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tenir la route

Jean-Marc reading "Mastering the Art of French Eating" by Ann Mah (c) Kristin Espinasse
I still can't believe this hunka hunka burning love (as one of my endearing readers calls Jean-Marc), yes I couldn't believe it then and now, 23-years later... I still can't believe he loves me. Happy anniversary, Baby. We celebrated our 19-year- wedding anniversary (the date we exchanged religious vows), on Sept 24th.

Jean-Marc is reading "Mastering the Art of French Eating," by Ann Mah. Highly recommended! Order your copy here and enjoy the 5-star reviews. More about this entertaining and insightful book on France and food, very soon...

tenir la route (teuh-neer-lah-root)

    : to stay the course

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave File

Hier on a célébré 19 ans de mariage. Notre fille nous a payé un compliment: Votre couple, elle a dit, a bien tenu la route. Yesterday we celebrated 19 years of marriage. Our daughter paid us a compliment: Your relationship, she said, has stayed the course. 

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

At a neatly-dressed table overlooking the sea, our celebratory lunch was coming to a disappointing ending. But it was hard to be annoyed at the waiter, whose gentle smile had been so kind and welcoming. I watched as he struggled to keep up with the tables during the lunch rush, and felt the growing anxiety he himself might be feeling. It seemed at any moment the new arrivals, to our left, would stand up and toss their napkins on the table, before leaving in disgust.

I had the urge to whisper to the impatient newcomers, "The waiter is not ignoring you, he is just a little overwhelmed at the moment." Instead, I minded my own business. Let life take its course has become my meditation lately. The idea is not to meddle in God's grand plan. Good things and bad things happen. It is how we steady ourselves that matters. We have simply to trust and to love.

Jean-Marc was growing weary of the wait, too. The stray cats had been a good distraction, but after watching the furry interlopers take turns patrolling beneath the tables for fallen scraps, my husband heaved a sigh of impatience. When could we finally order a cup of coffee? I could read his mind as his eyes scanned the restaurant's terrace for our waiter.

Oh no. I hoped he wouldn't voice the complaint or say something sarcastic. Not after the friendly exchanges we'd had with the waiter. But the truth was, I was losing my patience too. 

"You need to grab him when he comes by..." I hinted, the curt tone in my voice giving away my own exasperation. Such "suggestions" were the story of our married life. On the one hand I complained about my husband's nerve, on the other it was I who sometimes pushed him to the front lines of confrontation. Have you heard back from the plumber? Is the telephone company going to charge us for that? Really? 

I sank down a little in my seat. That everyday life could be an ongoing war was disheartening. That a moment of ingratitude could give way to a restless impatience, was even more humbling. How fortunate we are--and yet our hearts are as fragile as anyone's. These thoughts come to me after the fact. After I've melted into a pool of tears there at the bustling restaurant.

The sequence of events happened quickly. One minute we were waiting for the waiter, the next I was worrying about the impatient newcomers to our left... then the strained look on my husband's face... and the homeless cats.... 

And next I knew the waiter appeared, bearing a little plate of cake. I stared at the single candle on top, its flame already blown out by the breeze, despite the waiter's efforts to shield it. I noticed the spray of whipped cream that outlined the surprise cake. The sweetness hit me, suddenly, and the tears rushed up. 

"Thank you!" I squeeked, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes dry until the waiter left, resuming his sprint from one table to the next.

By the time I looked over at my husband, the barrage had opened and my face was flooded with tears. Jean-Marc's thoughtful gesture had pushed me over the edge of my own edginess. It was just a little piece of cake, but it might as well have been a shimmering engagement ring (and if it were, I suddenly knew, deep down, that I would marry him all over again today on our 19th wedding anniversary).

How thoughtful he is! Try as I might, I could not stent the flow of tears. Next came the runny nose and then the heaving.  I could not explain the reaction but, by all appearances, it looked as though I was mourning--instead of showing gratitude for the anniversary cake he had arranged to be delivered to me there at the table. 

