Friday, August 31, 2012


Pompon, a French Sacré de Birmanie, demonstrates the meaning of flagada. Dog-tired.

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Very old windows on a back wall in a cul-de-sac or impasse in the Alsatian village of Ricquewihr. 

un loquet:  a latch
fermer au loquet:  to latch

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Glad rags
Tel un épouvantail il ne fait peur que de loin.
Like a scarecrow, he is frightening only from afar.
A fancy French scarecrow fit for the Parc de Bagatelle in Paris' Bois de Boulogne, and dressed for the Egyptian proverb above. 

un épouvantail:  a scarecrow; a fallacious argument used to deceive, also called un homme de paille (a straw man)
loin:  far
les belles fringues:  glad rags (slang)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


A vintage tractor was not quite what we expected to see parked behind the chocolate shop in Bellême, nor did we expect to see an English telephone booth across the street. 
A local café owner told us that most vacationers in this pretty and out-of-the-way country town are either British or Parisian. No brag, just fact. 
Frankly, what really surprised us was the motocross endurance circuit carved in a hill on the edge of this ordinarly quiet and sleepy town in the Orne department. As it turns out, a motorcycle club has existed in Bellême since 1955. We left wondering how much dust, commotion and commerce that stirs up on event days.

un tracteur:  a tractor
une cabine téléphonique:  a telephone booth, phone box
franchement:  frankly

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Whatnot for balcony and terrace gardeners in the heart of Paris. The Marché aux Fleurs, a fragrant and picturesque potted-flower, shrub and tree market on l'Île de la Cité, dates to the early 1800's. Interesting to stroll through the stands and shops, green thumb or not. Place Louis-Lépine, Quai de la Corse.

les trucs:  things, whatnot
avoir la main verte: to have a green thumb (to have a knack with plants)

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 27, 2012


À l'ongle on connaît le lion; by just looking at his nail one can recognize a "lion." The sense is that even a detail is sufficient to recognize a great man; somewhat like the English expression, "you can tell a leopard by its spots."

un lion:  a lion; figuratively a courageous, bold and daring man, or celebrated person 
un ongle:  a nail (as fingernail)
connaître:  to know, in the sense of being familiar with a person or thing
une licorne:  a unicorn

The above photo is a detail of one of the six tapestries of the Dame à la Licorne, a masterwork of the Middle Ages, and a priority on the Paris musuem circuit. Musée de Cluny.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Twelve meters high and 18 tons of bronze thumb on the Esplanade of La Défense. This colossal version of Le Pouce (The Thumb) sculpted by César (César Baldaccini, 1921-1988), is more imposing than aesthetic. The original sculpture, an enlargement of a mold of the artist's own thumb, was cast in 1965 and measured 1,85 meters. A 6 meter-high version was created for the 1988 summer Olympics in Seuol, South Korea. The massive thumb at La Défense was put place in 1994.

faire tâche:  to stick out like a sore thumb
faire du pouce:  to thumb a ride; to hitchhike
avoir deux mains gauches:  to be all thumbs
en règle générale:  as a rule of thumb
une signe d'approbation:  thumbs up
un coup de pouce:  a help, an aid
sur le pouce:  in a rapid manner
manger sur le pouce:  to grab a bite to eat; to have a quick snack

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 24, 2012


La preuve que Dieu est ami des joueurs de boules, c'est que les feuilles des platanes sont proportionnées à la force du soleil. --Marcel Pagnol, Le Temps des Amours

The proof that God is friends with petanque players is that the leaves of plane trees are proportional to the strength of the sun.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Not to be disparaging, but the 12th arrondissement's post-modern police headquarters building would fit in nicely on a Las Vegas strip. The Paris building, with its row of 12 imitations of Michelangelo's Dying Slave (also known as the Captive), is the work of Spanish postmodern architect of renown, Manolo Nuñez-Yanowski. Built in 1991 on the corner of avenue Daumesnil and rue de Rambouillet, the ironizing statues are best viewed from the suspended gardens across the street, the Promenade Plantée.

