la piqure


"Roof Support" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Leaving France behind... in the following edition. Picture taken near Sablet and Gigondas (that's Mont Ventoux in the background); today's photo may as well be titled "How to Keep Your Roof on in the Windy Vaucluse". (Squint your eyes in time to see the rocks that are holding down the roof tuiles...)

une randonnée (ran doh nay)

    : walk, ride, outing, excursion

une randonnée à pied = hike
la randonnée = hiking
le randonneur, la randonneuse = hiker

Audio File:  Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words Download MP3 or Wav

Le mois dernier, nous avons fait une longue randonnée dans le désert. Last month we had a long hike in the desert.

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

Note to newsletter readers: the underlined words in the following text correspond to stories from the archive. Click on the words to read the passages.

Last month I visited family in Mexico and in Arizona and, in both countries, I had the chance to meet up with readers of this blog. The friends in Mexico taught me restaurant etiquette, or "How To Send Back an Order!"(simply complain: "These eggs are as cold as a dead man's butt!"). So far I haven't had the occasion to use the insult. Maybe you have?

Meantime, no dead butts in Arizona... where we busted ours for an early morning randonnée. The pressure was off from the get-go (the theme of the meet-up was The Horizontal Hike...)  and we walked slow enough to sip coffee as we strolled. I leave you with those photos...


One last cuppa before heading to the trail... from left to right: that's Herm, Naoma, Sharron (Herm's wife), Lynn, and Judy.   


From left to right: Rita, my sister Heidi, Karen, and Susan.


Judy, Ann, and Gaelle, whom I kept calling "Susan". Now I'm having doubts about "Ann", whose name I may be mistaking...


Chasing our shadows into the desert... In the lead, that's Gabriel, his sister Monet (left) and their mom Ronnie (behind Gabriel). C'est moi, to the right, in the beige pants.


These three to the right (Ronnie, Heidi, and Karen) were focusing in on the baby coyotes that barked or howled or yelped (???) excitedly up the hill.


This is Randy, who drove over from Cave Creek, AZ. I informed him of my short-lived waitressing job in Cave Creek (in a former life in the desert...). Randy had never heard of "The Desert Deli" and I began to wonder whether it was all a dream... one great mirage!


Stone Sculpture... Those Palo Verde branches are tickling the têtes of Ronnie, Monet, and Gabriel. Can you hear them giggling?


These two desert dwellers belong to Lynn (that's her husband, left) and Ronnie (that's her son, Gabriel, right)...

There's Lynn and her husband. And that's Ann (I think...), right. "Ann" didn't sign my guest book (or did she?). Now I'm having doubts...


There's You Know Who... and that's my sister, Heidi. Cute photo, non? I wished I had on what my sister had on (don't we always?) but my legs were "blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine" or white as a pill, so it was "no deal".


And this is Karen, left, who, along with Herm, made this French meet-up possible! Many thanks again to Herm and to Karen for everything. (And thanks, Karen, for the lovely scarf! It has that European elegance... yet there's a certain Aztec flair!)


This is Herm, whom you may know from the comments box. He occasionally shares a poem with us there. This time he shared one with me, here, as a souvenir of our Horizontal Hike. I had the chance to meet many of the "characters" in the following poem.  Herm writes:

Welcome to my space on the planet
in a secluded wash just off the trail
Join in with my friends... The critters,
singing birds and a few colorful quail

With Palo Verde trees on both sides,
It's a pleasantly cool and shady spot
Especially good in the midst of summer
when the dry winds blow un-Godly hot

Occasionally someone on their daily
hike will leave the trail to take a peek
At the rare saguaro cactus down in the
wash, a one of a kind, said to be unique

The excitement, the wonder in their eyes
and, oh, the surprised look on the face
they stand in awe... they can't believe
Siamese twins; bodies joined at the base.

--Poem by Herm Meyer


Az desert

Thank you, Herm, for sending in this photo. Herm writes: Here's a photograph of a photographer photographing a photographer photographing a Stone Sculpture.....

