l'heure bleue

L'Heure Bleue. The Blue Hour in Ovada Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
A magical hour in an ancient town: Ovada

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l'heure bleue (leuhr bleuh, listen to MP3 or wav) noun, feminine

1) the blue hour, the magic hour... crepuscule, twilight... the hour between daylight and night when the sky's luminosity draws artists out of their studios to see light's last glimmerings.


    2) the hour (between 5 and 7) in which one meets their lover before returning home from work, to one's spouse

L'heure bleue, the blue hour of twilight when the sky and the earth are at the same level of luminosity, when well-to-do gentlemen throw open the shutters of their mistresses' rooms and stretch and yawn and think about returning home. -Michael Bywater, The Independent

And, from Wikipedia: "The phrase is also used to refer to Paris immediately prior to World War I, which was considered to be a time of relative innocence."  (The Blue Hour)
 


"Soul of Creative Writing" by Richard Goodman
Because French often places its modifiers after its nouns, there is a kind of poetry that English cannot, because of how it works, achieve. So, for example, there is the French expression, l'heure bleue, which refers to that often shimmering time between the hours of daylight and darkness. We say “the magic hour” for that concept. It's sort of sad to write that next to l'heure bleue. French knows what to do here. French knows that the concept of “blue” is critical; that time of soft, subtle waning is about hue. French knows that emphasis should be on the idea of blue, but also that sufficient strength is given to the idea of the hour, to l'heure. L'heure bleue sounds like subtle magic
. From The Soul of Creative Writing, by Richard Goodman. Order a copy.


  

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

Happy Bastille Day! Just like firecrackers streaming through the air... here and there... the following story veers offtrack (I was supposed to reveal the fashion victim of our latest story. You'll just have to "patienter"... meantime, here is an episode that took place just before the fall from fashion grace.)


Following the usual routine, having stepped out of the shower (so as not to say "douche"), I rifled through my husband's trousse, snapped up the stick of Mennen Musk. Summer in the canicular South of France requires an extra-strength solution! Not that that should keep a woman from using un déodorant d'homme in wintertime. 

Having applied a generous coat of protection optimale, I reached into my overnight bag for the pretty bottle of L'Heure Bleue, the one I had selected years ago, as some choose books or lovers: by their covers. My neighbor and friend, D, had helped me pick out the perfume during a crash course on French fragrance, there in a little beauty boutique in Draguignan. How I had hesitated between "The Blue Hour" and "Coco" by Chanel, choosing the former for its name, as some choose entrees on a menu. L'Heure Bleue... it spoke to the supposedly suffering artist inside of me. She was in there somewhere, wasn't she?  

L'Heure Bleue won out. The cut glass flask and its little flourish of an étiquette spoke of art nouveau, transporting the scent-wearer to fin de siècle Paris, over 100 years ago... the Paris of the past... alas!

But here, in 21st century Cassis, the air in the cramped hotel bathroom was now redolent with manly musk: a cause for hesitation.... With my finger posed on the perfume pump, I began to doubt. Might these scents clash somehow? 

The muse answered as she is wont to do in situations which call for an artist's hup two...
 
H
ere, here, a suffering artist must start somewhere! Give no thought to the outcome. Spray it onand with abandon. Remember—the idea is to continually risk rejection! 


Fortified with fragrance, I stepped out of the little loo, sporting strong musk and a feast of florally feminine dew. I could have sworn my husband wavered as he walked ever so unsteadily toward me. He looked a little faint, mind you. And his face, the color of it, was... sort of... bleue


:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome. Click here to comment. Merci d'avance!

French Vocabulary

la douche = shower
la trousse (de toilette)
= toiletry case
une étiquette = label

  L'Heure Bleue perfume
 The perfume l'Heure Bleue by Guerlaine
Introduced in 1912. Fragrance notes: a floral blend of orientals with powdery undertones. Order it here.



 Marseilles soap Savon de Marseille (Marseille Soap) with Pure Crushed Local. Gentle and moisturizing. World-Famous Since 1688 Flowers. Click here to order.

Coco Before Chanel 
 Audrey Tautou shines in this intriguing portrait of the early life of Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, the orphan who would build a fashion empire and be known universally by her nickname, Coco. She journeys from a mundane seamstress job to boisterous cabarets to the opulent French countryside, possessing little more than her unwavering determination, unique style and visionary talent. Click here to order this film.


Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter - handcrafted by artisans to last for generations. Order a cookie cutter here.


  

Interviews, photos, videos from our farm and beyond!

=> See a video interview from our kitchen at Scott's Alaska TravelGram!

=> Visit Pat & Lew's blog and see photos of their visit to our farm, Domaine Rouge-Bleu

=> Bonjour Paris scroll down to Counting Cicadas: naptime in the South of France

  Cicada
 cicada photo by Dave Prout (married to one of our dear Dirt Divas, Doreen.)

 

 

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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choper

Grignan Roses (c) Kristin Espinasse
A rose-lover's Shangri-la: the village of Grignan. (Just don't steal the flowers... or the sweetness.... read on in today's story column. 

choper (sho-pay) verb

    : to steal, to nib; to catch

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3 or Wav file)

Il a chopé un rhume / He caught a cold.
Elles ont chopé le sucre du bistro. / They nabbed the sugar.


