What to do on Porquerolles Island? Que faire sur l'île de Porquerolles?
What is the French word for peel or bark or rind?

quatre quatre (4X4) + photos of French landrover

Toy cars in Vaison la Romaine (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Traffic" in the town of Vaison-la-Romaine. A car lover will appreciate today's edition, which focuses on a unique off-road vehicle, the UMM. Thanks for forwarding the post on to a friend!

quatre-quatre or 4X4 (kat-kat or kat-ruh kat-ruh) (see sound file below)

    :  four-wheel drive

Audio File and Example sentenceDownload MP3 or Download Wav

L'apiculteur est arrivé avec son 4X4 pour monter jusqu'aux restanques et deposer les ruches. The beekeeper arrived with his 4X4 to climb up to the rock terraces and place the bee hives.

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

This morning Mr Pottelet, the beekeeper, came to deliver four hives.  Jean-Marc met the apiculteur at the edge of the gravel driveway, where the two men took a steep passage that leads to several hillside agricultural terraces, where Jean-Marc will plant his vineyards.

I hurried to dress, grabbed my camera and rushed up the other side of the hill, just behind our house, but it was too late. The men were already headed back down the hillside, having placed the buzzing ruches

Zut! I'd missed the bee-installation. Never mind. My attention soon caught on the unique vehicle driven by the beekeeper. I watched the tail end of the rover disappear down the steep path, at which point I hurried down the stairs beside our house, to our driveway, where the quatre-quatre was now arriving.

Shaking the beekeeper's hand I couldn't wait to ask about his four-wheel drive.  "An UMM?" I questioned, amused by the metal lettering on the front of the car.

Lately I've been fascinated by the Citroën Méhari and the history of this off-road vehicle. The beekeeper's 4X4 looked like a mix between a Méhari and a taller landrover.

UMM or 4X4 manufactured in Portugal (c) Kristin Espinasse
The most famous UMM is probably the one that transported Pope John Paul II in one of his visits to Portugal. --Wikipedia

"It was meant to be a mix between a tractor and a truck," Mr Pottelet explained. The vehicle was originally conceived by the French engineering company Cournil as a prototype. Its raison d'être was to function as something between a tractor and a truck. 

UMM vehicle belonging to the Service Departementral d'incendie et de secours or fire rescue department (c) Kristin Espinasse
The design was sold to the Portugese who manufactured the UMM for the public until 1994. Currently, they are made for the military and utility services only. --Wikipedia The apiculteur's UMM was used by the fire rescue department

I circled around the tractor-truck, wishing more than ever that it were my own. Jean-Marc has wanted to trade in my Citroën C3 but, being only 8 years old, it is hard to justify the need for a new car.

"Does it get good gas mileage?" I asked the beekeeper, who told me the diesel engine doesn't consume much.

"But it can't be that comfortable," I pointed out, "how was the two-hour drive getting here this morning?"

"Elles sont très agréable à conduire."  "They are very nice to drive," the beekeeper said, summing things up.

dogs of France. Meet Kek (c) Kristin Espinasse
Most of the known Portuguese off-road drivers started their careers driving UMMs. --Wikipedia (the off-roader pictured beyond the window is called "Kek". He's the apiculteurs gentle Corgi/Westie mix... or was that a Jack Russell/Westie mix?

  UMM or 4X4 land rover (c) Kristin Espinasse

And it must be quite useful for him, I thought, what with the four buzzing hives he was able to transport.

I began to wonder how I might justify the need for such a vehicle of character?... Two golden retrievers and a steep and winding driveway... was that enough to justify it?

"Je peux vous demander une question indiscrète?"  

I wanted to know what a car like this costs. The beekeeper said he paid around 4000 euros after finding it in Le Boin Coin, the local classifieds.

4000 euros? By now Jean-Marc, who had been anxiously following the conversation, was looking relieved--interested even.  What with so many French Riviera women driving little Mini Coopers ($$$), he might count his lucky stars that his wife's set her sights on something grander.

bee hive and four-wheel drive (c) Kristin Espinasse
Now all my husband has to do is sell several hundred jars of honey to pay for it. Better yet, maybe he can trade for it? Wine and honey for a lemon? But this baby is no lemon!

The UMM rover arriving high up on the third terrace. The beekeeper, who also has 12 donkeys, tells us these dependable workers would be ideal for clearing this land.... Don't tell Mama Jules, or she'll pass out in excitement. After a gypsy trailer, or roulette (or maybe even before it), she dreams of having a donkey.

Move over Popemobile... UMMs are THE beemobile! 

Back to work now.... Don't forget to forward this post to a car enthusiast (or even bee enthusiast!) Thanks. (P.S. Just look at all the work there is for a donkey. Is this justification enough??)


