l'ici et maintenant
a fond

etre dans la lune

Across from Domaine Banneret in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (c) Kristin EspinasseOn being on the moon in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Today's subject is absentmindedness....

être dans la lune

    : to be lost in one's thoughts, to be absent-minded ("to be on the moon")

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

De temps en temps elle ne porte pas trop d'attention. Elle est sur la lune.
At times, she doesn't pay attention. She is on the moon. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

The Absentminded Confessor

We took the day off, yesterday, to join friends in the wine-making town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Chief Grape had called ahead to reserve several vineyard visits, which would be especially interesting for our friends, each of whom is involved, in one way or another, dans le mêtier du vin.

Wine is not my passion, but that did not keep me from tagging along with the grape enthusiasts. Sure, all that vine talk might get boring, but I could always enjoy the company of friends—and then there would be that delicious midday pause (lunch at La Mère Germaine!). There would also be plenty to see—eclectic village windows, sleepy stone façades, and other such camera candy. So what if that meant suffering so many oenopoetic arguments on appellation and vin nature

...At least I think those topics were brought up, then again, how can I be sure? For I did as I always do during a swarm of French conversation: I escaped into the recesses of my mind, letting the foreign chatter dissolve into an agreeable murmur.

The French have an expression for this kind of "absentmindedness" (I prefer a more dignifying  term—such as "mind travel"... or even "thought voyaging", for the hint at adventure... ). For we who lapse into a cognitive retreat, the French say: elle est dans la lune!

Et c'est vrai. There, in the apex of my mind... on that luminous half-moon, my two legs dangling over the golden edge, I can best view and appreciate my surroundings. Removed from the chaos of chatter, the world around me softens up... into a romantic still life. Though I no longer hear, I see: there are French lips flapping—but no voices, arms-flailing—but no words to ride them. When I dip back into conversation, or "come in for a brief landing", I find the opposite to be true: I hear voices... but no longer see those fabulous flapping lips, I understand words... but no longer notice the flailing arms. Perhaps some senses shut down with the opening of others? In that case, one has to choose: between seeing and hearing. Which do you choose?

I used to feel self-conscious about this tendency to float away from conversation, in favor of returning to my lunar perch, where I could swing my legs over the slivered moon's edge and watch the animated scene before me.

I began to have a sneaking suspicion that my inability to pay attention to a conversation might be evidence of a low intelligence quotient. I wondered, was I dumb?

And then I heard about a character called "The Absent-Minded Professor"! I began to feel hopeful: if an academic could be nearly perpetually absent-minded, then maybe I wasn't slow after all? And maybe I didn't have to try so hard to conceal my own attention lapses? If worse came to worse and I was caught, I no longer had to feel like a space cadet; I could brush off the incident as "an academic interlude"... and happily return to outer space pour être sur ma lune, as the French say.

That is not to say that embarrassing situations don't crop up. It is a risk an absent-minded one just has to take. Yesterday in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, for example, at the tail-end of our first vineyard visit, I decided to "land" in the current conversation. It looked as though the tasting was wrapping up, so I asked what I thought to be a "safe" question:

"Quelles sont vos horaires d'ouverture?" My intention was to share the vineyard's location and opening hours with others. 

My husband snickered. Confused, I searched the faces in our group for any clues of dissent.

"Why is that a stupid question?" I asked.

Thankfully the women in the group—friends Gilda and Caroline—stood up for me: "It is not a stupid question! In America," Gilda explained, "there are no stupid questions." 

"But in France," Caroline offered, sympathetically, "every question is a potentially stupid one!"

How true! I thought about cultural differences and, once again, I was off... to ponder that thought.


Post note: For many of us, listening is a core value. I do agree! But I find that it becomes difficult to listen, for long stretches, to French conversation. At the end of a dinner party (in French), many French language learners feel like their heads are about to explode. Is it any wonder that some of us float off... to decompress sur la lune

 P.S. And one more embarrassing incident (and an apology to Caroline, from Perth): Earlier that morning, as I wished my friend "Happy Australia Day!" Caroline admitted to having celebrated by enjoying Vegemite on her buttery croissant. I had thought that was so funny... Vegemite on a croissant! Only, hours later, it didn't stop me from asking Caroline, "What did you have for breakfast?" ...now to figure out how much of this is absentmindedness—and how much is forgetfulness?

(The above confession was also an excuse to wish our Australian readers a belated Happy Australia Day! Do you like the idea of Vegemite on a buttery croissant?)


