Monday, November 28, 2011


Art rock: if only stones could speak...
A thoroughly modern curiousity in the rather surprising Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac in Dordorgne, from a grouping of heads carved in stone.

If nothing else, don't miss a virtual visit of this enchanting suspended garden with its 150,000 meticulously clipped boxwoods, 6 km of winding shaded footpaths and one of the most spectacular views of the Dordogne River Valley, 130 meters below. Click here.
Most of the boxwoods, sculpted in complex topiary patterns, were planted in the second half of the 19th century in sinuous, romantic period outlines. ©Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac
A fine view of the Dordorgne River and the village of La Roque-Gageac from a belvedere.

un buis:  a boxwood
une pierre:  a stone
une allée:  footpath or alley in a formal garden or park, bordered by
trees or bushes

Say something nice.

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, November 27, 2011


On a perfectly calm day still water mirrors clouds and bare trees in a reflecting pool in gardens of the Château de Versailles
©2011 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 25, 2011


Me and my cybercarnet
In the officialdom of the French language, cybercarnet, rather than blogue for blog or Web log, is the desired term to use; just as carnettiste is what preservationists of the language exact as a translation of blogger, rather than the Frenchified blogueur or bloguiste. Need I mention the official term courriel? Its popular shorthand alternative, mél (imagine "mail" said with a marked French accent), however,  is what most people in these parts calls an e-mail.
en ligne:  online
faire un petit somme:  to catnap
un somme:  familiar for sommeil, or sleep

Language as a national treasure
The French take protection and preservation of their language seriously, so seriously that a commission specialized in terminology and neologisms maintains an inventory of and oversees the introduction of new words officially admitted into the language. Terms the commission decides to be the French equivalents to new words and phrases coming from foreign languages are required to be used, rather than any other, in all documents emanating from state services and public institutions. See articles 7 and 11 of Decret no 96-602 du 3 juillet 1996.

©2011 P.B. Lecron


A vos marques, prêts, partez...
Whippets prepare to course an artificial lure at a leisurely Sunday morning event in a French field.

Le matos: all that's necessary to set up the poursuite à vue sur leurre event in an open field.
Bunched plastic strips serve as lure.

à vos marques:  on your marks
prêts:  ready, set
partez: go
poursuite à vue sur leurre: lure coursing
le matos:  the gear or material, slang

More on the event:

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A chacun son heure de gloire...
Time out  in the French countryside: a pair of elegant Salukis, or Lévriers Persans, finish coursing  an artifical lure. 
un dossard: a number worn by an athlete or competitor
à chacun:  to each
son heure de gloire:  his hour of glory
un lévrier: a sighthound
Persan:  Persian

©2011 P.B. Lecron


Watching sighthound lure-coursing is not entry level tourism, but it is a fun Sunday morning distraction and a way to take in some fresh country air, or as they say in France, s'aérer-- an important preoccupation of  French city dwellers. 
The lure runs along low-lying cables set up in an open field and controlled by a system of pulleys to simulate a fleeing hare.  The contests are between two dogs which are judged for their speed, strength, agility and capture of the lure. This practice event took place near Mantes-la-Jolie, in the Yvelines department.
poursuite à vue sur leurre: coursing simulation of hare hunting with an artificial lure
un lièvre:  a hare
un lévrier:  a sighthound
s'aérer: to get some fresh air; to clear one's head
aérer: to air, to ventilate

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Spunky company joins the table for lunch on the digue-promenade at Etretat, on the Normandy coast.

This photo is courtesy of I. Byrd.
un goéland:  a seagull
un drôle d'oiseau:  a bizarre person
une digue-promenade:  a seawall esplanade

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Hard-to-resist packaging
Tapage nocturne is what my neighbors could complain of if they were to hear me late at night pounding on this slab of white chocolate embedded with dried raspberries.

un tapage:  a tumultuous noise
tapage nocturne:  disturbing the peace after 10 p.m.
casser:  to break
un maillet:  a mallet
un vacarme:  a deafening noise
une framboise:  a raspberry

Chocolat à casser is available on line...

©2011 P.B. Lecron


Although I don't usually buy Beaujolais Nouveau (see Lip Service), this year's batch has turned out remarkably well. So we tried another bottle, chosen also for its pretty label. In both wines, strawberry and banana notes overrode any tendency toward an acid-green taste. 

une cuvée:  a batch of wine
une postface:  an afterword

©2011 P.B. Lecron


Beverages for all that ails you
Lists of medicinal properties claimed for plants and herbs never cease to amaze. The one for rhubarbe is no exception. Originating in Asia and introduced to Europe by Marco Polo, rhubarb has been serving as a multi-purpose remedy for centuries. Today it's the plant most singularly associated with Picardie, a region in northern France comprised of the Aisne, the Oise and the Somme administrative departments. As an oddly refreshing summery pétillant fruit drink (Nectare de Rhubarbe has less than 1 % alcohol) or as a unusual warming winter tea, its liquid form has one of the most peculiar flavors your papilles will probably ever encounter. Sample or swill, according to your case...
un thé:  a tea
les papilles:  the tastebuds
un soupçon:  a suspicion, hint of, a drop of
pétillant:  sparkling
©2011 P.B. Lecron

Monday, November 21, 2011


Une pomme par jour éloigne le médecin, pourvu que l'on vise bien.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, if you aim it well enough.--Winston Churchill

éloigner:  to move away or to keep from
pourvu que:  provided that
viser:  to aim at
le médecin:  the doctor

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I'm not a fan of Beaujolais Nouveau--it's often too green for me--but the annual race to be the first bar or restaurant in the world to uncork the newly arrived vin primeur is a clever marketing ploy that merits at least lip service, figuratively and literally. A tradition since 1951, the young gamay table wine, which is the first bottled of the season, systematically goes on sale the third Thursday of November. More to do is made about its festive arrival on the market abroad than is in France, where the general public is looking more for a finished wine than for thrills. But still it's a phenomenon that does not go ignored, although a Frenchman would probably get a bigger kick out of imbibing it in Japan than in Joinville.

