Category Archives: French Blog

La Montagne et Moi: Arretez le train!


XmaspuddingUnlike the French, who generally allow ‘les dix minutes de politesse‘ (arriving 10 minutes late) for dinner, here’s why arriving 10 minutes early meant that I didn’t miss ‘le repas de Noël’ (Christmas dinner) with my family!

‘On allait passer Noël chez mes parents’ (we were going to spend Christmas with my parents) in London. The train tickets were booked ‘bien en avance’ (well in advance). It was an expensive three train, one métro and one tube trip from our little village in the Alps to my ‘ville natale’ (home town) – but it would be worth it ‘de se retrouver’ (to be together again). It was a journey that I took ‘au moins une fois par mois’ (at least once a month).

Now, ‘je n’ai jamais raté’ (I have never missed) a train, plane or rendez-vous ‘de ma vie’ (in my life). I have taken ‘le mauvais train’ (the wrong train). I have also booked a ferry ticket from the wrong country (I absent-mindedly thought that Douvres was in France – sounds French doesn’t it?). But I am passionate about being ‘à l’heure’ (on time), or rather ‘en avance’ (early). ‘La question qui me fait le plus peur’ (my most feared question) is ‘à quelle heure est ton train?’ (what time is your train?) when ‘des amis bien intentionnés’ (well-intentioned friends) try to help me work out what time I need to leave their house. I either have to ‘mentir’ (lie) or admit that I will need to leave about 30 minutes before they think I need to leave. I’m sure that some of my friends think that ‘je ne les aime pas beaucoup’ (I don’t like them very much). ‘Sinon, pourquoi’ (otherwise why) leave so early? But it is ‘cette phobie’ (this phobia) of ‘le retard’ (tardiness) that saved Christmas.

The train was at 7:57. I wanted to leave at 7:20 to make sure that we got there about half an hour early. But my daughter ‘levait les yeux au ciel’ (rolled her eyes at me). So ‘on s’est mis d’accord’ (we settled) on 7:30, leaving a 15-minute margin. At 7:35 she finally ‘descendait l’escalier, traînant’ (came downstairs dragging) her impossibly large suitcase behind her. “Dépêche-toi! Nous sommes en retard!” (“hurry up, we’re late”) I shouted. “Détends-toi” (relax), she shouted back. After a rather tense drive, ‘on a laissé la voiture dans le parking’ (we left the car in the car-park) and started the 3-minute walk to the station. It was 7:45. As we set off we heard a train whistle. I started to walk more quickly. “Ralentis maman, on a tout notre temps – on est en avance de 10 minutes.” (Slow down Mum – we’ve got plenty of time, we’re 10 minutes early). But suddenly, ‘des profondeurs de mon subconscient’ (from the depths of my subconscious), I remembered that the timetable had changed recently and that the 7:57 train that I always took ‘avait été avancé de’ (had been moved forward by) 10 minutes! As I spoke we saw it ‘rentrer en gare’ (pull in to the station) – a good 2 minutes’ walk away. Instead of being 10 minutes early I was about to miss the train!

“Arretez le train’ (stop the train) I screamed as I ran, pulling an assortment of suitcases and bags behind me in a sprint ‘à la’ (in the spirit of) Usain Bolt. This was the last train to get us home in time for Christmas. We could not miss it. I reached the platform just as the doors closed, ‘le sifflet a retenti et le train s’est ébranlé’ (the whistle blew and the train started to move off). “Noooooon!”J’ai crié‘ (I screamed). It seemed all was lost – until the station guard ‘s’est retourné’ (turned), surprised and whistled for the train to stop. He ran up the platform whistling and ‘par miracle‘ (miraculously) it stopped, he opened the doors and we were in.
It took me a full ten minutes to get my breath back and I am still haunted by the thought of extortionate last-minute tickets and the possibility that there may have been none left and we could have ‘carrément’ missed Christmas (all together). The next time I took the train, I was on the platform ‘avec une heure d’avance’ (an hour early).

La Montagne et Moi: La Carte grise

“J’ai longtemps fait’ (for a long time, I did) the 1,000 mile (1,630 km) round trip by car to our home in the UK every 8 weeks – ‘en partie’ (partly) to keep my insurance valid and ‘en partie’ to ‘faire des réserves de’ (stock up on) chicken noodles, marmite and peanut butter and to ‘remplir notre cave’ (replenish our wine cellar) – or more accurately – ‘porte-bouteilles’ (wine- rack).

