noun, feminine


When I am old and wrinkled—well into the troisième âge—I want to race along the shores of Brittany on my Mobylette, that most groovy of French bikes with an engine!

I want to be an eccentric vieille dame. I don't want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing myself on their philosophie de vie. I'll ride my old bike along the seashore. I'll wear black goggles and wrap a long wool scarf, in orange potiron, around my neck. Off I'll fly, scarf ends flowing in the wind.

I'll let go of the pedals, WHEEEEEEEEE... and sing a song by Yves Montand—or a tune from Les Misérables—depending on my mood.

I'll pack a picnic with all my favoris. Inside the panier there'll be boiled eggs, anchoïade, Gratin Dauphinois, pungent cheese, a soft baguette and a flask of Earl Grey. There'll be tangerines to eat and a few squares of dark chocolate.

I'll gather delicate coquilles from the foamy seashore and tie them to my shoes. You'll hear the jingle of seashells when I pedal by.

My voice will be agreeably hoarse, not from les Gauloises or le vin but from whistling all the day long—a habit I'll have picked up at the beginning of the century, when a certain Frenchwoman cautioned: "Les femmes ne sifflent pas! Women don't whistle!" That's when I puckered up and blew another tune... and another... and then one more!

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I. She'll dye her white hair rouge vif or aubergine. We'll tchatche about the current generation and how people need to loosen up and 'profiter un peu de la vie,' enjoy life a little, like us.

I'll say, "Pépéles oursins!" and my old man will return from the rocky pier where he has spent the morning hunting sea urchins. When he cracks open their coquilles, revealing the mousse-like orange roe, I will remember that real treasures don't come with a price tag.

I want to live near the seagulls so that I may slumber beneath their cries and wake up to the whoosh of the sea. I'll push myself to a stand, smooth back my white locks, adjust a faux tortoiseshell comb, and say "Dieu merci!" for another day.

Before I tuck myself into bed at night I will, once again, empty mes coquilles into an old metal cookie tin, a treasure from long ago. Looking over to my seashells, I will give thanks: my cherished, tired tin runneth over.


Click here to leave an edit. Don't forget to double-check the vocab section below. Thanks!

French Vocabulary

le troisième âge
 = retirement
Mobylette = a particular model of moped
une vieille dame = a venerable lady
une philosophie (f) de vie = a life philosophy
orange potiron = pumpkin orange
favori(te) = favorite
un panier = a basket
l'anchoïade (m) = anchovy purée mixed with olive oil
un Gratin Dauphinois = a potato casserole with milk, butter and cheese
une coquille = a shell
la Gauloise = brand of cigarettes
le vin = wine
excentrique = eccentric
rouge vif = bright red
aubergine = eggplant purple
tchatcher = to chat (away)
le pépé = grandpa
un oursin = a sea urchin
Dieu merci = Thank God


hear Jean-Marc pronounce the word coquille Download coquille.wav

coquille d'oeuf = eggshell, off white (paint)
coquille de poisson = scallop of fish
coquille Saint-Jacques = scallops
coquille de beurre = pat of butter

coquillage (m) = shellfish
coquillettes (f) = pasta shells

Citation du Jour: 

 La vie est ce que notre caractère veut qu'elle soit. Nous la façonnons, comme un escargot sa coquille. Life is what our personality wants it to be. We fashion it, as a snail does its shell. --Jules Renard


rentrer dans sa coquille = to withdraw into one's shell
sortir de sa coquille = to come out of one's shell

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Tim Averill

The flask of Earl Grey is certainly you - I would have preferred a bottle of Rouge Bleu!

Bill in St. Paul

I like it the way it is, especially since I think I'm in my troisième âge now.

Sandy Maberly

Kristi, just a few thoughts here, nothing of too much importance. This is a wonderful story. You caught the feel of an eccentric yet caring old lady, absolutely, as I would want to be. Sorry I haven't been able to lend a hand before now. We've been finishing up our condo, just started showing it this weekend and may even have a buyer already. Wales, here we come! Now it's packing, shipping, tying up loose ends.......Here are my little suggestions.

I want to race through ("along" might perhaps work here as you are not going "through" something.) the shores of Brittany on my bicyclette.....

That's when I puckered up and blew another tune.....and another....and then one more! (I only strung them all together because the sentences were originally fragmented, without a subject or verb "And another. Then one more." .....if you see what I mean.

I hope to have a dear old friend, one "who is" much more excentrique than I.

Hang in there friend! You are much stronger than your think!

Rob Tonkinson,  Mahomet, IL

I really like the story and all the vocabulary. Would it be possible to add pronunciation help to the vocabulary at the bottom as well? I read the word-a-day for several reasons: 1) to improve my rather dismal understanding of the French language; 2) to learn more about French culture and life, and 3) because your writing (and pictures) are so enjoyable. So, more pronunciation help would be really valuable for 1.

Suzanne Dunaway

I would love to be that friend with you!!! All of my sentiments exactly, Kristin, but why not start now, darlin'? I'm going to...

Steve Chawkins

Mon dieu, I can be picky but that's what editing is all about. In graf 5, "you'll hear a seashell jingle" isn't quite on target, as it's tough to imagine a single seashell jingling. You might consider: "..hear seashells jingle, or, even better, "...hear the jingle of seashells."