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joan mckniff

My favorite, quite horrible, restaurant return story in Mexico is re a person who kept returning her breakfast egg, finally speaking loudly enough that I could hear her grating English tables away. She was insisting she wanted a 3 minute boiled egg. Waitress kept saying "si" and holding up 3 fingers. Dawned on me customer had never cooked at high altitude so for the peace of all, I went to table asked how her perfect egg would look, explained that to waitress in Spanish happily ever after, especially me as restaurants, as a thanks didn't charge me for breakfast!

Bill in St. Paul

Great poem by Herm. I can see the family resemblance between you and Heidi, Kristin. Right now with the northern winds howling and a fresh coat of snow on the ground (2-4", maybe) it's hard to imagine a landscape as warm and dry as where you took your hike as it will be a while yet before Minnesota becomes green again.


Cave Creek; I used to get Cave Creek beer, that I can't find anymore. I had a jalapena pepper in the bottle, an interesting marriage of flavors that I actually got to like. BTW, Kristin, I have a small place in Plan de la Tour, so I may spot you in the Les Arcs marche some day.

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Kristin, it's a tribute to you that these wonderful people are now in your life. And it's nice to have faces to put with the friends in the Comment Box. Everyone looks like they had a nice time and you, Kristin, always look so relaxed in every photo.

I love Herm's poetry. IS he related? I never knew that before.

Pat Cargill

Quel delight to see pics of the Desert Meet Up. Love Herm's poem and seeing the faces behind some of the names here. There is one "face," Judy's, that seems to be hiding from us.

With just the merest slightest slice, her visage - we know - is very nice.

Happy trails to all today. If anyone in SW Virginia wants to meet up for a hike on the Appalachian Trail or one of many others nearby, I am in Roanoke. Day dawns clear and I'm guessing into the 70's today. (Sorry, Bill in St. Paul - hang in there.)

Linda R.

Good morning, Kristin. You just have adventures wherever you go. Thanks as always for sharing them and also to Herm for the poem featuring the secluded wash just off the trail - wonderful.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love the photo of Mount Ventoux and all the FWAD friends in Arizona. Nice poem Herm!

Maria Cochrane

Kristin - I've been meaning to tell you that I have used your daughter's 'routine matinale' for my French 2 & 3 classes - to translate out loud and to prompt a discussion about their morning routines!! Thank you

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

The photos of your walk in Arizona remind me of the drive from Phoenix to Prescott which I made many times to visit my parents in the mountains of Arizona. I have always loved that landscape in winter.

Kristin, I have a photo of that very house. we saw it often when driving from Gigondas back to Maison des Pellerins in Sablet, Autumn of 2009.


Congratulations to Karen and Herm for organising that very special "Rencontre & Randonnée".
Thank you Kristin for sharing with us
and cheerful faces of "tous les randonneurs"!
I love the shadows ...
and try to imagine the rare saguaro cactus.

A bit windy and chilly here but it is a very bright Spring day with (so far) a cloudless blue sky! Perfect weather to spend my afternoon outside, catching up with 'the jobs and joys' of my garden. There is plenty to do and surely enough to keep me going for a week but ... the weather can change so quickly here, so, better get going!

Best wishes to all,
from my little corner of Dorset
where the blue 'Anemonas Blanda' are all out

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

Thanks for posting the photos of the meet-up. What a super time we had and the photos rekindle the memories. The temperature made it to 90 degrees here last week and the desert flowers are in bloom. I wish I had your photographer’s talent to capture their beauty. Soon the cactus will start blooming adding their color to our desert.

Max: Your Chili Beer had to come from “The Satisfied Frog” which was located in Cavecreek, AZ. The restaurant recently moved to E. Bell Rd and 28th St in Phoenix, AZ. My wife and I ate there a couple weeks ago and they still serve the “World Famous Chili Beer” from their mini-brewery.

À bientôt

Mary R.

I enjoyed this!!

Betsy Kuhn

What a lovely website! I am a French 1 student here in Albuq. NM. caught up in all the mystique that is French. Thank you for this sweet surprise! Betsy

Jane in Ohio

I just wanted to share a place that I found on my last trip to Phoenix. Chez Vous for breakfast and lunch at 8787 N. Scottsdale Road (in a shopping center near Gainey Ranch). The owners just moved here a year ago from Paris with their daughter and they serve a fabulous quiche as well as salads and savory and dessert crepes. Many folks come in to practice their French with the owners. A very friendly place that I loved to walk to in the morning for breakfast and coffee.