Les Synonyms: dérober = to purloin chiper = to swipe, filch piquer = to pinch, to nick


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

When your aunt and your uncle are in town for under a week... you've got to be picky and choosy about just which postcard pretty places you'll take them to see.

Grignan was a must! Its chateau, overlooking the vine-flanked valley, and its perched, rose-petaled village, were once the residence and the stomping grounds of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote prolifically to her fille. Picture so many words showering down from the chateau, falling like tears of joy, watering all those heirloom roses, from "Autumn Sunset" to "Gipsy Boy".

The flowers steal one's attention making it is easy to be attracted to this rose-rampant "rise" in the French sky. Their colorful petals pull your eyes up the narrow paths or calades, past the boutiques and the art galleries until you are overlooking the patchwork paysage of Provence. After your eyes expand over the valley, they are drawn back in to the skirt of the citadel, which bustles with café life.

There, at the Brasserie Le Sévigné my aunt, my uncle, and I sipped caffeine from colorful tasses de café. Feeling that after-lunch slump, we were content to let our ears do the walking and we listened as they bent here and there capturing the various conversations, most in French, though some were accented in English "city" or "country." I wondered if the two ladies at the next table were from London? Then again, what do I know about the topography of talk or "accentry"?

Finishing our cafe crèmes, we stood up to leave.  I called over to my aunt, motionning to the sugar packets before her (we were each served two packets with our cup. Having only used one-half of a sugar envelop I was slipping the rest into my purse. I had seen my aunt do the same at the previous café.... "Waste not, want not," she had explained, offering another of her affectionate winks. I figured I could give my aunt the extra sachets de sucre for her train trip to Paris the next day. (It is always good to have a little blood sugar boosting sucrose on hand when traveling.)

"And take that one, too!" I encouraged, pointing to the unused sugar packet in front of her. 
Just then, I caught sight of the English women at the next table. They were watching wide-eyed.

Caught red-handed, I had no choice but to finish shoving the second packet into my purse and I cringed when I realized the sugar envelope was open and showering down granulated sweetness, mixing with the contents of my purse.

My dear Aunt, her back to the would-be whistle-blowers, was unaware of our unseemly circumstance. "Here," she said, handing me her unused packet of sugar. Meantime my uncle voiced our actions, as my uncle is wont to do: "Oh, what's that? You are taking some sugar? I see."

The problem was, others were seeing too! And, what with my uncle's commentary, we were a terribly conspicuous trio.

"Put. It. In. Your. Pocket!" I snapped at my fellow sugar-snatcher. But my aunt stood there, her arm extended like a red flag, sugar packet waving like the drapeau of death. It seemed to take hours for that sugar packet to reroute itself into my aunt's pocket and I stood startled-eyed until the lightweight loot disappeared.

As we turned our backs on the café, my aunt overheard the condemning comment at the next table as one woman spoke in a disapproving tone, pointing out our petty theft to her table-mate. "They've taken the sugar," she reported.

Half-way to the getaway car and my aunt and I were giggling, "They've taken the sugar!" we laughed, lacing our voices with disappoving English accents. My uncle got into the back of the car, scratching his head in confusion, having missed the episode completely. Meantime, I started the engine and my aunt hopped into the passenger's seat and when she did she winked at me:

"I've got the sugar," she confirmed. "Hit it!"

With that, we peeled out of the pretty postcard town, bidding goodbye to a proper Madame de Sévigné and leaving, in the sugar dust, the would-be whistle blowers with their cups of unsweetened tea.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Your comments are the best part of French Word-A-Day. Thank you for taking a minute to send feedback on this edition... or share an anecdote of your own. Click here to comment.

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...................................................................
A Day in a Dog's Life... by Smokey "R" Dokey
...................................................................

DSC_0263
A wooden deck under construction... and two pooped contractors.

Smokey says: you haven't heard much about us lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy... in a bucolic, sleepaholic way.

P.S.: support French Word-A-Day by shopping at Amazon via the following links. Thank you!

Sweatshirt
 

 

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French

Sweatshirt "Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur

France Magazine subscription

Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Refreshing mosterizing mist: vine therapy by Caudalie

 

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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roupillon

Roupillon (c) Kristin Espinasse
See the little sign hanging from the clothespin (lower left)? The faded writing reads "Je suis couchée" ("I am in bed"). Leave it to the French to post such warnings out front their doors! Discover the sleepy town (and sleepy inhabitants...) of Mirabel-aux-Baronnies in today's story column.


roupillon (roo-pee-yon) noun, masculine

    nap, siesta

piquer / faire un roupillon = to have a nap, rest.


Sound File & Example Sentence
Download MP3
or Download WAV file

Pas loin de Nyons les gens se couchent, ils font des roupillons.
Not far from Nyons, the people lie down, and take a nap.


.

