Wednesday, May 30, 2012


These large blossoms with tufted creamy centers turned heads this past weekend in Chevreuse, a pretty village in the Haute-Vallée de Chevreuse. The Bowl of Beauty Peony is often grown in parish priest's gardens. 

une pivoine:  a peony
un curé:  a parish priest
un jardin de curé:  a parish priest's garden

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


A passerelle over a branch of the Yvette, a small river running through Chevreuse, a historic village 28 km southwest of Paris. Its name evokes land of chèvres or chevreuils. Founded in 9th century, the village was originally named Cavrosa, from the Latin Caper or Capra, signifying goat. During the Middle Ages this water course was called la rivière au tanneurs because it was used by a tannery for the production of kidskin parchment, an important necessity for the functioning of the ecclesiastical lordships.

In the 1930's and 1940's the name Yvette, the feminine diminutive of Yves was the fifth most popular name given to baby girls in France. Today it is rarely chosen; statistics show for example that in 2003 only five babies born in France were named Yvette.

un chevreau:  a young goat
la peau de chevreau:  kidskin
un chevreuil:  a deer
le parchemin:  parchment
une tannerie:  a tannery
un tanneur:  a tanner
une passerelle:  a footbridge

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, May 28, 2012


One autumn twenty years ago a small French boy picked up a chestnut in the park at the Château de Versailles, took it home and planted it in his garden. These blossoms are the result. Flowering chestnut trees are still in bloom around Paris, but not for much longer. Since shooting these close-ups I'm determined to find its fragrance bottled in a perfume.

un marronier:  a chestnut tree
se faner:  to wilt or fade
regal-(e):  royal, majestic
régaler:  to treat

C'est moi qui régale.  It's on me.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, May 27, 2012


C'est royale
Detail of the gate which opens on to the Château de Dampierre-en-Yvelines, once a royal residence of Louis XIV. The village of Dampierre-en-Yvelines is situated in the Parc Naturel Régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse, a 40 minute drive from Paris.

la patine:  patina
une grille royale:  a royal gate

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, May 26, 2012


At the moment Rhododendrons are stealing the scene in French gardens.

un arbuste:  a shrub
un arbuste à fleur:  a flowering shrub
un arbuste en fleurs:  a blossoming shrub

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, May 25, 2012


A chamaeleon
We love the light, paper quality of the rose petals and pink crab spider that Sylvia achieved, again using her smart-phone, in her garden in the Gard.  Rather than spinning a web, this spider is a master at camouflage and hides on flowers waiting to leap on its prey. It changes color according to the flower on which it is hunting.

Araignée du matin, chagrin; araignée du soir, espoir.
Spider in the morning, chagrin; spider in the evening, hope. This common French dictum is interpreted by the superstitious to mean that if you see a spider in the morning it brings bad luck; but if in the evening, good luck. Other sources relate it to weather prediction: a busy spider in the morning indicates  rain for later in the day; one out at night means the weather will be fine.

une araignée-crabe rose (Thomisus onustus):  a pink crab spider
une araignée:  a spider
le chagrin:  chagrin, grief, sorrow
l'espoir:  hope
rose:  pink
une rose:  a rose
un rosier:  a rosebush

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Although they've been around for several years now, I first saw one of these multi-tasking chandeliers a couple of years ago in the kitchenware department  at the Bon Marché  in Paris. The one above hangs over diners in a rustic restaurant in Corsica. The wine glasses are individually suspended from forked prongs to make removal easy for use and/or cleaning. Otherwise what a terrible dust trap or nid à poussière.

un nid:  a nest
la poussière:  dust
un verre à vin:  a wine glass
un verre de vin:  a glass of wine
un lustre:  a chandelier (in English)
un chandelier:  a candlestick; a candleholder

Photo courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Quand les crapauds chantent le beau temps s'avance
When toads sing there's good weather ahead 
During the spring mating season, amorous toads do croak quite a bit as well as make beelines for water anywhere they can find it. Guest photographer and friend Sylvia, who is never without her smart-phone's photo function, was able to get a close-up of this French crapaud after she and her husband fished him out of their swimming pool in the rural south of France. Merci!

un crapaud:  a toad
chanter:  to sing
sauter:  to jump, to leap, to skip
coasser:  to croak

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Pole star or polecat?
This may come as a surprise but since 1981 country music has been broadcast on French radio waves from an independent station, Music Box 92.8 FM. Apart from the novelty of hearing top Nashville hits, a kicky feature of the broadcasts is the anglo-saxon accents of announcers speaking French--an effect purposefully orchestrated to prepare French listeners' ears to the ensuing English. It's thanks to occasionally tuning in when driving that I've been able to keep up with the evolution of country and country rock songcraft. Recent revelations in story-telling lyrics include Tailgates & Tanlines where Luke Bryan sings, "like a tan on the skin, girl you faded away," matched only by Julie Roberts' "men and mascara always run." Makes me feel like I'm back home and in a Walgreens.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, May 21, 2012


Look at what happened to the cherries of yesterday's blog post. Smart-phone photographer and jam maker Sylvia got right to work and made her own confiture maison. The jam reminds me of my favorite French expression--one that some readers might recall: La culture c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a, plus on l'étale. Culture is like confiture, the less one has, the more one spreads it around.

