Sunday, April 28, 2013


One of the more popular gods among men and Immortals, Dionysus, spread merrymaking and the secrets of wine making far and wide in his mythical travels. Here the Greek god of grape harvests, revelry and theatre, is represented in an Art Nouveau bas relief embedded in the façade of a villa in Versailles' Montreuil neighborhood. The quarter has a treasure trove of glazed stoneware decorative elements, crowning jewels of the bourgeois residential building style created in the early 1900's by the Versailles architect and wealthy entrepreneur, Léon Bachelin. His historic houses, typically constructed in meulière with Art Nouveau ceramic ornaments on their façades, are concentrated in Versailles along the Avenue des Etats-Unis, the Boulevard de la République,  and their adjoining streets.

meulière:  here, a stone used frequently in residential constructions in the Parisian area; characteristic of a regional architectural style when combined with Art Nouveau ceramic pieces
imbriqué:  embedded
un regard vitreux:  a glassy look (e.g., in the eye)

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, April 25, 2013


A pair of pigeons watch the locks opening on the l'Ill River in Strasbourg, a city which has been regularly condemned by animal rights groups for its capture and elimination of pigeons by gassing with carbon dioxide. It's in Strasbourg that the Collectif pour une Régulation Douce des Pigeons (CREDO Pigeons) was originally formed in response to the mistreatment of pigeons, which when in massive numbers are regarded in many cities as public nuisances. CREDO proposes a "softer" means of pigeon population control: installation of contraceptive pigeon houses where the birds' eggs are removed from nests. Thirteen such pigeon houses have been installed in Paris, as well as in tens of other cities in France. A sad reminder: feeding pigeons is illegal in Paris and punishable by a 450€ fine.

un pigeonnier:  a pigeon house
un nid: a nest
doux, douce: soft

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 22, 2013


Friend Sylvia caught a shot of this little fellow who has just reappeared in her garden in the south of France, inspiring the publication today of a French joke. It admittedly loses something in the translation:

Que dit la maman grenouille a son petit qui revient à une heure tardive?  -- Dis donc, t'es tard! 

What did the mother frog say to its youngster who was tardy in returning home? Say, you're late!

une grenouille:  a frog
un têtard:  a tadpole, pollywog

Explanation for those who didn't get it:  "T'es tard" is a slurring of "tu est en retard," i.e., you're late; it sounds like the French word for tadpole, "têtard."

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, April 21, 2013


  Ce n'est pas aux vieux singes qu'on apprend à faire la grimace.
You don't teach old monkeys how to grimace.
This is an admonition I hear often enough from a cranky and exacting French friend of a certain âge. It means that experienced or mature men don't need advice on how to act, especially when the advice is coming from an uppity younger person. 

This 18th century Regency allegorical decor of monkeys and Chinese figures in the drawing room at the Château de Chantilly is known as La Grande Singerie, The Grand Monkey Room.
un singe:  a monkey
une singerie:  a monkey house
les singeries:  monkey tricks; monkeying around
une grimace:  a grimace, frown, scowl
d'un certain âge:  a euphemism for rather old

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, April 19, 2013


Panache near Aigue-Mortes

le panache:  feather; ornament composed of floating feathers placed on a hat; elegance (figurative sense)
avec panache:  with style
panaché:  mix of colors

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Shedding light
Mettre de la lumière sur le chandelier:  rendre les vérités publiques

Literally this means to put light on the chandelier, to make truths public. This ornate chandelier hangs in the Château de Chantilly.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Button up your overcoat during the month of April, which is usually chilly and wet in the northern half of France.

En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil, en mai fait ce qu'il te plaît.
In April don't take off a stitch of clothing, in May do as you please.

Avril pluvieux fait mai joyeux.
Rainy April makes a joyful May.

Pluies d'avril, fleurs de mai.
April showers bring May flowers.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, April 12, 2013


Les toits d'ardoise de Chinon
Slate roofs in Chinon overlooking the Vienne river in the center of France.

un toit :  a roof
ardoise:  slate

Avoir une ardoise:  to have an account or debt for drinks in a bar or café

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 8, 2013


This vintage brand soap smells good! An inexpensive and practical souvenir to take home--and available in les grands surfaces, French supermarkets that sell everything from textiles to tomatoes and televisions.

Passer le savon: literally to pass the soap; to moralize or to put someone in his place, or to reprimand
This expression dates to the 17th century when French women, who when washing clothes at the community wash-shed would exchange juicy gossip at the same time as they shared a bar of soap.

un pain de savon:  a bar of soap
un lavoir:  a wash-shed or tub
un potin:  an item of gossip
passer un savon:  to give a dressing down

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, April 1, 2013


Un jardin secret--
somewhere in the south of France

un jardin secret:  a reserved domain of secret sentiments or intimate thoughts
un portail:  large door giving access to a building, park or garden; also a church's facade where its principal door is located
quelque part:  somewhere

©2013 P.B. Lecron