The Promenade Plantée, created from 1988 thru 1993, is a 4.7 km park high atop the red-brick viaduct  of a discontinued urban rail line that crossed the 12th arrondissement.  Landscape architects left clearings in the shrubbery and trees for observation of the more interesting architectural elements along the narrow but long promenade--like the building above.
View of a section of the old railway transformed into the Promenade Plantée. Some ten meters above street level, the suspended garden begins behind the Opéra Bastille and continues, elevated, to the Jardin Reuilly, after which it descends, ending at the old terminus near the boulevard périphérique. 

At street level on avenue Daumesnil, the arcades of the viaduct were transformed into a designers' area, the Viaduc des Arts.  Fifty or so storefronts are there in which mostly high-end artisanal activities are carried on--such as violin-making, lacemaking or restoration of antique parasols. 

une enfilade:  a series, a row
un immeuble:  a building
une voie de chemin de fer:  a railway
le boulevard périphérique:  beltway
un paysagiste:  a landscape architect; a landscape painter

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Stenciled shutters on an Alsatian house in the very pretty village of Eguisheim. There is craft in daubing:

Même à badigeonner, il y a un savoir faire. 

badigeonner:  to daub, to paint
un pochoir:  a stencil
un volet:  a shutter
taper dans l'oeil:  to catch the eye
tape-a-l'oeil:  showy

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Montrer patte blanche
A sign of recognition 
A French child's education is not complete without having learned by heart at least two or three fables by Jean de La Fontaine. Pompon, this blog's mascot, kindly illustrates the expression "montrer patte blanche" popularized in "Le Loup, le Chèvre, et le Chevreau." 

The fable, in short: One day when the mother goat had to leave her kid home alone, locked the door and told him a phrase to use as a password, with instructions not to open the door to anyone without it. The wolf who was sneaking around the house at the time, overheard the phrase. When the mother goat left, he knocked at the door and repeated the password. But because he did not get the phrase just right, the young goat was suspicious and asked that he "show a white paw," proof the he was not the wolf.

une patte:  a paw
un loup:  a wolf
un chevreau:  a kid goat
un mot de passe:  a password
montrer:  to show

©2012 P.B. Lecron


It was while living in this villa in Lyons-la-Forêt, a picturesque and peaceful village surrounded by an undoubtedly inspiring beech-tree forest in the Vexin Normand, that Maurice Ravel composed Le Tombeau de Couperin. For twenty-five minutes of trembling-leaf-listening pleasure, click here.
un hêtre:  a beech
une hêtraie:  a beech grove

Pronunciation tip:  the "s" of Lyons is pronounced.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 20, 2012



Life in the basse-cour, a show for all to see when entering Gerberoy, one of the prettiest villages of France and located in the heart of Picardie. The small utility trailer doubling as a roost is a spot from which the hens like to see and be seen.

la téléréalité:  reality television
la basse-cour:  farmyard
un dindon:  a turkey cock, a gobbler
une dinde:  a turkey; also slang for a silly woman
glouglouter:  to gobble (like a turkey); to gurgle
glouglou:  gobble
engloutir:  to gobble up, devour
un perchoir:  a roost, a perch

faire la loi:  rule the roost

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Shade and water at Place de la Contrescarpe, in the heart of the village-like Mouffetard neighborhood in the Latin Quarter. Ringed by bistros, cafés and bars, the festive place is a favorite watering hole of university students. 

la canicule:  heat wave
une fontaine d'eau:  a water fountain
un abreuvoir:  a watering hole, watering place; drinking trough

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 18, 2012



I could have sworn she moved slightly the instant I noticed her in the Louis Vuitton show window on avenue George V in Paris. But no, it wasn't really the atypical artist Yayoi-Kusama, nor a live sosie of her, but a wax-figure mannequin of the long-reigning queen of Japanese avant-garde. Kusama and Louis Vuitton have collaborated to launch a new line based on Kusama's fetish pattern, polka dots. The manga-style dotted wave decor, however, belies the prettiness of the new LV line. Click here to judge for yourself.