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Kris en Bretagne

I would love an UMM , but I am driving an 11 yo Kangoo and used to drive a dented Ford pickup. I went miles in it, often to LA and would park on Rodeo Drive, one time in front of a Lamborghini. I should imagine more people would prefer the Lamborghini. but they are not at all practical.

I will have to check out le bon coin.







I'll be back later...

Holly K

My favorite car was my Chevy HHR, bright purple with a moon roof! 33 mpg, I drove it for 6 years and put 225,000 miles on it with nothing more than standard maintenance, then gave it to my daughter who is still happily toodling with it. Awesome car!! I once unloaded a friend's pick-up truck into my car and it took the whole load with room to spare. Chevy stopped building them in 2011 (no wonder American car manufacturers are in trouble, they get a winner and they dump it!).

Christine Allin

What a gift you have for finding value and a fascinating story in the ordinary and embellishing it visually with beauful pictures! Then you send it out and create a human connection for your readers. Magical....

The dream car of my youth evolved from a Porche 911 to a VW camper, which became a reality when we moved to Germany. I drove that car for 17 years..sweet memories.

Go for the UMM! It would probably justify "fun" with "utility"!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Christine. Loved your Porche to VW camper story.

Tickled to see all the women car enthusiastes who have jump-started the comments this morning.

Mom, you are right. I get this from you XOXO

Linda Casey

Is this a bee-mobile or a 'hummer' ?


My three favorite cars have been a VW Rabbit, a Suzuki Samurai, and my current car -- a blue MINI Cooper S with a white roof and white racing stripes on the bonnet (hood to Americans). All stick shift, and all fun to drive. The MINI is my absolute favorite.


I CAN JUST SEE OUR 'STAND' AT THE FRENCH MARKET...You are selling books, JM has his honey, Jackie has her '21st Century French Designs, and I have taken over the wine bar-while I paint bee's on sunflowers & olive trees againist the beautiful sea of the Riviera!!!



Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

One of my favorite cars was a pint-sized Geo Tracker. One could manually switch to either 2 or 4 wheel drive. With the 2-speed differential, it had 8 speeds forward and 2 in reverse. In the “Granny” gear, it would crawl slower than one would walk.

À la prochain

Jane Thomson

My favorite and unforgettable car was a Citroen Ami 6 (just a few more hp than the 2 chevaux). I picked it up in Paris, used it for 2 years in Britain with the volant on the "wrong" side. My British driving test was something else!!

It took me all over Europe - Alps, Pyrenees & then shipped it to San Francisco. It ended it's life in a friend's backyard near San Francisco for her kids to play in!

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md.

It's so functional!!! - I love that snap-on/off cover. You could fit it up for camping, too!!

Cars are like purses to me. I'm always on the hunt for the one that fits all of my moods and all of the seasons. :)

Kathleen from Connecticut


You go girl.

I love my Saab, but sob, they are no more. I bought it because it was made in Sweden and Finland and was a very safe car, but it is costly in the maintenance department and now? Well, forget it!

I often think about the Mini but I'm not sure how it would do in the snow.

We could definitely use a truck or trailer to cart things around here, but we have enough to take care of with our 2 Saabs.

Good luck on getting the UMM or a donkey.

Beth Bright

Ummmm, yes I would LOVE one as well! I collect JUNK andi it would be perfecto throw stuff in as I drive the back roads in search for a bit of junk. I have a 1957 Morris Minor ragtop which is fun. Also a dodge sprinter is really my workhorse with lots of room. BUT an "Umm" would be the cats meow!

Dave Navarrre

I used to drive small station wagons, which have the unfortunate side-effect of including the storage area in back as part of the cabin. Not so great when hauling around a bunch of Boy Scouts, whose gear may not smell minty-fresh.

In 2001, I bought a brand-new Ford Explorer SportTrac, which has a pickup bed. 100,000 miles later, I'm still driving that lovely truck, dented and scratched by many trees, parking structures and random clumsiness. It's good to see that if I need to buy something similar if we ever do move to France, dependable vehicles like these will be available.

Je suis un boeuf.


+Your description "a classic French landrover" is an oxymoron..........
Land Rover is a British car manufacturer with its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom which specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is part of the Jaguar Land Rover group, It is the second oldest four-wheel-drive car brand in the world (after Jeep).


