Sunday, December 28, 2014

AIR FRANCE FILM FESTIVAL

Let's go to the movies
A long-haul flight becomes a veritable film festival on the new Airbus A380 where even Air France economy class passengers have individual viewing screens and their own choice of tens upon tens of films.

Vocabulary
des dizaines:  tens
une dizaine:  about ten
une douzaine:  a dozen or so
le cinoche:  popular slang among youngsters for cinema


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, November 30, 2014

LIGHTNING STRIKES

While out walking around the city of Versailles we noticed still another remarkable embellishment in the form of a golden bolt of lightning on this 1790 balcony guardrail at 17 rue de Satory. The inscription "sensere gigantes" is a devise of the Chevau-Légers, or light calvary, and means in French "terrasser les géants," strike down the giants. The motif is just above the entrance of the former caserne.



Vocabulary
un garde-corps:  a body guard, or as here, a guardrail for balconies or windows;  also called un garde-fou, which literally translates as a protection for a madman
la foudre:  lightning, a bolt of lightning

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 28, 2014

NEVER ENOUGH

I'm afraid that yours truly needs one of those contraptions she's seen tourists using--a hand-held telescoping camera pole to extend her camera higher to do justice to this magnificent Renaissance stained-glass window of the Église Sainte-Foy in Conches-en-Ouche. Pictured above is simply the foreground of an ensemble representing the Annunciation. The flamboyant Gothic style church in the small Normandy town has an exceptional and celebrated treasury of twenty-two 16th century master works of Romain Buron de Gisors, master stained-glass artist, and yes, disciple of the important maître-verrier, Engrand Leprince de Beauvais. 

The name of the town of Conches is derived from the word conque, a conch shell, because the town was an important step in the pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in Spain. A return visit to Sainte-Foy is guaranteed.

Vocabulary
l'Annonciation:  the Annunciation
un maître-verrier:  a master glazier

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE GARDNER'S NEW CLOTHES

Here's another example of how the École d'Art Mural de Versailles has spruced up numerous utility boxes around town. This box has been dissimulated by a trompe l'oeil of a poster after Nicolas de Larmessin's Habit de Jardiner. A prolific engraver, de Larmessin created  fantastical series of engravings featuring grostesque costumes for various professions during the early 18th century. The majority of the trompes l'oeil are to be found on utility boxes on four major streets in Versailles, each according to a theme: on Avenue de Sceaux it's parks and gardens; on Aveunue de Paris it's baroque music; on Avenue de Saint-Cloud it's Molière; and on Boulevard de la Reine it's the fables of Jean de la Fontaine.


Vocabulary
un habit:  an outfit
les habits:  clothes

Expression
L'habit ne fait pas le moine. This literally means "the outfit doesn't make the monk," and is used to convey a meaning similar to the English expression, "don't judge a book by its cover."

Want to see more?



©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

SHORTCUT

There's more in the city of Versailles to explore than the palace and its grounds--like the city's several charming 18th-century shortcuts connecting edifices, squares, and commercial districts. This one has been glorified by the École d'Art Mural de Versailles with a very nice rendering, in a trompe l'oeil frame, of the baraques which were built around public squares. It leads from the Carrés Saint-Louis, with its restaurants, shops, and abodes, to the Cathédrale Saint-Louis. The baraques are all still standing and vital to the Saint-Louis quarter. Most of them have been meticulously restored.

The shortcut


Vocabulary
un raccourci:  a shortcut
un passage:  a pedestrian walkway
un carré:  a square

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Monday, November 24, 2014

MELLOW YELLOW

It's turning out to be a long, soft autumn here in Versailles, with unseasonably (if not disturbingly) warm temperatures; and as yet, no killing frost. The pastel palette of this 18th-century baraque in the  Saint-Louis quarter matches the mellow weather. The baraque is a part of four ensembles of identical buildings, each group originally constructed around public squares to form commercial districts for the servants and personnel of the Château de Versailles. The charming buildings with their Mansard roofs are the pride of the neighborhood and are preciously conserved; a number of them house interesting specialty shops. Not to miss when in Versailles.
Vocabulary
une baraque:  a barrack; a light construction often built to lodge military troupes or store hunters', fishermen's or workers' material; when used as slang it means a poorly built, uncomfortable house

Expression
Casser la baraque:  literally to break the barrack; the term means to frankly succeed at an endeavor


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MERCY

Tenderness and compassion from the Left Bank on the Square René Viviani, Paris. The sculpture, by the late, great George Jeanclos (1933-1997), is flanked by the Cathédrale Notre Dame on one side and Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and its 400 year-old acacia, on the other. The work is actually a fountain, but from at least as far back as June 1996, water, like tears, no longer flows from it. 

