The creepy French phrase for those "age spots" on your hands

Braise and Smokey French Halloween pumpkins (c) Kristin Espinasse
Our Mot-Par-Jour models, Braise & Smokey.

les fleurs de cimetière (lay flur deuh sim tee ere)

    : age spots, "cemetery flowers"

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Le médecin m'a dit que j'ai les fleurs de cimetière sur ma peau!
The doctor said that I have age spots on my skin! 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I thanked the doctor for reassuring me that the small, flesh-toned bosse on my forehead—and the darker one on the back of my arm—were, after all, bénin. How many miserable moments had I spent pushing at or scraping or pinching the suspect "growths" which seemed to be spreading? I know better than to pick at la peau, but it was in those absentminded moments that I would reach up to my forehead and scratch at the knotty skin only to be startled to find it flaking off again! 

The médecin généraliste determined the bump on my forehead to be nothing more than an old scar, une cicatrice that I had simply forgotten about. As for the little lump on the back of my arm, the one for which I twisted the latter endlessly so as to get another look, it was nothing to worry about either. 

Afraid that the doctor might take me for a hypochondriaque, I laughed it off: "I'll bet you get a lot of false alarms like this...."

The doc replied with a sympathetic smile, which grew bigger as her eyes locked onto my hands, which were busy writing out a check. "And speaking of spots..." the doctor said, "we call those 'les fleurs de cimetière'." I followed her glance to the backs of my hands where a sprinkling of les taches brunes now came into focus. I hadn't noticed them so much before....

"Oh. I thought they were freckles!"


As I exited the doctor's office the score was "-2 plus 1":  I had two fewer things to worry about and one more "something" to agonize over: le vieillissement de la peau

Post note: It turns out that "growth" on my forehead was skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma)



le mot par jour
= word a day

la bosse = bump, lump

bénin = harmless, benign

la peau = skin

le médecin généraliste = general, or family, doctor

la cicatrice = scar

le/la hypochondriaque = hypochondriac

les fleurs de cimetière = "cemetery flowers" (age spots, liver spots)

les taches brunes = brown spots, age spots, liver spots

le vieillissement de la peau = the aging of the skin

French christmas music
French Christmas Music: "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". 
Order CD here.



On Friday we bottled 12,000 units of our Domaine Rouge-Bleu... including our 2009 cuvée! 
Note: these photos were taken one year ago. Look at Smokey. Oh, how they grow! 

golden retriever mother baby male dogs sleeping cuddling

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Freckles, indeed!!! :) But with the amount of time you spend in the hot sun, I sure hope that you've found a favourite sunscreen just to be on the safe side.

Fresh week = fresh start.

Thinking of you, and also breathing a sigh of relief. *phew*


Glad that all is OK, but those things that happen to our hands......hate it. But a super duper sun screen in the summer does help. Congratulations on the bottling and the loves (goldens) are so beautiful--oh, to be so innocent, like smokey. Have a great week.

Christine Dashper

They are definately freckles Kristin! I'm glad the other 'spots' are all fine. At least you went and had them checked and didn't keep worrying.

cynthia caughey

I think I like age spots better than cemetery flowers. Age is relative but cemetery if definite. And yes, of course, those are freckles. Cynthia in the French Alps

Rosie Goddard

Better than 'liver spots' which my mother used to call them. Although thinking about it, I always thought that meant liver like offal - perhaps it means liver like I've lived!


What a merciless description of age spots !
And of course you did the right thing - had them checked out.

Best to freckled Kristin -

Sion @ paris (im)perfect

Definitely freckles, Kristin! Glad you got it checked out and that everything is ok!

William Stein

Isn't "vieillissement" masculine?

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Bien sur - freckles for sure, Kristen!! But I do like the comment from Rosie. I must be a "liver" because I do have the spots to prove it.

Bill in St. Paul

Being a red head, I've had lots of freckles but the ones I notice now are a lot bigger than my childhood freckles, but like your doctor, Kristin, mine just said they are age spots - I still think they're just big freckles.

