Paris story + How to say "locked out" in French?


View from Jackie's studio in Paris. More about this canyon of French windows you are viewing, in today's missive. And félicitations! to our 17-year-old daughter, who has completed her 4th internship in fashion design.

enfermé dehors

    : locked out

Nov2014Mas de Perdrix. A home in France that artists and writers love to rent.  Work on your creative project in this inspiring environment.


AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc read today's example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav file

Un jour, en descendant la poubelle, il s'était enfermé dehors en pyjama. (H.-F. Blanc, Combat de fauves au crépuscule)

English Translation:
One day, while taking out the trash, he locked himself out in his pajamas.

Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
Order your copy here

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse

On fait nos valises

Ten days ago I woke up in a 14 square meter apartment in Paris. Looking out the fenêtre, my eyes scanned gray rooftops and followed the trails of chimney pots which seemed to march towards the horizon. That's when I realized I'd missed the chance to photograph the Sacré-Coeur last night when the sky was dark enough to glimpse a tiny trio of white globes in the left corner of the window! There would not be another chance to do so, not this trip anyway. It was time, now, to pack and leave my daughter's studio.

Lying there in bed, all those internal cobs began to turn as my mind and body quickly became a steamroller of intention: put away the dishes, check under the bed for socks and chouchous, and put out both sets of keys--to leave behind for the owner (this last item caused no end of worry, and you will soon understand why....)

The list was getting louder and louder in my mind, so loud I might wake my daughter with my thoughts.  Slipping out of bed, I quietly made a cup of coffee - and sat down in front of the window, to savor, one last time, the view just beyond.

There, in the canyon of Parisian windows that formed an intimate neighborhood in the 11th arrondissement, I said my goodbyes.

Au revoir to the laundress in the attic apartment--who was always drying her clothes on her window railing. How I feared her comforter would drop... landing on the smoker at the 3rd floor window below....

Adieu, to the botanical goddess, on the 5th floor, whose little window was a perfect green jungle.

Farewell to the brocanteur, on the 4th floor, whose empty wingchair soaked in the sun, there before the window with its flowing rideaux

Did they see me, too? And think Goodbye to the photographer on the 6th, who held her smartphone this way and that as she focused its camera lens on a single spool of thread on her window sill. Oh, but a symbolic spool at that! Did they know my roommate? "The Karate Couturist"-- my daughter--who, like the karate kid, was made to repeat the same handiwork gesture over and over and over, but who would soon realize the wisdom behind such training. Jackie's seamstressing internship had now come to an end, and with it, the vacation I'd enjoyed while accompanying my daughter.

Having said so many silent farewells, it was time to dress up, tidy up, and line up our bags. My arms swept over the shelves--making certain not one item was forgotten. This last point was crucial, for, once we shut the door--leaving our keys inside as instructed--we would not be able to return inside the rental apartment!)

Finally, there we were, my daughter and I, standing in the hallway looking into the memorable shoebox apartment. And then, the anxiously awaited moment, when the door slipped out of my hand and locked forever. I looked over at my daughter and smiled confidently--before my face dropped in horror.

"Oh no! My cell phone!"

"Mom!" Jackie gasped.

"Just kidding," I snorted. Only, as we walked down the hall my legs suddenly froze. "My hat... I left my hat!!! I can't believe it! I had so carefully planned our perfect departure.... checked every corner... turned over the bedspread...said a needed prayer!"

As I stood there lamenting, I could see in my mind's eye my hat, high up on the shelf, where I carefully arranged it each time I returned to the apartment. And I could now see the locked door, separating us!

Jackie tried her best, using reasoning to comfort me. C'est pas grave, Maman. C'est pas grave! But I was inconsolable. I had left behind the hat that my Mom had offered me. There was no replacing the midnight blue hat with the twinkle stars. The magic hat that had recently sparked a lovely conversation with a stranger in Paris.... 