Cited as the oldest living tree in Paris, the Robinier acacia was planted near the small church in the 17th century by the royal botanist, Jean Robin, from seeds said to have been introduced to France from the North American Appalachians. The Robinier, or false acacia, is braced by concrete supports.



Vocabulary
la compassion:  mercy
la miséricorde:  God's mercy

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, November 8, 2014

UNDER THE GINKGO TREE

Male - Female
Who wouldn't feel playful under one of France's favorite ornamental trees from China? That half of the Ginko Biloba trees we saw at the arboretum this week were already yellow or turning yellow while the other half were still green left us perplexed, until we read that the male trees are more precocious than the females. In the spring, the male trees' leaves appear two weeks earlier than the females', and yellow as well two weeks earlier in the autumn. The ancient and resistant to pollution species is commonly known in France as l'arbre aux quarante écus owing to the fact that in the late 18th-century a French botanist bought five ginkos from an English botanist, paying 40 écus d'or or gold coins for each tree.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, November 7, 2014

TURN, TURN, TURN

From a mid-autumn stroll in the Arboretum de Chèvreloup, at Rocquencourt. Maintained by the National Musuem of Natural History, the 195-hectare arboretum borders the grounds of the Château de Versailles.

Expression
Celui qui a peur des feuilles, ne doit pas aller aux bois.  He who is afraid of leaves should not go into the woods. This French proverb means that you should not engage in a project or enterprise if you are afraid to pay the costs. 

Vocabulary
une feuillle d'érable:  a maple leaf
lie-de-vin:  wine-colored
bordeaux:  when used as an adjective, burgundy-colored
brique: when used as an adjective, brick-red

For more on autumn, click here.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

THE FIVE SENSES

Learn more French with Pompon
Famous French cat Pompon noses a cyclamen to demonstrate one of the five senses, l'odorat. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell, 50 to 70 percent more powerful than that of man. 

Vocabulary
la vue:  sight
l'ouïe:  hearing
le goût:  taste
le toucher:  touch
l'odorat:  smell


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, November 2, 2014

DESTINATION GUADELOUPE

La Route de Rhum 2014
C'est parti!
Photo of television coverage taken from the comfort of my armchair this afternoon just after the start of the famous race from Saint-Malo to Pointe-à-Pitre, Gaudeloupe. Ninety-one solo skippers are participating this year in the single-handed transatlantic yacht race which takes place every four years. French channel 3 provided the splendid view.

Vocabulary
un fauteuil:  an armchair
une chaîne de télévision:  a television channel


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

OCTOBER MEANDERINGS

On perhaps the last beautiful day of our été indien we headed for the hills this week and returned to one of our favorite perches, the twelfth century donjon overlooking a meander of the Seine at the village of La Roche-Guyon. From a lookout window in the donjon, above, we captured a river barge. The tower's 250-step chiseled spiral stairway leads up a steep, ancient tunnel excavated in the chalk cliff. From the top is a commanding view--even though the fortified tower today is only half it's original 38-meter height. Below, a view from a road stop on the same plateau. 



Vocabulary
un méandre: a meander, an oxbow
un colimaçon: a spiral staircase
un donjon: a donjon, i.e. a massive inner tower in a medieval castle

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 26, 2014

MINI-MALL

One of the prettiest, small public marketplaces I know of is in one of the most beautiful villages in France--La Roche Guyon. The bird's eye view below of the 18th- to 19th-century market and town hall is seen from the heights of the donjon of the Château de la Roche-Guyon.