un motif à pois:  polka dot pattern
une vitrine:  shop or show window; display or display cabinet
faire du lèche-vitrine:  go window-shopping

©2012 P.B. Lecron


High noon in Strasbourg: exterior and interieur views of the rosette of the city's splendiferous Cathédrale Notre Dame. Called la Grande Rose, the rosette is unique in that it represents wheat in the blade, source of bread and symbol of prosperity. After Notre Dame de Paris, the Strasbourg cathedral is the second most visited in France. For a virtual tour, as well as a "sphénoramique(TM)" visit in 3-D click here. (Sphénoramique is a registered trademark for high-resolution spheric panoramique photographs.)

le blé:  wheat; also the slang term for money
l'hostie:  special unleavened bread used for religious communion 
une rosace:  a rosette, a stained-glass rose window
le midi:  midday, noon

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 17, 2012


From a hall in Terminal E of  Charles de Gaulle airport, Roissy.

Photos courtesy of Pierre Lechanteux

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 16, 2012


La fenaison
We haven't been able to find an equivalent, age-old proverbe in French for "make hay while the sun shines" other than the Larousse's disappointing proposition of "battre le fer pendant qu'il est chaud." Strike while the iron is hot. So I'm taking the matter into my own hands with the literal translation:  Faire les foins pendant que le soleil brille. 

la fenaison:  haymaking
le foin:  hay
une botte de foin:  a bale of hay
une meule de foin:  a haystack
faire les foins:  make hay

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Two seals bobbing in the bay before high tide, as seen from the quay in Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme on a perfect summer evening. 

un phoque:  a seal
un quai:  a quay
la marée haute:  high tide
la marée basse:  low tide
la marée montante:  rising tide
la marée descendante:  ebb tide

©2012 P.B. Lecron


La minette
Plume, who is making her very first appearance on A French Education, illustrates the French term for pussycat, "la minette."

un minou:  a kitten, a pussy
une minette:  a pussycat; a young woman
un minet:  a dandy

avoir des yeux de chat:  to see well in the obscurity

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 13, 2012


From a rationalist thinker
Chacun pense suivant la nature du siège sur lequel il est assis. --Alain

An interesting thought from a French essayist, philosopher and professor, Alain (1868-1951): "Everyone thinks according to the nature of the seat on which he sits." By coincidence, this photo was taken in a town in Le Perche, a province in which Alain was born. Alain, whose real name was Emile Chartier, was a popular, concise and succinct rationalist of his time.

un siège:  a seat
la vie de tous les jours:  everyday life
penser:  to think

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Hey, wait a minute...
French Food. Straight from Paris on Rue Monge in the 5th arrondissement. 

Although we had plenty of colloquialisms, "hold your tater" was not one used where I grew up, but it works here. For non-anglophone readers, tater is American regional slang for potato; the exclamation "hold your tater" means "slow down" or an incredulous "wait a minute."

Attendez une minute! 
Wait a minute!

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Friday, August 10, 2012


On the road in Alsace
Alsatians love geraniums and happily for passersby they let the whole world know. It's no wonder Alsace is the fourth most touristed region in France. 

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Have you ever seen such a compliant and obedient trumpet vine as this Alsatian specimen on a restaurant front in Riquewihr?

la trompette de Virginie:  trumpet vine
dompter:  to tame

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


La Statue de la Liberté "colmarienne"
This lady looks terrific everywhere, even on a traffic circle outside of Colmar where she has been distracting drivers since 2004. The 12-meter high composite replica of the Statue of Liberty was put in place by the city to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Colmar's most famous native son, sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. It was only after we had driven around the traffic circle a couple of times trying to take photos from the car window that we discovered that a portion of a nearby shopping center's parking lot, with a fairly decent vantage point, was reserved for her admirers.