"I can't explain..." I said to Jean-Marc whose eyes never left mine. (I wished they would, for his concentration only intensified my emotion, causing another wave or downpour of tears.)

"It's just that ...." I took a deep breath and finish my sentence, "On a quand même une très belle histoire..." It was true, we had, after all, a pretty damn good love story. 


Later, our daughter Jackie managed to put to words what I could not. On showing her the pictures from our anniversary lunch, and sharing with her my teary reaction, she offered: "Votre couple a bien tenu la route!"  Yes, our couple has stayed the course--at times an obstacle course. But we have held on for the ride.

I can't help but make a small parallel, now, when I think about those scraggly stray cats at the restaurant. How cavalier they seemed, as they strutted beneath the tables, but when so much as a strand of grated cheese fell to the ground, they lost all notion of ego or pretense and devoured the fallen scrap

"I'm not such a toughy, after all," I said to Jean-Marc as I wiped the tears from my face back at the table. I'm not sure he fully realizes that when push comes to shove in our marriage, rather than show my sadness, the well of tears inside of me freezes into a giant shield.

After the avowal, I quickly looked away to recompose. Wrung out from the tears, I watched those proud cats, who strutted to a stop, only to scramble when a sliver of sustenance fell from the sky above. Love is sometimes the same way, appearing in scraps. And suddenly, strutting along through life, tough as nails, we are dumbstruck by our hunger.

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 Bescherelle conjugation guide.     Capture plein écran 16052011 092531"This is without a doubt the definitive guide to conjugation of French verbs... an indispensible reference and not overwhelming for beginning students." Order it here.--M. Savoir (Amazon reviewer)


The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Jean-Marc bought two round trip ticket to Sardinia for 68 euros. We stayed three nights at a B&B, near Pula. (Lodging was 60 euros per night and the 3 day rental car was 100 euros... just in case you are looking for something do do when in the South of France--visit a nearby island!)

We also celebrated this occasion back in July, when we remembered our civil ceremony.  See a steamy picture of that celebration, here.


The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Other reasons to visit Sardinia.... the flowers are so pretty this time of year...

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
If you love bikes you'll see plenty...

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
The locals sells their modest harvests....

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Already mentioned the bikes, but they're worth another line....

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
And if you like classic motos -- plenty of those!

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Personally, I'm a sucker for door curtains and their flirty ruffles! Love it when the tiles peek out.

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Also charming are the brochettes of Italians chatting next to the little trucks called "Apes" ("bees", in Italian).

Sheep in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
I used to love to gaze at the sheep. Nowadays, I love to look for the shepherd!

Window shutters in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Do these shutters speak to you, too? They come in all colors and sizes, but "natural" like this is fine by me.

Church in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Your are always celebrating your anniversary, Jackie sighs. I can understand her confusion. Our civil and religious marriage ceremonies being months apart, there is the temptation to mark the occasion when it arises in July... and again in September. 

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


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Heather in Arles

Oh my, I must admit that I was surprised by my tears as well upon reading this. Yes, a very beautiful story indeed. Felicitations à vous deux!

David Sheegog

Kristy, every once in a while you write prose that is fine as ever written, to wit:

"Rung out from the tears, I watched those proud cats, who strutted to a stop, only to scramble when a sliver of sustenance fell from the sky above. Love is sometimes the same way, appearing in scraps. And suddenly, strutting along through life, tough as nails, we are dumbstruck by our hunger."


I almost never comment on your posts, although I read them religiously... but this one struck a chord with me as well and brought tears to my eyes. Félicitations pour vos 19 ans de mariage ! Quelle belle histoire !



Your story today took my breath away! You are a master of words and emotions. The best part is to know you don´t make this stuff up, it just flows from your precious heart.



Bill in St. Paul

Happy anniversary to a beautiful couple! Several years ago when we were staying in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the woman at the hotel who made our dinner reservation knew it was my wife's birthday and told the restaurant. We couldn't understand why the waiter required that we order our dessert when we ordered our entrée. My wife ordered ice cream (!!) but the restaurant was able to adorn the scoops with "Joyeux Anniversaire" in chocolate sauce. Quelle surprise!