My dutiful old Kangoo, Piglet, ‘qui aura’ (which turns) 14 this year, had been valued at £2,000 max and to import her to France would have cost about £1,500, or ‘c’est du moins ce que je croyais’ (or so I thought).  But after a few months of looking at extremely expensive second–hand cars, I realized that despite the cost – and ‘le dossier’ (the application) that makes ‘un emprunt’ (a mortgage) look like ‘un jeu d’enfant’ (a walk in the park), I would have to ’prendre le taureau par les cornes’ (take the bull by the horns) and Piglet would have to become Cochonnet.

‘Je vous épargne les details’ (I will spare you the details) of the application process, but ‘je m’en suis sortie’ (I managed it) for the princely sum of about 100 euros (because it was so old!!) and the day I got my ‘plaque d’immatriculation française’ (French number plate) was momentous. ‘Je ne me suis jamais sentie autant ‘française’ (I have never felt more French)! And the joy of not being ‘dépassé’ (overtaken) or ‘collé’ (tail-gated’ by ‘les gens du coin’ (the locals) was liberating.

Yesterday I took her for her first ‘contrôle technique’ (MOT). I arrived at the garage ‘bien en avance’ (in plenty of time). The lady asked for my ‘Carte Grise’ (V5). I explained that I was still waiting for it and only had a temporary piece of paper. She pointed at the expiry date, which I hadn’t noticed. ‘J’étais en situation irregulière’ (My papers weren’t in order) … I had to go to the ‘préfecture sur le champ’ (town hall double-quick).

‘Par miracle’ By some miracle it was open. I explained the situation to the young man ‘au guichet’ (at the counter). I’m still waiting for my grey card I explained. ‘C’est bien bizarre’ (It’s very strange) he remarked. You appear to have signed for it at the post office several months ago. ‘I can assure you, I have never received a grey card’, I insisted. ‘Il faudrait qu’on lance une investigation’ (We will have to start an investigation). It may take several months and in the meantime….’ The threat of being carless jogged my memory. ‘Pourriez-vous me la montrer?’ (Would you show me what it looks like?”) I asked. He called the customer next to me over and he took out a cream (not grey) piece of paper (not card) with a shiny silver square on it.  A distinct image came to mind of opening an envelope and seeing the same document. ‘J’ai présenté mes excuses’ (I apologized) profusely, ‘J’ai rougi’ (went bright red – I seem to use this phrase a lot!) and left ‘en coup de vent’ in a flash, drove home to unearth ‘ledit’ (said) paper and made it back ‘juste à temps’ (in the nick of time).

J’ai toujours le volant à droite ‘I still have a right-hand drive’ which makes certain corners a bit tricky and ‘les péages’ (the tolls) a nightmare when I’m by myself, but overall I’m ‘heureux comme un poisson dans l’eau’ (happy as Larry) tootling about at the speed limit with a real sense of entitlement. Vive ma petite Cochonnet! (Long live Piglet!)”





La Montagne et Moi: La Vedette


C’est la fête au village’ (it’s party time in the village). The Auberge has organized a public theatre & music festival to ‘fêter la trentaine’ (celebrate the 30th birthday) of one of their friends. Our modest population ‘a explosé de 50 à 500’ (has exploded from 50 to 500) for the weekend. My daughter and I have offered to ‘prêter main forte’ (muck in) and together with about 20 other ‘bénévoles’ (volunteers), we will be responsible for ‘accueillir, nourrir, informer et héberger’ (welcoming, feeding, informing and sheltering) people ‘au cours du’ (over the) weekend.