Text translated from the city of Colmar's official Website states that the statue is one link more with the United States, already symbolized since the 1986 twinning of Colmar with the city of Princeton, New Jersey, located not far from New York. See also a reader's comment about the sister cities on yesterday's blog post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Dinner time on a summer evening in Colmar's Petite Venise (Little Venice) when most of the tourists are off the streets and seated at tables. The beautiful Alsatian city which attracts more than 2 million tourists yearly, has a permanent population of about 68,000. 

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Monday, August 6, 2012


For the bambins
This village bed and breakfast in historic Riquewihr might take first prize for best Alsatian kitsch; but it's one that could transform a long day of vacationing into a magical one for worn-out-from-touring tots. Une aubaine.

une aubaine:  a godsend; an unhoped for advantage
une peluche:  a cuddly toy; fluff
une chambre d'hôte:  a bed and breakfast
un bambin:  a tot

Les enfants sont les bienvenus:  Children are welcome

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, August 5, 2012


We like the sound of Alsacez-vous, the slogan for the 2012 publicity campaign to promote tourism in Alsace, and take it to mean "experience Alsace."  Above, nesting on a rooftop in Eguisheim is a white stork, not only the symbol of a newly arrived baby, but also the symbol of Alsace. Although the legend that storks deliver babies wrapped in a sling to families is generally claimed to have northern European origins, it is an Alsatian custom for children who want a baby brother or sister to place a piece of sugar on a window ledge to attract a stork carrying the hoped for bundle of joy.

The medieval village of Eguisheim, built with its streets in concentric circles, is on the list of the most beautiful villages in France. It is also there where one of the first parks to reintroduce and to protect storks, whose population had been seriously declining, was created in 1983. 

une cigogne:  a stork
un nid:  a nest
un toit:  a rooftop

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Gentil coquelicot
So many days have been cool and rainy this season that it's nice to have wake-up reminders that it actually is summer in northern France, like these field poppies bordering a wheatfield at Gerberoy, a country village in Picardie. Until the 16th century the flower was called coquerico because it resembled a rooster's cockscomb. Its name was eventually morphed to coquelicot.

A classic French children's song with sing-along words for French learners: Gentil Coquelicot

un coquelicot:  a poppy
rouge coquelicot:  poppy red
un champ de blé:  a wheatfield
gentil(-le):  nice, kind
une comptine d'enfant:  a nursery rhyme; a children's song
cocorico:  cock-a-doodle-do
un coq:  a cock, a rooster
une crête:  a crest
une crête de coq:  a cockscomb

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Saturday, August 4, 2012


After years of personal observation, I have come to the conclusion that in France the best and most appropriately dressed tourists for the circumstances are by far Japanese. Here's an example in Gerberoy, a beautiful country village in Picardie.  

bien habillé(e):  well-dressed
habiller:  to dress
un hortensia:  a hydrangea
harmoniser:  to blend in

©2012 P.B. Lecron


Easy going
Travel tip: have fun and make new friends biking around Paris with Bike About Tours, a grassroots ex-pat guided tour and bike rental business.

Friday, August 3, 2012


After comparing photos we couldn't help but notice the facial similarities of the plaster cast of Rodin's Jean le Baptiste dating from 1878 in his Meudon studio, above, and that of the saint's head represented a century earlier on the baroque periord redecoration of the façade of the Chapelle des Pénitents Noirs in the former papal city of Avignon, below.

©2012 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Aux défenseurs de Belfort 
To the defenders of Belfort
Le Lion de Belfort, sculpted by the Alsacian artist Auguste Bartholdi of Statue of Liberty fame, is a roaring 22 meters long and 11 meters high. The monument is installed at the base of a cliff in Belfort, just below splendid fortifications that were engineered by the Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707) during the reign of Louis XIV. Red sandstone blocks of the Vosges mountains were chiseled individually then assembled to form the gigantic lion which commemorates Belfort's 103-day resistance when under siege in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.
une falaise:  a cliff
le grès:  sandstone; also stoneware (pottery)
un défenseur:  a defender
rugir:  to roar
le rugissement:  roar

Belfort on the map of France.

©2012 P.B. Lecron