Wish us luck (Souhaitez-nous bonne chance)! + Putting the cart before the horse (la charrue avant les boeufs)...


“Do not send a letter... we don’t live there any more.” This beautiful calligraphy by Joy Fairclough, captures the beauty and romance of what many imagine to be life on a French vineyard. Jean-Marc and I share the true blood, sweat, and tears reality in our memoir, The Lost Gardens which we have just finished writing. Fêtons çela!

Today's word: un ouvrage

    : book, work, publication

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and in English:

Nous sommes heureux de vous annoncer que, après deux ans de travail, nous avons terminé notre ouvrage, The Lost Gardens. We are happy to tell you that, after two years of work, we have finished our book, The Lost Gardens.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On April 12, just before noon, after two full years of effort and dedication, my husband and I posted the very last chapter of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. And just like that, ça y est, we finished a book--un livre, a tome, a memoir, a work, un ouvrage--if not a magnum opus. (Just putting that last term in for the fun of it, reminding my serious self to do things for the fun of it--pour le plaisir de le faire. Not that writing this book was a pleasure...).

Ce n'est pas si simple que ça
Years ago at Karen Fawcett's (creator of "Bonjour Paris" one of the first websites on France) I remember sitting on the floor beside the prolific author Cara Black, who had, by that time, written a half-dozen books in her Aimée Leduc series, set in Paris. We were gathered around a coffee table, seated on couches, fauteuils, or assis par terre. I turned to Cara and said, regarding a new book she had begun: "It must be easy for you....I mean, you have written so many!"
I will never forget her response: "The next book is no easier to write than the first." 

What a lesson this was, and it has encouraged me many times since. Whether writing this blog post or a magazine column or a book, I still struggle, still sweat it out--partly because I am still putting the cart before the horse which seems to be the way I operate in life, writing being no exception. More than letters and words, I tend to invert entire passages so that after laboring for a while I realize I've gotten it all backward (les choses sont un peu à l'envers). I can't seem, from the get-go, to present an idea, an essay, a story, in its logical order. But that doesn't keep me from writing--it only keeps me from a smooth delivery.

When things get choppy, I take a break and pace around the house or the yard or the neighborhood or the town. "You are writing!" I remind myself. "You are still writing. If it were easy everyone would be doing it!" It helps so much to remember that the struggle is part of the process. And while it does not get easier to write, it is a skill that builds, a discipline that strengthens. Writing is an effort that feels good in the end. 

If writing this book was a struggle for me, for my husband it was a calculated risk. Jean-Marc admits in the last chapter that he feared writing this vineyard memoir would “stir the bad sediments in our common barrel”.... 

I had better leave you with that pour le moment. It is time now to contact a literary agent (ouf! And not a divorce lawyer!). Meantime, the next challenge is to compose a short review of our finished book and this step is most difficult. How to distill this dual-narrative--this story of our vineyard and the story of our marriage--into a few gripping paragraphs...in time to wow a publisher?
Souhaitez-nous bonne chance. Wish us good luck!
*   *  *
 The online edition is available for purchase. Read it this weekend and enjoy dozens of meaningful photos!

un ouvrage = a work, a book
fêtons çela! = let's celebrate 
ça y est = there you have it
un livre = a book
pour le plaisir de le faire = for the fun of it
ce n’est pas si simple que ça = it’s not so easy as that
le fauteuil= chair
assis par terre = seated on the ground 
les choses sont un peu à l'envers = things are a little backwards 
ouf! = phew!

to put the cart before the horsemettre la charrue avant les bœufs
I leave you with an article published in our local La Ciotat magazine.  You will find today’s word “ouvrage” somewhere in the text... 


Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Demain il fera jour: A reminder not to take work (life, everything) too seriously + Escapade to Porquerolles Island

Bike rental on porquerolles island France
If today's word is too easy for you, détrompez-vous. Think again. This letter has a lot more to offer when you read to the end.