Artists have come ‘d’ici et d’ailleurs’ (from near and far) to show off their ‘marionnettes’ (puppets), ‘chansons’ (songs) and ‘pièces de théâtre’ plays. When I’m on the ‘accueil’ (welcome desk) I manage to see some of the ‘représentations’ (performances) ‘du coin de l’oeil’ (out of the corner of my eye). On the first afternoon, the audience is hushed and attentive, then suddenly they ‘s’explosent de rires’ (burst out laughing). ‘Je me tords le cou’ (I crane my neck) to see what’s happening and realise that ‘notre chat’ (our cat) has decided to sit on ‘la scène’ (the stage), ‘aux pieds nus du marionnettiste’ (at the puppeteer’s bare feet) and she’s patting lazily at his toes and at one of the many ‘ficelles de marionette’ (puppet-strings). ‘Que faire?’ (What to do?) Should I interrupt the performance and retrieve ‘la vedette surprise’ (the surprise star of the show)? ‘Le marrionnettiste fait tourner sa marionette vers le chat et lui penche la tête avec adresse’ (The puppeteer skilfully turns his puppet towards the cat and cocks its head). ‘Dorenévant’ (from now on), the cat ‘fait partie de’ (has become part of) the performance!

My Englishness only gets in the way once or twice. I hear that we are to have an ‘autowash’ and I ‘pense tout haut’ (wonder out loud) if I will have time to ‘filer’ (nip off) to get my car spruced up. “I don’t think that the car will ‘rentrer dans la bassine’ (fit in the washing-up bowl) sniggers the person next to me, ‘montrant du doigt’ (pointing to) the self-service washing-up bowl. Another time, I try to queue for a ‘sandwich-merguez’ (spicy sausage sandwich). After half an hour of other people getting served I get fed up and shout out ‘Oh! Par ici! ‘Hey – over here!’ which miraculously results in immediate sandwich service.

Our mystery ‘invité’ (guest) turns out to be a ‘poet-rapper’ called Archibald. I understand about ‘un mot sur trois’ (every third word) that he sings but I get ‘l’essentiel’ (the gist). Despite his rather furious ‘paroles’ (lyrics), he is extremely polite & tidy and ‘on ne le remarque guère’ (we hardly notice that he’s there). He leaves us a CD ‘pour nous remercier’ (to say thank you) before heading off to another ‘résidence’ which I at first think is his second home (which would clash somewhat with his ‘rhetorique’ (rhetoric) until he explains that he is ‘artiste resident’ (an artist-in-residence) and ‘je rougis’ (I blush).

By the end of the weekend we have re-washed ‘un tas de vaisselle’ (loads of crockery) – the autowash being ‘pas très efficace’ (not terribly efficient) and welcomed countless visitors to ‘our’ village. ‘Je me suis enrhumée’ (I have caught cold) but the way that my daughter and I have been accepted in to the village community (warms my heart).

La Montagne et moi: Lève-tôt


‘C’est la rentrée’ (school has started again) here in the Alps and with it comes ‘un rude réveil’ (a harsh awakening / realisation). I am going to have to get up at 05:30 every ‘jour de semaine’ weekday for ‘l’année qui vient’ (the next year). I am not a ‘lève-tôt’ (early riser) by nature and ‘je me reveille de mauvais poil!’ (I wake up in a bad mood). ‘A moitié endormie encore’ (still half asleep) I get ready for the day with the help of ‘un café corsé’ (a strong coffee) and ‘les dernières infos’ (an update) on what’s going on in the world) ‘grâce à’ (thanks to) France Inter radio.


This morning ‘j’ai pour mission de maman de’ (my mummy-mission is to) locate a pair of ‘socquettes’ (invisible socks), ‘signer son carnet’ (sign her correspondence book) and ‘éplucher une pomme’ (peel an apple). I find one sock on the floor next to the washing machine and ‘je fouille dans’ (I rummage through) a bin bag of mismatched single socks to triumphantly create ‘une paire assortie’ a matching pair.


Mission accomplie’ (mission accomplished) we start the 5 mile drive to the school bus ‘aux premières lueurs de l’aube’ (at the first streak of dawn). ‘A mi-chemin’ (half way there) I check my ‘rétroviseur’ (rear-view mirror) and ‘je ralentis brusquement’ (I slow down sharply), then stop completely. ‘Des cerfs’ (deer) follow us on either side of the car. Knowing that they will often cross the road out of fear, ‘j’allume les feux de détresse’ (I switch on my hazard lights) and switch off my ‘phares’ (headlights) and the deer saunter off in to the mountains. In 2016, 60,000 accidents involving cars and ‘animaux sauvages’ (wild animals) occurred, ‘causant’ (resulting in) 20 deaths. Accidents increase in autumn as food ‘se fait rare’ (becomes scarce). Combined with the start of ‘la période de chasse’ (the hunting season) the warning ‘un sanglier peut en cacher un autre’ (one wild boar may hide another) rings scarily true. ‘Je dépose ma fille’ (I drop my daughter off) at 06:30 and drive back home.