Le Coin Commentaires
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dans le mêtier du vin = in the wine business

une appellation or vin d'appellation
= a wine carrying a guarantee of origin 

vin nature = natural wine

il ou elle est dans la lune = he or she is on the moon

et c'est vrai = and it's true

Quelles sont vos horaires d'ouverture? = what are your opening hours?



Our visit began here, at Domaine Bois de Boursan. That's owner Jean-Paul Versino up on the ladder. 


Jean-Marc Espinasse, Chateauneuf du Pape (c) Kristin Espinasse

We visited Uncle Jean-Claude's cellar in Chateauneuf-du-Pape....



Only a grape enthusiast could appreciate this. To the rest of us... it just looks like spit! 


And here is Kiwi The Dog, my cousin Audrey's charming chien. (Hi Audrey xoxo). Kiwi is admiring Gilda's wonderful coat--by the way Gilda and Robert Camuto joined us for the day. Read about another tasting we did here (wine lovers will not want to miss this story!)

Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse

Chief Grape, a.k.a. Jean-Marc. I wrote, in the beginning of the story, that we took the day off... but do wine makers ever take the day off?



We also visited Laurent Charvin at his Domaine Charvin. This interesting arbre (which resembles a gigantic grape vine) is really a mulberry tree. Be sure to call ahead to visit any of the vineyards mentioned in today's post!


Blossoming in Provence

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Chère Kristie,

Très beau texte...

1/Vegemite & Croissant... How I miss Australia !

2/J'ai lu un jour que "la lune n'est pas si loin, il suffit d'y mettre une échelle", depuis, j'y pense souvent et je souris.

3/Miss you a lot.

Kristin Espinasse

Chère Cousine Audrey, how to say "you've just made my day!"? Merci pour tes mots sympathiques. Je vais essayer de me rappeler de cette échelle, la prochaine fois sur la lune... :-) Tu me manques aussi!


Hi Kristin, funny I should read your 'on the moon' title just now, as my little son of 26 months was said to be 'sur la lune' or ever 'lunaire' by the carers at his crèche yesterday. As I understand it that means something along the lines of 'on a planet of his own', which doesn't sound very complimentary but I don't think it was said nastily. Then again I've been told I'm on another planet often enough, so it must be hereditary...


Vegemite on croissant?? Not for me. But vegemite on a good baguette tradition is heavenly!

I know so well the feeling of vagueing out at a french dinner party - sometimes I'm left completely drained just from listening.

Thanks for the post.

Sandra E Chubb

dans le mêtier du vin = in the wine world

Et c'est vrai = And it's true

Croissant, more butter and raspberry jam - incomparable!

I have days when I can cope with lots of French conversation and days when I switch off and just nod occasionally as if I'm with the speakers. Being slightly deaf, if more than one person is speaking at a time deciphering the conversation is a real task whatever the language. I like to think that in these moments je suis dans la lune.

Sandra http://livingin22.blogspot.com

Carolyn Wade

It takes extra energy to push French into meaning when it's not your native language! I'm nowhere near fluent (so this happens much more often for me than for you!), but when I'm at all tired or the topic is boring or others' speech exceeds my ability to follow easily and I fall off the track, it's really easy for the lovely sound of French speech to turn into a lullaby background for my own thoughts.

It's nice to think of it as a trip to the moon, not just laziness!

Gigi Richard

Apres six heures dans ma classe de francaise premiere sur mercredi...my head was exploding and I was happily ready for a trip to the moon! Thank you for your blog. We are now two weeks into our six month stay in Provence and your book and blogs have been invaluable!
Merci beaucoup!
(ps. isn't a kiwi from NZ, not Oz??)

Bill in St. Paul

When I took French lessons at the Alliance Francaise, the classes were three hours long, all in French. I, too, was both exhausted from the listening and attempting my French and high-strung from, again, listening and attempting to speak correctly. The exhaustion overtook the high-stungedness, however, because I don't remember ever having trouble sleeping after class. Several years ago when my wife and I were in Provence we went to the wine sellers (just down the hill from the ruins of the chateau) and had a case of Domaine Charvin shipped home - it was amazingly my wife's idea, although I was thinking about doing it. It was a very nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape.


You are oh so right with listening to French at a dinner party - conversation going fast and full of idioms and allusions and expressions à la mode - my head switches to "passage" mode after a couple of hours! Thanks for today's great story!

Clare Jones

Loved this blog. Merci! I've got an app out on the App Store called Figure out French Expressions Volume 1. Maybe this expression will go in volume 2! Keep them coming, please!