Today's Word: la plage
1. beach
2. track of music
3. time span, range

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and English

Porquerolles, ses plages de sable fin, ses eaux turquoise et transparentes. C’est un véritable paradis à quelques minutes de la presqu’île de Giens en bateau. -Hyères Tourisme Porquerolles, its fine sandy beaches, its turquoise and transparent waters. It is a real paradise, a few minutes away from the Giens peninsula by boat.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sand, Pétanque, Sea urchins and a "Be Here Now" mindset

Lundi dernier, on my husband’s 54th birthday, we boarded une navette and cruised over to the island of Porquerolles. It was the week before France's 3rd confinement and this 3-day getaway was like a large breath of liberté before lockdown.

The ferry was almost empty. We huddled at the back of the shuttle, enjoying the open-air seating with the other passengers, some dressed in shorts, some in sundresses, all of us wearing masks. Within 15 minutes we arrived in Paradise. Like the other two islands in the Îles d'Hyères, Porquerolles is known for its crystal clear, turquoise waters and fine sandy plages. There are few cars on the island (only those needed by the local businesses), bikes are the way to get around.

"I prefer to walk," I said to Jean-Marc, as we headed past some bike rental shops and made our way to La Plage d'Argent, a 25-minute marche from town. The scent of eucalyptus filled the salty air as we passed fields of wildflowers, a vineyard, and an impressive community garden full of potager beds! "Maybe we should move here?" I challenged Jean-Marc.
"Pourquoi pas!" said he, kiddingly. We would probably get island fever after the first month. Et puis tout se sait sur une petite île! On a little island, there are no secrets!

Donkeys on porquerolles island
The donkeys are slightly camouflaged. Can you see them, left of center?

"Regarde! Il y a des ânes." There were a trio of donkeys in the maquis. A sign posted nearby said that these animals help débroussailler, or clear away of the dry undergrowth which could lead to fires. "We could have used those!" I said to Jean-Marc, remembering the yearly visits by the police to our vineyard, threatening une amende if we didn't get our property cleared before the heat of summertime.

This reminded me: the last chapter of our vineyard memoir was due tomorrow! I also had a blog post to create and send out in 3 days... and a sinking feeling told me today was the deadline for my France Today article on Cairns (or rock stacking in France). I knew when Jean-Marc planned this escapade, that it would fall right in the middle of a week of deadlines--but this trip was his birthday present. I began to sweat over this decision to put everything off until our return, when a little voice within piped up....

Aujourd-hui, c'est aujourd'hui!  Today is today!

Everything in life needs a balance, especially for those who are self-employed and pressuring themselves to stay on top, to not slip or fall behind. If there is one life lesson that I cannot seem to learn it is this: Keep it in the day! A chaque jour suffit sa peine. Be here now! L'instant présent! Or, as Jean-Marc's Mom always said, Demain il fera jour.

Tomorrow is indeed another day! I reached into my bag, grabbed an apple and began eating. I never eat when walking. And I am never late with work. And I never play pétanque (but would, by the end of our périple). 

Ironically "nevers" don't exist on Never Never Island. Et heureusement! I took another bite of my apple and caught up to Jean-Marc, who was heading down to the beach. Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! I said. Happy Birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire! Thank you for this getaway, ce dépaysement! With that, we set down our only beach towel (having forgotten to pack another), and kicked off our shoes. Feet in the sand, I unpacked our picnic: last night's omelet tasted delicious on the beach, along with bites of poutargue (a sliceable mound of dried fish eggs--we're addicted!), an avocado, cheese and the main course: les oursins! Jean-Marc put on his wetsuit and headed out to the rocky edge of the beach where he found the urchins among a lot of seaweed (an astuce learned from a friend. Normally they're found clinging to rocks). 

