26 actes de gentillesse

billingual video of Jean-Marc + un pointu

If you are not seeing the video, with Jean-Marc and the Provençal boats, then click here to enjoy the clip at the blog. Sign up to our YouTube channel to learn when new videos are uploaded. Click here

un pointu (pwan-too)

    : a little Provençal fishing boat

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

Last night I hurried around the house, turning on the electric wall heaters that were shut off on our departure.

C'était bien dépaysant, my husband remarked as he lit the fire, warming up the cozy foyer. He was right, our family's three day getaway had been a good opportunity to escape the daily grind. Just like the fire coming to life in our cheminée, I felt a spark of excitement as I moved through the house, preparing it for a quiet night. Rien de tel que son chez-soi!

We weren't the only ones to enjoy a change of scenery. While we were in Italy, our dogs sojourned in the village of Cuers, where Jean-Marc had found a private dog carer—for a fraction of the price we normally paid at the "dog hotels".

Arriving at the homey chenil, we were greeted by a petit French woman with a crown of black curls who resembled both Edith Piaf and Chrissie Hynde. We followed her around the little townhouse, to the back yard where the dogs would play, then into a spacious chambre, where they could rest. When Braise and Smokey became more interested their new enviroment than in us, we quietly snuck away.   

From Cuers, 17-year-old Max took the wheel, driving us towards the country border. We passed our old stomping grounds of Les Arcs-sur-Argens, with its tender memories, then Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Menton....

"I never dreamed I'd one day have a French son who would chauffeur me to Italy!" I chimed, taking a moment to acknowledge a future that had manifested beyond my dreams.

In Vintimille, the Italians were hidden at home, en famille, the day after Christmas.  Many of the shops were closed, so we engaged in an old French sport: faire du lèche-vitrine, or window licking (a less barbaric translation would be "window shopping").

We strolled the quiet streets arm in arm: first I clung to my daughter's arm, next,  to Max's--until both of us became aware of the awkwardness, at which point our arms quickly untangled and we coughed up a change of subject: "T'as vu les pères noëls? Did ya see all the Santa Clauses? Just like in France! "

I couldn't help but want to hang on to the kids, for who knew how many more family escapades the future held? Max could leave the nest in a little more than a year.... And Jackie has mentioned wanting to return to the school she attended last year, which means she would become a boarder--never mind we're not a boarding family! (Wasn't that for aristocrats?) 

Even if the kids don't move away in the next couple of years, who says they'll want to come along with us for another getaway? We were already very lucky to have them with us this time. They could have easily stayed home and enjoyed the company of friends versus this holiday with the old folks.

Keeping in mind the elusive future, this may have been our most relaxing holiday. Unlike family vacations of years past, the kids got along and even seemed to enjoy each other's company. It was as though they, too, sensed it was the end of an era. 


 To comment on this story, click here.

 P.S. we stayed the two nights in the wine-making mecca of Barolo. Jean-Marc found this sweet, reasonably-priced B&B, which included homemade pastries at breakfast and Illy coffee (JM's favorite). We are not affiliated with the B&B or with Illy, in case a suspicious thought crossed your innocent mind....


c'était bien dépaysant = it was a good change of scenery

rien de tel que son chez-soi = there's no place like home

 le foyer = entryway

une cheminée = fireplace

le chenil = kennel, dog carer's

Vintimille = Ventimiglia

en famille = with family

Metro cuffParis Metro Cuff! It also makes a wonderful conversational piece -- to wear on your wrist.  A wonderful "conversation piece" for your wardrobe. Order one here.


Mailboxes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Mailboxes in Marseilles. All photos (c) Kristin Espinasse unless otherwise noted.

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Cindy McDonald

Today's post brings back such fond memories pour moi. The last time we took such a holiday with our girls was on trip through Scotland 13 years ago. It was such a wonderful, fun time, a memory to be cherished, especially for the girls.
'Carpe diem' et Bonne Année chère Kristin.

Jacqueline Satterlee

Et si vous venez de Paris vous parlez avec " l'accent pointu" :-)

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

During Christmas break from my senior year of college, my parents took the family to Disney World — Dad said he was doing it because he couldn't be sure we'd ever have the opportunity to travel as a family again.