What a great visit to an old friend! When I lived in NYC many years ago, a French friend of ours had a red Méhari - do they come in any other color? Since he boarded with us, I often got to drive it. Even in NYC it caused a stir, especially with our huge Doberman gravely leaning his head on my shoulder from the back seat. It was great fun to drive and very good on gas. Thanks for bringing back an almost forgotten memory :)
Best of luck with the bees. There's been a tremendous drop in hives over the past decade. Bees are so necessary to us, it's frightening to think that today's pesticides are threatening them with no alternatives in sight.
I enjoy your blog tremendously and envy you living in France. A failed marriage brought me back to America after several years in Paris but I left my heart behind.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Peter. On my way to re-word that now :-)

Enjoying all the cars mentionned here. Doing a lot of Google image searches to learn what the vehicles look like!

Julie Farrar

Even though I no longer have to cart around the high school wrestling team in my Honda Pilot, I find it hard to go to a smaller car. I never know when I might find a chair or bush or multiple large dogs or something else extreme that I need to load into the back. However, when in France I've rented a Renault Scenic a couple of times and if they sold them over here in the States I might be tempted to change.

And when you set up that roadside stand Jules described, let me know. I'd definitely stop by.



I found everything I could ever want in Le Muy!!!! It will only take you one hour and 3 minutes to drive there and secure a WWII JEEP WITH LITTLE TRAILER ATTACHED!!! It is colored Army Green with a white star on the side door - convertable!!!! I can sleep in the little trailer attached - it is an open utility Army green trailer, just big enough for a bed. I'll sleep under the stars up on Terrace #3....

Trailer is 800 E. - I'll bet we could get the jeep for 2000 E. !!!!

3000 E - I am painting a painting of it right now!!!



Kristin Espinasse

Uh-oh. Mom followed the link I sent her to Le Bon Coin (classifieds). She was supposed to be looking at Gypsy trailers but ended up in the army utility vehicle section. 

Julie, loved your thoughts about reserving the back for all the loveable outcasts! Should we ever get our stand, you can pull up a chair (a found one?) of your own.

Jan in Monument, Colorado

Following up on Moushka's comment, I'm wondering if the bees are dying off in France also, or is it just a problem we have here in America?

Kristin Espinasse

Jan, the beekeeper admitted, this morning while delivering the bees, that it is a problem here too--due to the horrible insecticide sprays which are killing them off :-(






What about goats for the underbrush. I hear they're great for clearing away all that growth?

Richard Harold Ainsworth

Four wheel drive is vastly over rated in my opinion. Mostly it gets you stuck in places you wouldn't sanely attempt if you didn't have it.
For many years I supported a ¾ ton Chevy Suburban which I used for business and hauling our kids and their friends (and their friends). It was two wheel drive. The few times I was stuck in mud or snow or sand I learned that it had an amazing reverse gear that could back out of anything.
I bought it new and kept it way too long. It was poorly designed and poorly constructed, and very expensive to own and operate.

For clearing brush, nothing beats goats. They will eat just about anything and won’t keep you up all night when/if they get scared. After the goats tidy up your land, you will be ready for a flock of chickens. With goats milk yogurt and fresh eggs you can make yogurt cakes every other day!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Hi Kristin,

I love this post -----I think you need to get both: goats and a red jeep!

Good luck with the Bees ----- countries need to cut out all the killer sprays!

Stay well!


Breaking news! This morning, an important parliamentary committee in the UK said the pesticides that are being blamed for killing our bees should stop being used. ] They agree with scientists and other governments across Europe that these pesticides are a danger to bees.

But Owen Paterson, the environment minister, is refusing to listen to the mounting scientific evidence. In just a few weeks he will vote on whether these pesticides should be taken out of use across Europe. Last time he refused to vote in favour. This time let’s make sure he votes to protects our bees.

The petition to protect our bees is growing fast, more than 100,000 of us have now signed it. If we can grow the petition even larger, we can send a message that he’s not only going against science, but he’s going against public opinion too.

Please can you forward this email to your friends and ask them to sign the petition too? They can sign the petition at:

Bees pollinate apples, cucumbers, strawberries, tomatoes, cauliflower, onions, cabbage, broccoli, carrots and many many more of our fruit and veg. France and Italy have already taken steps to ban these pesticides but our minister is putting his head in the sand.

With this new report, Owen’s refusal to act looks even more ridiculous. Even his fellow MPs are saying these pesticides should stop being used. He talks a lot about protecting our bees, but his actions seem to do nothing but protect the pesticide industry’s profits.

If we can get the petition to over 150,000 we’ve got something rather special planned. We’ll build a mock-up ‘mountain of evidence’ and wheel it right to his doorstep so that he can’t ignore it.