Last week I started each day with a ‘une randonnée à pied’ (hike) up the mountain taking ‘un sentier’ (a path) ‘qui longe un ruisseau’ (that follows a stream). ‘Au sommet’ at the top I stopped for a while to witness the sun appearing over the ‘chaîne de montagnes’ (mountain range). When I told my neighbour how much I enjoyed my new routine she looked at me ‘inquiète’ (with concern). “Mais la chasse commence ce weekend!” (But the hunting season starts this weekend!). Indeed, the hunting season has started – and continues until the end of January!!!! About 12 people are killed and 20 injured in hunting accidents each year in France, where the hunter ‘règne sans partage’ (rules supreme) over the countryside for almost half the year. ‘Donc me voilà’ (so here I am) confined to ‘faire le tour du village’ (walk around the village) or risk being mistaken for a wild boar. ‘Vivement le mois de février!’ Roll on February!


‘La différence entre ‘peler’ et ‘éplucher’ est que le verbe peler s’applique lorsqu’on ne retire que la peau – donc on pèle une banane et on épluche une pomme’ (The difference between ‘peler’ and ‘éplucher’ is that the verb peler applies when you only take the skin off – so you pele a banana and épluche an apple.


Année sabbatique

La Montagne et moi; Année sabbatique


‘Un parfait inconnu’ (a perfect stranger) has just ‘porté plainte’ (filed a complaint) regarding my blog. The essence of their ‘mécontentement’ (dissatisfaction) is that there hasn’t been one for ‘un peu plus d’un an’ (just over a year). Je suis autant flattée qu’énervée (I am equally flattered and annoyed). It can’t possibly ‘faire un an’ (be a year) since I last ‘posté sur mon blog’ (posted to my blog) I mutter as I ‘consulte mon site web’ (visit my website). ‘ Mais c’est juste!’ (But it’s true!) I appear to have taken an ‘année sabbatique’ (sabbatical year) from my sabbatical.

‘Depuis quand’ (since when) did my ‘vie de nomade’ (nomadic life) spent half in France, half in the UK, become so ‘chargée’ (busy) that I stopped ‘mettre par écrit’ (committing to paper) the ‘temps forts’ (highlights)? And was it just due to ‘me surmener’ (running myself ragged) back and forth across the channel that my monologues ‘s’épuisaient’ (dried up)? I used to post ‘tous les mois’ (every month). My last post was due in November 2015 ‘à peu près au moment des’ (at around the time of) the Paris attacks. ‘D’un coup’ (suddenly) je ne trouvais plus mes mots (I couldn’t find anything to say). At the same time, my involvement with teaching French to the ‘chercheurs d’asile’ (asylum seekers) in the next village became more ‘prenant’ (time-consuming), my daughter’s Baccalaureat became ‘un défi de taille’ (a serious challenge) and my business ‘a doublé de taille’ (doubled in size). ‘Bref,’ (to cut a long story short) I had neither the time nor the heart to ‘me moquer de’ (mock) my week. But now it’s time to ‘reprendre le collier’ (get back in the saddle).

I don’t like ‘parler aux professeurs de ma fille’ (talking to my daughter’s teachers) in French : I still can’t express myself as fluently as in my ‘langue maternelle’ (mother tongue) and I want so much to ‘faire bonne impression’ (make a good impression) that I quickly become ‘muette’ (tongue-tied) and ‘maladroite’ (clumsy). ‘De plus’ (what’s more) this teacher had gone dangerously ‘hors-piste’ (off track) and was talking to me about the challenges of parenting in general and the fact that French children have ‘le mercredi après-midi’ (Wednesday afternoons) off school. ‘Mon nounou (rhymes with shoe) va chercher les enfants à l’école le mercredi’ (my Nanny picks the children up from school on Wednesdays) she explained. I tried to muster up an intelligent response “Which days of the week does your ‘nounours’ (rhymes with course and means teddy-bear!) pick up the children. She looked at me ‘d’un air perplexe’ then we both ‘éclations de rire’ (burst out laughing).