A Day in a French Life...
Kristin Espinasse

"Naptime Near Nyons"

Over fragrant French hills and through grapevines teeming with leaves... past fruit trees, branches bowing, weighted down by cerises*... beyond, count them, un, deux--au moins trois--églises*... there lies the old tattered town of Mirabel-aux-Baronnies.

I wander up and down its sleepy streets, see a faded sundial, a fish-faced fountain, and a church steeple. In private gardens acanthus and purple lavender grow... but where, I wonder are the townspeople?

Through an arch in a stone wall I follow a path goudronné,* climb stairs up to the nestled village, traverse a few placettes*. There are lauriers-roses,* passiflore,* jasmine--and yet--where are the gardeners, where are the locals?

A clue and an answer lie just around the bend, beyond a beaten bamboo fence... where a citoyenne* lies sleeping at the front door, in the hall entrance! There, flanked by a narrow door frame, a cot has been placed; in it, a dozing dame!

I can just spot her twinkle toes, at the edge of the bed, a draped door curtain covers the rest, hiding her sleepy head.

The sweet scene is the most delightful and quirky yet -- it is everything I love about France: eccentric, original, authentic.

I tuck my camera under my arm and walk on. They say "Let sleeping dogs lie" and, of sleeping dames, well--it's not polite to spy!

*     *     *

Post note: I have only ever seen humans stand in a doorway... until I moved to France, where the French are wont to pull up a chair (or a cot) flush with door-sill, and watch the world walk by, or simply be still.

Comments, corrections--and stories of your own--are always welcome and appreciated. Click here to access the comments box.

Note: there are several photos that accompany this story. Don't miss them in an upcoming photo bouquet over at Cinéma Vérité! (In tomorrow's photo blog we'll enjoy over 15 pictures of Hyères--and another character!).


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

la cerise (f) = cherry; un, deux--au moins trois...églises = one, two--at least three--churches; goudronner = to tar; la placette (f) = "little place" (square); le laurier-rose (m) = oleander, rosebay; la passiflore (f) = passionflower; la citoyenne (le citoyen) = citizen


In books: because today's topic touches on the art of living (something the French might have learned from the Italians?) I thought some of you language lovers might appreciate this new book:

Bella lingua La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language
by Dianne Hales

A celebration of the language and culture of Italy, La Bella Lingua is the story of how a language shaped a nation, told against the backdrop of one woman’s personal quest to speak fluent Italian.

For anyone who has been to Italy, the fantasy of living the Italian life is powerfully seductive. But to truly become Italian, one must learn the language. This is how Dianne Hales began her journey. In La Bella Lingua, she brings the story of her decades-long experience with the “the world’s most loved and lovable language,” together with explorations of Italy’s history, literature, art, music, movies, lifestyle, and food in a true opera amorosa—a labor of her love of Italy.

Three Random Words:
nier = to deny
oyat (m) = beachgrass
PV (p.-v.) (procès-verbal) = fine (speeding, parking ticket)

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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French words goéland, muette, profiter, detente, marais, nommer & Giens Peninsula

Une mouette or un goéland = seagull
Is there a difference between un goéland & une mouette (French words for seagull)? Photo taken at the old port in Giens, the peninsula near Hyères.

détente (day-tant) noun, feminine

    : relaxation, easing

synonym: relâchement (loosening, slackening)

Audio file & Example Sentence:
Download MP3 or Download Wav File

La sieste consiste essentiellement en un repos du cerveau. Elle suppose une relaxation mentale suite à une détente physique. ("La sieste serait bénéfique à la santé" Le Bien Public)

 

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

I am lying on a sandy beach somewhere in the Giens* peninsula. My suitcase is packed, the floor is swept, et je profite,* taking advantage of the two hours that remain until check-out time.

But before I check back into the real world again, post four-day family vacation, there remains the here and now, no matter how dwindling, with its soaring seagulls, its whoosh of gentle waves, and its soft, rocking chatter of voices along the salt-scented marais.*

Not far from the pungent salt beds, or salins, and the picket fences that line a grassy, dotted-with-daisies-this-time-of-year marsh, other families, like my own, are planted along the plage* unwilling to budge lest that hamster wheel, nommé* "Overkill,"* return too fast, reach into a newly-rested soul (where Peace, the sacred prize, resides), and hasten to shake, ravage, and steal.

*    *    *

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
Giens peninsula =
seaside town near Hyères; et je profite = and I take advantage; le marais (m) = marsh; la plage (f) = beach; nommé (verb nommer) = named; Overkill (hamster wheel) = work, when unbalanced with life

.

DSC_0343

Three Random Words:
infâme = vile, unspeakable, loathsome, despicable

parsemer = to sprinkle with
antirides = anti-wrinkle

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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parole

 

Courtyard in Rochegude (c) Kristin Espinasse
In the moss-covered village of Rochegude... a courtyard, above, located beside the writer's den that I mentioned in a recent post.. 

 

parole (pah-rol) noun, feminine

 

   : lyrics; word (spoken)
. 
 