Its non-identical twin-sister expression goes like this: La culture c'est comme la confiture; plus on y goûte, plus on en reprend. Culture is like confiture; the more one tastes it, the more one goes back for more.

Go back for more is what lucky summer guests will do when served this black cherry jam at Sylvia's bed and breakfast in the Gard region of the south of France. 

la confiture maison:  home-made jam
goûter:  to taste
reprendre:  to take more; to take back; to recapture

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Un chat de canapé
This really isn't a cat blog, but Pompon, an immature and docile chocolate-point Sacré de Birmanie  who has yet to scratch anyone, is A French Education's mascot. The exotic breed is one of the hexagon's three favorites of couch cats. 

Il n'y a pas de chat, si fourré soit-il, qui n'ait pas de griffes.--proverbe français

There is no cat, furry as it may be, that doesn't have claws.--French proverb

un canapé:  a sofa
un griffe:  a claw
un coup de griffe:  a scratch
fourré:  thick with, as here, fur
un hexagon:  a hexagone; a nickname for France because its geographical borders form a hexagone

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Le temps des cerises
It's already cherry-picking time in the south of France. Friend and guest smart-phone photographer, Sylvia, just sent this snapshot of a crate of bigarreau burlat cherries she bought at a local cherry festival.

Louis XV (1710-1774) liked cherries so much that he ordered intensive culture of the cherry tree in France, a measure for which the entire nation is still grateful. Cherries are second only to strawberries in popularity contests here.

une cerise:  a cherry
un cerisier:  a cherry tree
un cageot:  a crate

la cerise sur le gâteau:  the cherry on the cake; the crowning touch, sometimes said ironically
mettre une cerise sur le gâteau:  to finish a project or activity
une fête de la cerise:  a cherry festival
avoir la cerise:  to not have luck

Not to miss: Le Temps des Cerises, a popular song written in the late 19th century, interpreted in 1942 by the legendary Charles Trenet.

Mild humor & Sweet Cherry Liqueur, click here.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Revenir à ses moutons: return to his sheep; get back to the subject or business at hand

un mouton:  a sheep
revenir:  to come back
brouter:  to graze on
pâturer l'herbe:  to graze
un pâturage:  a pasture

Photo of sheep grazing at Filitosa, Corsica, courtesy of Marianne Lecron.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Une belle plante
Tall and hardy, the asphodèle blanc, is a herbaceous perennial that has a marked preference for chalky soil in Mediterranean regions. (Don't we all? This one was seen on the island of Corsica during the month of May.) Thanks to its deep root system, the plant is fire-resistant and able to spring back to life out of the ashes of devastating forest fires. Although deep in the south of France it seems to have cropped up everywhere, including private gardens, the asphodel is a protected species. Don't be tempted to pick its flowers or to dig it up to transplant.

Ancient Greeks adorned grave sites with bouquets of white asphodels which they believed would help their dearly departed pass more easily into Hades' underworld. Attention, although the passage of a fire may be favorable to the spreading of the asphodel through a burned and ravaged terrain, association of this "eternal"  flower with the mythological Greek hell has nothing to do with the later imagery of the Biblical hell of fire and brimstone. The Greeks believed the underworld was a land of the dead divided into three zones; one was for those who were condemned to perform difficult and tedious tasks as punishment; another the champs-Elysées or simply Elysée, was a splendid place for those who had done virtuous or heroic works; and the third which shared the flower's name, was the Prè d'Asphodèle, reserved for the vast majority of average souls who had committed neither exceptionally good nor bad acts.

calcaire:  limestone; calcareous; chalky
une pyrophyte:  a plant that can resist fires
l'enfer:  hell; netherworld
un pré: a meadow

être une belle plante:  to be a beautiful girl or woman

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


La curiosité est la mère de l'observation.--Honoré de Balzac
Curiosity is the mother of observation. 
Photo from Bonifacio, Corsica, courtesy of Marianne Lecron.

un ponton:  a pontoon
allonger:  to stretch out

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, May 14, 2012


Sixty-seven of the eighty-five Genoese lookout towers built during the 16th century still stand on 500 kilometers, or half, of Corsica's coastlines. (Corsica was under Genoa dominion for five centuries before it was finally annexed to France.) Lookout guards would build fires on the top of the round towers to alert villages of the approach of Barbary pirates.

and Night

guetter:  to watch out for
un guetteur:  a lookout
un pirate:  a pirate
un tour:  a tower; also a turn or a voyage

Photos courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux.

