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A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.
A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.


crapahuter (krah-pah-ew-tay)

    : to clamber, crawl, trek, or yomp

 Also: to plough along, to trudge, to schlepp

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Pour accèder à la petite crique, on doit crapahuter sur les rochers.
To access the little sea inlet, we have to scamper over the rocks.


    by Kristin Espinasse

Extraordinaire. C'était extraordinaire! When Jean-Marc returned from his latest swim, he was shaking his head in disbelief. "You can't believe the site I just found. Ten minutes from here, there's a natural baignoire full of seaweed. I just had a bain d'algues for free. Some people pay a 1000 for this at a thalassotherapy spa!"

My husband has been trying to lure me to the sea for some time and this enthusiastic report was yet another attempt. "We'll go in the evening before the sun sets. You won't have to worry about le soleil."

I'm touched by all these swimming invitations. And yet I can't explain my resistance, or understand how a former fish turned into a fish out of water. But there's no use over-thinking things. That joy of gliding sous l'eau and floating above it is in here somewhere. Now where did I put my bathing suit

"Wait for me! I'm coming!" I shouted, when next Jean-Marc headed for the port.

Soon we were walking along a pine-scented plateau (a favorite spot for exercising our dogs). Approaching our destination, I began to wonder what escalader means to Jean-Marc. (He had assured me we could easily access the natural swimming hole--une petite escalade was all it would take to get down to it. Petite? I have learned that words and concepts appear differently in my husband's mind than they do in my own. What's small to him is big to me and vice versa, whether the subject is minutes or mountains). 

"Here we are," Jean-Marc says when we reach the end of the plateau where the land falls off to the sea, literally. I look down at a pile of boulders.... Even if we manage to scale them, what if one lands on our head? Instead of further self-questioning, I try a pep talk."You've watched too many 911 dramas on TV," I tell myself, "and all those newspaper "shock" headlines haven't helped. Don't let the media steal your joy ever again! You've got a good head on your shoulders and God gave you a gut feeling--now let these be your guide!" 

A quarter of the way down the rocky gorge, I had to call my husband on his choice of vocabulary. "I'm not sure escalader is the word...."

I had visualized an upright descent instead of this by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure. But clinging to the rocks like a crab--and advancing like one--felt like the safest bet. Like this, with my feet leading and my hands trailing just behind--my body horizontally clamped to the rocks--I scampered down to the sea.

Jean-Marc congratulated me on arrival. On a bien crapahuté! he said, finding the precise term for our descent. Next he turned towards the sea. "Well, what do you think?"

"I think you are right. You have found a special spot--un petit bijou!"

But we weren't there yet. If we wanted to swim in the sea (before enjoying the bain d'algues--easier to access) we needed to do some more clambering. This time vertical:

"Hug the rock wall," Jean-Marc said, guiding me out to Le Grand Bleu. I was grateful for the plastic shoes he bought me. My feet now gripped the rocks and were protected from sharp "underwater things" (like oursins). 

"Très bien!" Jean-Marc cheered.  "Now you've got to dive!" Jean-Marc was smiling through his diving mask, waving a bright red star fish in his hand. "So much to see out here--come on in and join me!"

Looking out to sea, I wondered how far those "sharp underwater things" continued. Not too far it seemed... I could now see the seafloor drop off once again. All it would take is a good aim. Go, go, go.... my mind chanted along with my husband's outward cheers. Allez! Allez!

Plouf! A cold sensation ran over my scalp to course over the entire surface of my body. What a feeling! I remember this now! It's all coming back--like a hot summer day in the desert. Gliding through the water at the neighborhood pool, the stifling heat left my 10-year-old body, giving way to cool imaginings. I might have been a fish out of water who'd tumbled in... or I might have been an adult on the seacoast of some fancy foreign country--or both, as I am here today.

"What are you thinking about?" Jean-Marc said, floating beside me.

"The good old days.... and the good ol' today." 


*    *    *


la baignoire = bath

le bain d'algues = seaweed bath

le thalassotherapie = spa treatment seawater as therapy  

le soleil = sun

sous l'eau = under the water

escalader = to scale (a mountain)

un petit bijou = a little gem
le grand bleu = Mediterranean sea 

très bien
= well done

un oursin = sea urchin 

plouf! = sound made when one jumps into the water

  Epices (c) Kristin Espinasse

Classic French Recipes in these Recipe-Stories:

Cake Aux Olives - This olive loaf makes a delicious hors d'oeuvre or snack -- or you can serve a few slices for lunch, alongside a salad!

Yogurt Cake is good any time of year. Now that we have zucchini à gogo in the garden, I'll be shredding it and making a gâteau au yaourt à la courgette. 

Mint and Goat Cheese Quiche - Scroll to the end of this post for the easy recipe. If you've got mint growing in your garden - this will be a delicious standby! 

For the three other recipes I mentionned last time (Tomato Tart, No Grudge Fudge, and Love-ly Fruit Salad), go here and scroll down the page.  


Blossoming in ProvenceRecent review of Blossoming in Provence (thanks, Jack!):

 Her use of French words and their meaning is a very helpful way for the reader to improve his of her knowledge on French. It is, incidentally the sort of book that one can read many times and still find it a pleasure.  --Jack

Order a copy here for yourself or a friend.