Our stomachs full we shared the beach towel for an afternoon nap. The next two days were rebelote--or much the same: long leisurely walks to the beach, a simple, delicious casse-croute (and more oursins) followed by un roupillon. It was a wonderful birthday celebration, and a good break all around. And when thoughts of work returned throughout our stay, so did my belle-mère's wise words about keeping it in the day:

Demain il fera jour.


More photos on my Instagram

détrompez-vous! = think again
lundi dernier
= last Monday
la navette = shuttle, ferry boat, water bus

le confinement = quarantine
la plage = beach
la liberté
= freedom
la marche = walk
pourquoi pas? = why  not
le potager = vegetable patch, kitchen garden
tout se sait = there are no secrets
regarde! = look
un âne = donkey
le maquis = scrubland, shrubland, brush
débroussailler = to clear (dry grasses)
une amende = ticket, fine
une escapade = getaway, break, trip, escape
A chaque jour suffit sa peine = Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
demain il fera jour = tomorrow is another day
le périple = journey, trek
et heureusement = and thank God for that!
le dépaysement = change of scenery
un oursin = sea urchin
une astuce = tip, trick, hack
rebelote = same thing again
le casse-croûte = snack
le roupillon = nap, siesta
la belle-mère = mother-in-law


Domaine de l'ile - one of 3 vineyards on this island full of character. See more photos of this paradise:

Jean-Marc and his urchins cutters or coupe-oursins, and on the right urchins on the half shell.

More stories: The last time we went to Porquerolles, our kids had a wild party at the house, click here

Read about the creative "mop spear" Jean-Marc invented while on the island: more here


Kristi and Jean-Marc
Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! Bye for now and remember to enjoy the day by living in l'instant présent.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

France's "Cité de L'Espace" and SpaceX "dearMoon" + Jules is ready to fly the coop.

Port in la ciotat wooden boats or pointus
Our little wooden boat, an authentic French “pointu” left the old port Monday for a special mission...to accompany my Mom beyond the limits of La Ciotat. Find out what this floating craft has in common with spacecraft in today's intergalactic missive.

Today’s word: une fusée 
     : rocket, space rocket 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French and English:
Un milliardaire japonais offre huit sièges pour un voyage autour de la Lune à bord d’une fusée développée par Elon Musk. Japanese billionaire offers eight seats for trip around the moon aboard a rocket developed by Elon Musk

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 
"Entrée gratuite" (Free entry). When I read a news article in Le Monde about a Japanese billionaire giving away 8 tickets to the moon, I ran to show it to my Mom. "His name is  Yusaku Maezawa and he's offering the SpaceX flight a.k.a. "dearMoon" to artists who are willing to push the limits of creativity. 

"When is it? And how long will it orbit?" Mom wanted to know.
"The rocket launches in 2023 and it's a 7-day tour if you make it past the 4 screenings!"
 "Let's do it!" Jules said, sitting up in her bed. After pushing her paintbrushes aside, mourning her husband for several years, this intergalactic journey (even the possibility of it!) was just what the doctor ordered. So, on a whim, we both signed up and made it through the first screening (as did millions of other earthlings: all you had to do was send in a picture and fill out a form). But by the second screening, I got cold feet and backed out. Yesterday's newsflash in Paris Match about the latest SpaceX rocket fusée exploding freaked me out. My fearless Mom, however, was chiche to continue! 

A souvenir from my SpaceX candidature. 

Two More requirements
Those making it past the first two screenings now had a unique challenge issued by billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is known for his own flamboyant marketing stunts:

1) Come up with your own publicity stunt to get the word out about our dearMoon SpaceX mission.
2) Create a useful tool/gadget for the lunar trip 

dearMom and dearMoon
Now all we needed was a way for Jules's candidature to stand out...and some sort of gadget! Last Thursday, while busy with our annual carénage (boat maintenance) it hit us! Why not parade Mom around Provence in this little wooden boat--this historic pointu?! It was sort of symbolic: a ride that begins on a humble floating vessel and ends on a trillion-dollar rocket.