 

Audio File: Hear Aunt Marie-Françoise pronounce the French word "parole":Download Parole   Download Parole

À la parole on connaît l'homme.  --PA Manzoli

 

Help translate today's quote? ...or share one of the dozens of French idioms and expressions that go with the word "parole" ("avoir la parole facile", "perdre la parole" "tenir sa parole"...). Thank you for using the comments box.

  

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
A Photographic Interlude in the town of Rochegude 

Of the many ruelles that wind through the picturesque French town of Rochegude, at least one is carpeted green. "If red stands for royalty," I reflect, snapping a photo of the floor beneath me, "then green must stand for "grace"--and if I were a queen I'd walk on green!"

 

 

DSC_0049

Stepping down some softly sovereign stairs made of stone and thick with moss, I spot a modern day carriage at the end of the path: it is, in fact, a classic car by today's standards. Admiring the shiny new paint on the Renault Quatrelle, I wonder: will the old bagnole be a good subject and, if so, how to best capture it?
. 

"Make room for the lantern," I begin coaching myself, looking through the camera lens to the street light above. "And don't leave out the Town Hall... Oh--and it would be good to include these!" I think, looking down to the path before me, where a line of smooth, round rocks fills in what may have once been an eye-sore of a gutter. I notice how the stones add style to an otherwise ordinary cement landing, one which follows those velvety stairs.

Renault 4 or "4L" or "Quatrelle" (c) Kristin Espinasse

 

Approaching the old Quatrelle, I notice there is writing on the back, just beneath the window, and soon find myself singing the old tune that those words represent....

 

"Baby you can drive my car.... "

DSC_0050  

All but leaning onto the hatchback, I am now chuckling at some Frenchman's tongue-in-cheek finishing touch over that new cherry red paint: "Beep Beep, Yeh!"  Back in the States, it is common to see stickers on the backs of cars (wisdom in under a dozen words) but, here in France, such free philosophy is reserved for friends--and, occasionally, for enemies (during a traffic altercation or, in retail, when a sales clerk smarts back... or even when she doesn't).
. 

I begin snapping several photos of the car when a woman with a stoller passes, only to stop in her tracks. I lower my camera in time to smile at the baby and to answer the woman's inquisitive stare. "C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas?" I offer.
. 

Like that, Stroller Woman and I strike up a conversation ranging from old cars and collectibles... to joblessness and even weight loss! I learn that Stroller Woman suffers from phlebite and has just returned from Bollène, on foot, as part of her new exercise regime.
"Walking is the best sport!" I offer, cheering her on, happy to think up something to say.
. 

When we have exhausted our repertoire of "Small Talk for Complete Strangers," conversation comes to an abrupt and embarrassing halt.
. 

"Do you have internet?" I ask, the thought crossing my mind to post the photos that I have taken, along with a story, and thereby recruit a new reader--never mind that she can't read English.
. 

"No," Stroller Woman says. "But I will give you my phone number!" I am caught off guard by the stranger's offer and, after an initial hesitation, I search for a pen.

"By the way, what does it say?" she asks.
. 

I follow her gaze, over to the English lyrics on the old Quatrelle.
. 

"Oh, that's a song from the 60s," I answer, taking a clue from the "Sixties" signature on the car.

Stroller Woman looks at me, expectantly, and I so I prepare to translate the song lyrics:
. 

"Chérie, tu peux conduire ma voiture.... Non...  c'est pas ça.... euh..."*

.
I give it another go:

"BEBE, tu peux conduire ma voiture..."
. 

Just then, another villager--and friend of Stroller Woman--appears, greets my one-woman audience, and ignores me. I nod, clear my throat and decide I'm performing for two. Best to start fresh with the lyrics:

 

"Bébé, tu peux conduire ma voiture!" My eyes are now bright and I think I've got the swing of it.

 

"Oui! Je vais être une star!I enthuse, now wiping my lashes, which are soaked with tears due to the cold morning air.
. 

"....ET bébe JE T'AIME!" (This part automatically escapes my mouth and when I look over to the words on the car, I notice these particular lyrics are missing! In my embarrasement I skip quickly to the end):

 

"BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP -- YEH!"
. 

By now I have to dry my eyes with a mouchoir, the wind having picked up and, with it, the rate with which my tear ducts pour out their watery, cold air barrier. When next I look up I notice my new friend, Stroller Woman, has disappeared! This, before I have even had the chance to give her my phone number.

 

I see her now, a little further up the street, making what looks to be a getaway--beneath the protective arm of a friend.
. 

The two walk away slowly, cautiously--as one walks away from Insanity, or Madness... or simply a tone-deaf damsel in distress.
.
BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP YEAH... YEAH? Hey... HEY!!! REVENEZ! COME BACK!



Le Coin Commentaires

Feedback, corrections--and stories of your own--always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!


Quatrelle (c) Kristin Espinasse

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Renault Quatrelle (Renault 4) = kind of economy car with a hatchback, see it here; la bagnole (f) = slang for "car"; la phlébite (f) = phlebitis; C'est rigolo... cette voiture, n'est-ce pas? = It’s amusing, this car, isn’t it ?; Oui! Je vais être un star! = Yes, I’m gonna be a star!; le mouchoir (m) = handkerchief

 

 

Books & More....

