Saturday, June 30, 2012


Une nuit blanche au Château de Versailles
At this very moment un bal masqué in the gardens of the Château de Versailles is about to begin. Period costumes and masks are obligatory for the "Marie-Antoinette Electro" event which will last from sunset til sunrise. Smart phone photo courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux.

une nuit blanche:  a sleepless night; literally a white night
un bal masqué:  a masked ball, masquerade
un loup:  here, an eye mask; also a wolf
un masque:  a mask

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Friend Sylvia's smart-phone photo sent straight from the sunny south of France serves as a reminder for un truc de grand-mère:  put sachets of dried lavender in the closets to chase away clothing moths.

une mite:  a moth
un antimite:  a moth repellent, mothproofer
un truc:  a thing; a trick; here a tip
traité à l'antimite:  mothproofed

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Sparkling water refreshment
From simple tables in Corsica (where it's local) to the grandes tables  of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants in Paris, New York and Tokyo, the reference in natural sparkling water is the Corsican Orezza. It's refreshingly delicious--but oh, how amazingly spoiled people have become. Commercialized and sourced from an ancient thermal spring since 1856.

eau gazeuse:  sparkling water
gazeux, gazeuse:  gaseous
pétillant, -e:  sparkling, fizzy, bubbly
un rafraîchissement:  a refreshment
un bar à eau:  a water bar (a drinking establishment or counter that serves only water, but of a great diversity)
gâté, -e:  spoiled

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Medieval gothic cathedrals' walls were not entirely white as most appear today, but were once decorated with colorful murals that harmonized with the stained glass windows. Here's an well-preserved example in the fabulous Cathédrale Saint-Etienne de Bourges.

polychrome:  polychromatic, multicolored

Quand les Cathédrales Etaient Peintes, by art historian and world specialist of gothic and religious architecture, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg. Editions Gallimard.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Quite literally jailhouse rock, viewed through the double-door entrance of Honfleur's former prison,  which dates to 1734. Le Vieux Honfleur, a charming and much visited port village, converted the prison into an ethnography and popular arts museum in 1896.

It's not legible in the photo, but a small note attached to the iron gate asks people not to shake it.

une prison:  a prison
la geôle:  the gaol; the jail
un geôlier:  a jail-keeper
le rock du bagne:  jailhouse rock

©2012 P.B.Lecron

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


A book, a bench, a tree and long soutane --may some things never change.

Twice last week I crossed the paths of Catholic priests garbed in cassocks on the streets of Versailles. A rather comforting sight, even for my non-Catholic self, and one that is more unusual than not these days.

The ankle-length garment was once everyday clerical wear here; today it is little used except for religious services.

que Dieu soit loué:  God be praised; thank heavens; an expression of relief

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, June 18, 2012


Unusual but very practical for an economical expedition. We had to look on Google to find out more about this thrifty rolling German hotel. The Mercedes tour bus with guide is fitted out with passenger seats for sightseeing during the day and sleeping berths for the night, as well as a camping kitchen set up. The all-in-one coach and hotel firm has been in business for more than 50 years and operates in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Das Rollende Hotel: The Rolling Hotel.

insolite:  unusual
rouler:  to roll
un car:  a coach or bus
Some French slang
Ça roule?
How's it going?

Il a beaucoup roulé.
He's been around; he's been places.

Snapshot from a car window courtesy of Marianne Lecron
© 2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Lavender has started blooming in the south of France! Friend and smart-phone photographer Sylvia sends these powdery close-ups from her garden in the Gard.  
I see lavender and think dessert--especially one that is decorated and perfumed with fresh lavender buds: une feuilleté aux abricots à la crème anglaise. A perfect marriage.
Tip: If you have a hankering to dot a crème anglaise with lavender buds, then its best to grow your own to ensure that the flowers aren't contaminated by pesticides or animal urine. Otherwise, buy organically grown culinary lavender.

la lavande:  lavender
un feuilleté:  a flaky puff pastry
une crème anglaise:  a classic dessert sauce made from a pourable vanilla custard
un bourgeon:  a bud
un abricot:  an apricot

En mûrissant, faites comme la lavande, adoucissez-vous.
Like lavender, grow sweeter as you grow older.

