Saturday, March 30, 2013


Avec les yeux fermés
There are certain human contrivances to which famous French cat Pompon closes his eyes, like the change to daylight savings time scheduled to take place in France this weekend.

l'heure d'été:  daylight savings time

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Detail of the restored left central door of the Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis, the nécropole of the kings of France. Notice the heads of hound dogs which were used here as a decorative element. Symbol of fidelity and courage, protector and herding animal, the dog was also an exterior sign of power and position--kings's and feudal lords' indispensable hunting companion. During the Middle Ages hunting was an activity reserved to the nobility. At the same time, however, the dog could also be a bleak negative symbol; French priests were forbidden to possess a dog or to even allow a dog under their roofs because the animal was considered by some to be an incarnation of the devil. Nonetheless, sculpted dogs were frequently positioned at the feet of the aristocrats' recumbent effigies.

une nécropole:  a necropolis, a cemetery
un molosse:  a large, ferocious hound
Nom de chien!  
A familiar and vulgar expression used to avoid saying "nom de Dieu," an expletive violating the third of the ten commandments, not to take the Lord's name in vain.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Monday, March 25, 2013


An unusual sort of outdoor ashtray embedded on the exterior wall of the Hôtel Claridge on avenue Marbeuf just off the Champs-Elysées in Paris. It's literally a box for cigarette butts. Having just looked into the matter, I've discovered there is a crusade in France against tossing cigarette butts on public streets and sidewalks, which has been illegal since 2007.

une boîte:  a box
un mégot:  a cigarette butt
éteindre:  to put out

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Architecture professors the world over encourage their students traveling to France to make a field trip to the radical residential building completed in 1931, La Villa Savoye in Poissy, outside of Paris. This photo was shot by a young visiting architect with a good eye for composition, Rachel Grisso White, on one such outing when she was still a student at the University of Oklahoma. The work of the avant-garde and modernist French architect known as Le Corbusier, the house was commissioned by Mr and Mme Pierre Savoye as a secondary residence. The concrete building's boxy and airy design had a profound impact on twentieth-century architecture. 

une sortie éducative:  a field trip
un concepteur, une conceptrice:  a designer

Traveling Tip
If coming this way, make a day of it and do as we did by combining a visit to La Villa Savoye in Poissy with a stroll along the house-boat retirement village on the banks of the Seine in Conflans-Ste-Honorine, and a tour of Alexandre Dumas' gem of neo-Renaissance architecture, the Château de Monte-Cristo, near Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Three very distinctive living styles.

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Thursday, March 21, 2013


A suprising wine label for this inexpensive bottle of Syrah from the Pays d'Oc in the Languedoc-Roussillon. "Copains comme cochons" (literally pals like pigs) is a term used familiarly for friendship and  translates as "thick as thieves." It dates to the 16th century when the expression was "camarades comme cochons."  Cochon, or pig, was a deformation of the word "soçon" which in old French meant companion. Camarades was eventually replaced by copains, which itself is an alteration of the old French word compain which meant he who shares the same bread.

un cochon:  a pig
un copain, une copine:  a pal, a friend
partager:  to share

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, March 15, 2013


I like friend Sylvia's smart-phone photo she snapped on the cosy tree-lined road to Barjac in the south of France. Barjac is a village with lots of character in the Gard department. 

In the 16th century it became the practice to plant trees along country roadsides, a tradition that continued into the 20th century. Unfortunately, roadside fatalities have put a curb to such close implantations. Where possible, trees like the ones above are gradually being replaced by trees planted at greater distances from the pavement. 

la sécurité routière:  road security
une chaussée:  a road, a pavement
une trajectoire:  a trajectory, a path

Thursday, March 14, 2013


View from the Côte de Granit Rose, along the Sentier de Douaniers, a former coastguard footpath that runs along the coasts of Brittany. The Côte de Granit Rose, a stretch of striking seascapes in northern Brittanyis one of only three pink granite coastlines in the world, the other two are in Corsica and China.  

un sentier:  a path
un douanier:  a customs officer

Photo courtesy of Marianne Lecron

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Ten days from springtime and it's suddenly snowing again! Let me count the ways to say icy in French:
de glace, givrant(-e), en glace, glaçant(-e), glaciaux, glacial(-e), verglacé(-e), and glacé(e).

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Easy to grow
All of France loves and looks out for one of the first signs of spring, the primevère. In old French, primevère, from the Latin prima vera, was used to designate springtime. It was later supplanted by printemps, composed from the Latin primus tempus, i.e., first season.

cultiver: to grow, to cultivate
d'entretien facile:  easy care
une primevère:  a primrose

©2013 P.B. Lecron

Friday, March 8, 2013


More accolades for the Ecole d'Art Mural de Versailles. Another public utility box planted on city sidewalks has been transformed into an urban landmark in trompe l'œil, à l'Arcimboldo. This one is in the Montreuil neighborhood, formerly a village that bordered Versailles. Gieuseppe Arcimboldo, undeniably a forefather of surrealism,  was a 16th-century Italian mannerist. 

France's national school of horticulture, founded in 1874, has for its digs a choice plot of ground: le Potager du Roi, i.e., the nine-hectare (about 22 acres) King's Vegetable Garden on the domain of the Château de Versailles. 

un trottoir:  a sidewalk
un potager:  a vegetable or kitchen garden
un hectare:  a measure equivalent to about two-and-one-half acres

©2013 P.B. Lecron