Marianne Rankin

I've eaten in some good restaurants in Arizona, when I've visited my brother there, but can't tell you where they are. The scenery brought back memories of visits, the last of which was in 2002.

"Randonnee" - a very useful word. I'd heard the term "ski de randonnee" before, which means "cross-country skiing."

Pat, if you are closer to D.C. sometime, maybe we can take a hike together. I'm unlikely to get down to Roanoke any time soon.

If any other FWAD readers would like to meet sometime to parler francais, etc., you can mention that on this blog.

Glad everyone enjoyed the Arizona outing!

Sandy Maberly

Loved the desert photos, Kristi. Such a wonderful place this time of year! I DO love the desert flora. Thanks for brightening my day!

Ken Boyd

Your sis has a smile that could win an election ! ..........

Napa Valley

Jules Greer

Kristi this is just the greatest post, makes me homesick for the desert. How blessed we all are to have such special friends that we have all met because of you.

I know you and I both are amazed at the group of people that you have brought together here at FWaD - we sincerely have made real connections.
Each time I scroll down to "Le Coin Commentaires" I feel like I am reading a note from a very close and loving friend. I always feel such happiness that I continue to check back for that 'little fix of joy and knowledge'.

Marianne you are one lovely lady that I would love to meet - how lucky anyone who lives in your area would be to take you up on your generous invitation.




How fun to re-live that morning through your photos! How gracious you and Heidi were to spend time with all of us eager followers of FWaD!
I completely agree with Jules...what a "little fix of joy and knowledge" this all is. Seeing your updates in my inbox are always a source of happiness!

Carolyn  in Vermont

Bon apres-midi Kristin! Hope all is well with you and you're enjoying time as a family once again now that JM is home. I'm sure you're all busy among the vines!

I love today's story and as others have said, it's wonderful to be able to match faces with names I've seen for years now. Thank you for making it possible for all of these wonderful people to meet.
Life throws us so many curve balls and at times it's so easy to feel as if you're alone and don't belong. I love the fact that I have this connection with others in the world regardless of our backgrounds, experiences, socio-economic status, etc. I started reading your blog because of my love for France and its language and culture but I've stuck with you because of you, your spirit, your kindness, the dogs (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE DOGS!) and your willingness to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with us. Thanks for being a friend to us all.

Herm-thanks for the beautiful poem. I've never been to the desert but I look forward to visiting one day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Michael Khaw

Since I'm a cyclist, I'd like to add that "une randonnée à vélo" is a bike ride.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

I second Jules, Gaelle and Carolyn! The sense of connectedness with other readers brought to us through the comments section is truly special.

I love the photos from your desert met-up and Herm's poem.

Wow, Karen, what a gorgeous scarf! You chose well, it looks beautiful on Kristi!

Kristin Espinasse

Merci beaucoup! Such encouraging comments! So happy to see new "faces" in this community corner, too. Welcome!

First off: HI MOM! I LOVE YOU!

OK, next:

Joan, you were thoughtful to help that lady and to take interest in her dilemme. I need to remember your story.

Bill in St Paul, good to know you see the family resemblance. I would just like to point out that I am the younger one (never mind that everyone always guesses the other way around).

Karen W: Herm and I are are not related, though we're both of the "desert rat" family (I guess I should speak for myself...)

Max, we moved from Les Arcs four years ago (has it been that long?...) but if you visit the Ste Cécile market, then be sure to wave in my direction!

Pat, I'm glad you brought up Judy's lovely face. BTW, Judy is an artist, too, and I love her SW theme mixed with dogs! I have my eye on a certain painting...

Maria, thank you so much for using Jackie's essay in your class. She will be so excited to know this. I will post another story soon (not the "edgy" one, though!)

Suzanne, thanks for confirming that the cabanon is indeed where I thought it was... but wasn't super sure!

Newforest, I highlighted then right-clicked on your 'Anemonas Blanda' and discovered some lovely photos online. Lucky you!