"And ends on a rocket..." Oh God, will my dearMom be okay on the dearMoon mission if she makes it past this third screening? Did we really want Jules to take this risk? What if she disappeared forever in the galactic heavens?

"Honey, I am ready to move on!" Mom reassured me.

Meantime, my sister-in-law, Cécile, who helps sand and paint our boat each year, painted the words dearMoon over both sides of the pointu... and in place of La Ciotat (our town), it now read "La Lune/2023." As a further attention-getter, Jean-Marc put 8 cases of wine in the back of the newly painted boat, topping the boxes in a visual display of bottles and bottles of rosé. (Hoping to kiss up to the Japanese billionaire--who is also a wine fanatic--I had these cool wine labels printed. Look closely at all the details on the label...  (Maybe Yusaku Maezawa will be chiche to make wine with us here in France if all goes well! What do you say Yusaku? Are you reading? Please take Mom to the Moon! She is the perfect candidate and will be your Most Fun crew member!)


Crystal Goggles--Le Must!
As for the spacial gadget.... To put all chance on our side, we contacted our daughter, Jackie, who works for the historic French crystal company, Baccarat, to see if they would be willing to make some mock-goggles using their luxury crystal for the lenses. Jackie immediately drew up the plans and the CEO OK'd her design! Turns out the dearMoon "monture" is a méchant marketing booster for Baccarat as well! 

Moon or Bust!
On Tuesday, Mom, dressed in her favorite Frida Kahlo cape and boarded the little wooden boat--taking our golden retriever Smokey with her. "Look!" Mom said. She pulled two pairs of Baccarat goggles out of her bag, fitting Smokey with his own pair. "Jackie sent an extra for bonne chance!"

Jean-Marc hitched the little wooden boat onto our 4X4 and we were off, Jules and Smokey in tow! Taking all country roads and passing through little towns along this special pèlerinage to la Cité de L'Espace (Toulouse is Europe's capital of aeronautics, hosting the headquarters of the Airbus Group) everything went beautifully until we reached La Ville Rose--Toulouse's other nickname...and we now know why....

More than rose, we noticed a lot of red. Red faces! Our spacey entourage was met with hostility as angry French protesters stopped us at the city limits (having seen all the news coverage of our dearMoon "craft" advancing toward their famous city).

Jean-Marc and I sat wide-eyed in the front of our Jeep, while Mom and Smokey looked onto the crowd from the little wooden boat where they sat, literally goggle-eyed. The protest signs read: VA JOUER SUR L'AUTOROUTE!!! 

Whew! That's a seriously méchant French insult that means GO PLAY ON THE FREEWAY! It turns out the Toulousaines were livid to see us promoting an American/Japanese Outer Space adventure...when France had a rocket of its own to promote (can anyone tell me the name of that rocket? Hmm? Does France have its own chereLune?).

"What are they saying?" Mom shouted to us, as she poured glass after glass of rosé, trying to appease the protesters (many were accepting the wine, and some were helping themselves to a case of it!).

Jean-Marc and I looked at each other, unsure of whether we should break the news. Suddenly, we both turned and shouted:

"April Fools! The signs read April Fools!"

"Oh, that's a good one!" Mom said, raising her glass "cheers!" (The protesters raised theirs with jeers!)

And off we drove, with Mom and Smokey in tow. Mom shouting back at the crowd. "We're off to play on the freeway--the Intergalactic Freeway! April fools! April fools!"


Mom cape
I hope you enjoyed today's April Fools--and hopefully Jules will too when she wakes up and reads it :-) I really did sign up for the dearMoon mission...and so did dearSmokey, see below....

une fusée = space rocket
entrée gratuite = free entry
chiche = game (être chiche = game to do something)
carénage = boat service, maintenance, careening
la lune = moon
méchant = wickedly awesome
la monture = eyeglass frames
le pointu = little wooden boat from Provence or the Mediterranean
le pèlerinage = pilgrimage

Smokey DearMoon astronaut crew

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!