Walking to the elevator, hatless, my head felt as bare as those far-off globes of the Sacré-Coeur.... Only, unlike the church, inside me there was no more hope. That hat was gone forever because I did not and would not have the courage to bother the apartment owner to send it to me in a hat box via post! My only comforting thought was to call the maid and tell her to keep my hat for herself. It would look lovely on her, and match her kind spirit.

Jackie, sensing my despair, looked up. Her eyes were now twinkling like the those stars on my lost hat. "Mom," she said. "I will buy you a new one--here in Paris!"

And that is how the sentimental hat my Mom had gifted me found its only possible replacement:  in the sentimental gesture of my daughter.

(New hat picture coming soon at the end of this post....)

To leave a comment, click here 

To see a picture of my blue hat...  click here, and scroll to end of the previous story.


on fait nos valises = we pack our bags
la fenêtre = window
chouchou = ponytail holder, scrunchie
le rideau = curtain
c'est pas grave = it isn't important

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for pictures.

Picture, of the hat my daughter bought me, taken at a recent wine-tasting. Next wine tasting is here at home, this Thursday July 2nd. Email me if you can make it!

photo, above, by Dede Nagamoto Willis. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Or support this journal by purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS, about a beloved vineyard in France click here.

Serendipity in French: un heureux hazard


Serendipity - it is just the word to begin the summer edition of this journal sentimental. Only, do the French even have a word for serendipity? Et oui!


    : serendipity, serendipitously

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.

AUDIO: Listen to Jean-Marc read today's example sentence:
Download MP3 or Wav

Mais, heureux hasard, au détour d'une rue bruxelloise, une affiche crayonnée fait de l'oeil au passant : "Discover the freedom of the bike", le genre d'impératif suggestif qui soudain vous fait entrevoir le monde autrement.LeVif Weekend magazine

Help translate today's sentence, here in the new comments box!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

On the second to last day in Paris, a kind of seize the day sentiment gripped me. Having visited so many leafy passages, an original coffee shop, and even a vineyard, I wondered about a high-tech visit chez Google - whose existence, it seemed, was in Montparnasse.... at the FNAC.

Only, a strange mood paralyzed me. How to describe it? My daughter said it best when she commented about how the metropolis of Paris sometimes made her feel: "Je me sens comme si je n'existe pas...." I feel like I don't existe.

Jackie's observation struck me as juste as I vaguely recalled the meaning of "existential": a cold and impersonal something ... leading to an urgency to truly be.

 Grabbing my keys, I left our cozy appartment, one foot headed to Montparnasse, the other foot operating with its own sentimental compass. As I zigzagged down the street, seemingly invisible to the masses, I did not notice the trail ahead, which quietly formed itself, crumb by crumb, from the golden heel of serendipity....

(To be continued.)

Please have a look at the new comments box, where you can now respond individually to the comments. Click here.


A mysterious door in one of the many leafy passages I visited. This one, in Passage Gustave Lepeu. 

SABLET HOME for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Particularly suited to groups of up to four discerning travelers. 


Forward this edition to a friend and let me know if anything serendipitous happens! Wishing you un heureux hasard. See you next time.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Or support this journal by purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS, about a beloved vineyard in France click here.

bibliotheque + American Library in Paris & Ann Mah and Patricia Wells!

Authors and journalists Patricia Wells and Ann Mah are as down-to-earth as dandelions--something these culinary divas could appreciate--sauteed with lardons fumés (and a glass of Mas des Brun rosé bien sûr!) 

la bibliothèque (bih-blee-oh-tek)

    : library

Confession: I still mix up the terms bibliothèque and librairie, but une librairie--no matter how misleading name--is still a book store as we noted here.

Audio File & Example Sentence: Will try to update--as soon as Jean-Marc finished his vineyard chores!

Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France. Click here for pictures.


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

When I realized my train arrived in Paris's Gare de Lyon at 5pm--not long before the exciting book event--I doubted there would be time to do more than drop off my bag at my hosts' apartment on Rue du Cherche-Midi. I had hoped to arrive early to the American Library and score good seats at the author talk featuring Patricia Wells and Ann Mah!