To read a P.S., click here.

Text & photo ©2011 P.B. Lecron


Spiffy and compact shrimp boat or sauterellier returning to moor at Le Tréport. Once small sailboats, the sauterelliers owe their name to their catch--a small gray shrimp called the sauterelle that not only swims and walks, it jumps.


une crevette:  a shrimp
un crevettier: a shrimp boat 
une sauterelle:  a grasshopper; a small gray shrimp found on European coastlines
sauter:  to jump
un chalutier:  a fishing boat whose name comes from the net it uses, un chalut
le chalutage:  fishing technique using nets
fruit de la mer:  seafood
un filet:  a net

View of the same sauterellier, above, from the high chalk cliffs of Le Tréport, a fishing port
 on the Normandy coastline.

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 18, 2011


Lighthouse at Le Tréport

Traffic-light green makes the bas-relief marine motifs on the door of this lighthouse at the Tréport fishing port even more striking.

vert criard: loud green
marché à la criée: open outcry market; e.g., for the day's catch
un phare:  a lighthouse

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, November 17, 2011


For best land-side views around northern France's exceptional estuary: foot or bike it
A laughing gull or mouette rieuse, sitting on the dock of the bay, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme.
Near Cayeux-sur-Mer.
Shifting sands on the north side of the bay,  Plage de la Maye.

A family of swans or cygnes along the road outside of Le Crotoy.
Majestic dunes near Le Hourdel.
Peace and quiet around Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme.
Cattails or quenouilles in the Marquenterre bird reserve.
Tide's up! Mallards or colverts noodling for grub on the shoreline of Saint-Valèry-sur-Somme.
View across bay looking from Le Hourdel.
Adorable lapwings or vanneaux huppés.
Expect to see storks or cigognes. 
Do as the Saint-Valéry locals do.

Each sunset or coucher de soleil a marvel or merveille.

une balade, une promenade: a walk
une balade en vélo: a bike ride

Though it's easy to get around the bay by car, opt for more environmentally friendly bipedal locomotion,  or even a guided field tour. See Maison de l'Oiseau as well as Parc Ornithologique du Marquenterre. For information about bike tours and rentals around the Baie de Somme see Baiecyclette. Or consider discovering the site on a fastidiously restored 19th-century steam-powered train, classified as a historic monument, which in addition to its regular schedule offers sunset dinner rides around the bay on certain dates of the year: Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme

Click on photos to enlarge them.

©2011 P.B. Lecron


Our lastest favorite cheese
We hadn't even been aware of the flaxseed craze until we discovered that the Bray, a creamy and delicately textured artisanal cheese from Picardie, can be had with the wonder health food grain, too. What's interesting about the Bray is that it has the taste of a cow cheese and the fine consistency of a goat cheese. The cheese is a local terroir product of what is known as Pays de Bray, a long and narrow strip of rich dairy farming land that straddles the Seine-Maritime and Oise departments.

Softened during the cheesemaking process, the flaxseeds are not overly crunchy, but have a remarkable nutmeat consistency. Why not then at home, add flaxseeds, presoaked for about 2 hours, to creamed cheeses, cheeseballs or yogurts?

Say Cheese...
Everyone with a camera in hand the world over knows that to provoke a smile from an Englishman one only has to ask him to pronounce "cheese." Which French words have the same affect on a Frenchman? Try ouistiti, sexe...

The good address: Fromagerie Caséus, 1 place des Pilotes, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme.

graines de lin: flaxseeds
lait cru:  raw milk
ouistiti: the French vernacular name given to different species of monkeys in South America; pronounced oui-sti-ti

©2011 P.B. Lecron

Monday, November 14, 2011


Shellfishing for cockles
Be it hardwork for the two hundred or so families living around the Baie de Somme who make their living from the traditional pêche à pied, or a low-tide leisure-time activity for others, the food-gathering adventure is the same--a treasure hunt for the heart-shaped coques. Iodine and big horizons guaranteed.
pêche à pièd: shellfishing
une coque, un hénon: a cockel
hénonier, hénonière (pêcheur de coques): cockel fisherman, fisherwoman

Click here to see a video filmed at the Baie de Somme showing how the coques are scooped up.

Photos courtesy of Marianne Lecron 
©2011 P.B. Lecron


Wild seals are easily frightened, so to prevent young from being startled and separated from their mothers, visitors to the Baie de Somme are advised to observe the animals from afar. Boaters must maintain a distance of at least 300 meters from seals resting on sandbars.

Photo courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux. 

Keeping count of the two species of seals that inhabit the Baie de Somme.

Ne pas déranger: Do not disturb
Un phoque: a seal

©P.B. Lecron


France's meager wild seal population resides in the Baie de Somme, a nature reserve and migratory bird refuge on the northern coast.
Visit the Baie de Somme vicariously by clicking here to access the above interacitve map.
Unretouched photos made by Marianne Lecron on a tawny November day.

©2012 P.B.Lecron