For more, click here.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ORANGE MUST

Mobile juice bar
After a day of walking through the grounds of the Domaine de Versailles, nothing quite hits the spot like a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice available at mobile electric kiosks. This one is usually positioned just outside the pink marble Trianon palace.




photo courtesy of Tom Byrd

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS

There's a fungus among us. 
"Il y a un champignon parmi nous" simply doesn't have the same effect as its English translation. This glorious cluster of fringed, non-comestible mushrooms came of age on the grounds of France's largest equestrian center, the Haras de Jardy, on the outskirts of Versailles.


Vocabulary
un champignon:  a mushroom
à la périphérie de:  on the outskirts of


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CONFUSION REIGNS

Inscrutable
For better or for worse, these past few years a movement to display contemporary art inside and on the grounds of the Château de Versailles has firmly taken hold. Does it bring added value to the visitor's experience? Or do the works, which often interfere with the perspectives originally created by André Lenôtre and so dear to the Sun King, make them feel cheated? Whenever one of these temporary conceptual installations springs up, we can't help but think of the perplexed people who pay to visit the royal palace expecting to see the château and its park the way it was, not a perfunctory, denaturing of the historic grounds. Proponents proffer that were Louis XIV here today, he would be the first to welcome the works in a spirit of avant-gardism. Debatable as that may be, the above trompe d'oeil du sol does have some interest. The vertical metal plaque, reminiscent of the beginning scenes of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, is buried in the gravel of the parterre du Midi. But seen from afar along with a second and horizontal plaque which serves as its shadow, an illusion that it's floating over the esplanade is created. The current enigmatic  implantations are the work of the Korean sculptor, Lee Ufan. 

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, October 17, 2014

CHEEKY

It takes a certain amount of cheek to permanently affix one's own effigy on a public thoroughfare; French street artist Gregos' has it. Numerous of his molded 3-D self-portraits have appeared in urban Parisian settings since 2006. All with different expressions. This one is on the corner of rue de Rivoli and rue Saint Roche. 

Vocabulary
du culot:  cheek, nerve

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, October 16, 2014

GOOD DAY, SUNSHINE

View of a small schooner on a fine day off the Pink Granite Coast near Ploumanach in French Brittany. Because the coast is famous for weather where there are all four seasons in one day, the Bretons have a proverb that says: "Attendez la nuit pour dire que le jour a été beau." Wait until night to say that the day was beautiful.

Vocabulary
une goélette:  a schooner



©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 12, 2014

RETURN TO CANCALE

The world is your oyster
Cancale, the oyster capital of Brittany, has already been A French Education's blog subject, but we love the authenticity of the small port town so much that we can't help but return there again and again. It's the real thing.

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, October 10, 2014

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Low tide in Ploumanach,  a mysterious cove on France's Brittany Côte de Granit Rose, an other worldly stretch of stunning pink granite formations. From the rocky Ploumanach inlet a path leads to the sentier des douaniers, a trail custom officials walked to patrol the coast. The trail with its magnificient sea views is an easy walk and links the tricky to navigate rock-filled cove to the nearby seaport and marina of Perros Guirec. The view above is from a boutique hotel bedroom window, Castel Beau Site. The photo below was taken on the trail.

Vocabulary
un sentier:  a path
un douanier:  a customs officer
une crique rocheuse:  a rocky inlet (from the sea)


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

KING OF THE ROW

A dream job: tending flowers in the scrolled, wide rows of the formal gardens at the Château de Versailles. Louis XIV's landscape architect, André Le Nôtre, originally designed the boxwood scrolled beds to be patterned with black and white marbled tiles. A generation later, however, Louis XV's daughters complained that the checkered pattern was sad and begged their father to have the tiles removed and replaced with flowers.

Vocabulary
un damier:  a checkerboard
à damier:  checkered
un parterre:  a flower bed
un jardinier:  a gardener
un boulot:  a job (familiar)


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Monday, October 6, 2014

I'D WALK A MILE FOR A CAMERA

For Your Information:  It's a 5.5 kilometer- or 3.4 mile-walk all the way around the Grand Canal in the park of the Château de Versailles.

