My Journey from Arizona to France
le soleil liquide


Autumn in Les Baux de Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
Picture taken at the hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence.

fluvial(e) adjective (flew-vee-al)

    : river, riverine; flowing

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence and the list of French terms:  Download MP3 or Wav file

Kristi et sa meilleure amie, Susan, sont parties pour une croisière fluviale sur le Rhône
Kristi and her best friend, Susan, went on a Rhône river cruise. 

la voie fluviale = waterway
les ports fluviaux = river ports
la circulation fluviale = inland waterway traffic
les eaux fluviales = river water
la navigation fluviale = inland navigation  

A Day in a French Kristin Espinasse

Choosing the river cruise over the day-long olive harvest turned out to be the right decision... seeing that extra help here at home was not needed after all. Jean-Marc tells me the olive-picking chore soon turned into a pétanque/pastis fest after our volunteers showed up at lunchtime (a little late to begin picking) and therefore needed time to digest (via the pétanque) before gaining courage (via the pastis) to face those giant century-old trees.

Returning home from the cruise, I noticed the abandoned ladders that flanked the olive trees, and the fruit-catching filets that were still on the ground. Chairs scattered here and there hinted at a relaxed gathering, where the women sat tchatching and the men explored the caveau in which Jean-Marc had set up his wine cellar.

The bright blue ping-pong table had moved to the driveway and the leather director's chair (a gift from Mom) now towered over the boules court. As I tried to picture the players, I could almost hear cheering in the distance of time: Allez, Jean-Marc! Vas-y Thomas! C'est à Pierre. Allez, on joue!

Lugging the chair back to the house to protect it from the elements, I ignored the holes in the lettuce leaves (caterpillars? grasshoppers?) and tried not to think about all the catching up to do post vacation. Everything would get done. Rest assured, tout rentrera dans l'ordre. Thankfully, Jean-Marc had cleaned the house and kept up with the laundry, which was now drying crookedly on the line. I was impressed with the effort and touched by the thoughtful welcome home: seeing me drive up, Jean-Marc disappeared behind the front door to witness the expression on my face on seeing the crackling fire in the cheminée. Talk about a warm welcome! 

Hungry, I opened the frigo and saw desserts left over from Sunday (would the lemon tart still be good today, Thursday?). I tried to imagine all the good food the guests brought to the olive-tree harvest/potluck, which Jean-Marc tells me was très bien passé, despite the mostly unpicked trees. It turns out the olives were just an excuse to invite his old chums around.

And this past week's cruise was a wonderful excuse for a couple of other old chums to meet up and to celebrate 30 years of friendship. 


Post note: This restful time away was also an opportunity to write down a goal's list--something I have not done in years. One of the top items on that list is to go on another French river cruise (or maybe even cruise the Danube!). My best friend Susan organized our AMA Waterways cruise (she is a travel expert) and believes AMA Rhône cruises are among the best. Feel free to contact her at [email protected] or call her at 480-831-9076 for pricing and more details about this particular cruise, or any other. Note: to reserve your cabin for the  2013 cruise, the time to book is now.

French Vocabulary

pétanque = a form of boules
le pastis = an anis-flavored liqueur
le filet = net 
tchaching (frenglish, from tchatcher = to chat) 
le caveau = wine cellar
tout rentrera dans l'ordre = everything would get put back in place
Allez, Jean-Marc! = come on, Jean-Marc!
Vas-y Thomas! =  Go, Thomas
C'est à Pierre = It's Pierre's turn
Allez, on joue! = Come on. Let's play! 
le frigo = fridge
très bien passé = (everything) went well 


feuilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The fall is a colorful time to cruise. 

room with a view (c) Kristin Espinasse
Waking up in Arles... 

the locals (c) Kristin Espinasse
Colorful locals in Les Baux de Provence

Kristi Espinasse (c) Susan Boehnstedt
In my hand I am holding a chuchoteur or "whisperer". We carried the audio units to each destination in order to learn all about the history and more, thanks to the knowledge of the AMA tour guides. (Photo by Susan Boehnstedt.)

Susan Boehnstedt (c) Kristin Espinasse
A perfect travel companion -- and wonderful travel organizer! Contact my dear friend, Susan, for more info on the AMA Waterways cruise we just took. Her email is [email protected] or call her at 480-831-9076.

Susan writes:

In the past years, river cruising has become a lot more popular and there are many reasons why, but let me just highlight a few for you (not in any particular order):

1. Unpack only once into your spacious cabin (ranging from 170 sq. feet to larger categories up to 255 sq feet).

2. Complimentary free flowing local wines, beer or soda included at every dinner. Unlimited champagne with every onboard breakfast. Complimentary gourmet coffees and teas (lattes, cappuccino, etc.). Complimentary bottled water provided and replenished as needed.