Great pictures of the Master of the Wine, and of Mr. Smokey and his Mom.

Sue from Brunswick, MD USA

I'm 64, and I call them large freckles. My mother, also, called them 'liver spots'. I do like a previous poster's re-definition that liver means 'one who has lived'!


Bien sur, freckles, Kristin...bien sur. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! Faire attention à toi. You are a beautiful 43.

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Kristin, I didn't get to read Fridays post until now and it was wonderful. There is nothing better that a story of a dream realized. But also, because of you I feel one step closer to one of my other favorite authors, Cara Black. I am thrilled for you.


Kristin: How nice to share your story with us! Just one little correction. It is not "la vieillissement de la peau" but "le vieillissement de la peau.
Anyway... it is freckles.


T'es toujours jeune, Kristin. Au moins tu l'es du point de vue d'un veillard comme moi ☺
Je suis soulagé que ces taches brunes sur mon visage [moles] soient "grains de beauté" en français!

gail bingenheimer

Nous sommes allées par le médicin du quartier. ( We went by the neighborhood doctor)* The infinitive may be accompanied by both a subject and a direct object. In this case, the subject is introduced by a prepostion, usually à or par.
Il faut honorer ses parents, selon de Décalogue. One (You, We) must honor one's (your, our) parents, according to the Ten Commandments.

Linda R.

Once upon a time my five year old daughter's playmate wanted to phone his grandma with the "polka dot hands" : )

My 94-year old aunt's remedy for those polka dot hands is a solution of lemon juice and the juice of a mashed up onion. It works but ... too much bother. I just got used to the freckles

Mike Hardcastle

I can sympathize and also empathize. I went to my doctor to check out a couple of small lumps which had appeared. He told me not to worry,
'C'est ce que nous appelons la vieille peau.' (It's what we call old skin.)
Les fleurs de cimetiere, have not appeared yet but no doubt any day now.
I lost the last of the three dogs I came to France with in June and I look at Smokey and my heart flips he's so beautiful. perhaps it's time I seriously thought about another.


Julie F

I vote for "liver" spots because I, too, have lived. My hands have done much work. People often praise my fair, clear skin even at my age, but I have my grandma's skin so I know what's coming. That is, danger of many (hopefully benign) spots to be watched. My sun at 15 is haunting my skin at 50. So I'm in love with pampering my skin now. Last summer I stopped in the town of La Roche-Posay and bought some of their special skin lotions that are so wonderful I decided next summer I will buy out the store and ship it home to myself. At my age I deserve these little luxuries. So pamper every well-earned freckle, Kristin.


lol Isn't it funny that we all seem to notice the bumps and lumps and spots that come with age? I don't mind getting older, I just was hoping I could look like I did when I was in my 20's forever-I've seen lots of people now who have tried to do just that- I'll take my lumps, bupms, spots and wrinkles over botox and surgery any ol is after all what is aging me like a fine wine =)



Why don't women wear a good sun hat and sun gloves? It's not that difficult to get used to putting on sun glove and protect against these unsightly freckles to say nothing of skin cancer? I went to a dermatologist who said it was the best way and I was the first woman he'd seen using a hat and gloves as it's the best protection.

No one deserves skin cancer.

Candy in SW KS

Always "pamper" your skin! I learned this living at 7000 ft in Colorado! I wear sunscreen every day of the year and whatever creams/lotions etc I use on my face, I also put on my hands, neck and chest. I'm 58 and my hands have yet to see any "cemetery flowers" (What an awful expression!) Please, everyone, take care of your skin. Skin cancer is not to be taken lightly. It's very dangerous. Good for you, Kristin, for getting the worrisome spots looked at. And thanks for the precious photos of Smokey and Braise. Yes, Mike, it's time. Once your heart has known the joys of dogs you can't deprive it of that love.