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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While waiting to rise at 5:30 this morning to begin a day of travail, I was suddenly whisked away to a scramble down craggy rocks and a splash in pure, clear saltwater. What a way to start the day! The brilliant Midwestern sun and clear blue sky of today have been tempered by soothing water and a sea breeze.

You have a way of transporting us from our world to yours, Kristin, through your vivid descriptions of what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing. For a moment it is possible to imagine oneself there in France. Thank you for these wonderful journeys!



I was totally with you every moment in this wonder memory you have shared with me this morning.

The power of your words mixed with a dream I long to have is just the ticket to rise this morning with the joy you have placed under my wings. You do this so well. How must it feel to be exactly where you are supposed to be in your life?

Thank you Kristi Darling for once again showing me the light...




I absolutely agree: your ability to bring us with you is nearly hypnotic sometimes. You have the gift of true verbal storytellers who do not only give the story but create the vision, those who would sit by the fire and take listeners away.

And what an adventure! (I had to look up "thalassotherapy," being a land-locked PA girl :-) ) I hope you and Jean-Marc find time to benefit from your petit bijou often.




Good for you!

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

Many years ago, a friend and I had to crapahuter like that to reach a tiny beach at the tip of an isolated crique near the southern tip of Corsica. It was actually frightening in places, but that made the goal even more sweet when we attained it.

And then of course, we had to get back safely, too.

Guy Hibbert

Salut Kristin, so now you're wild swimming - good for you! Great writing, as ever.
We ran a whole piece on wild swimming in France back in Issue 2 of .fr France Travel Magazine, our ipad magazine. It's a free download if anyone else wants to take a dip!

Diane Heinecke

Yikes! It looks pretty scary to me, Kristi, but then you're a lot younger than I. You need to tell me how you got OUT. I've always found that it's a lot easier descending and jumping in than getting out and up. Waiting for your answer...

Bill Facker

Cool, healing, refreshing water ... and a refreshing story to top it off! Aloha

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I loved this adventure-- you told it quite well. But I kept thinking - like Diane----how did you climb out?

I lived in Germany for 4 years. We went to an outdoor zoo and got lost. We had to hike, climb and didn't have cell phones. We finally found our way out --- several hours later. All the signs were in German ---- anyway, it was an adventure!

Julie Farrar

Bravo on "plunging" into the adventure. I'm not an extreme-sports kind of gal, but as I grow older I'm trying to resist the temptation to be too sensible about risks. At least I have a great physical therapist who can keep me moving. Alas, arm/shoulder/neck problems will definitely keep me from diving into anything.


Hi Honey,

Is second photo a French Frog turning into a Prince right before our eyes????

I believe I am seeing this transformation - off to paint you jumping off the clift into this beautiful spot in photo #1.



Kristin Espinasse

Diane and Faye, it was easier climbing out :-)

Thanks for these messages. I enjoy hearing about your adventures, too.

I have just returned from another outing (trying to keep up with JM). Feeling queasy from the boat ride... But we caught a fish! Big enough to add to a soupe de poissons....


Our dear Kristi,
What a wonderful post today (AND pictures!AND recipes!)Your gifted writing has literally transported all of us away!
Your courage for new adventures filled me with admiration (am unsteady on my feet and 'watching'you two traverse those rocks
was awesome!)
But your last line most especially wrapped itself around my heart! Before they become the golden ones,these ARE the good old days!
THANK YOU!!!!!!!
Love, Natalia XO


Oh my--I felt your fear on the descent! What an accomplishment! With a beautiful place to swim and float as a reward :)

Diane Young

Vous etes tres forte. And you did take us along on the climb and into the beautiful water. Do everything you can while you can. And keep sharing your adventures. Mille remerciements.

Leslie in Portland, Oregon

You have beautifully described my very favorite activity: "wild swimming," as Guy above calls it. Few great swimming holes are easy to reach, but you did just that...and reclaimed your fishdom! And after seeing your photographs, I can't wait to explore the criques and calanques (both words you taught me) along le littoral francais myself! In the meantime, the lakes of Oregon and Washington will have to do :<) Go Kristin!


Such a timely post for me, since I am spending time in the Wyoming mountains and doing quite a lot of hiking, including climbing over rock fields. It's great to learn the French word for this!

MJH DesignArts

Oh Kirsti, YOU ARE SO BRAVE!!!

Marianne Rankin

Although I didn't have to crapahuter to do it, I was fortunate to be able to swim in criques along the Riviera many years ago, when I spent 3 weeks with a French family who had a home right on the beach. This brought back happy memories.

If I can ever get to France again, I'd enjoy visiting you and the crique.

Rafael C

Experiences such as yours are very inspiring. Sometimes one forgets to pay attention to little things, to special moments. Your writing style, and the way you describe such moments made me want to jump into the water and just enjoy the moment.
(BTW you are quite brave!)


Hi Marianne,

Just yesterday Kristi and I were talking about you...I kept saying where is my Marianne lately, haven't seen her in the comments box. I am so happy to see you here with us today. Big hug to you...xoxo


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