"Don't worry, we have plenty of time," Robin said, showing me to her guest room. Take off those heels and come have a little snack. Did I prefer salé or sucré? my hostess quizzed, and when I saw the plate of artfully arranged fruit--framboises, clementines, and myrtilles--the choice was fastoche!  

"Have you met John before?" Robin asked, as I stood in the hallway studying a charming and familiar face.

Had we met? Or was the internet playing tricks on me again? Had I seen so many pictures of Robin's cheri--on Facebook and through photo-sharing--that I couldn't distinguish between the real and a virtual meeting? 

Heureusement, the same doubts seemed to be plaguing my host--who quickly broke the embarrassing spell by sharing kisses on both cheeks (i.e. on a fait la bise). 

After the raspberries and blueberries and kisses we were now one hour away from the big event! Were we sure to make it on time? 

"Will we take the metro?" I hinted, as Robin dressed for the event (putting on her belt with the gold panther buckle). Quelle question. Of course my hostess would get us there. In leopard time! If God created a guardian angel to help travelers navigate Paris in all her complexity, that ange (with panther accents) would be Robin. She knows all the shortcuts, whether it's getting from point A to point B--or getting a good bite to eat!

As we sped towards the 7th arrondissment, Robin lavished compliments on our driver. UBER is the best company and the drivers are as charming and helpful as this young man. Our cabbie lit up, delighted by the attention, and he laughed as Robin shared disaster stories regarding the competition (like the time one Parisian cabbie refused to clear his lunch off the passenger seat, preferring to keep his sandwich and coffee intact and turn away passengers who needed a lift!). 

Arriving smack in front of the American Library, the historic bibliothèque was deceivingly silent. Little did we know that behind the front door the place was buzzing with excitement and the seats were already being snapped up.

It seemed we were early so Robin suggested we get a more substantial bite to eat. Just around the corner from the library a bistro happened to have the most delicious and fluffy croque-monsieurs we'd ever tasted!

Still unaware of the crowds that were forming inside the library, we took a leisurely moment to compliment our waiter on the food we'd just eaten. But what was the French word for "fluffy". Légère? aéré? I suggested, deciding to inform him of the cozy English word instead: Fluffy! We say fluffy!

By the time we entered the library I was feeling like a fluff-brain, duped by the silence that had fooled us a half-hour before. But Robin didn't waste time with regrets--she beelined it to the seating area and charmed someone into switching places--so as to free up two side-by-side seats. Robin then gave those seats to her husband and me, and grabbed a stepping stool for herself.

Audience at American Library
Where's Waldo? I took off my glasses as soon as the speakers finished. Dumb idea, for then I couldn't recognize the other local personalities!

In addition to the fascinating speakers, there was a host of interesting characters in the audience! I recognized Karen Fawcett from Bonjour Paris and Ann and Kirk of Music and Markets and Lisa Taylor Huff of The Bold Soul and photographer Meredith Mullins. And, studying this picture (swiped from Ann Mah's Facebook page) I wonder was that Lindsey Tramuta sitting only a row behind me? Zut, I didn't see her at the time!

But, as you can see, if many of the local personalities blended in incognito, it's because all eyes were on the speakers who mesmerized the room!

I put on my glasses and listened as Charles Truehart, the American Library's director, honored the speakers in a warm introduction, and he also took the time to encourage readers to support this beloved library!    

And without delay, Mr Trueheart turned the spotlight over to the writers of Mastering the Art of French Eating and The French Kitchen Cookbook--who would now be interviewing each other.

We were in for a treat as Patricia Wells began, using every bit of her journalism know-how to familiarize us with Ann Mah. We learned about Ann's first book, Kitchen Chinese, and about her go-to comfort meal: toast! (A confession that caused the guy behind me to "Huh?" aloud. I guessed he needed to read Ann's book. Then he'd be chuckling like me :-)

When it was Ann's turn to interview Patricia, Ann admitted to using a bit of crowdsourcing to come up with some good questions. Ann's avowal was so heartening! It was good to know that even seasoned journalists, like Ann, are stumped for words when facing their heros.