I give up - WHY was that a dumb question?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Leslie, I meant to answer that part. It wasnt really a dumb question. Jean-Marc was just amused (and snickering) that I would ask about the vineyards opening hours... when, to him, the vineyard was obviously open--for there we were doing a wine-tasting! 

Pat, Roanoke, Va

I, too, have this tendency, which seems to be a vital aspect of the creative sort.   We creatives are always "cooking," ideas and details swirl about and it is easy to be lost in our thoughts, but lost in thought or sur la lune (oh blessed escape!!) does not mean we don't KNOW where we are.  It is more that those around us don't know where we are!

I have always been like this, and used to wonder at times if there was something "wrong" with me.  Your comments today are reassuring to many, I suspect; pour moi, at this stage in life (60's), I truly, deeply don't care!   (What others might think.)

Your getaway with your amis sounds delightful.  Love the shot of J-M spiting; double-triple love Audrey's charming Kiwi, so expressive.  Dogs are the best.  So enjoying your new book, ordered extras for gifts (lucky ducks!).  They are in for a treat.

p.s. What is translation of Audrey's 2/ above? Would so love to see you in one of the day's photos! Do hand off your camera from time to time!

Lilian Coimbra

Hi Kristin, I loved your cronicle. Since I share with you the fact of being absent-minded (in my own language, which is worse), I also fait de gaffes, just like you. I suppose this happens to both of us because we are de gentilles personnes, and we kind of feel guilty for not taking part in a conversation whenever we land back from a brief journey to the moon. Maybe we should assume our absetmindedness... in this case, we would, at least, get rid of our gaffes.

Pat, Roanoke, Va

p.s. Hum, do I have enuf "so's" in my final comments! Ipad makes for difficult editing apres previewing!

Julie S

Hi Kristin,
Once again, I see a reflection of myself in your writings. Maybe we French language majors have a tendency to be dans la lune!! It can be intensely tiring when the conversations are moving so fast and it takes great concentration to follow everything. The pictures are great and I love seeing the different vineyards. I was really struck by the knotted looking tree at the Domaine Charvin. Any idea what kind of tree that is?

Bill O.  in SW Oklahoma

I have always been a DAY DREAMER! At 84 years, it is still my favorite passtime. So there!


Is the expression "etre SUR la lune" or "etre DANS la lune"? Both expressions are used in your post. Thanks for clarifying!

Mary Taylor Keates

When living in France with my husband back in the 90's,I felt like my head was always exploding with French!I lusted for CNN or Sky1
My son and friend were home for Christmas.Their non stop French conversing was sweet sweet music.

jan greene

I am so glad to hear that others, especially when listening to everyone talking in French, feel that they have 'gone to the moon'. Or, like my head is going to explode. We have just made or reservations to see our French friends in Paris, and I am soaking up Blossoming and every other helpful book. But, truly I know I will be 'sur ou etre' dans la lune on a daily basis. It helps to know I am not going crazy!!

Tom from Detroit

Embarrassing 'sur la lune' moment #743--Once when conversing with (i.e., listening to) an unusually loquacious "grandmère" on the telephone, I went to "la lune" and started interposing an occasional "oui" into the conversation at what I thought were appropriate moments. Until, that is, I noticed her tone change drastically. She actually sounded offended and said that she would therefore hang up. I immediately feigned that I must not have heard her correctly and asked her to please repeat her last phrase to which I had responded "oui". She repeated, "J'ai dit, 'Je suis bavarde, non?'" I immediately started backpedaling and apologizing. Thankfully she was of the forgiving sort and our friendship remained intact.

Mindy (Manhattan Beach)

I call it "watching home movies". :-)

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut tout la monde,

I was not familiar with Audrey’s Vegemite so I looked it up and here’s an interesting description and history of the product.


It’s not something commonly found here in the Arizona.

À bientôt

Kristin Espinasse

Great to see your comment, Bill O!

Julie, yes--thats a mulberry tree. In fact, I should update the photo caption. Thanks!

M, thanks for catching that. Should be dans la lune. Ill need to fix that... leaving the sound recording (Max and Jean-Marc dont seem to notice the difference--so maybe either dans or sur can be used).

Herm, thanks for the link. I should have added some info on Vegemite. Your link does the job.

Linda R.

être dans la lune, être dans les nuages ... I'm curious - is there a difference? Personally, I love the stars and wonder if there are French expressions that include les étoiles?

Linda R.

les étoiles - a posting for another day perhaps. Thanks, Kristin.

