Thursday, August 29, 2013


Whenever I see a window in France decked out as this one is, I can't help but think that there are  anglo-saxon influences at play. Either renters or property owners. This sort of decoration is not typically French; nonetheless, it's sweet. If only the decorative birdhouses' openings were a bit bigger for avian ingress and egress. Photo taken on a street in Uzès.

un nichoir:  a birdhouse, a nesting box
aviare:  avian
l'entrée:  ingress
la sortie:  egress
les parents esseulés:  empty nesters; parents who are left alone

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


From a choice picnic spot on the banks of the Gardon River near the Pont du Gard aqueduct, one of the world's best conserved Roman vestiges and an antique engineering marvel.

un picque-nique:  a picnic
picniquer:  to picnic
un aqueduc:  an aqueduct

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 25, 2013


De toutes les passions, la seule vraiment respectable me parait être la gourmandise.
 Guy de Maupassant said it in Amoureux et Primeurs,  in the chronicle Le Gaulois:  Of all passions, the only truly respectable one seems to me to be gourmandism. 

Artisanal ice cream laid in wait somewhere beneath the cornucopia of fresh fruit and chantilly. Served under the arcades of the outdoor terrace of my now favorite ice cream parlour in Uzès, Passion Vanille, 1 Place aux Herbes.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Beau comme un melon.
This expression, lovely or handsome as a melon (as the case may be), means superbe. These melons waiting for thumpers and takers were at the public market in Uzès, a beautiful city in the south of France. A more biting French expression: "Le mariage est comme le melon; c'est une question de chance." Marriage is like melons, a question of luck. Or worse and cornier still, "Les hommes sont comme les melons, sur dix il y en a un de bon." Men are like melons, one out of ten of them is good.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 23, 2013


This schoolbook tote is a far cry from today's quintessential Eastpak
As September approaches a day doesn't go by without some mention on French television news programs of la rentrée des classes, i.e. back-to-school. Year after year the usual angles for these non-news items are  the costs of school supplies and the ritual of choosing pencil cases and school bags. Here's a 19th-century wooden book box from school days long gone by in the Auvergne. These boxes with leather handles and straps not only carried books, paper and pens, but when placed on laps were also used as writing surfaces in schools lacking desks. And, according to what I've read, the rougher the climate, the greater the need for sturdier cartables as opposed to simple cloth satchels; school children in mountainous areas used to sit on their wooden book boxes to slide down slopes on their way back and forth to school.
un cartable:  a school bag, satchel
une trousse:  a case, a kit; here a pencil case
un sac à dos: a backpack
une sacoche:  a leather or canvas bag
un écolier:  a pupil
la rentrée, la rentrée des classes:  the start of the new school year
la rentrée parlementaire:  the reopening of parliament

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Le Café de l'Horloge
La Basilique Sacré-Cœur seen through the grande horloge of the Musée d'Orsay. This particular space on the fifth floor of the museum was redesigned a couple of years ago into a chic snack and coffee shop for monsieur Tout-le-Monde, the work of Brazilian designers and brothers, Fernando and Humberto Campana.

monsieur-Tout-le-monde:  man in the street, mister Everybody, literally
n'importe qui:  whoever,  just anybody
chic:  swanky

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 18, 2013


The Résidence les Caryatides in the néo-Haussannien neighborhood Villaroy, a sector of the ville nouvelle Guyancourt, is a companion piece to a post-modern police headquarters building in Paris, both designed by architect Manolo Nuñez-Yanowski. The 1990's concrete replicas of Vénus de Milo could stand a scrubbing.

Faire contre mauvaise fortune bon coeur:  grin and bear it

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Sans reproche
Here's an Albert Einstein quote translated into French: "Pour être un membre irréprochable parmi une communauté de moutons, il faut avant toute chose être soi-même un mouton." In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself. These members were lazily grazing as we drove past them on a plateau in the Haute-Ardèche. 