On a more substantive level, I took pause at the phrase "as long as I am not imposing on their philosophie de vie." You're painting a portrait of an uninhibited, joyous, brash old bird but this phrasing sounds as if it were stuffed into her mouth by a committee of politically correct nieces. Maybe she's not so perfect and in some cases wouldn't give a sou about imposing on someone's philosophie de vie'. I think it reads better just to let the world know you're your own woman and, as for their philosphies: well, c'est la vie!

Olga Brown

I love the story.
This is the right way to look at the troisieme age! At this age you ARE the judge for yourself and the rest doesn't matter. You enjoy your life because it's beatiful!


Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

You've added poetry to your other talents! This one really sings.

Brief comments:
1. In the phrase "on my bicyclette—that most groovy of French bikes with a locomotive engine!", I believe that a comma after "bicyclette" instead of a dash would be better. Also, are you actually describing a motorbike or just using a bit of hyperbole? In either case, "locomotive" connotes a train to me, maybe too powerful an image for a bike.
2. The sentence "my cherished tired tin runneth over" seems a bit awkward; suggest either removing "tired" or inserting a comma after "cherished".
3. I concur with the preceding suggestions from Sandy and Steve.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

This treasure brought tears to my eyes and touched my heart. A delight to read from beginning to end! I love you even more after reading it. I hope to be that dear old friend for you! I would love to, after a day shared in the salty air, slumber again beneath gulls cries as I did in my youth at my grandparents. Your mind is so sweet and creative, keep on the fruits of it sharing.

Just this correction which I see Sandy pointed out above: I hope to have a dear old friend, one that {is} much more excentrique than I. Hugs to you!

Betty Gleason

I think it should read: "WHEEEEEEEEE! ...and sing"

On a Facebook about my hometown, someone was reminiscing about childhood dolls. Earlier today I went in search of my doll case from long ago & posted about the dolls I found. I went back to the case just now because I remembered seeing something else. There they were- 3 scallop shells - a
treasure from days gone by.

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

I love this one! Perhaps because I just celebrated 79 years on this earth. If I could have one wish it would be to close my eyes tonight and wake up speaking French like an eccentric vieille dame! Then I'd head off to Paris and on to Aix. Well, maybe two wishes: add a handsome Frenchman to help me with my pronunciation. Continued good luck in your writing and the nearly done editing.

Bruce T. Paddock

Oh, man! I want that, too. Except it doesn’t really work the same for a vieil homme, does it?

Your use of “locomotive” is technically correct, but most of us associate “locomotive” with trains. The picture of an old lady on a bicycle attached to a railroad engine is kinda terrifying.

Also, here you say a “bicyclette” is a bicycle with a motor on it, but in the vocab list you say it’s just a bicycle. What gives?

Something is off about the clause “as long as I am not imposing on their philosophie de vie,” but I can’t put my finger on it. All I know is that it made me stop and go “Huh?” Sorry I can’t be more specific; it’s punchy, and I’m getting late.

I’m assuming you’re using “seashell” as an adjective modifying “jingle.” If I’m mistaken, you should probably go with something like “You’ll hear the seashells jingle.”

While I like the imagery, I’m not clear on how whistling makes one hoarse.

The “L” in “Les femmes…” should be capitalized.

Seems to me you’re saying your friend will be that much more eccentric than you. If I’m mistaken, take Sandy’s advice.

You need a comma between “cherished” and “tired.”

I need a tissue.

Bettye Dew

The "whistling" paragraph 6: "a habit I'LL HAVE PICKED UP at the beginning of the century..." Future present tense is wrong if you mean you picked it up THIS century. Just: "a habit I PICKED UP ..."

Consider: "when A CERTAIN Frenchwoman cautioned ...," rather than THAT.

BEFORE I tuck myself ?

Dawn Bouchard

"...I want to race through the shores of Brittany..."

Better - "I want to race along the shores ..."

"I don't want to care about what anyone thinks ..."

Better - "I don't want to care about what one might think..." both are now in future tense rather than the 1st in future & the 2nd in the present

"I will give thanks: my cherished tired tin runneth over." Needs a comma between cherished & tired.

But I agree with another reader's comment yesterday ... don't sweat too much over the small stuff! The stories are wonderful, so magnetically drawing the reader in that he/she would certainly be willing to 'forgive' an 'error' ... if we even noticed it in the first place :)

Kudos ... hang in there!!

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

You're probably still in the process of editing this story, but I wanted to be sure that this typo was caught, if it's not too late: "I hope to have a dear old friend, one that much more excentrique than I" needs to be changed to (something like) " who is much more...".

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Charles. It now reads:

I hope to have a dear old friend, one who is much more excentrique than I.

edith schmidt


"Push myself to a stand" sounded a little awkward to me, but I do like your descriptions in this story. I also like the book jacket design number 2.

Edie from Savannah

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, everyone, for these edits! I have updated the post to include Mobylette (instead of bicyclette)--by the way, check out the bike Ill be riding, one day, with my eccentric friends (you, of course!):

And thank you, Christine, who wrote in via email to clear up this issue:
I dont want to care about what anyone thinks, as long as I am not imposing MYSELF on their philosophie de vie.

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