What a lovely story ! What a lovely couple !
I wish you and your husband the best beginning - and following - for your 20th year together !
As for "to pay a compliment" we don't say in french "payer un compliment". It's the same thing for "to pay a visit to sb" which we translate : "aller voir quelqu'un" .
We do say a simple verb : "complimenter" or even "féliciter" for this special occasion (wedding anniversary or any graduation).
Sorry whether I made some mistakes...
Awaiting your next "report", I do enjoy all of them !!

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

OK, now I'm welling up, too. Thanks a lot, Kristin!

Eileen deCamp

Happy Anniversary Kristin and Jean-Marc! Lovely photos and sounds like a wonderful little escape!

Rina Rao.

Wonderful Kristin---a Very Happy Aniv' to both of you. Love, Rina.


I too teared up as I read this. Yes, une très belle histoire, I send you both best wishes on your anniversaries. Your writing gets better and better, I love reading your posts. Thanks for sharing .


Beautifully said ~ felt like I was speaking of myself!

Dad in Idaho

Dear Kristi-this is one of the finest posts you have ever written. I also had tears just thinking of your struggles and accomplishments over the twenty some years living and loving in France. You and Jean Marc have created a marvelous life together. Great picture of the two of you.


A very Happy Anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc! Sardinia looks like an idyllic place to spend time together.



Crying in my coffee as I read your post. My very best wishes for you and Jean-Marc ...hoping for MANY more years to come. xoxo Cindy

Marcia Douglas

Happy Anniversary Kristin & Jean-Marc... you all are so sweet. It's those little surprises, that touch the heart the most, I think.

Kristine, dallas

Happy Anniversary!

MJH DesignArts

Happy Anniversary. Thank you for sharing this day. Yes, you have stayed the course. True abiding love.

Suzanne Codi

Felicitations and congratulations, you are both an inspiring example of how to live life well ! Thank you for telling us your beautiful story! Marriage is definitely a lot of work, but you make it sound like the wonderful adventure it can be by sharing your insightful and sensitive observations.
Many years of continued love , travels, and happiness to you and the Chief!
xox Suzanne

Dayton Mast

This post today really touched me. That piece of cake with the candle, already out. And the hungry cats! I just went down stairs and gave my three girls more kitty food and extra kisses. I absolutely enjoy your site. Congratulations on your19 years together! Magnifique!


Yes, indeed, one of your very best posts ever. I was unable to see the text in the last two paragraphs until I wiped away my own tears. They just came up out of nowhere! Now, that's some darn good writing.

N, San Antonio, Texas

Congratulations!! Happy Anniversary! Hoping you have many more years together.

Kathleen from Connecticut

Happy anniversary to a wonderful couple. What a great story and the cake ordered by touching.
Love the pictures and keep writing.
I saw your article in France Today. Another venue for you. Congratulations!



Dear Kristin and Jena-Marc, Happyhappyhappy anniversary, may you continue to grow more and more in love with each other over the years.....! What a wonderful example of wisdom and grace for your children and all of us who are privileged to know you through your sharing missives. xoxo

Ronald Holden

Hi, Kristin and Jean-Marc! Congratulations on having held the road. A lovely story, as always, with the usual charming pictures.

A quick note on the word "apes" (bees) for the food trucks. The ubiquitous scooters are called Vespas ("wasps") for much the same reason. But the Vespa itself is only one model in a line of scooters from Piaggio. The word is like Kleenex or Xerox: a brand name that became generic.

Tonya in Arkansas

Your words, so beautifully real, brought tears to my eyes, as well, because I did not "stay the course". It's been 42 years since my divorce, from the father of my children. He has mellowed and is now my best defender and comrade. His wife is good for him, but I regret my decision every day and cry, as well. My best wishes for your next 19 years!


bon anniversaire to a beautiful couple with a beautiful life.

Maria Cochrane

I echo the above - your dear husband, your ability to capture emotions, your ability to BE REAL. You give us freedom to be true ourselves.