P.S. We did.

P.P.S. Merci pour la vidéo informative, Jean-Marc.

Audrey Wilson

Merçi a Jean-Marc. J'ai bien compris votre francaise sans l'anglais !!!
Enjoy your holiday.


Did you visit the Hanbury Gardens at La Mortola in Ventimillia whilst you were there? We happened upon them by chance, many years ago - beautiful gardens and a fascinating family history.

Grace McKee

Even though one's kids appear to drift away from the family during their late teens, they become close, loving friends once they pass that stage. I was recently introduced to your site by a friend and am enjoying it very much. I wrote a book about our adventures buying an ancient farmhouse in the Gers years ago and we are now about to repeat the exciting adventture - another old house! Keep up the good work!

Frances Anamosa

Thank you so much for today's story. We have our college age daughter home with us for the holidays (her college is on the East Coast), and I am savoring each and every moment we are with her as they are so precious. As always, you are an inspiration for sharing with us your life. I laughed, too, because I agree with Jean-Marc - Illy is my favorite coffee, too. Happy New Year!
Frances in Napa, California USA

Elizabeth Lincoln

One small correction, Kristin: Max drove you to the "border", while Jackie may become a "boarder". Gotta love the English language!
We too savored every family adventure while our 3 sons (now 25, 28 and 30) were at home, never knowing when might be the last time...my favorite saying while kids are growing up is that the days are long but the years are short. Love your blog and now your videos, too- I especially like the bilingual nature of today's video!


Loved the video!
How do you spell the little fishing village that you are visiting today? And where is it located?
I want to paint there!


What a beautiful family experience.

Kristin Espinasse

Susan, the video was filmed in a little port in St. Cyr called La Madrague.
Elizabeth, thanks for the correction. I need to fix this.
Grace, I enjoyed visiting your art site and discovering all of your books--especially enjoyed your interesting biography!
Annette, so grateful for the reminder.Thanks for sharing another way to look at kindness.
Kendal,I did not... But am putting it on the bucket list :-)

Many thanks for your responses to this entry. Wishing you Bon bout dan, as they say in Provence, or happy end of the year. Xoxo


Our dear Kristi,
Your gifted writing has given us another wonderful post,and another wonderful message that you reminded us of--how time (life!) is fleeting(!) so let's make the most out of each day!I'm especially thinking of sweet Max,who at 17, has a glorious future ahead and(just as we all did at that age) visions of happy vistas dancing in his mind.(may they all come true!) I just remember my parents looking at me ever so wistfully,their eyes conveying what their words could not: one day you'll wish you made these golden moments last a little longer. (how right they were!)
Such happy memories to end the year! Even better,such happy (yet future) ones to begin the new! (resolutions,perhaps?)
Happy New Year,chere Kristi, to you and your wonderful family!And to all the extended FWAD family!May God bless and help us all!
Love, Natalia XO

Sunny Livesay

Hi Kristi,
I lived in St Paul de Vence for ten years and really enjoy your word a day. For the past 22 years I have been taking artists to all areas of France to paint in famous French artists homes and gardens. A dream job if there ever was one ! I have taken several barge trips so can understand what you are doing with your friend. What a great idea.

I am writing to ask which fishing port. J.M. is standing in front of in this video. I can understand sur mer but not the part before that. It looks like several other"sur mer" ports :). They are all wonderful. We had a boat in Antibes for several years and the view from there was spectacular.

I will be in France in September October 2013 doing private tours and would love to come by your place to meet you. I am sure you are over run with that sort of request. How do you handle that these days ?

Wishing you and your family a wonderful, happy, healthy, creative New Year,

Jan  Hersh

If you plan lovely family holidays the children will come and if you are very lucky, in the future they will plan lovely holidays and invite you to come. We are in Mexico now (not so far from Jules) and will spending the next week in Punta de Mita as guests of my daughter.
Happy New Year!

