French Language Blog

A French picnic Posted by on Apr 13, 2021 in Environment, Grammar, Music, Vocabulary

Few things in life are as enjoyable as a picnic. When I was living in France we would often pack un panier for an impromptu lunch to break up the drive to the country or simply for an outing to enjoy nature. Last week’s post – with its oranges sur les marches du Sacré Coeur – evoked fond memories and reminded me of just who much I love a French picnic.

Photo taken by and used with permission from Tim Hildreth

A French picnic

A baguette, some ham, du fromage, de la salade, et des fruits1some cheese, some lettuce, and some fruits.. Perhaps even a bottle of wine! We would often stop on our way to my family’s country house and have lunch in the forêt de Fontainebleau. In the morning we’d make a trip to the marché to pick up what we needed, load up la voiture, and head out.

If we were travelling in the other direction towards la Bretagne and the shore, one of France’s well-appointed aire de repos would serve as our stopping point.

In my early days in France, my host parents took me to visit Versailles where we lunched on lawns where once French nobles dined.

Photo taken by and used with permission from Tim HildrethPhoto taken by and used with permission from Tim Hildreth

A picnic song

The Italian-born French singer Nino Ferrer released Les cornichons in 1966. Cornichons are pickles, but very particular tiny French gherkins. They are a perfect accompaniment to the kinds of things you might take on a picnic … or find on une planche de charcuterie in Québec.

The video might not be much to look at, but it has the best sound quality I could find. If you like the song and want to see more, there are some decidedly different options like this modern remake or this one with a charming dancing cornichon!
On est parti, samedi, We went out, Saturday,
dans une grosse voiture In a big car
Faire tous ensemble To make all together
un grand pique-nique dans la nature A big picnic in the outdoors
En emportant des paniers, Carrying/taking with us some baskets,
des bouteilles, Some bottles,
des paquets Some packages,
Et la radio! And the radio !
Des cornichons Some pickles (but very special tiny pickles)
De la moutarde Some mustard
Du pain, du beurre Some bread, some butter
Des p’tits oignons Some wee little onions
Des confitures Some jams
Et des œufs durs And some hard-boiled eggs
Des cornichons Pickles
Du corned-beef Corned beef
Et des biscottes And some biscuits
Des macarons Some macarons
Un tire-bouchon A corkscrew
Des petits-beurre Some tea cakes/cookies
Et de la bière And some beer
Des cornichons Pickles !
On n’avait rien oublié, We didn’t forget anything
c’est maman qui a tout fait Mom took care of everything
Elle avait travaillé trois jours sans s’arrêter She worked three days straight
Pour préparer les paniers, les bouteilles, les paquets To prepare the baskets, the bottles, the packets
Et la radio! And the radio !
Le poulet froid The cold chicken
La mayonnaise The mayonnaise
Le chocolat The chocolate
Les champignons The mushrooms
Les ouvre-boîtes The can openers
Et les tomates And the tomatoes
Les cornichons The pickles.
Mais quand on est arrivé, But when we arrived,
on a trouvé la pluie We found the rain
C’qu’on avait oublié, What we had forgotten
c’était les parapluies Was the umbrellas
On a ramené les paniers, les bouteilles, les paquets We brought the baskets, the bottles, the packets all back
Et la radio! And the radio !
On est rentré We went home
Manger à la maison To eat at home
Le fromage et les boîtes The cheese and the boxes
Les confitures et les cornichons The jams and the pickles
La moutarde et le beurre The mustard and the butter
La mayonnaise et les cornichons The mayonnaise and the pickles
Le poulet, les biscottes The chicken, biscotti
Les œufs durs et puis les cornichons The hard-boiled eggs and also the pickles
Did you notice the change between the first part of the song and the end of the song in the articles? The beginning uses the partitive article before switching to the definitive article. The choice of article changes whether you are talking about something specific vs. things in general or an indefinite quantity. Read more here.

La météo en France

Unfortunately the weather this past week across much of France has not been the kind that encourages picnicking. It was so cold in fact that many farmers and vintners experienced catastrophic damages that will affect the whole growing season … if it hasn’t already put an end to it for this  year.

The impact of the recent freeze was so great, according to this news report, because unusually warm temperatures in March had caused many plants to start budding already.

All photos taken by and used with permission from Tim Hildreth

  • 1
    some cheese, some lettuce, and some fruits.
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


  1. Tony:

    Nice explanation and song

    • Tim Hildreth:

      @Tony Merci!