Nancy in Fort Worth, TX

Would prefer Nutella on the buttery croissant. Loved Gilda and Caroline's exchange about no stupid questions in America and the potential for them in France. How well I remember that feeling. Thanks, Kristin for your candor. I've been following your FWAD for a couple of years, though just now joining the comment feed.

Jan Acorn - Tucson, AZ

Hmm...I adore Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines! I never heard the expression "etre dans la lune" - merci!

David Sheegog

At a dinner party last year in Caunes Minervois, the host, from Cornwall, but living 15 years in France, said she does the same ritual every time she returns to England, "I get down from the plane and pat the tarmac and say, 'Yes. My country. My language!'". Then we all started talking about language fatigue. Does it never end?

Tom from Detroit

I incorrectly wrote "sur la lune" above instead of "dans la lune"...a typical anglicization of the French expression.

Mary G, from Walnut Creek

dans le mêtier du vin = in the world of wine (?)
et c'est vrai = and truly

I enjoyed today's story, being an inveterate day-dreamer myself.

Derin Gemignani

I second Leslie's question, why was that a dumb question. I know you answered it, but I still don't understand. Yes, you are there, tasting wine, but that still doesn't answer, what are the full operating hours the winery is open for tasting, n'est-ce-pas?
(And shame on your husband for snickering at you......)


I visited a friend in Bologna, Italy this summer. He has been there for nearly 20 years, and I asked him about the language. He understands everything that is said, but only if he concentrates. If a TV is on in English in a room, it disturbs him if he is reading; if in Italian, it is only background noise. So, I think your experience is not unusual.


You're not alone, Kristin. I was in Germany one Summer and a friend brought me to a party. At that time, I had had only 2 semesters of German and I got lost in their noisy conversation. So to occupy myself, I also... traveled to the moon. And when my friend asked what I was thinking, I frankly said, je m'ennuie. Oui, on est dans la lune quand on s'ennuie et on rêvasse.
I seldom have time to read all comments, but I saw your question re the expression "You made my day" near the top of comments. So what did your cousine Audrey say? I've happened to ask a French person before and his response was there is no literal translation. On dirait "rien ne saurait me faire plus plaisir!
I am not a wine person (déolée, JM) so I do not understand most terms related to wine. Here I guess, "dans le métier du vin" means "in the wine business".

Frank Chappell

Being ADHD, this is a good phrase for me.

Lenore in Brooklyn, N.Y.

I gather that the expression "être dans la lune" is somewhat more akin to "zoning out" than to absent-minded or "distrait/distraite."


I am often "être dans la lune" when in France with a group of people all talking very fast and many times at the same time. BUT I know that I have to listen more closely or I will never improve my French.
Maybe it is something that the artsy people do - we can easily "zone out".

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a wonderful ville and I really do enjoy La Mère Germaine.

Nancy Rial

I loved your comment about the dinner parties."I escaped into the recesses of my mind, letting the foreign chatter dissolve into an agreeable murmur." is such an accurate description of what happens. One on one conversation is fine, but a group discussion- with the radio or TV on in the background- c'est impossible! I have often thouht of myself as being in my own little world.

Geraldine Ventura

Kristin, I think all of us who are trying to learn to speak French feel just like your story. We have been to Chateau Neuf de Pape many times and Laurent Charvin is one of our favorite vintners. Fortunately for us, he speaks English very well. In the fall we will be back for 3 weeks and promise to make an appointment to taste your husband's wines.

Richard Swarb

Merci as always to Jean-Marc who takes the time to talk to us. Hope to see him in Houston March 17.

Arlington Texas

Fred Caswell

Dear Kristi, je suis encore vivant, tu me manques, et je pense de toi de temps en temps. Just a note to connect. Comme toujours! Fred

Fred Caswell

P>S. Merci for les photos et le blog. FAC


Non, non et non ! Vegemite is great on toast, but not a croissant. The opposing flavours do not mingle.
My Australia Day breakfast was two pieces of toast - one with deliciously juicy sliced tomatoes from my garden (yum) and the other with a scraping of Vegemite. Even though I'm Australian, it's not really my thing - I don't have salt cravings.
We had a barbecue at work (yes, journalists have to work on Australia Day) and went home early to a glass of rose - with a glacon (my tribute to Cafe de la Tour in Les Arcs) - on the back verandah on a glorious sunny Australian afternoon.


I love how the French expression for absentmindedness is so similar to our Spanish expression "en la luna" or with the head in the moon. Sounds better too than absent minded.