‘Il fait un froid de canard’ (It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey – or more politely – It’s freezing!). My night time routine consists of making ‘une tisane’ (herbal tea), ‘deux bouillottes’ (two hot water bottles), one for my feet and one to ‘serrer dans mes bras’ (cuddle), and ‘un pyjama thermolactyle’ (thermal pyjamas). This routine has been working ‘à merveille’ (wonderfully well) until I was woken up at 4 am the other day, my pyjama top (TOP!!!) ‘trempé’ (drenched) by a slow ‘fuite’ (leak) from the ‘bouillotte’. The morning’s antics are just as precisely planned – ‘J’allume’ (I switch on) the ‘lampe-torche’ (torch) on my mobile phone to find my slippers and avoid the ‘sol glacé’ (freezing-cold floor), switch on the ‘grille-pain’ (toaster) we call a radiator and slip back in to bed for a 20-minute ’somme’ (snooze) before it’s safe to ‘braver le froid’ (face the cold) and start the day.

La Manche et moi – Le prix d’un café

La Manche et Moi – Le prix d’un café


Public transport where I live ‘au fin fond de nulle part’ (in the back of beyond) is non-existant. The village train station closed ‘il y a des lustres’ (many moons ago) and the 150 inhabitants don’t ‘justifient’ (warrant) a bus service. I have no car at the moment, so my friends have kindly offered to chauffeur me until I can sort something out. ‘Des requêtes impromptues’ (impromptu requests) for lifts (de m’emmener en voiture) are no problem at all. In fact people have been knocking at my door to check that I have ‘fait les provisions’ (done the shopping)! But pinning them down to a particular day or time ‘voulu’ (of my choosing) becomes a ‘problème délicat’ (delicate issue). My train to England leaves at 7:45 am and ‘tout naturellement’ (understandably) this is viewed as the wrong time to ask for a lift. ‘Je suis obligée’ (I am forced to) hitch a lift with the English couple who already ferry my daughter to the bus-stop and I try to assuage ‘mes sentiments de culpabilité (my guilt) with the promise that I will return with Cadbury’s milk chocolate and Marmite (La Marmite est une marque de pâte à tartiner salée à base de levure, appréciée ou détestée, au Royaume-Uni mais inconnue en France ).

After a 5 am réveil (wake-up), and a frantic ‘course’ (race) with our wheelie suitcases (undoubtedly waking the entire village up anyway), we get our lift to the bus stop, then wait with the school kids for the public bus to the station.

The bus provokes ‘une débandade’ (a stampede) of suitcase-laden students, but a stern looking driver ‘les chasse’ (shooes them away) and ‘montre du doigt’ (points to) the bus behind. Before I can battle my way past them, the bus pulls off, and a ‘bus scolaire’ arrives, destination Gap – about 30 minutes further than Veynes, the station I want. Hysteria mounts as I have visions of missing my 4 train connections home. I plead with the driver to let me on – and more importantly let me off – at the desired stop. ‘Il opine du bonnet’ (he nods his head) reluctantly.

My first coffee of the day is from an (old-fashioned) ‘démodé’, almost (derelict) ‘délabré’ bar near the station. A ‘café crème’ sets me back a reasonable 2,20 €. ‘Un habitué’ (a regular) exclaims indignantly at the cost. ‘Ce n’est pas moi le patron’ (I’m not the boss) the bartender counters. After a 2 hour train journey to Grenoble, I have 10 minutes to ‘descendre’ (down) a ‘noisette’ at the bar (au zinc). ‘Installez-vous Madame! (Please sit down) the waiter offers, but I explain that I am ‘à la bourre’ (in a hurry). The thimble-sized cup of expresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk, also costs 2,20 €. On the train to Paris, an expresso in ‘la voiture-bar’ (the buffet car) is a shocking 3,75 €. But in the café in front of the Gare du Nord ‘je grimace’ (I wince) as I hand over 4,50 € for my final expresso of the day. And that’s it. ‘Je nage dans la caféine’ (I am caffeined up to the eyeballs) and all of my euros are gone.