Please can you forward this email to you friends and family and ask them to sign the petition:

Thanks for being involved and helping to protect our bees,

P.S: Can you share the petition with your friends on Facebook and Twitter:
Facebook: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bees-facebook
Twitter: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bees-twitter

[1]Ban pesticides linked to bee deaths, say MPs http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22021104

Diane Young

Oh you adventurous people! I used to want an MGB, then a Camaro or a Jaguar. Could care less about hauling stuff around. Just wanted style and speed. Fortunately I'm too old to be let loose in an expensive car. I'll stick with my reliable Chevy Impala, which is a 2006 with about 25,000 miles. Is that pathetic? Used to rent some great cars on European vacations. Can't drive a stick shift anymore but learned to drive in a '39 coupe with 3 gear floor shift. Best car we ever had was a VW Rabbit in 1960's. Drove thousands of miles in it - no a/c or power brakes. Ah, youth!

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Oh, Kristi, what a fun and charming story! I love this vehicle and its adorable co-pilot! I say go for it! I love old cars though I am quite satisfied to have my comfy 4-Runner for everyday use. My guy is a mechanic so that takes the stress out (for me at least) of maintaining old vehicles.

My favorite rig of ours is a 1969 Toyota Land Cruiser that he’s had for over 25 years. It serves as our camping rig and logging rig; plus the occasion “blow out the dust” trip to town car as it no longer has doors. We are beginning to restore his mom’s 1959 MGA (I use the term “we” lightly here as I’ve yet to help). This may become my new favorite ride. I can just see our two Russell Terriers and I cruising with the top down.

Glad to see you’ve found a beekeeper in your new surrounds. Raw honey is not only delicious it has so many amazing health benefits. Long live the honey bees!


I grew up with that classic English Landrover as my dads farm vehicle - learnt to drive in it!!!! It taught you well.....
Looking forward to seeing Provence for myself in a few weeks - thanks for the glimpses through your lens - we have planned some of our trip through your recommendations. Thanks for sharing your life with us all....


Our dear Kristi,
We would've LOVED to have an UMM when we were living in Paris!
We were driving a (citroen) Ami 6 (don't even know if they still make those) and many times in the traffic I thought we'd be goners for sure!!
What a(nother)wondeful post! Just sorry to hear that the bee problem exists around the world (thought it was only here).Hopefully one day it will be corrected --hard to imagine life without bees and pollination.
Love, Natalia XO

Bill Facker

I agree .. SAVE THE BEES! They are indicative of a healthy planet. Also agree with Passante above ... I loved my little Suzuki Samurai .. the perfect island "Ride". I miss it and kick myself everytime I see one go by. That is one fun vehicle to drive! EXCELLENT POST KRISTIN .. EXCELLENT! Aloha, Bill


Love this post about cars!
My father used to be a collector of all sorts of cars...the car I learnt to drive on was a silver Dellow which was an old hill racing car( from late 40's-50's I think)....I learnt about double declutching to change gears, how to deal with rattles and shakes over the speed of 30mph and tires locking up to slide down the hills when applying brakes! Kids today learning to drive are SOOKS!!
PS I now drive my mother's little red 1990 MX5 and love it!
PPS Love the "UMM"!!

Joan Linneman

Just curious... Does "UMM" stand for anything?


UMM is a Portuguese metal works factory and ex-automobile manufacturer based in Lisbon, Portugal. It was founded in 1977 with the purpose of manufacturing four-wheel drive vehicles for agricultural, industrial and utility applications.
The UMM 4x4 design is derived from a prototype created by the French engineering firm Cournil, called Entrepreneur. The Cournil Entrepreneur's building rights were acquired by the Portuguese company União Metalo-Mecânica, part of the Mocar group and were renamed as UMM.

They became known for their reliability, especially when in a Paris-Dakar rally the team was able to finish with all the cars that started. Many UMMs are still in use by utilities in Spain, Portugal, Cape Verde (in use by the national army) and France and also by the "Guarda Nacional Republicana" (Portuguese Gendarmerie), fire service and military, although the majority of their customers were private individuals. Around 700 UMMs are still in service in the Republic of the Congo (Zaire). They are also popular in France and Angola.

The most famous UMM is probably the one that transported Pope John Paul II in one of his visits to Portugal.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Love this post Kristin. It reminded me of the British tv series, Rosemary and Thyme. Have you seen it? Rosemary owns an old Land Rover and they drive around in that together to all of their landscaping jobs. You should watch if you've never seen it. Part gardening/part mystery show-lots of fun.

Jules-you're so funny! I love it that you found a WWII vehicle to drive/sleep in. I hope you can make your dream of that and a donkey come true! I love donkeys.

Best of luck to you JM and Kristin with the bees/honey. Yes, let's pray for the bees and hope that people stop using pesticides so we can save them, ourselves and the Earth!

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