Loved your photos and post!
Thank you also for the Happy Australia Day...I laughed when I heard about croissants and vegetate...exactly what I had with my daughter only with avocado slices as well...yum! :-) ( makes me a "happy little Vegemite")
We spent the day around a long rickety train of tables covered in patched tablecloths :-) with a lovely friend of mine originally from Maine who was celebrating her 20th year anniversary in Australia...wonderful day!


Not even spellcheck likes"Vegemite"!


Wonderful Australia Day (Kiwis are from New Zealand, Kristin!) spent in the Domain in Melbourne......free croissants provided, but with butter (salted) and jam (marmelade en francais)......delish.....Lots of food stands making a veritable banquet of international cuisine: Australia! Super concert by the iconic James Morrison. He sure blows a cool trumpet and even cooler trombone..... We had blue skies, sunshine, perfect weather and everyone in a happy mood....Waltzing Matilda!


PS Promite is the way to go! Tastes far better than either Marmite or Vegemite!

Jill in Sydney

According to the Sydney Morning Herald we celebrated Australia Day with a thong throwing competition at Bondi Beach, a plastic duck race in Gunnedah and a garden gnome convention in the Blue Mountains. Kids in Hyde Park were watching Bananas in Pyjamas; at Watsons Bay they were throwing frozen chooks. In several country towns neighbours kept a watchful eye on each other as floodwaters were rising. More than 3000 people from 101 countries became citizens. In Sydney at sunrise to a chorus of bats, ibis and sulphur crested cockatoos indigenous dancers honoured the spirits of past inhabitants.Meanwhile the rest of us settled back to a good Aussie barbeque. We are a diverse, sometimes weird and wonderful mob. But vegemite on a croissant. Never! Yuk!!!

Barbara Penn - Palmdale, California

Ça va, Kristin? In Spanish there is the same expression: "estar en la luna". It is also translated as "to be 'out to lunch'". My favorite time to tune things out is when there is a football game on TV or another of the endless political discussions on TV. Love your expression"mind travel". Must use that one some time as it sounds so wonderfully other worldly! Bought your book (now I have both) & love it. My favorite story is of the conversation with Jean Marc's "ex" at your wedding and your comment for Max. I feel as if I know you, as only a dear friend would tell me this story. Please write more books; they are little treasures. The cover is beautiful. Now I want blue shutters on my house (besides that color keeps away the "haints", remember?)

My Traveling Troop

My husband and I love wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but have never been to the area. So it was certainly a treat to read about your experience tasting wines there!


Devra Long

Especially loved this post as I can relate to it all too well! But instead of being embarassed; I wll think of myself as creative thanks to Pat in Roanoke!
Devra; Madison,Alabama


I too am a 'wool-gatherer'!! I liked your titles much better and will be adopting them for myself!!
I loved the story and the photos!!
Visiting France with you is a very grand adventure that I love taggin alone for!!

Lee Isbell

Yes, so tiring as a non-native speaker to stay in tune with swirling conversations. When our little French class got to the point where everything is conducted in French, with few relapses, it was shortened to 1½ hours, instead of two, as we'd all go over the moon in that last half hour. (Notice I dodged conjugating être with dans la lune.)

We visited Uncle Jean-Claude's cellar last summer. My sister and I waited outside while people finished up their purchases and the view through the archway over the little street out front was so enticing, but we weren't sure whether that was a public street or a private area, so we satisfied ourselves with just peeking.

Ophelia in Nashville

This story was very comforting to me as I can totally relate to escaping dans la lune during conversations that are not of particular interest to me. Since I am older than you, I sometimes wonder if I do it too often and have recently been making a stronger effort to concentrate my aging brain!

Thank you for the suggestions (I hope they are.) for vineyard visits. We know an extended family going to Gordes who want suggestions of day trips for children and grandchildren. Let me know if it is NOT okay to pass these names along.

Bonne journée à tous.


As I look over the previous comments, it is heartening to know I am by far not the only person who slips into these glorious state of random thoughts and "daydreaming". I find it comforting and soothing and am offended when people find fault with it as many teachers did in my day. I wish more people saw it as the creative process that I use it for.


I might understand very little of the conversation when wine tasting, but surely would enjoy it.....only trouble is, I like to swallow it. And I thought a Kiwi was a New Zelander, oui?


Comme vous avez de la chance! I would be so delighted to sip and sup chez Chateau Neuf du Pape. My entre to French wine was from that label. If I had been with you I would have gladly both translated and spoken American with you on the side while inhaling the cachet of the region.


Vegemite on a croissant? Thanks! I'll be trying that. Perfect combination.
Thanks for the Australia Day wishes too.

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