‘Il se met à pleuvoir’ (it starts to rain) as soon as we emerge from the Channel Tunnel and after a twenty minute swim from Kings Cross St Pancras to Euston station, I order a filter coffee. It is handed to me in a receptacle the size of a small bucket ‘sceau’ and it tastes like ‘l’eau de mer’ (seawater), but at £2.50 it’s a hot, wet, hand-warming bargain which ‘je sirote’ (I nurse) all the way home.

For more information on how to order coffee in France, have a look at this great blog by

La Manche et Moi – La culotte


So we’ve had the Montagne, then the Métro, but why the Manche et moi? I am not begging (faire la manche) – nor am I living by the sea (la Manche = the Channel) – but as I am going to be cross-channel commuting ‘dans l’immédiat’ (for the time being), it seems like a title ’propice’ (fitting) for this chapter.

Leaving ‘Le Métro’ was not hard.  ‘Mon seul regret’ (My only regret) was ‘quitter mes amis’ (leaving my friends).  One lovely lady insisted on giving me a proper ‘pot de départ (send-off) with champagne, melon balls and other little ‘amuse-gueules’ (nibbles).  It was all delicious, apart from the slightly carbonated ‘pain grillé’ (toast) for the foie-gras which didn’t stop me from having a second, and perhaps even a third helping!  As we tried to enjoy our last moments together, the phone kept ringing.  ‘Gênée’ (embarrassed), my hostess promised that she would just ‘laisser sonner’ (let it ring) next time.  Within minutes it rang.  Then it rang again.  The third time, I begged her to answer it.  ‘A ce moment précis (just then), there was a loud ‘cognement’ (banging) at the door.  Her neighbours were ‘regroupés’ (huddled) outside, about to phone the ‘pompiers’ (fire brigade) as they had smelled ‘la fumée’ (smoke) – the toast!- and were concerned that she ’s’ était évanouie’ (had passed out) from the fumes – why else would she not answer the phone?!

I spent an increasingly stressful ‘quinzaine’ (fortnight) preparing for the move; painting, polyfillaing (mettre de l’enduit) and discovering the fine art of interpreting French electrical ‘normes’ (regulations).  Le jour-J (On D-Day), I frantically cleaned the floor of the house we were leaving with minutes to spare before  ‘confier’ (handing over) the keys to the ‘huissier’ (bailiff). I cleaned the floor ‘à genoux’ (on my knees), backwards from the front door towards the bathroom where I had a shower and changed in to some clean clothes.  One slight problem -my ‘culotte’ (knickers) were in a suitcase in the car!  I managed a fairly decent exit, but didn’t fancy a 12 hour drive practically ‘à poil’ (naked), so my last somewhat defiant act (acte de défi) in the sleepy suburban street where I did not belong, was to slip a pair of M&S’s ‘best’ on (une culotte de chez Marks & Spencers), hidden, ‘on l’espère’ (one hopes), by a rather full removal car.

My Kangoo and I moved to the Alps in two ‘étapes’ stages .  The first carload was full of my teenager’s essentials plus ‘ladite’ (said) teenager.  The second carload had my essentials plus the household items, the books, the furniture and three ‘jardinières’  (window boxes) of lavender.  Bringing lavender to the south of France is much like bringing coals to Newcastle, but as I drove the 700 km south, the scent ‘me poussait à avancer’ (spurred me on).

And now I am back in my little village in the mountains, preparing to ‘faire la navette’ (commute); a mere 2,800 km return once a month.  I dread to think what my ‘empreinte carbone’ (carbon footprint) will be by the end of the year.  And so I as I teeter ‘à cheval entre les deux pays’ (straddling the two countries) I ask myself if I can really ‘nager entre deux eaux’ (run with the hare, hunt with the hounds)?  ‘On verra’ (we’ll see).

La Montagne et Moi – Promenade de l’Arve


Jessica reading her blog – in case you don’t know how to pronounce some of the words.

