Archive for the 'French vocabulary' Category

Bonnes Vacances !

August 1, 2012

Store Window, Saint Paul, The Marais

Bonnes vacances ! – Have a good vacation!
les vacances
– vacation, holidays

tranquille – quiet, calm, peaceful
une boulangerie – bakery
tant pis
– too bad
le métro – the Paris subway
l’heure de pointe – rush hour
la foule – crowd
le quai – quay
du monde – (many) people
il n’y a pas grand monde – there’s hardly anybody; there aren’t many people
une complicité – understanding, complicity

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“Les gens s’étonnent toujours que vous ne quittiez pas Paris l’été, sans comprendre que c’est précisément parce qu’ils le quittent que vous y restez.”
(“People are always surprised that you don’t leave Paris in the summer. They don’t understand that it’s precisely because they leave it, that you stay.”)
– Henry de Montherlant



It’s August 1st!  For many Parisians, that means one thing – it’s time for les vacances!  As I write this, Paris’ year-round inhabitants are fleeing the city in droves, abandoning it willingly to starry-eyed tourists and the handful of residents who are staying behind. The next 31 days promise to be tranquille, as stores, boulangeries and businesses close up shop, often to the perplexed frustration of August visitors to the city.  My friend Andrew, for example, got here last Sunday and immediately started calling around to make restaurant reservations – only to discover that virtually all the eateries on his list… which he had oh-so-carefully researched and notated for his long-anticipated vacation… are closed.  For the entire month.  (I tactfully refrained from pointing out that if he had been reading my blog, he’d have already known about Paris in August, though I guess, technically, I’m now pointing it out here. Ahem.)

It’s all so very French in attitude. Even Berthillon, the world-famous artisanal ice cream maker—who could easily make a killing during high tourist season—closes its doors during the month. Some things are sacred, after all. Money or not, August is designated for les vacances. Tant pis.  The tourists will just have to get their ice cream elsewhere.

This marks my third August in Paris and I’m looking forward to it. No impossibly jam-packed métro during l’heure de pointe. No fighting the foule at the supermarket. Crowded, narrow sidewalks that are normally overrun with people are free and clear for strolling and il n’y a pas grand monde along the quai de la Seine. As long as you stay away from the main tourist attractions, it feels as if the city is suddenly at your disposal.


Room for quiet contemplation on the quai de la Seine

There’s an unspoken, friendly complicité between all us Parisians who are left behind to wander the city streets – as we go about our daily routines, we cross paths and exchange knowing, sympathetic glances with each other. Yes, for whatever reason, we have not been able to leave the city for les vacances along with the others. But we also share something else in common: a delightful little secret. For the next month at least, the city belongs entirely to us, and to us alone.

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Petit Coucou de Provence

July 12, 2012

Taking a sunset walk across the famous “champs de lavande” in Provence. Photo by Margaret Ko.

un petit coucou – a little hello
un champ – a field
la lavande – lavender
en attendant – in the meantime

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance. I must therefore guard the time allotted to writing as a Hungarian Horntail guards its firstborn egg.”
― J.K. Rowling

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” ― Pablo Picasso


Recently, I made a deal with a friend that I would commit to posting to my blog at least once a week, “even if I only had time to upload a photo”.  I’ve got a lot on the go at the moment, so it looks like this is going to be one of those weeks!

The aforementioned agreement constitutes part of our mutual effort to kick our own butts and stay creative by being disciplined about writing/producing/what have you on a regular basis, adhering strictly to our own self-imposed deadlines, even when we “don’t have the time”. Even when we don’t feel like it.  Even if the end result won’t be “perfect”.

It’s that last one that will be the biggest struggle for me, a self-confessed chronic perfectionist.  But I’ve also come to realize that it doesn’t matter how perfect an idea is if it only ever exists in my head. I can (and have) easily spend years mulling over an idea, picking it apart, speculating about the best way to put it into motion… but never actually putting anything down on paper. I think that on some level I feel that if I don’t take any concrete steps towards making that idea a reality, it’s still possible for it to turn out perfectly—and in effect, it does get to stay perfect… in my imagination. But the funny thing is that I always feel so much happier once I’ve actually just gone ahead and accomplished said idea/task/goal, even if the results are not exactly what I had hoped. And even if I’m not totally satisfied, the great thing about producing creative work on an ongoing basis is that there’s always the next project, waiting for me to do better. Continue reading »

Fifty Shades of Grey

July 3, 2012
Not even the rainy weather could deter these tourists from admiring la belle Tour Eiffel from the outlook at Trocadero Gardens.

C’est penible – it’s horrible; it’s awful
la météo – the weather report
Météo France – France Weather, the French national weather bureau
grisaille – grey (and dreary) weather
temps pluvieux – rainy weather
le moral – morale
la pluie, toujours la pluie – rain, rain and more rain
lunettes de soleil – sunglasses
un maillot de bain – a bathing suit
une terrasse – a terrace, a patio
un accessoire de mode – fashion accessory
un parapluie – an umbrella
Paname – an affectionate French nickname for Paris
SNCF – France’s national state-owned railway company
ensoleillé(e)(s) – sunny
desinations ensoleillées – sunny destinations
se changer les idées – to clear one’s head; to take one’s mind off of things
réchauffer le cœur – to warm the heart
le paysage – landscape
la crème solaire – sunscreen
une robe d’été – summer dress
le soleil – sun
spontanément – impulsively, in the moment
un boucle – a loop
un boucle à véloa bike trip; a bike tour
les champs de lavande – the lavender fields
se faire du bien – to do one good (me faire du bien – to do me good)

 

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« En juin, trop de pluie, et le jardinier s’ennuie. »
(“Too much rain in June and the gardener languishes.”)
– French saying


This spring and summer has been one of the rainiest that Paris has seen in a very long time. Day after day, I wake up, throw open the window and look hopefully up at the sky, only to be greeted with endless clouds of grey and an unrelenting rain that continues to fall without pity. C’est pénible.

From April 1 to June 21, Paris received 330 mm of rain.  In June alone, the city recorded 98.5 mm of rainfall – nearly twice the normal average for this time of year. Last week, Météo France confirmed it—this June has been one of the rainiest Paris has seen in the last 50 years. On June 21, we hit 48 days of rain since the beginning of spring.  June 24 marked 49.  I’m starting to feel like I’m living out some kind of alternate and, sadly for me, much less racy version of Fifty Shades of Grey – or rather, Fifty Shades of Grisaille.

All this temps pluvieux has not been good for le moral.  “Je n’en peux plus de ce temps merdique !” my friend Jen texted me the other day in despair. (“I can’t take any more of this sh*tty weather!”)  It’s a sentiment shared by many. I have a new appreciation for the lyrics to the early 90s pop song by French group Au P’tit Bonheur : “J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil ! J’veux du soleil !” (“I want sun! I want sun! I want sun!”) Continue reading »

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