoot over!

la fraise = strawberry

Ils n'arrêtent pas de claquer les portes et de hurler. Ça me soûle! = They don't stop slamming the doors and shouting. It's driving me crazy!

complètement dégouté(e) = completely disgusted



Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
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Outside Shakespeare & Company bookstore. 

Changed emails? Sign up here to receive French Word-A-Day at your new address. (To unsubscribe the old one, look for the "unsubscribe" link at the end of a recent newsletter.)

Along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, I saw this window display and thought of my daughter's room: wouldn't this be a neat way to hang pictures? Notice the horizontal bar at the top. Next, all Jackie needs to do is hang strings--then attach the frames! I thought my design-savvy mom would appreciate this one. Speaking of Jules, here's a cool accessory she found on-line:

Metro cuff
Paris Metro Cuff! It also makes a wonderful conversational piece -- to wear on your wrist.  A wonderful "conversation piece" for your wardrobe. Order one here.


Something tells me Mom would like this one, too... maybe it's that Frida Kahlo cape of hers that has me thinking it? No, it must be the wonderful cross!


Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! A contribution by check or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

To purchase our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Framed! (c) Kristin Espinasse.
Calm restored. A pensive reveller after the all-nighter! 

hurler (eur-lay)

    : to shout, to shriek, to scream or yell out

Audio File: Hear Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence: Download Souler or listen to the Wav file

Ils n'arrêtent pas de claquer les portes et de hurler. Ça me soûle! They don't stop slamming the doors and shouting. It's driving me crazy!


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

Freedom! Almost...

(Today's story is continued from Part I)

I left Jean-Marc to sulk at the picnic table—no use three of us moping around!—and stole away with our daughter to Motel IBIS. Freedom! The inn by the motorway is only a ten-minute drive from home, and when I mentioned this fact—along with the reason for our overnight séjour there—the hotel manager offered an unexpected 5% discount! Perhaps he had teenagers of his own and was familiar with The All Night Party from which Jackie and I were fleeing?

I hadn't meant to marchander with the hôtelier, though I was happy to accept the remise—even if I felt a slight pang of obligation (Would Jackie and I, as recipients of the room discount, now have to be on our best behavior as model guests? Was this duty worth the 3 euro 50 cent remise? Did the monetary favor mean that we could not complain should we be surprised by bedbugs or lumpy pillows?). The freedom I had felt moments ago, on leaving my husband with the burdensome chore of All Night Party Chaperone, began to diminish as Jackie and I gained new responsibilities here at the discounted hotel.

We used the card key to enter room 229 (careful not to slam the door...) and were relieved to find a light and spacious place to rest. There was a flat-screen TV and air conditioning—something we didn't have at home! I had to turn up the temperature it was so cold, not that I would complain to the manager. Jackie went to toss out her gum, but when she could not find a poubelle, I handed her a piece of paper in which to dispose it. There was no way I was going to ring the front desk to inquire about a trash can the minute we claimed our discounted room. 

Ah well, never mind. I tossed my own pillow on the bed, pleased to have some extra comfort for when we were to relax into the "reading and TV watching" part of our mother-daughter getaway weekend. 

Also in our plans was a leisurely stroll over to the mall, en face. Time now to venture out! Only, when we returned outside, the sun was beating down, just as it had been at the boys' barbecue. And just like the boys, we weren't wearing sun hats! When Jackie complained about my decision to drive the short distance to the shops, I had to remind her that I could no longer tolerate the sun's burning rays. So much for our arm-in-arm amble.

At the mall I did not give in to my 14-year-old's pleas for the Will Smith T-shirt or the classic Tropéziennes sandals (though I wouldn't have minded a pair for myself. Look at the orange ones! No, the black or nude passe-partouts would be more reasonable...).

                (photo taken in St. Tropez, in 2005)

I didn't buy the Tropéziennes, but did fork out some cash for two Teddy Smith bandannas (in red and in black). At 4 euros per foulard, such a folie wouldn't threaten our getaway budget too much. Jackie was thrilled and immediately tied the black one around her wrist. "Ça fait très rock-n-roll!" I assured her. I have always admired her fashion sense and her ability to mix the classic with the "can't-be-tamed".

Next, it was time to shop for those healthy snacks I had imagined we'd dine on, in bed, while reading and watching TV. When Jackie chose strawberries, I told her she could have them, but warned her not to stain the hotel sheets!  What good was a room discount when you racked up a bill for damages?
At the grocery store I was reaching for some baking soda (speaking of keeping things clean—here was a natural remedy!) when Jackie's telephone rang. Zut! It was the unlucky chaperone calling from home! We had not been gone two hours and here he was, already checking in on us! Checking in indeed....

"It's Papa," Jackie whispered, holding her hand over the receiver. "Il est à l'hôtel! He wants to know where we are and what we are doing!"


Click here to read the end to this story


French Vocabulary

le séjour = stay (visit)

marchander = to negotiate the price of something (story, here)

le hôtelier, la hôtelière = hotel manager

la remise = discount

en face = across the way

Tropéziennes = a classic leather sandal from St. Tropez 

passe-partout = good for all occasions 

le foulard = bandanna, scarf

une folie = a splurge 

Ça fait très rock-n-roll = you look so rock-n-roll

zut! = darn!

il est à l'hôtel! = he's at the hotel!

 (Cui-cui! Tweet-tweet! Follow French Word-A-Day on Twitter. Click here.)


A Trip Down Memory Lane... La Ciotat, 2003.

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From the photo archives: Père et Fille. Father and Daughter. Jackie is 5 years old here, learning to snorkel in La Ciotat. That's Jean-Marc assisting la petite nageuse.

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In she goes, our little snorkeler. Elle va nager avec son masque et son tuba. She's going to swim with her mask and her snorkel.

My husband could live on the sea in an old bateau pointu. One day he'll fish for daurade and I'll meet him half-way to the kitchen, a basket dangling from my arm, un panier brimming of fenouil and citrons from the potager. We'll have lunch beneath the ancient olive tree, bees buzzing in the distance over at Jean-Marc's 5-hived miellerie. Oh, to dream, to dream!


Build up your French vocabulary:

le panier = basket (see Smokey modeling one, near the end of this post)

le fenouil = fennel

le citron = lemon

le potager = kitchen or vegetable garden (click here if you love to garden)

la miellerie = honey factory

Jean-Marc found these chairs at the Marseille airport, in the trash by the parking lot. Knowing what a sucker I am for homeless chairs (here's one found in a dump in Sicily...), he brought the orphelines back for me. Here are two more Italian finds; and the story about their stowaway, here.


Faire le poireau? La fin des haricots? Oh, purée! Read a delightful feast of an essay, Communicating in the Language of Food," by Joe Lurie

Also, join me in checking out French Girl in Seattle

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Another of those classic bateau pointus we talked about, this one in the bay of Giens, near Hyérès.


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