Depuis bien des années‘ (for many years) I’ve squeezed myself in to my ‘combinaison’ (ski-suit), and braved ridicule (you have to SHOUT your weight out in the ski shop so that they can ‘régler‘ (adjust) the skis), sarcastic ski-lift attendants “Et SI vous arrivez en haut de la piste RENTREZ CHEZ VOUS!” (IF you manage to get to the top of the slope GO HOME!) and the fear of certain death on anything more challenging than a blue slope. But I ‘enfin’ (finally) admitted that skiing, together with ‘les huitres’ (oysters), are simply elements of French culture that ‘ne me conviennent pas’ (don’t agree with me). And so this year, I accompanied my family ‘aux remontées mécaniques’ (skilifts) and then ‘je me suis évadée’ – I escaped!

On the first day, I had ‘aucune idée’ (no idea) where I was going. I bought an ‘hors de prix’ overpriced bottle of water at the café and set off on the empty road. ‘Un poteau indicateur’ (signpost) for La Promenade de l’Arve assured me that it was a 2-hour walk back to Chamonix. About half way down, ‘mes baskets’ (my sneakers) ‘me faisaient trop mal aux pieds’ (were hurting my feet too much) so I cheated and hopped on the bus home, where ‘je me suis écroulée’ (I collapsed in a heap) with a glass of rosé ‘bien mérité’ (well-deserved). ‘Le lendemain’ (the next day), ‘mieux équipée’ (better equipped) with sunscreen, a hat, ‘des chaussures de marche’ (walking shoes) and a picnic I took ‘le même chemin’ (the same path), all the way to the end in ‘2 heures pile’ (in 2 hours exactly!) I stopped to eat by a stream where ‘je me suis trempée les pieds’ (I dipped my feet). J’étais aux anges! (I was in seventh heaven)

Each day I ventured a little further up the valley, until ‘le dernier jour’ (the last day), I stopped at Vallorcine (vally of the bears) and climbed up to the Cascade de Bérard. I inched my way up a snow-covered ‘sentier’ (path), aware of my solitude and the sheer drop ‘précipice’ between me and the water below. The climb ‘valait la peine’ (was worth it). ‘ Un arc-en-ciel double‘ (a double rainbow) danced beneath the ‘cascade’ waterfall.

Spending our holiday apart, actually ‘a rapproché la famille’ (brought the family closer together). I was ‘zen’ (relaxed) and they had their ‘montée d’adrenaline ‘ (adrenaline rush) – and we actually had ‘des choses à se dire’ (things to say to each other) in the evening! Besides, with the money that I would have spent on a ‘forfait’ (ski-pass) we managed to ‘manger au resto’ (eat out) a couple of times, so no cooking and no washing up! Que demander de mieux? (What more could you ask for?)

Le Métro et Moi – Couscous

Lettie's 15th birthday and Colleys 004

As some of you know, I’m fairly ‘gourmande’ (fond of food), so long as I don’t have to cook it and I have just had a culinary experience which ‘a mis en fête mes papilles’ (tickled my taste-buds).

It all started on the Eurostar.  As I was trying to manoeuvre a highly embarrassing number of suitcases on to the train, ‘j’ai confié une mission à ma fille’ (I entrusted my daughter with a task); to claim our window seats from a French mother and daughter team who ‘les convoitaient’ (were lusting after them).  With all the grace of a diplomat ‘expérimentée’ (experienced), she confirmed that they were ‘en effet’ (indeed) our seats, but that the ladies were most welcome to take them.  The ladies, being most ‘courtoises’ (gracious) themselves, took their (proper) places ‘correctes’ and ‘nous nous sommes bien installées’ (we settled in) for the journey.  We quickly introduced ourselves ‘nous nous sommes vite présentées’ and by the time we arrived in Paris we had swapped ‘cartes de visite’ (business cards), ‘racontées nos vies’ (shared life stories) and ‘surtout’ (most importantly) we were ‘invitées à manger’ (invited for dinner) ‘le weekend d’après’ (the following weekend)!

We crossed Paris the following Sunday morning with ‘un narcisse en paquet cadeau’ (gift-wrapped narcissus), a bottle of wine ‘pour la cave’ (for the cellar), and ‘mon tricot’ (my knitting) as I had found a fellow ‘passionnée’ (enthusiast).  Our hosts had prepared an authentic couscous – not the boil, pour and stir variety that I know and love – but a proper hand-steamed-started-cooking-while-you-were-still-in-bed ‘délice’ (delight)‘Nous nous sommes régalées! (We had a real feast!)  Fatalement (inevitably – not fatally) it was our turn to invite them for a meal and ‘mon cœur sombrait à cette seule pensée’ (my heart sank at the prospect).  My cooking ability “n’a rien à voir avec le vôtre’ (is nothing like yours) I confessed to our hostess. “What about Fish and Chips?” she suggested.