Young Adult reading: Vidalia in Paris  

 

Paris inspired art work sign:  Wall Clock - Café Du Parc
 

Lavender : all natural Provence Imported *Lavandin*

 

Film feature: The French Revolution (History Channel)

 On July 14, 1789, a mob of angry Parisians stormed the Bastille and seized the King's military stores. A decade of idealism, war, murder, and carnage followed, bringing about the end of feudalism and the rise of equality and a new world order. The French Revolution is a definitive feature-length documentary that encapsulates this heady (and often headless) period in Western civilization.


 

 

 

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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saisir

DSC_0043
I wanted to move right in, on seeing this little gem (and writer's den?)--yesterday morning in the town of Rochegude. More photos after the story column, below. photo © Kristin Espinasse

saisir (say-zeer) verb

  : to capture, to seize


Audio File: Listen to the correct pronunciation of the French word "saisir", and hear the conjugated verb. Mille mercis to my brother-in-law, Jacques, for lending his vocal chords!: Download Saisir Download Saisir


Verb conjugation: SAISIR

je saisis, tu saisis, il saisit, nous saisissons, vous saisissez, ils saisissent => past participle: saisi


Today, we are sharing idioms, expressions, and sayings related to the French word "saisir". Thank you for opening up your dictionary (hardbound or online) and contributing something here*, in the comments box.


A_day_in_a_french_life
In the town of Rochegude, I snake silently along narrow ruelles* flanked by towering French façades. The villagers are waking up, now if only the sun's rays would appear--and just where my camera lens might command them to. I stare at the chipped and broken façades, as one might a newborn: with eternal love and a fierce sense of duty: how much time remains in which to capture their still-charming faces before another bulldozer or careless commerçant* captures them first? I watch helplessly each time a glaring metal poster board is drilled into the side of yet another creaking, cracking cabanon,* covering up an old painted-onto-the-stones sign, one that apparently no longer earns its keep according to the gods of advertising. "Au diable!"* I curse them. Haven't you the heart for these endangered works of art?

DSC_0037

I will the sun to come out from behind the clouds, in time to liven the blues and greens in the painted shutters and the reds on the window sills that surround me. As it is, the colors are fade,* perhaps like the early-morning risers beyond the window panes, who'll soon powder their faces bronze--eternal summer in their hearts, though winter camps out on the window sill, weathering the tiles and whittling away at old, charming France.


***
Comments, corrections--or stories of your own!--always welcome, in the comments box, for all to enjoy:

More topics for discussion: Renovate... or rip down?: where does a culture conscious community draw the line? Share with us some laws that exist to protect France's architectural patrimony. What is most endangered across France's architectural skyline?


~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
la ruelle
(f) = lane, alley; le/la commerçant(e) = retailer; le cabanon (m) = stone shed, cottage; au diable! = to hell (with them !) ; fade = washed-out (also, tasteless)

                  
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Today's Quote~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      L'occasion. Notre seule pouvoir est de la saisir.
     The occasion. Our only power is in seizing it.
--Jean Grenier


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Shopping:

I loved the book "French Dirt", and for those who love to write, check out Richard Goodman's new book "The Soul of Creative Writing". See them both, here.

Savon de Marseille/Marseille Soap with Pure Crushed Local Flowers

Watercolor Journeys: Create Your Own Travel Sketchbook


DSC_0036
The castle at the top of the village of Rochegude.
DSC_0042
Ze little would-be writer's den: colorful even sans soleil.

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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bapteme

Bapteme
Woman in cart waiting to collect curative water at Lourdes

Many thanks to those who are translating the word of the day into other languages -- over at the new comments section! The latest translation, of yesterday's word "pancarte," is in Danish (thank you, Jens!). You'll find translations in Tagalog, Dutch, Pig Latin... and more. See the comments section at the blog and thank you for sharing your own language savoir-faire.

PS: That's right - "yesterday's word". The website was updated yesterday, though no newsletter went out. See the right-hand column to find the last five French words.


baptême (baah-tem) noun, masculine
    : baptism

French definition:
Baptême: un mot grec [baptizein] qui signifie immersion.
Baptism: a Greek word [baptizein] that signifies immersion.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A bit of background on today's story:

"The sacred grotto at Massabieille, near the town of Lourdes in southern France, appeals to Catholics as does no other place. This is the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, the place where Mary appeared to a humble peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 and spoke words of comfort and simple faith. At Mary's behest, Bernadette dug in the rocky soil of the grotto and struck water. A puddle soon became a spring that gushed forth waters that were recognized to have documented healing properties, baffling physicians and scientific experts. Some six million pilgrims visit Lourdes each year, making it the most popular place of pilgrimage in the world."

--from the book: Lourdes Diary: Seven Days at the Grotto of Massabieille


A_day_in_a_french_life
Entering the holy quarter of Lourdes, I paused to recall the pancarte* by which I had just passed.... Had it shown cameras as prohibited? Looking around, I tried to discern whether other visitors had appareils*... The woman in the wheelchair didn't. Neither did the man on crutches....