Dad in Sun Valley, Idaho

Dear Kristi,
I loved your blog topic today. Tell JME that his video was wonderful...we want more of both of you! We wish you Bonne Annee and wish we were there. We have lots of snow for the skiing, but it is REALLY cold at zero degrees Fahrenheit .


If your kids are still choosing to go with you at this point, then you have done something right. They will continue to come back and want to do things and go places with their parents. Last year my sister took a 5 day travel "vacation" with her 32 yr. old son.
I missed commenting on your last blog about random acts of kindness. I think your problem became the "random". You went out looking to do something for someone instead of just letting it happen. Letting the person in line behind you that has only two things go ahead of you. Letting someone into a long line of traffic when no one else has. There are all sorts of small things....someone looking for the extra change to pay for something-reach into your pocket and put in a few centimes(what are they now?). Anyway, just let it happen over the next year. Offer to make Max or Jacquie's favorite dessert. Ask Jean-Marc's mother up for a visit for no occassion at all. Have fun with it. Bonne Annee a votre familie.

Diane Young

Happy New Year to you all. Really enjoyed the video. What a lovely place, Hope 2013 is the best year yet for FWAD, readers and writers.

Debbie Ambrous - www.AFrenchOpportunity.com

Thanks for the B&B suggestion. Jean Marc knows how to find good budget choice with plenty of atmosphere. Looks comfortable and a bit romantic also.
Debbie Ambrous

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
Merçi a Jean-Marc! The video was great. Enjoy having the kids around! The time goes by too fast and they are off way too soon for this Mom!

Kathleen from Connecticut

Happy New Years!
You are starting it in a new place with new adventures before you. Bon Chance!
It is great to get away, even if it is for just a few days and with the whole family.


Randy and Debbie Komisarek

We spent our last winter vacance in Menton and went to Ventimille by train. This year it will be Villefranche sur Mer. What a beautiful part of this beautiful country. Especially when it's cold and gray up north. Nice video.

Randy and Debbie

Irene Tanedo

Many thanks for your very interesting story today. I have been a fan of yours ever since I can remember and all I can say is that your blog is the best! Also loved the video of Jean-Marc..very helpful in my french lessons.
Wishing all of you a very peaceful and prosperous 2013! And to all the readers of this blog: Happy New Year !


Loved the video and your thoughts on your "last" family holiday with the kids.....Empty nest is awful - but you do get used to being a couple again, over time.....without all the responsibilities and work involved in a household of four.....It has its advantages and - when the grandkids arrive - that is indescribably wonderful! Mais, carpe diem, oui, oui! Bon bout d'an!!

Karen Whitcome (in Towson, Md)

This is a wonderful teaching tool!!


edith schmidt


What a lovely B&B and what a lovely town. I'm glad you got to enjoy this trip with your son and daughter. They grow so fast and before you know it they leave for lives of their own. But if you're lucky you have grandchildren who bring new joy into your lives. Take care and happy new year!

Edie from Savannah



I need to see a photo of my painting in your house.............


You drove the same route I did going from France to Italy. Wasn't it beautiful?? Happy New Year!!! Enjoy your Holiday away.

Sherrill Spencer


I have been very much enjoying your posts. It is so lovely to be able to have these little glimpses into the lives other people lead! Looks like you are having a lovely holiday!

Thank you for all the time and effort you put into these posts. I have very much been enjoying the videos and it is great to have these bi-lingual vlogs so we can practice our pronunciation and listening skills as well! Merci! :) It is so nice to have JM joining in!

May your New Year be filled with a smooth renovation and much peace and prosperity!

Sandy Vann

Merci encore Kristin...sage observations...So happy for all of you to enjoy a wonderful get away to Barola, Italy! Have bookmarked the town and lovely B and B for a future trip.
Happy New Year. Bon annee and may all of your days in 2013 be full of inspiration and love. Thanks for inspiring ours. A bientot.
With hugs and love...


Coucou Kristin
some further typos:
sejoured (unless it's Franglish of course!) = sojourned
chauffer =chauffeur
Ventimille = either Vintimille (Fr) or Ventimiglia (It)
caughed = caught? or coughed?
Congratulations JM on your cinematic début.

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