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Napoléon III en délire
This long ornate corridor, le grand foyer, at the Paris Opéra Garnier is a ticklishly awesome and garish sight. Ostentation en relief--and a lot of it at that--in an eclectic mix of neo-classic Greek and Roman with French and Italian Renaissance architecture and decor, is hallmark of the Napoleon III style. The Opéra Garnier, constructed from 1861-1875, is the epitome of this 19th century royal period style. 

stupéfiant:  awesome
voyant(-e):  garish
en délire:  delirious
un couloir:  a corridor
un foyer:  here, a meeting place for theatre goers during intermission

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Grand-mère doesn't need to listen to the prévisions météo to know if it's going to rain or not; she simply has to look at Mother Nature's barometer. Pine cones react to ambient humidity; they remain open when  the weather is beau fixe and they close if it's going to rain.

une pomme de pin:  a pine cone
un baromètre:  a barometer
la Dame Nature:  Mother Nature
les prévisions météorologiques:  weather forecast

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 12, 2013


Holidays in the Country
A used bookseller's summertime store window in one of the fascinating 19th-century covered commercial galleries, known as passages in Paris. This one was the Passage Verdeau which runs from 6 rue de la Grange-Batelière to 31 bis, rue du Faubourg-Montmartre in the 9th arrondissement.

les vacances:  holidays
les grandes vacances:  summer holidays
un forfait-vacances:  a holiday package
la campagne:  the country, the countryside; also campaign

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 11, 2013


It wasn't until I was looking at these hand-turned olive wood utensils being sold by a religious order in a market in Provence that I realized I had never paid attention to how to say "spoonful" in French. It's cuillerée.

une cuillerée:  a spoonful
une cuillerée pleine:  a heaping spoonful
une cuillerée rase:  a level spoonful

Il faut une longue cuiller pour souper avec le Diable.
Translated literally this says a long spoon is needed when having supper with the devil, meaning that you should keep your distance from shady or dangerous individuals.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Round pupils and mustache give this lion's head disarmingly human qualities. The artsy example of zoomorphism peers from a garden-wall lintel of a private residence in the ancient city of Arles.

se transformer:  to morph into something
zoomorphisme:  zoomorphism
anthropomorphisme:  anthropomorphism, humanization

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Scandaleux: le marché aux oiseaux
For decades guide books to Paris have described the Sunday morning bird market on the Île de la Cité as charming. It really isn't. Birds are packed into cages like sardines.

scandaleux (-euse):  scandalous
entasser:  to cram together, to pack into, to crowd
un cage à oiseaux:  a birdcage

trop c'est trop:  enough is enough

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 5, 2013


A popular classic
This family of giggling tourists was having a great time yesterday on a 15-minute spin around the heart of Paris in mythic open-roof Citroën Deux Chevaux automobiles. The trio of cars stayed close together while tooling around Île de la Cité on a sunny morning photo-op escapade.

An icon of the French car industry, the Deux Chevaux, or 2CV, not produced since 1990, is a cultural reference and a symbol of a free-spirited living style.

une roue:  a wheel
un parapluie:  an umbrella
bip-bip:  beep-beep
klaxonner:  to beep one's horn
un klaxon:  a horn

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 3, 2013


This is the first ergonomic marble bench I've ever seen. We tested it and it indeed gives an incredibly comfortable vantage point from which to enjoy the not-so-secret and remarkable multi-level Italian gardens of the renaissance Château d'Ambleville in the Val d'Oise.
ergonomique:  ergonomic
marbre:  marble
un banc:  a bench
un jardin à l'italienne:  an Italian style garden

© 2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 1, 2013


The last time I was in Clermont-Ferrand--and that was several years ago, restoration of the romanesque basilica masterpiece, Notre-Dame-du-Port, a UNESCO world heritage site, was just underway. The completed results are laudable, as is the thoughtful emplacement of a belvedere on the upper floor of an adjacent building to afford visitors a commanding view of the the church's exquisite mosaics and roofing.

©2013 P.B. Lecron