And by the time Ann finished her interview, Patricia Wells--lover of slow food and clearly someone with a warm and welcoming joie de vivre--had become my hero too! 

To respond to this post, click here. Did you locate me in the picture above? Were you by chance at this event? Or are you familiar with these authors? Which books are your favorites? Add to today's post by sharing feedback here.

P.S. Among the local personalities in the audience, was Marjorie Williams, author of Markets of Paris. She wrote a wonderful write up of Ann and Patricia's talk, here. And we'll see her again soon... when I tell you about the Champagne Book Signing at Robin's--where I had the honor of joining Ann Mah to talk about writing and France! 

French Vocabulary

salé = salty
sucré = sugary
une framboise = raspberry
une myrtille = blueberry
clementine = little orange
fastoche = easy, easy-peasy
heureusement = happily
on a fait la bise = we kissed-greeted

Two places to stay in postcard pretty France:

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in this beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet. 

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

Good to have a guardian angel who knows the Paris transit system (thanks, Robin!)--or I'd panick, taking any apparent option. Scoot over, leafy commuters, make room for me! Now, how to say "Hit it!" in French? 

To comment on today's post, click here and many thanks for reading!

Has a friend forwarded you this letter? Sign up here for your own free French Word-A-Day! 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Or support this journal by purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS, about a beloved vineyard in France click here.

Things to Do in Paris - 2013

Notre Dame (c) Kristin Espinasse
Le vélo = popular transportation when in Paris.


We are working on another city guide and when I say "we" I mean you and me! If you have been to Paris recently please help us out by sharing:

  • hotel or apartment or B&B suggestions
  • restaurants, cafés,  bistros
  • nightclubs, theaters, shows
  • unique shops, bookstores...
  • kids or teens - fun stuff and ideas for young ones
  • babysitters in Paris?
  • outdoor attractions (parks, markets, landmarks...)
  • helpful websites & books
  • taxi cab, train station and metro tips
  • tipping information or fees to expect
  • ATM and bank info
  • free or unusual things to do in Paris
  • best time/season to visit Paris
  • any place one should visit or any thing one should do when in Paris....

Click here to leave a tip or suggestion - or to see the recommendations. I'll post a link to the answers in Monday's post.

See the "share buttons" at the end of this post and be sure to forward this Paris guide to someone who is planning to visit France.

Mille mercis!

P.S. Where to Rent a Car in Paris? Readers have sent in their favorites in the France Car Rental guide. Thanks for adding your recommendations, too! 

love locks (c) Kristin Espinasse
Love locks in Paris. Note: I have just erased my previous message, here, about wanting to put up a lock next time I'm in Paris. After L&C wrote in (see first comment) I realize these locks are becoming damaging to the city's landscape. It is good to be aware of the issue and it brings me to one more tip I could have mentioned, in the bullet above: How to be a good guest when in Paris? Thanks for sharing your Paris suggestions in the comments box.

For more information on Paris, use this handy Google search box: 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Or support this journal by purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS, about a beloved vineyard in France click here.

une idée fausse

Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Paris, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Shakespeare and Company: an historic expat bookstore in Paris. Still soaring from the high of speaking at the American Library... I marched right into Shakespeare & Co. (before Fear had a chance to bully me and lie to me again...) and offered up my new public speaking services... To get this new gig--I acted as if--as if I had the confidence and composure of a conquistador (never mind that my previous speaking engagements included passing out on the floor). Convinced, they signed me for an author's talk on March 1st! 

Pronounce It Perfectly in French - with exercises in sound discrimination and accurate sound creation. Order your copy here.

idée fausse (ee-day fowce) noun, feminine

    : misconception

(The verb is "suer" : je sue, tu sues, il sue, nous suons, vous suez, ils suent => past participle = sué)

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav File

Une idée fausse, mais claire et précise, aura toujours plus de puissance dans le monde qu'une idée vraie mais complexe.