To ‘contrebalancer’ (counter balance) my couscous and croissant lifestyle, I have recently taken on ‘un coach privé’ (a personal trainer).  We ‘échange’ a French lesson ‘contre’ (for) a ‘séance d’entrainement’ (workout) and I really feel that she has ‘la plus grosse part du gâteau’ (the better part of the bargain) – a particularly ‘pertinent’ (relevant) translation as we shall see…  She sips tea while I instruct her in ‘les mystères’ (the mysteries) of the French language; then the following hour she hovers with a stop-watch while I stagger about on various combinations of ‘membres’ (limbs) before ‘m’écrouler’ (collapsing) in a heap ‘à ses pieds’ ( at her feet).  She had ‘l’audace’ (the gall) to suggest that I might want to stop treats for a while ‘pour retrouver ma ligne’ (to get back in shape.  Unfortunately her advice coincided with me having just made the biggest, pinkest birthday cake ever.  Chaque chose en son temps! (First things first!)


Le Métro et Moi – Une étrange tristesse…

My daughter is preparing her ‘brevet blanc’ (mock GCSEs the French take at 15). With just two days to go, we desperately try to ‘déchiffrer’ (decipher) the ‘Théorème de Thalès’, the ‘passé simple’ (past historic) and the finer points of ‘la citoyenneté française’ (French citizenship) with the frenzy of WWII ‘décodeurs de code’ (code breakers). The impending exam has prompted yet another ‘frénésie d’achats de fournitures‘ (frenzied stationery spree) and I can’t believe we’re on our third ‘compas’ (compass) of the year. I dread to think where – and how – we will find the others!

‘J’ai un choix à faire’. (I have a choice to make). I can ‘rester chez moi au chaud’ (stay at home in the warm), or go to Paris for a free ‘conférence’. ‘J’hésite’ (hesitate), but finally I jump on the bus to the nearest RER station. The bus ‘conducteur’ (driver) kindly tells me that there are no trains today. A member of staff on the RER A, ‘la plus fréquentée d’Europe’ (the busiest in Europe), ‘s’est fait agresser’ (has been attacked) and his colleagues ‘se sont spontanément mis en grève’ (have spontaneously decided to go on strike). I consider ‘descendre au prochain arrêt’ (getting off at the next stop), but ‘une fois que je me suis décidée à faire quelque chose’ (once my mind’s made up’) I can be stupidly ‘têtue’ (stubborn). Two trains, a métro, an RER and two hours later I arrive at the Cité Universitaire.

‘Il y a 23 ans’ (23 years ago), I lived here, in the Maison Franco-Britannique for my exchange year. ‘Des souvenirs floux’ (hazy memories) of climbing ‘par la fenêtre’ (through the window) on to the balcony ‘pour fumer en cachette’ (for a sneaky smoke), of ‘cafards’ (cockroaches) in the kitchen and the frustration of phoning England from ‘une cabine a pièces’ (pay-phone) in the corridor opposite the concierge. I enjoy the ‘ateliers’ (workshops) and pick up some ‘astuces’ (tricks) for my lessons. During the lunch hour ‘je file à l’anglaise’ ( I sneak out furtively) to the Parc Montsouris opposite. My feet carry me along familiar ‘sentiers’ (paths) through the rain to ‘mon coin préféré’ (my favourite spot). ‘Des gouttes de pluie’ (raindrops) drip through the ferns and trouble the water at the bottom of the little ‘cascade’ (waterfall) and a carp swims in endless gentle circles. Je suis imprégnée d’une étrange tristesse (I am filled with a strange sadness) for the beauty of this moment ‘qui ne peut durer’ (that cannot last) and so I film it on my mobile and put it in ‘ma poche’ (my pocket) for later.


Click on the link below ‘parc montsouris’ to see ‘mon coin préféré’ (my favourite spot)!

parc montsouris