Definitely freckles at your age;-) When you get to be as old as I am -- 64 -- then they're age spots. At least, that's what I call the brown spots on the back of my hands.



Salut Kristin,

Some interesting aspects of today’s picture of the models . . . .Very clever how you framed Smokey’s paws with the tree branch. Good job!

The pumpkin symbolizing fall; does it relate to your concern about reaching the ripe old age of 43? Also, the pot of mums with their associated French tradition and your discussion of age spots. . . . . Just a coincidence?

Living in Arizona, I stay so tanned that my spots are hidden. Fortunately, I chose my parent right, and I don’t have to worry about skin cancer. The wrinkles are another story.

À bientôt


Love the photo of Smokey and Braise :-) My granddaughters will love it too. They always enjoy seeing pictures of your beautiful dogs! They are 4 (almost) and 6 years old.


Karen from Phoenix, AZ

They are freckles always! I have learned living the past 26 years in almost always sunny Phoenix, AZ to protect, protect, protect. I heard my Mom and Grandmother call them liver spots and brown spots. I love the description of liver spots. xo

Fred Caswell

The picture reveals much about the essence of your special man in addition to his great pleasure seeing rewards of dedication, very hard work, and knowledge of a lot more than producing fine wine from the ground up. (I like my jeu de mots.)

Comme toujours!

Julianna P.

I am 20 years your senior, and since mine are still freckles, yours are, too! I also have a sprinkling of them on my cheeks and am quite sure that these are the freckles of my childhood returned to me.

Giangi Townsend

They are just freckles... I am sticking to your version considering that I have quite
a few of them and I refuse to call them anything else :):):):)

Nancy Reynolds

My birthday is next month too, but I'll be 59! Quel est la date de votre anniversaire? Mine is December 2.

Marianne Rankin

Kristin, 43 is still young! But wearing sunscreen is a good idea.

I have more spots on my left hand than on my right. I was wondering if they were from age (I'm a good bit older than you), but I decided that probably there are more on the left hand because that's the one on the driver's side of the car, and are exposed to more sun - which means they are (large) freckles. Nevertheless, I'm striving to protect face and hands when I'm outdoors, such as doing yard work, in addition to the obvious use when swimming.

Sheila, the advice about gloves (which I often wear while doing gardening) and hat (not so much) is good. I suspect that folks avoid long-sleeved shirts, etc. sometimes because they get too hot, such as in the D.C. area in the summer, where we can have 95 degrees F. with 95% humidity.


Bonjour Kristin,
This is my first opportunity, since returning from France, to read through my emails and your blog. A friend sent me our picture at Shakespeare & Co. What a surprise it was to see us, and thank you for posting us.
I know that I told you, but now I must tell everyone, that after we met you at Rouge Bleu, I told my husband that I felt like I was meeting a celebrity (which of course you are). You are a very warm, passionate and open person. We enjoyed our visit at Rouge Bleu and your 2006 wine is superb. We enjoyed meeting Jean-Marc and want to congratulate him on his exceptional wine..
Then seeing you again in Pairs was delightful. My husband commented on how friendly and outgoing you are. I will send you the pictures I took.
I also enjoyed meeting Smokey and Braise and watching them chase the salamanders (lizards) up the wall of the house.
A bientot.

Eileen deCamp

Mums always remind me of cemetery flowers so I won't put them out fall.
Sunblock is the best defense but I always forget my hands and I have a few pesky spots too! Can't we call them "sun spots"?


Chere Kristin, once again a wonderful post (!) and one which all of us can identify with!(We were also told that these 'spots' were called liver spots; I like Rosie's definition much better!)You were so wise to get the possible culprits checked out!(Thank God you are okay!) Even years later,exposure to Phoenix sun can definitely make one a victim ( I've had skin cancer due to my youthful neglience there),and now truly feel that a good sunblock is a necessity.
You are tres jeune at (almost !)43 and also tres jolie! Happy pre- birthday!
THANK YOU for bringing a smile to my morning,and also for those beautiful pictures!
Bon journee!