3. Gourmet meals with fresh fish, not frozen.

4. Complimentary city tours with personal audio headsets. Tours range from slow, regular and faster paced tours.

5. Complimentary bicycles on each ship (25-40 depending on ship), including helmet and bike lock for your riding pleasure.

5. Complimentary local and cultural specialty entertainment on ships at night.

6. Complimentary FREE internet and Infotainment system with free Hollywood movies in every stateroom.

7. Luxury accommodations with 82% French balconies on all ships. Some of the newer ships even have a full outside balcony. High quality lines and duvets in each cabin.

8. One of the newest fleets on the rivers. Oldest ship dating back to 2006 and several new ships coming in 2013.

AMA Waterways offers many different river cruising options such as: Africa, Europe, Thailand & Cambodia and Russia venues. To obtain the best cabins, it is wisest to book your AMA cruise 12-15 months in advance of sailing. We have all kinds of specials and promotions running right now.

Please email [email protected] or call 480-831-9076 for pricing and more details.

  Chapeau! (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hats in the town of Les Baux de Provence.

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Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Welcome back, Kristin!

I thought I was jealous before, but now I'm really jealous. Your photos are inspiring, and Susan's details make the whole experience sound stupendous. (I love that the Internet connection is both complementary and free!)

More photos, please? And please take another cruise next year so I can continue to enjoy it vicariously.


HATS! in le Baux... Was Jules there hiding somewhere???
Miss you guys!


So wonderful and you offer a powerful enticement to partake in a river cruise. You look so relaxed - you deserve a break for all that you do.

Looking at the wonderful "fall" photos does cause a pang of jealousy however - it is -15c this morning and we have about 20-30 cm of snow already here on the canadian prairies.

Cynthia Lewis in Salisbury, Eastern Shore of Maryland

Your trip sounds glad you and your best friend,Susan, had a marvelous time together.

Your description of the activities that took place at home while you were away was priceless. It looks like everyone enjoyed the week! And that's a good thing. Bon week-end...and thanks for the photos of your river cruise.

Jan  Hersh

I have always wanted to take a river cruise in France! I am glad for the contact information and will look into it.
Do you cure your olives? I have a good recipe for a water cure.
So glad you got to get away and have some fun traveling. I am looking forward to the pictures.


WELCOME BACK, KRISTIN :) I am so glad you went on the trip, hopefully guilt-free! I just read my husband all the benefits of an AMA Waterways Cruise--and he was intrigued. It's not in our budget yet (at least I think; I want to contact Susan to find out). Thanks for providing all the info. I too hope you will provide more pics.

Plus, I LOVE your coat and boots! Did you get them at some cute French boutique? Or maybe an online source you would share? :)

And I think JM's welcome was especially sweet, especially keeping up with the laundry and cleaning. Wow--that's never happened at my house ;)

Love from So. Calif.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Bruce! I hope to go next year. Meantime, Ill post more photos and some anecdotes from our trip.

Jan, We dont have a recipe (in mind), though Jean-Marc has cured olives before. The product he used bleached our counter top. Good news: while on the cruise, one of our stops was at an olive farm. The guide gave us a simple recipe: break the olives (putting a mustard jar, or similar, over the olive and pushing down). Transfer olives to a shallow dish and cover with water. Change water daily for 15 days. In a sauce pan heat up water, adding herbs and a laurier leaf--fennel, too. Pour mixture over olives. Let cool. Can. This is as much as I remember... 

Karene, thanks! I got the coat at Gemo (a department store, sort of like Target, but clothes only), and the boots at a shoe store in Draguignan, back when we lived in Les Arcs.

Glenn from St. Paul

Ô les beaux chapeaux des Baux !

Fred Lovett

I would like to draw your attention to the plight of Samantha Davies and her sailboat, Savèol. She set off last Saturday in the Vende Globe round the world, solo, unassisted, no stops, sailboat race. She was the only woman and English at that, with 20 others, mainly French, all men. Last time in 2008, she came in 6th, this year she was in 13th position when her mast broke late in the evening of the 10th. After struggling through the night wth the mast beating the ship, she finally cut it loose in the morning and is now motoring to Madeira (Madere) to see what can be done. A great shame after three years of preparation.

I mention it because she is also married to a Frenchman and lives in France.

You can see all the details at:

Go Sam! We will look for you next time.


Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin! One of my "favorite things" about driving south from Paris is driving alongside the river in Lyon. The peacefulness, tranquility, and underlying power of that living liquid thread is awe inspiring and settling to the soul. I'm happy you enjoyed your trip along the Liquid Thread of Life! Aloha, Bill

Bill Facker

Fred Lovett, a quick "Thank You" for mentioning Samantha Davies. I've just gone to the site, watched her video of despair, and sent her words of encouragement. Very emotionally moving .. may I suggest everyone send Samantha a quick note of encouragement. You are obviously a good friend, Fred, and I admire that trait. Aloha, Bill Facker


Hi dear Kristin,
So glad you are back(!!)(you were missed!),but MOST especially, that you had such a wonderful time with Susan. You have once again shown us that a change of scene does wonders for one's well being (mental and physical).We are all guilty of getting ambivalent about our surroundings; coming back home again(and being greeted with such love) is just what we need to see things once again through fresh eyes.
What a gifted writer you are! Your beautiful life stories always inspire us to look at ourselves and our lives with appreciation. THANK YOU!!
Love, Natalia XO

Sherry Frank

Welcome home. I have been missing your posts, but am so glad you had such a fun opportunity. I went with a friend several years ago on a similar river cruise which began on the Soane and then went down the Rhone to Arles. We also travelled up to Les Baux. What a beautiful spot. That trip was one of the reasons I had to come back to Provence this summer when we visited with you.

I am envious of your lovely welcome home, though. A crackling fire AND clean laundry--what could be better?

Sherry in Kentucky

edith schmidt


Sounds like you had a bon voyage.
Love the photos of les chapeaux!
One of my friends recently took a Rhine
River boat trip and she loved it.

Edie from Savannah


A big warm hug to my precious Kristi. I am so happy you are finally home, the past seven days have been some of the longest for me. I guess I am just hooked on your posts and don't find the joy in my life when your are absent. I must say that I loved the photo of you in your new black great and relaxed and happy you look in this memorable photo. I'll have to frame that one up to mark the beginning of you learning how to take good care of yourself. The photo is proof that vacations were invented for this very reason. I actually think this could have been your first vacation where you weren't taking care of JM & kids while you were supposed to be on a vacation. Big difference for you not to have to be caring for everyone. Now you know one of the secrets to having a great life.

I'll be back later to keep up with the comments, which we both love so much. I imagine a lot of our friends are busy getting ready for the big Thanksgiving week ahead...I am too, making a carrott cake, oatmeal and cranberry cookies and John is gathering all the goodies for the turkey.

I love you Honey, call me when you have an extra hour.



Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Looking forward to more photos of life along the Rhone. Pretty timely to have a stop at an olive farm!

What a great way to spend time with a good friend.

While your husband had a good day with his friends. Worked out well.

Sally Richter

We also went on an AMA Waterways cruise. Fabulous!! So glad for you Kristi.

Jim Herlan

Your mention of "fluvial" reminded me of my favorite French adjective for indicating your place of residence: in Québec, residents of Trois-Rivières are called Trifluviens. Very Latin sounding!

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely way to spend time with a dear friend! I just returned from my annual girl trip with my childhood best friend and am so blessed with this friendship that spans close to 60 years. "Old" friends are such a special treasure!

Betty Tuininga

What a marvelous trip. Sometimes a change of scenery and some well planned space in a marriage can add such spice and contentment. More couples should follow your prescription! Looking forward to the pictures...I too love the hats. (I am a hat and shawl person.)

Randy and Debbie Komisarek

You need to cruise with us on Bateau "Alouette" next season. We'll leave Roanne in March heading up to Paris by June when Deborah needs to leave for a week in the U.S. for a wedding. You are welcome anytime during the trip! It's a different kind of cruising (we're 23 meters), but it's lots of fun.

Randy and Debbie

Linda Adams Kesler aka La La

I'm also welcoming you home, Kristin. Your life sounds so authentic. I admire how you are writing, being honest with us, providing information about books...and now, the river cruises. My budget doesn't even exist at the present moment yet I know things will pick up for me. I finally have the opportunity to create my Academy for Recreational Watercolor. I want to include you, your husbands wines and olives, and rivers for my advanced students. It will be at least a year or two before I reach that point. I also feel lonely when you don't do a post. I feel so close to you because of your observations of the world around you and your writing style. How lovely to come home to a fire and clean laundry. Your new friend in Utah, USA, Linda Adams Kesler ... I don't even have a web-site yet. So much to do and so much energy to do it. Ta Ta for now. Looking forward to tomorrow's post with more photos. I love the one with the colored stuffed toys.


surpris que tu te rapelle tant de choses apres champagne de chaque matin! moi, je viens de retourner de Saigon ou j'ai enseignee dans un hopital pour 2 semaines.

bonnes fetes



Men in charge!
Your man seems to have made child's play of the tasks at hand. Who could blame him?

june furey

Hi Kristin, thank you once again for your lovely pictures, they nourish my soul, now I am unable to travel to France, I look forward to thenm so. During my vacances in France I stayed near midi Canal and celebrated my 80 birthday at a restuarant located in a village situated on the bank of the Canal Midi. Memories of a glorious sun filled day I will have forever. I wish you many more happy canal trips in the future.
June, G.C.Qld

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