Petit à petit,* I began to notice the pilgrims around me, who entered the commune via various modes of transportation: on foot, on crutch, on a loved one's arm (or cradled there, protectively). There were many wheelchairs, and vintage blue carts pulled by pedestrians. I noticed that those who sat inside the blue carts had colorful afghans covering their laps, in contrast with their pale faces, and I figured that the blankets were hand-made by volunteers. Those who were not seated in the carts were lying in them -- helplessly flat on their backs, eyes fixed on the royaume* above.

Together, and in varying degrees of degeneration, the pilgrims advanced toward the golden church facade and the lingering inside me felt something like judgment day.

Looking over to my family, I saw three rosy-cheeked vacationers: my son, my daughter, and my husband. I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of: it was not our time yet... and hopefully it wasn't theirs either, I thought, my eyes returning to the pained pèlerins.* A scripture played silently on my tongue:

"Il y a un temps pour tout, un temps pour toute chose sous les cieux:
 un temps pour naître, et un temps pour mourir... un temps pour guérir..."*

For those surrounding us, flocking towards the holy waters, it was indeed a time to heal....

Like sheep, we followed one another until we reached a bridge and a fork in our path. To our right, there were long lines leading up to what must be the sacred site where the Blessed Virgin is said to have appeared in the grotto. Those in line must be waiting for a full immersion into the holy water there. While I was tempted to wait with the others, my family was pressed for time, and so we headed over the bridge, toward the church.

Clusters of people gathered at the side of the église,* around the corner from the entrance... On closer look, I saw the long row of robinets, or "push knob" fountains, that attracted the crowds. The pèlerins were busy filling empty bottles and gourdes* -- or any kind of portable container -- at what could be
called a self-service holy water bar.

Completely unprepared, my family and I didn't have anything to fill. Then again, my conscience reasoned, we weren't sick or ailing like the others, so why take healing waters away from someone who actually needed them? On second look, it became apparent that everyone had a need, for some of those water collectors appeared healthier than Olympic medalists.

"Venez,"* my husband said, noting an available robinet. The kids and I approached only to stand hesitant before the faucet. I reached over and pushed the knob. Out came the curative water, and I cupped my hands beneath the spout in time to catch it. I poured a bit of it across my husband's shoulders and cooled his neck, drip by drip, then patted my hands across his tired and weathered face. Looking into his appreciative eyes, I remembered the many trials that he lived through this past year, while setting out as a newbie wine farmer--this, while patching up a 17th-century farmhouse with the help of a sometimes flippant crew of workers--all the while answering, hit or miss, to the emotional needs of his family. By the end of December, he was no more than a sack of bones held together by one threadbare string of hope: he simply hoped to not fall apart. We were never certain whether or when the last frayed ends of that fragile ficelle* would snap, and the uncertainty was our own threatening noose, one we wore along with the constant knot of anxiety in our throats.

My husband's next gesture acknowledged that he was not alone in that difficult time: I watched as his hands reached up to his face, still wet with healing, before reaching out to touch my own. Suddenly, the dampness from his palms absorbed into my own pores with such a cathartic jolt that I had to turn away in time for the water to rush out, as it had done at the fountain, from behind the blinking eyes on my face.

This past transitional year, with its ups and downs, with all that was spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten, was now behind us, and here we were, still standing, each on his/her own two feet: with a home and a first vintage** to boot.... and two thoughtful kids who were now baptizing each other and their parents with splashing, sacred glee.

Walking out of Lourdes, the other pilgrims' pain was manifest: those crutches, the wheelchairs, the disfigurement. Hidden was the pain of those "healthy ones" who sometimes wear their anguish on the inside flap of the heart.

*     *     *
To comment on today's story, or to add the definition for "baptême" in another language, click here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
une pancarte
(f) = sign; un appareil (m) = camera; petit à petit = little by little; le royaume (des cieux) (m) = Kingdom (of Heaven); le pèlerin (m) = pilgrim; "Il y a un temps pour tout, un temps pour toute chose sous les cieux: un temps pour naître, et un temps pour mourir... un temps pour guérir... = (Ecclesiastes 3) There is a time for everything, a time for everything under the heavens... a time to be born, and a time to die.... a time to heal ; une église (f) = church; une gourde (f) = flask; venez = come here; la ficelle (f) = string

** first vintage = order Jean-Marc's first vintage! Contact Tim at French Country Wines (email: tms111@gmail.com ) for more info.


Shopping:
The Ultimate French Review and Practice: Mastering French Grammar for Confident Communication

Film: Rififi - Jules Dassin went to Paris and embarked on his masterpiece: a twisting, turning tale of four ex-cons who hatch one last glorious heist in the City of Lights:

Excellent French/English dictionary

In Music: Carla Bruni's "Comme Si de Rien N'Etait"

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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guerir

Lourdes
In southwest France: the commune of Lourdes (located in the Hautes-Pyrénees)

Bonjour! It is great to be home after vacation, never mind that one of us brought back sinusitis as a souvenir... but that isn't why today's edition is titled "guérir"... Read on in the following column for more...

guérir (geh-reer) verb

    : to cure, to make better; to heal

[from the Frankish "warjan" (to protect)]

French definition*: "délivrer d'un mal physique ou mental" (to deliver from a physical or mental illness)

*French definition from "Le Petit Larousse Illustre"

Audio file: Listen to my daughter, Jackie, pronouce today's verb and its French definition: Download guerir.mp3 . Download guerir.wav

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

We hadn't set out as pilgrims, but became so by circumstance. For our annual vacances estivales,* this family of four was headed west to a campground along the Atlantic coast of France when signs to the sacred town Lourdes began to appear--like the Virgin Mary herself--amidst fields of corn, and roadsides teaming with wild lilacs.