Maribeth Hager  New Richmond Wisconsin

Kristin, I took French in high school in Milwaukee. I am now relearning it thanks to you. My doctor calls age spots, wisdom spots.


Still freckles! I like French humor, but freckles on my hands goes away with lemon juice.

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

I'm casting my vote for freckles, definitely! The photo of the dogs with the harvest still life is terrific. Congratulations on the bottling. It never ends does it?!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for the helpful tips and kind cheers! As well as the reminder to *take* *care* *of* *one's* *skin*!!!

It never occurred to me to put sunscreen on my hands (on a daily basis)... only at the beach where a parasol is one's best friend! I can't tolerate direct sun and try to cover up.

Rosie, the word "liver" will never sound the same to many of us again. Thanks for seeing things in a new light!

William and Michèle: thanks for "LE vieillissement" correction. Much appreciated.

Joe: "le grain de beauté" -- I agree (so much nicer in French!)

Gail, thanks for the tips which keep us on our grammar toes!

Linda R.: loved the "polka dot hands" story!

Mike, so sorry about the loss of your dogs.

Sheila, people are always pointing out the need for protective hats, those gloves are a good idea, too! When we were in the desert, recently (on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, specifically), I noticed the camelleros (camel guides) wore long sleeved shirts... quite a contrast to the tank-top wearing tourists.

Herm, if only the framing of those paws were cleverness... alas, just a happy accident!

Fred, thank you for your thoughtful tribute to Jean-Marc!

Julianne, loved your words: "these are the freckles of my childhood returned to me."

Nancy, it is December 22nd. Happy early birthday to you, too!

Kathleen, so good to know you saw the photos. Dean's eyes were closing (in the photo) but I posted it anyway, not having an alternative. Though I do have a picture to send you from the farm.... Ah, and thank you for the reminder that those are "salamanders" scurrying up the wall!

Eileen, "sun spots" is a good one!

Natalia, mille mercis for you ever-ebullient words. You are so kind!

Suzanne, Ouf! Indeed, it is ongoing -- thankfully it is always a cheerful atmosphere at bottling time! This was one of the best.


I am glad things went well with the doctor. I notice spots popping up on me. My eyes just got worse and I will have to wear the reading glasses more. I know that is too much information. There is more, but I will leave it at that. We have to remember you only get better with age. Right??! :)

Linda Bugg

I vote for freckles, Kristin. It's much better than "liver spots" which I was taught to call them as a child. Maybe that goes back to some French origin, since the liver gets blamed for a lot of maladies in France.

Tucson, AZ

David Giorgi

1967 was a magical year... (it also happens to be my year of birth as well ;)

Jacqueline (Brisbane)

Mike, your "vieille peau" gave me the giggles... this term is also a derogatory expression meaning an older lady, usually of llos morals! A 'kind' translation might be 'old biddy'...

María E. Sastre Wirshing

My birthday is also in December. It's December 8.

I wear sunscreen in my face, neck, hands. I've had 5 carcinomas.

Would like to know in which cities your river cruise stopped.

I would love to go on French river cruise.

Keep up your wonderful blog.

María E.Sastre

Puerto Rico

June Furey

Kristin, I so enjoy your wonderful photos and these recent ones have brought back happy memories of my first time in France 10 years ago., when Lyon was my first stop outside Paris whilst on a bus trip.Your wonderful letters each week are the hilight of my day..They arrive at the right time to b righten my day. I am so happy you had such an enjoyable trip. and although I haven't cruised the canal you travelled whilst staying near the midi three years ago I was able to celebrate my 80th birthday (in June)at a restaurant beside the Canal du Midi where I found it so tranquil and romantic and has given me such inspiration in the past,this year I haven't been able to travel to France I look forward to your photos to help inspire me for future paintings. Oh yes I have so many freckles,spots or whatever they wish to call them, I wear them as a badge of wisdom now.
au revoir June, Gold Coast Qld .

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