  (Please help me to translate this sentence in the comments box!)

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

The following are some idées fausses, or misconceptions, that were running around my hopeful mind during the week leading up to my (once feared and dreaded) public talk:

...When my talk is over I will be okay again...
After my speech I can relax, let go...
...Life will begin again
after the speaking event. I will be able to taste my coffee, feel the breeze on my skin... I will smell the autumn air once again... my senses will no longer be dull (all-consumed with cowardice).

I will go home, put on my favorite soft robe and cozy slippers
and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate....  I will experience bliss. I will have my reward. Imagine this!

The strange thing is: none of these things happened. Instead, I had a revelation:

The joy, the bliss, the aliveness that I believed would be mine after this tortuous trial (a.k.a. The Speech)... instead took the place of it. Instead of feeling like the proverbial deer caught in hell's headlights, during my speech I felt the power of love, warm and bright.  I never felt so alive! The speech was the reward.

Could it be that public speaking is the best-kept secret? And that 99.9 percent of the earth's population (that is, the percentage of people that are petrified by public speaking) are depriving themselves of what is, in reality, a powerful instant -- a divine drop of distilled life?

Public speaking may be, after all, the best-kept secret. If you want to hog the spotlight (and all of the "life" that comes with it) then keep on perpetuating the idée fausse that public speaking is something that will kill you. (It will kill the Ego... so add that to your "Gifts I receive from Public Speaking" list.)

But if you want to join the revolution, and begin to murder the misconception, then please tell someone today that they WILL be okay the next time they have to speak, publicly; that the secret reward that nobody is telling you about is this: speaking can be bliss!

(We'll talk more about this on Friday, when I'll post another list of tips and techniques that worked for me....)


(former fainter, aspiring orator)

Post note: It is important for me to remember that nothing is ever "a given". That is: I have not conquered my fear of public speaking (Coach Conchita, and others of you, might beg to differ). The truth is, as long as we have our fickle "feelings" we won't be spared of what amounts to internal warfare. But we can take winning steps to counter this, and experience the bliss, when we recognize our God-given gift of confidence and assurance.

One of the most common fears that public speakers have is the belief that they will lose control of themselves in front of an audience. For me, this meant that I might somehow come undressed during my speech! (One tick that you will witness--when you view my speech--is this: I kept placing my hand over my heart -- not because it was beating violently (it wasn't)... but because I feared the snaps on my back might come undone (as they had in gym class... before my bra busted, some 20 years back!). Horror of horrors that this might happen again, now--in front of an audience! And so all that obsessive hand-to-heart business you see amounted to my checking (and rechecking) to make sure my "underwear" was still "there".

Witness this tick for yourselves in the video from my Paris talk! See the video immediately, when you sign up to become a supporting member of French Word-A-Day.

Finally, here is a book that I have just ordered. I am excited to learn and grow in the area of public speaking. Won't you join me? Check out this book and read along with me!:In The SpotLight, Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking and Performing


Comments ~ Corrections ~ Stories of your own...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments box. Please forward this post to a student or stilted speaker. I hope it will help someone and eventually open the door of opportunity to others.

*   *   *



French Demystified: A self-teaching guide "simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student"

French language software:
Rosetta Stone Personal Edition contains everything you need to give the voice inside of you a new language. The method used recreates the natural way you learned your first language, revealing skills that you already have. This approach has won numerous awards, and has been adopted by countless organizations, schools and millions of users around the world. Join the language revolution today. Only with Rosetta Stone.

My French Coach by Nintendo.
Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French, no matter your age. The simple touch screen interface lets you spend less time learning the game and more time learning French.

French music: Jacques Brel

Restaurant in Paris, Chez Julien, Lou Pescadou, 2CV, citroen (c) Kristin Espinasse,
 "Parisian Parking"-- why not forward today's edition to a friend? Or sign up a family member for French Word-A-Day?

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Or support this journal by purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS, about a beloved vineyard in France click here.