"We HAVE to stop! Lourdes--c'est à ne pas manquer*!" I said to my husband, quickly briefing him on the nineteenth-century French nun* who is said to have seen the Virgin Mary there in a grotto. Since the famous apparition, pilgrims have flocked to the southern French town from all four "coins du monde"* in search of mental or physical healing.

Jean-Marc hesitated over my request, reminding me of our campsite's check-in policy and the hurry that we were in to comply with it. But when he went on to add that, well, that didn't leave a lot of time to visit the holy town.... I nodded my head excitedly, only half-heeding his warning about a limited time frame. What I didn't tell my husband was that time was not a problem -- for a spiritual awakening can happen in the blink of an eye....

*     *     *

...more on Friday. To comment on today's word or edition, click this link. If you happen to know today's verb "to cure" in another language (Spanish, Russian, Italian, German, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese... Tagalog?...), please add it to the comments box. Mille mercis!:


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~References~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

les vacances (fpl) estivales = summer vacation; à ne pas manquer = a must see; nineteenth-century French nun = Bernadette Soubirous; coins du monde = corners of the world


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Shopping~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Provendi Revolving Soaps (you'll find these in the public restrooms at Lourdes!): "The practical and very neat Provendi revolving soap fixtures have adorned public school washrooms throughout France for years. Now they're turning up in the most chic places. Lightly scented, vegetable-based 300g soaps snap (new style) or bolt (original) on to the chrome-plated bracket rod and rotate with the motion of the hands."

French film: In "The Song of Bernadette" Jennifer Jones plays the legendary French peasant who claimed to have dialogues with the Virgin Mary at a Lourdes grotto in 1858.

Book: "The Song of Bernadette"."Franz Werfel, an Austrian Jew, wrote this historical novel about a Catholic saint to commemorate his narrow escape from the Nazis via Lourdes." --Audiofile.

Children's book: Saint Bernadette Soubirous: Light in the Grotto

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language ...

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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piquer

Piquer
My mom (in hat) swishing, scrubbing, and "swiping" a moment with strangers along a country road.

(October 5th 2007) Just a story for you today, on the eve of my mother's departure. Today's word, and the theme of the following chronique,* is "piquer" (pronounced "pee-kay"). While the verb means many things, it mostly means "to sting" (like what happens to the eyes, just before they water, upon a loved one's leaving). "Piquer" can also mean "to steal". Read on...
.

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

The French word "piquer" means "to swipe." It is my mom's favorite verb in French or English--not that she's a klepto--though you might call her a "clipper"...

In the town of Orange, Mom and I are studying plant life. Those municipal planters that lead up to La Place Aux Herbes are thriving and throwing out their green abundance from the suspended pots which line the neatly kept ruelle below.

"I always keep a little pair of scissors in my pocket..." Mom explains, regretting that she forgot her shears this time. She approaches a sumptuous planter and picks up an arm of ivy. When the green leaves feel like rare emeralds in her hands, I begin to have that uneasy feeling that Mom is close to committing another of her clippety-clip crimes. I look both ways, the awkward accomplice, while my mother reaches up and snaps off what she calls a "start".

"Mom! There is a policeman just around the corner!"
"Oh, pffft! To him, I am just an old eccentric woman out picking flowers. It's not like he is going to throw me in prison."

I take a good look at my mother, who I decide is indeed eccentric, though not old. From her silver crown to the soles of those stolen shoes she is the living, breathing definition of original--never mind where those soles originated from... She has swiped my son's tennis shoes, my husband's sweatpants and my very own T-shirt, which she wears as one of many layers under a tan windbreaker (I am not sure where she got the jacket, only that it is not her own). None of the items belong to her, least of all the conspicuous green branch hanging out of her (or whoever's...) coat pocket!

I decide to not worry about Mom. After all, she soon will be boarding a flight to Mexico, returning home, safe from the French flics. Meanwhile, all those parched plants out on my front porch have disappeared... in their place I now see a sumptuous emerald garden. As I look outside to those once neglected pots-now-come-to-life, I feel sick with sadness at my mother's imminent departure. Until she goes, I will steal, swipe and pocket as many moments as I can with my favorite thread and flowerbed thief.

***

French Vocabulary

la chronique = column, story

la ruelle = alleyway, lane

le flic = cop, policeman

Mom's favorite book... and wouldn't you know the hero's name is piquer ("Peekay"). Run, don't walk, and buy yourself a copy here.