©2012 P.B. LECRON

Saturday, June 16, 2012


"La fenêtre, en province, remplace le théâtre et les promenades." -- Gustave Flaubert

The window, in the provinces, replaces the theatre and promenades. From Flaubert's  Madame Bovary, written from 1851 through 1856.

At right, a tidy new window to look out of an old Normandy house in Honfleur, a charming  port town about 90 km from Rouen, birthplace of the French novelist.

Flaubert also said that anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough...

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, June 15, 2012


Sept forment un festin
Neuf engendrent querelle. -- proverbe romain

Seven makes a feast
Nine creates a fight. -- Roman proverb

un festin:  a feast
engendrer:  to create; to beget
une querelle:  a quarrel

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Front door to a troglodyte home in the heights of the Loire Valley city of Chinon. Such subterranean limestone dwellings are fitted out either in existing caverns or in excavations, like the one featured in a very interesting video clip you can view by clicking here. The most important concentration of troglodyte dwellings in Europe are found in the Loire Valley.  Très écolo and very much lived in.

un troglodyte:  a cave dweller; a wren
une maison troglodyte:  a cave dwelling
écolo:  slang for ecological
Val de Loire:  Loire Valley

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Lentement mais sûrement
A bit mud-splattered thanks to all of the rain we've been having, these trompe l'oeil works on utility boxes are even still a treat for anyone walking or biking down Boulevard de la Reine in Versailles. Painted by members of the Ecole d'Art Mural de Versailles.
lentement mais sûrement:  slowly but surely
hâtez-vous lentement:  make haste slowly

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Bike lanes here have dramatically improved since Versailles' bicycling and dynamic mayor, François de Mazières took office in 2008. What you see along the bike paths has, too. Ugly utility boxes throughout the town are being systematically transformed, free of charge, into trompe l'oeil works of art by the Ecole d'Art Mural de Versailles in a beautification project partnered with the mayor's office. More photos to come...

à titre grâcieux:  free of charge
embellir:  to make more attractive

Friday, June 8, 2012


Avoir le béguin pour...
A crush----- on Pompon, resident French cat and blog mascot.
Portrait photo by Pierre Lechanteux.

avoir le béguin pour quelqu'un:  to have a crush on somebody
avoir un béguin:  to be in love

©2012 P.B. Lecron
©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, June 7, 2012


About town 
Londres plus Londres que jamais
London more London than ever, says this Eurostar urban ad campaign for passengers going to the summer Olympics in late July. And, so is Eurostar urban advertising more Eurostar than ever! Often a wee-bit naughty... Known for wacky and creative urban posters to promote the Paris to London train route, Eurostar's new campaign parodies the British pub sports of darts and snooker in the undress of antique Greek statues of victorious athletes. 

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Metric measuring tapes are very stubborn; they won't give an inch.

une mesure à ruban:  a measuring tape
une mesure:  a measurement
mesurer:  to measure
prendre les mesures de:  to measure, to take measurements of
sur mesure:  customized
avec mesure:  with moderation
une mesure d'austérité:  an austerity measure
défaitiste:  defeatist (adjective or noun)

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Pour le goût
An original combination of pomegranate flowers and strawberries, straight from creative contributor Sylvia's smartphone in the Gard. Merci, encore!

le goût:  taste; tasteful
un goût salé:  a salty taste
un goût sucré:  a sugary taste
un goût brûlé:  a burnt taste
le goût du pouvoir:  appetite for power
au goût du jour:  with current tastes
une femme de goût:  a woman of taste
un avant-goût:  a foretaste
un arrière-goût:  an aftertaste

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Exterior restoration in progress of a transparent white and stained glass grilled window at Saint Vigor, a small royal church in Marly-le-Roi. Built from 1688-1689 at the demand of Louis XIV, it is the only rural church constructed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the king's head architect. Transparent windows provided more luminosity than did medieval stained glass windows, and thus enabled congregations to read and follow texts and psalms, which thanks to the invention of the printing press, were becoming more and more available.

un vitrail:  a stained glass window
les vitraux:  stained glass windows
le verre blanc:  transparent or plain glass

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, June 4, 2012


I had to duck outside yesterday afternoon, interrupting my royal watching on TV, and although the weather was fine for most of the day, I noticed that not many people were out and about in Versailles. Most were probably home either following the Roland Garros play-offs or admiring the spectacular nautical parade on the Thames celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. Difficult choice--the flotilla or Federer! People the world over--and the French especially so--are fascinated by and fond of Her Majesty the Queen. One cannot help but be impressed by the expression of social cohesion on such historic occasions where tradition and anachronism are contemporized.