©2012 P.B. Lecron


A passionate musical heritage
Transmitted from father to son, hauntingly beautiful traditional Corsican chants improvised a cappella  by men serenading at village gatherings and religious processions pull heartstrings that hark to the island's unique cultural identity and sense of honor.

Since Antiquity the island has had a turbulent history of occupations and incursions. However, after five centuries of dominion under the Republic of Genoa, it knew a brief period of independence from 1755 until 1768 when Corsica, which had been ceded in 1764 to France by Genoa in a treaty, was taken over by France militarily. After the outbreak of the French Revolution a British-Corsican coalition forced out the French and established an Anglo-Corsican kingdom. The British withdrew in 1796 though, and the island fell back into the hands of the French and was annexed to France at the end of the eighteenth century.

Today la Corse or Corsica is officially called the "collectivité territoriale de Corse." Michelin's 2012 edition Corse Le Guide Vert characterizes the island as "un peu 'l'enfant terrible' de la France: à la fois attachante et rebelle, secrète et démonstrative, elle ne cesse de susciter les passions." (Corsisca is somewhat France's unruly child; at the same time charming and rebellious, secret and outgoing, it never ceases to arouse passions.)   

encore:  still, again, even;  an audience's exclamation at the end of a concert asking for a repeated or additional performance
en Corse:  in Corsica
une affiche:  a poster, theatre bill

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Ready to break out singing
This prickly pear in the Corsican fishing village of Cargèse would remind many French people over fifty of yéyé singer Jacques Dutronc's 1967 hit, Les Cactus. Dutronc, incidentally, resides in Corsica where there is indeed cactus.

yéyé:  deformation of  "yeah, yeah" (as in the Beatles song, She Loves You); a French musical current and social phenomenom of the mid-1960's
les yéyés:  designation for French composers, singers and musicians, as well as their fans, inspired by American twist and English rock
une tube:  a hit song
une figue de barbarie:  a prickly pear cactus

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Corsican Expression
Allivatu cume u basilicu annantu à u purtéllu: in French this translates to élevé comme le basilic sur la fenêtre; in English it means to be raised like basil on the window sill, that is to say, to be very spoiled

Photo courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux. All rights reserved.


By the sea
A small herd of free range-cattle soaking in the sun and surf on the plage d'Ogliastro, Corsica. Animals here have an altogether different existence. Below is the same beach, but from farther away; if you look closely you'll see the cows on the shore.

le cheptal:  livestock
une plage:  a beach

Photos courtesy of Marianne Lecron.
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, May 11, 2012


On the road 
Corsican goat strutting on highway railing between Calvi and Porto. Not a goatherd in sight.

Photos courtesy of Marianne Lecron. All rights reserved.
©2012 P.B. Lecron


La vie en Corse: A sow rooting for food along the roadside, inland--near the Col de Vergio, just on the edge of the Forêt d'Aïtone, below. It's not uncommon to see pigs and other livestock freely wandering around the island. The tourists' myth is that they are wild, however, guide books such as Le Routard assure readers that the animals' property owners know exactly where they are. Pigs like this one are allowed to range so that they feed mostly on chestnuts and acorns, giving Corsican porc its distinctive flavor.
The hardy Laricio, or Corsican pine, can live as long as 500 years; it's widely planted in continental France for reforestation.

une truie:  an adult female pig
un cochon:  a pig
sauvage:  wild; also unsociable
élevé(e) en liberté:  free-range

Photos courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux.  All rights reserved.


Chalk cliffs on Corsica's extreme southern coastline at Bonifacio. The unusual block of limestone, called le Grain de Sel, literally the grain of salt, detached from the cliffs eight centuries ago.

mettre son grain de sel:  to intervene in a conversation without having been invited
avec un grain de sel:  with a grain of salt; for a succinct discussion of the origin of this expression which dates to classical antiquity, click here, albeit Wikipedia 

Photos courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux. All rights reserved.
©P.B. Lecron

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Jamais deux...
sans trois.
Never two without three, goes the old French saying, as do these donkeys in the vineyards near Patrimonio, Corsica.