French Before You Know It Deluxe--quickly learn to understand and speak French

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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noce

Collioures (c) Kristin Espinasse
Along a festive pedestrian street in Collioures, France


la noce (nohs) noun, feminine

  1. wedding; wedding party

En automne, je récoltai toutes mes peines et les enterrai dans mon jardin. Lorsque avril refleurit et que la terre et le printemps célébrèrent leurs noces, mon jardin fut jonché de fleurs splendides et exceptionnelles.

In the autumn I gathered all my sorrows and buried them in my garden. And when April returned and spring came to wed the earth, there grew in my garden beautiful flowers unlike all other flowers.
--Khalil Gibran

                                                                        Column_2

(The following story was written one year ago)


A stone's throw from the Spanish border, in a department of southwest France exotically known as "les Pyrénées Orientales," Jean-Marc and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary, or "noces de corail".*

For this onzième* anniversary, Jean-Marc selected the old fishing port of Collioures for our week-end getaway. "Because it is a typical French village," he explained. To me, this "typical French village" felt oh-so-Spanish, making it the perfect choice for a dépaysement.*

The colorful town of Collioure is surrounded by hills of vines which protect it from le vent* and is known to gourmands* for its grenache-based wines and anchovy trade. To artists, Collioures is treasured for its exceptional Mediterranean light. Matisse found the charming port back in 1905, after which the town became a meeting point for les fauvists.* Since then, artists like Picasso, Dali and Braque, and not a few tourists, have flocked to this bijou* of a village by the glittering sea, along the Côte Vermeille or "Gilded Coast" in the South of France.

While Jean-Marc sampled spicy reds in a wine boutique, I discovered the pastel-toned village via its maze of medieval paths. Flowering vines tumbled from the tiny balcons* and the scent of fermenting grapes permeated the air as local cellars processed the recent harvest.

After a quick aller-retour* up one of the streets, I checked in on Jean-Marc back at the wine boutique to find him swirling red in a gigantic glass, an air-tight pack of sardines-in-oil on the counter in front of him. "For the apéro*..." he explained.

Given another pocket of time to play with, I ventured farther into the cramped town center, noting art galleries à gogo, shops bursting with temptations such as striped espadrilles in red, yellow, bordeaux, orange, and green and stylish wicker baskets hanging from beneath the canvas store awnings. Dozens of restaurants poured out of the ancient buildings and onto the cobblestone paths
via clusters of tables and chairs. Small chalkboards with curly French writing announced the plat du jour* and the spicy aromas coming from the kitchens wooed weary travelers to sit down and literally savor a bite of Catalonia.

I reunited with my husband in front of the immobilier's,* just around the corner from the wine boutique, where he was looking at photographs of properties for sale. "Five hectares of vines!" he said, as I walked up. I smiled in recognition of one Frenchman's passionate rêve.* For as long as I have known Jean-Marc, he has dreamed of having his very own, family run vineyard. It may take eleven more years for him to realize his dream. It will surely require the same perseverance and personal investment of a happy marriage to reach his goal. But if you ask me, he'll have his vines one day.

..................................................................................................................
*References: le mariage de corail (m) = coral wedding anniversary; onzième = eleventh; le dépaysement (m) = change of scenery; le vent (m) = wind; un gourmand, une gourmande = one who is fond of food; le fauvist (m) (from "les fauves" = wild beasts) = painter who follows fauvism; le bijou (m) = gem; le balcon (m) = balcony;  l'aller-retour (m) = round-trip; l'apéro (m) = appetizer; le plat du jour (m) = today's special; l'immobilier  (m) = realtor's office;  le rêve (m) = dream

French inspired homeThe French-Inspired Home, by Kaari Meng, includes 40 charming projects that capture the sights, scents, and textures of the French countryside.

Listen to French:
Hear Jean-Marc recite today's quote: En automne, je récoltai toutes mes peines et les enterrai dans mon jardin. Lorsque avril refleurit et que la terre et le printemps célébrèrent leurs noces, mon jardin fut jonché de fleurs splendides et exceptionnelles.

Expressions:
faire la noce = to live it up
le voyage de noces = honeymoon
les noces d'argent/d'or = silver/golden wedding anniversary
ne pas être à la noce: to not be happy to be somewhere (not be in the mood to party)

In books and gifts:
Basquekitchen_1The Basque Kitchen: Tempting Food from the Pyrenees

Wineopoly_1WINEOPOLY. Pop the cork off any gathering with WINEOPOLY! Players buy favorite wines, collect bunches of grapes and trade them in for decanters.

Has a friend forwarded you this post? Receive your own FREE subscription to French Word-A-Day. Click here

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me to continue doing what I love most: sharing vocabulary and cultural insights via these personal stories from France. Your contribution makes a difference. A donation by check or via PayPal is vivement appréciéeMerci infiniment! Kristi

"Bonjour, Kristin, I have enjoyed your blog now for a great number of years, watching your children grow up, your moves from house to house, enjoying your stories and photos and your development as a writer. It's way past time for me to say MERCI with a donation to your blog...which I've done today. Bien amicalement!"--Gabrielle



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