Honnis soit qui mal y pense
Lest it be forgot, William the Conqueror was actually the Norman duke Guillaume le Conquérant, who after winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066 became the king of England. More than a third of all English words are derived from French, which for centuries was the elite language of the royal court. 

Dieu et mon droit is the French devise on the United Kingdom's royal coat of arms.
And the motto of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the highest order of chivalrly in England founded in 1348, is a Middle French expression: Honnis soit qui mal y pense. Shame upon him who thinks evil.

la Tamise:  the River Thames
un fleuve:  a river
jubiler:  to exult
un jubilé:  a jubilee
jubilant:  gleeful

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, June 3, 2012


La fête des mères
Gosh, I hadn't realized Mother's Day has antique origins--ancient Greek springtime celebrations honoring the mother goddess Cybele, as well as the Roman Matronalia festival for Juno. Nor had I realized that a tiny French village in the Rhônes-Alpes, Artas, touts itself as being the cradle of today's Mother's Day. It was there on June 10, 1906, that the first modern ceremonies honoring mothers took place: two mothers each having nine children received certificates designated "Haut Mérite Maternel." High Maternal Merit.

Today is la fête des mères in France. The celebration falls on the last Sunday of May, except in years when that Sunday coincides with Pentecost (Whitsunday), in which case the fête is postponed til the first Sunday in June. Pourquoi faire simple quand on peut faire compliqué? Why do things simply when they can be done more complicatedly?

Bonne fête maman!
Happy Mother's Day!

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Freshly picked Pierre de Ronsard roses, a variety inspired by the French Renaissance poet's celebrated line "Mignonne, allons voir si la rose..." in his sonnet, Ode À Cassandre. Composed in 1545, de Ronsard's poem likens the passing of youth to the blossoming and fading of a rose. Life is short. 

The ode was put to music first by Jehan Chardavoine in 1575 and became a popular song of the Renaissance. Later in that century it also inspired a polyphonic version. In the 19th century Richard Wagner while visiting Paris, set the ode to song in Mignonne, WWV57, a lied for voice and piano. In fact, throughout the centuries the sonnet has inspired a number of musical compositions, including Cécile Chaminade's (1857-1944) beautiful melody exquisitely interpreted by the confirmed countertenor star, Philippe Jaroussky.

Although the Pierre de Ronsard rose, also known as the Eden Rose, is not very fragrant, its large and heavy, cabbage-shaped double blossom begins as a light green bud that opens into an ethereal creamy,  pink-tinged flower. As it ages the blossom becomes white. Disease-resistant and easy to grow, the Pierre de Ronsard can be grown as a shrub or a two-meter high climber. The variety is a hybrid developped in 1987 by Meilland Roses, a French firm. In 2006 it was voted the most popular rose in the world at an international rose convention in Osaka, Japan.

This is a rose to pick especially before it rains, like friend Sylvia did who provided the above photo, because the blossoms become too heavy with water and deteriorate rapidly.

un lied:  from German, a long poem sung by one voice accompanied by a piano or an instrumental ensemble; (plural form is lieder)
une mélodie: in French, a particular form of music consisting of a brief composition for voice accompanied by a piano or ensemble; similar to the German lied or art song, the English musical equivalent
un rosier grimpant:  a climbing rosebush

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, June 1, 2012


Frenchified British
Le Cottage restaurant and salon de thé in the old town center of Marly-le-Roi, near Versailles. A great place for brunch or lunch where quiche is the speciality. Lots of room for plays on words as well as a silhouette-pleasing light cheese cake. Tea cups, doilies, linen aprons and embroidered table runners galore. Très kitschissime. You'll love it.  7 bis Grande Rue, Marly-le-Roi. 

kitschissime:  extremely kitsch

Le Cottage, 7 bis Grande Rue, Marly-le-Roi
Telephone:  01 39 16 34 89

©2012 P.B.Lecron