jamais:  never
sans:  without
un âne:  a donkey
une bourrique:  an ass

Anecdotally: see Ancient Beauty Secret: Donkey Milk 

Photos courtesy Marianne Lecron. All rights reserved.
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Île de Beauté
No one has, nor probably ever will again, cut my hair as well as a certain coiffeur did in the small town in the north of France where we used to live. One look at these photos and it's easy to understand, much to my dismay and split ends, why he packed up and retired to Corsica. Not surprisingly, the Mediterranean island and French region is nicknamed Île de Beauté.

la Corse:  Corsica
un coiffeur, -euse:  a hairdresser
les fourches:  split ends
la beauté:  beauty
une île:  an island
un coquelicot:  a poppy

Photos  of poppies on the coastline near Porto-Vecchio courtesy of  Marianne Lecron.

©2012 P.B. Lecron


My adult kids have just returned from Corsica, so for the next few days I'll be posting favorite pics from their holiday, making it in a way, public. Coincidentally, today is a public holiday; France and Europe commemorate May 8, 1945, the date when World War II allied forces formally accepted Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender, putting an end to Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Did you know that Ajaccio, in the aerial view of the coastline above, was the very first French city to be liberated during WWII? 

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, May 7, 2012


Vintage embroidered sheets to illustrate the expression "être dans de beaux draps,"  to be in a mess or an unpleasant situation. 

un drap:  a sheet
un drap housse:  a fitted sheet
la broderie:  embroidery

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Thank heavens...much needed rain! We love the glassy and magnifying effect of raindrops that a stormy night left on this morning rose blossom. Sent from guest photographer Sylvia's smart phone in the south of France. 

grâce au ciel:  thanks to God; thank heavens
un rosier:  a rose bush
une rose:  a rose
une goutte d'eau:  a droplet
un orage:  a storm

Voici la pluie qui arrive.
Here comes the rain.

Après la pluie le beau temps.
After the rain comes the sun.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Once one of the most prestigious stud farms in the world belonging to the textile magnet Marcel Boussac, le Haras de Jardy attracted dignitaries like Queen Elisabeth II in 1957 and Nikita Krushchev in 1961. Since 1980 it belongs to the Conseil Général des Hauts-de-Seine which has turned it into France's largest public equestrian center. 

un concours:   a competition
équitation:  horseriding
un haras:  a stud farm
entrée gratuite:  free admission
un conseil général: a deliberating assembly of a department
un département:  an administrative and decentralized local collective as well as electoral division; France has 101 departments grouped into regional administrative units directed by préfets
un préfet:  a prefect, i.e., a  civil servant responsible for administering a prefecture

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, May 4, 2012


Fresh from Anduze: friend Sylvia in the south of France sent this photo of hors d'oeuvres she rates as five-star yummy. The bread with olive oil, slices of boudin noir au cumin and apples, is put into a medium oven five minutes before serving. It does look enticing, although even during my snail-eating days I was always too squeamish to ever try boudin noir or blood sausage, one of the oldest forms of charcuterie known to man. 

un hors d'oeuvre:  appetizer or small savory dish served at the beginning of a meal
un boudin:  a French type of sausage; also a bolster pillow (un traversin)
la charcuterie:  cooked pork products; also pork butchers shop or delicatessessen
le cumin:  caraway
chochotte:  squeamish

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, May 3, 2012


La pluie produit deux phénomènes contradictoires. Elle fait apparaître les escargots et disparaître les taxis. -- Paulo Vincente

Rain produces two contradictory phenomena. It makes snails appear and taxis disappear.

la pluie:  rain
un escargot:  a snail
apparaître:  to appear
disparaître:  to disappear

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Live in France? The coolest cookbook comes from France's premier frozen food emporium, Picard. Its 80 recipes use a mix of ingredients that are mostly to be bought at your neighborhood Picard. Each recipe is to be executed in three steps; an easy and quick home doctoring that makes anyone look like a master chef. No sacrilege, just fact; plenty of gourmands here swear by Picard.

un livre de recette:  a cookbook
cuisiner:  to cook
une étape:  a step
facile:  easy

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Un brin de muguet pour le premier mai
Charles IX (1550-1574) is said to have offered ladies of his court sprigs of lily of the valley for good luck, celebrating the arrival of springtime. The custom remains and every first of May all of France exchanges the pretty and perfumed flowers with friends and neighbors. This muguet was offered online by a pal, Sylvia, who photographed it blooming in her yard this morning. Mille mercis--many thanks!

un brin:  a sprig
le muguet:  lily of the valley
un porte bonheur:  a lucky charm
une clochette:  a little bell, here the form of the tiny flowers
joli(e):  pretty
une courtisane:  a lady of the court

©2012 P.B. Lecron