Herm, I used to eat regularly at The Satified Frog (in Cave Creek), in the early 80's... P.S.: thank you for the extra photo you sent of our walk. I've posted it at the end of today's edition:

Thanks, Marianne and Michael, ski de randonnee & une randonnée à vélo :-)

Stacy, just saw your note, which reminds me that I saw a poem this morning that reminded me of the one you had posted in the previous comments box. A few readers have begun translating it... I'll put a reminder in on Friday (if I remember to...). I leave you with cette poesie:

Sue in Maryland

Les Portes Tordues got an extremely negative review on Amazon. Would love a French/English story but certainly NOT this one!

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

It was such a wonderful time meeting everyone from FWAD. Seeinng
Kristin again is always a delight.

Herm - I remember eating at the Satisfied Frog when I first moved to the desert, haven't been to the new location.

Jane- Yes, isn't Chez Vous wonderful. My friend Susan (who is pictured above) has gone to that restaurant many times. I have been once myself.

Arizona FWAD let's try to get together again before it is too hot to be outside.



Bonjour de Provence Kristin et. alia!
I cannot tell you how many of your "words for the day" we've spotted since we arrived. If I didn't realize before how valuable your blog would be, I certainly do now.
Carolyn, we watch the meteo on the internet every day to see how cold it still is at home in Vermont.
Bisous to Jules-& thanks for having such a great daughter.
Sending warm, sunny wishes to all!

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Kristin –
Since I’ve been in Arizona since 1963, the term “desert rat” fits. Related? I should be so lucky!

Ed, the owner of the Satisfied Frog, also had a place called “Crazy Ed’s” which is closed now, but was appropriately named. We had pork ribs at the S. F. and they were outstanding!

Michael K –
We have lots of bikers on our trails. They usually have durable mountain bikes. We also share the trails with horseback riders. Bikers yield to the horseback riders and hikers yield to both are the rules of the trail.

Karen –
Let’s work on another meet-up!

Mary Ann Boysen

I so enjoy your wonderful stories and travels. I studied 5 years of French in highschool and college (college level was with a former French Olympic swimmer who was in her 90's!....conversational French...out of which I got nothing but time with a charming French lady.) Anyway, I have no trouble reading French (now in my 70's) but too shy to speak it and haven't been around it enough to understand it when spoken quickly. Through your wonderful website, I am learning new vocabulary words and am excited about trying it at least. I have taken several groups of artists to France to paint. You can see info about the trips on my website. If I am ever able to go to France again, I would love to visit your vineyard and meeting your charming family ...AND dogs!
A bientot....I would hope.

Candy in SW KS

What a testament to you, Kristin, that all of us feel like "friends we've yet to meet." And how lucky some of you are to now be friends who have actually met. Merci, Herm, for sharing your lovely poem. What a special guy you are! I know you all had such fun on your "randonee". Wish I could have been there, too. Perhaps when I get moved back to Colorado Springs in September there might be folks along the front range who would be interested in a "rencontre et randonee". Oui?? However, it most likely wouldn't be "horizontal" . . . :)

Marianne Rankin

If anyone is in the Phoenix area, you could visit the Desert Botanical Gardens, 1201 N. Galvin Parkway. I've been there twice, and really enjoyed it. The emphasis is on native plants, including many varieties of cactus. You could even get a cactus milkshake at the snack bar. There is also information about some of the native animals, etc. It's well worth a visit.

Jennifer in OR

J'aime les randonnées! What a lovely time, wish I could have been there! This is the internet at its best, bringing together people continents apart, but totally connected in heart.

John  Schofield

Kristin, (is it alright if I call you that?), if your husband is still in the states is there any chance he will be in the Kansas City area (Mo or Ks)?

Ronnie McCarthy in Surprise, AZ

Hi everyone! Wow, I was a little behind on checking my e-mail and what a delight it was to look over the blog from Wednesday, see the photos and read all the comments! Gabriel and I had fun looking over the photos and reliving the morning of the met-up. I can't wait for Monet to get home from school so I can share it with her, as well. Kristin, thanks for posting these as well as Herm's poem, which I enjoyed. I have a big smile on my face remembering the new FWaD friends we made that morning! :)


Would love to get together again before it gets too hot!

Are the wildflowers blooming yet at the park we hiked at Herm or Karen?


this is so interesting.

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