Expression
à titre d'information:  for your information


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, October 5, 2014

BUMBLING ABOUT

A bumblebee, or bourdon, visiting the gardens at the pink marble Trianon Palace on the grounds of the Domaine du Château de Versailles. Another glorious Indian Summer day.
Vocabulary
un bourdon:  a bumblebee
bourdonner:  to buzz; to hum (motor)
un bourdonnement:  a humming

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, October 4, 2014

LILY PADS

Still adrift in Monet's gardens at Giverny during this exceptional Indian Summer.

Related posts:

©2014 P.B. Lecron 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DONE

Ce qui est fait n'est plus à faire
From the wisdom of an elderly and adorable French housekeeper named Félicité on the repetitiveness of household chores, "Ce qui est fait n'est plus à faire." What has been done is no longer to be done. Famous French Birman, Pompon, supervising the hand-wash, concurs. The proverb expresses the satisfaction of having finished a necessary and burdensome chore.

Vocabulary
laver à la main:  to hand wash
un lavabo:  a washbasin, hand basin, sink (but not kitchen sink which is un évier)
le lavage en machine:  the machine wash
une tâche:  a task, a chore
le ménage:  housework

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, September 28, 2014

AQUATIC


Water lilies basking on floating light in Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny.  


Vocabulary
un nénuphar:  a water lily



©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, September 26, 2014

HAPPY


You can't get much happier than this wooly or Mangalica pet pig living in the Queen's Hamlet on the grounds of the Château de Versailles and having fresh baguette and vegetables for lunch. The Queen's Hamlet, or l'Hameau de la Reine is the rustic farm village that Marie-Antoinette ordered to be constructed as a refuge from the rigid ceremonial constraints of royal court life. A caricature of a functioning farm, the idyllic decor was a rural paradise for the young queen.



Vocabulary
un cochon:  a male pig 
une truie: a female pig

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, September 25, 2014

LUNCHING ON THE HALF SHELL

From the oyster capital of Brittany
Les creuses de Cancale
For centuries oyster lovers, including French royalty and intellectuals--François I, Louis XIV, Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon Bonaparte, Voltaire, Rousseau, to name a few-- have had a preference for oysters from Cancale, a small but bustling fishing port on the western end of the Baie du Mont-Saint-Michel. 

"Life is good" is what the septuagenarian from Massachusetts sitting at the next table said as we sat outdoors bay-side in the delectable Indian summer sun savoring these creuses de Cancale. And, less is indeed more; a dozen fresh oysters on the half shell, bread, butter, and a free glass of white wine make a memorable one-course meal.

Expression
moins est plus:  less is more

Vocabulary
une huitre: an oyster
l'ostréiculture:  oyster farming
une demi-coquille:  a half shell


Photo courtesy of Thomas W. Byrd

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Friday, September 19, 2014

SEIZE THE DAY

Carpe diem
Oh, what a beautiful morning... mild temperatures, no wind, and not a cloud in the sky.
Let us seize the day: saissons le jour.

Vocabulary
un été indien:  an Indian summer

©2014 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, September 13, 2014

FORTY WINKS

Pompon, our favorite Sacré de Birmanie, takes forty winks, or un petit somme.

Vocabulary
un petit somme: a short nap
faire un petit somme:  have a short nap


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

DON'T BOTHER ME

Pompon a la flemme
The Birman is back. Famous French cat Pompon needs no prompting to show what "avoir la flemme" means.

Vocabulary
la flemme:  laziness
avoir la flemme:  to be lazy



©2014 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 16, 2014

CREATURE COMFORTS

Tourism is serious business in France, the most visited country in the world.  
This snapshot was taken at a roadside rest stop and filling station along the Autoroute 16 near the Baie de Somme.

Vocabulary
le confort matériel:  creature comforts
une aire de repos:  a rest area


©2014 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ICEHOUSE


We were surprised to happen upon this neglected glacière, or icehouse, gaping open on the grounds of the Château de Chenonceau; but even more intrigued by the deteriorated sculpture above its entrance. We can't quite make it out; in its present state it seems to resemble either the head of a hunting dog, a wolf, or even a horse. The masonry structure was built to cover a deep pit where ice was stored.


The very feminine Château de Chenonceau, on the Cher River in the Loire Valley, is the second most visited castle in France, Versailles being of course the first.

©2014 P.B. Lecron