And your faithful philosophy to trust in His plan - His sovereignty. 1 Tim 6:15 talks about Jesus as the blessed (i.e. happy, gleeful) controller. You and I make MISERABLE controllers of our lives.

Grateful for God's gift to you in your writing

Diane Young

Thank you for sharing the tender, touching moments as well as the tough ones with your readers, just as you share with Jean-Marc. You have learned so much, and the best is yet to come. Congratulations on this wonderful occasion, and many, many happy returns. Sardinia photos are so lovely.


Happy, happy anniversary to you both. What a delightful and poignant story. I just loved it. And it is definitely good to celebrate all your anniversaries! We met on January 13 and married on January 22nd..same year...and we always celebrate both anniversaries.

Leslie Schultz

This story brought tears to my eyes.

My husband and I celebrated 25 years on August 4. And August 6. (We have two wedding dates, long story.) He surprised me with a getaway to Minneapolis, and I surprised him with a posting a poem and recent photos of the Viking funeral of our antique wedding dress on my website. I just love the phrase "tenir la route" because it is so true. The way is there (or we make it) but that doesn't mean its easy, just...exhilarating and humbling as your post reminds me.

Happy anniversary! Leslie Schultz in Northfield, MN

Donna Dughi

Happy Anniversary! What a surprise to find out that we share an anniversary - although for us it is 29 years! And please say hello to Jean-Marc for us - we met him at Pike & Western Wine Shop the last time he was in Seattle!
Donna and Rob Dughi

Janet Gottsacker

Beautiful and touching story that really hit home for me. I too, react the same way at the oddest times! Thanks for your writings.

Julie Schorr

Happy anniversary to you both!! Thank you for the beautiful post today and the lovely pictures!!

Kristin Espinasse

Merci beaucoup to friends and dear family who responded to this post. Last night, stuck in traffic on our way home from the airport, Jean-Marc asked the torturesome question: So, what are you going to write about tomorrow? 

I told him I am practicing staying in the moment, and that I would worry about tomorrow tomorrow! Thank you all for your response to this story.

Elisabeth, thank you for our insights into the French language -- always so helpful!

Ronald, I enjoyed the vespa info, too!

Time to see about dinner... wishing everyone a lovely evening (or day, depending).

Andrea Hughes

Happy Anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc!
I would like to share a quote that I keep next to my computer so that I can remind myself of its message often:

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough!"

I think that you and Jean-Marc already follow this simple message!


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful and touching post today!
Once again it(and you!) haves wrapped yourselves around our hearts and given us
both appreciation and inspiration!
We send prayers of thanks to God for the gift of having you and your dear family in our lives,and wishing you and Jean Marc both
congratulations and blessings for many more joyful years of togetherness.
Love, Natalia XO


Beautiful and beautifully told.

Sevahn Merian

Happy 19th Wedding Anniversary to you! You are such a beautiful couple! Wishing you abundant blessings of good health, prosperity, endless love and happiness!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Happy (belated) Anniversary! David included my favorite sentences "Love is sometimes the same way, appearing in scraps. And suddenly, strutting along through life, tough as nails, we are dumbstruck by our hunger." And Jules captured the thought with "a master of words and emotions." Not much more can be said.

Claudette Kunsay

Félicitations Kristin & Jean_Marc pour vos 19 ans de mariage ! Joyeux Anniversaire ! Il vous reste plusieurs belles années ensemble, j'en suis persuadée ! AH! Kristin, you write so beautifuly, your expression is so poetic !
Quelle fantastique escapade que la Sardaigne poue célébrer ! Très romantique !
Bisou à vous deux,

Lynn Leary

Dear Kristin,
I have been reading your blog about a year, but this one has prompted me to write. I am in France trying to learning French, though my 64 year old brain is a bit slow. You describe so honestly and beautifully the state of our hearts. One minute extended in love, wandering and trying to drink love from someone or thing that cannot fill our deepest needs. You said that you used to look at the sheep, and now you look at the shephed. I read this, this morning.
Isaiah, 40:11 He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
Congratulations on your important day!
Lynn Leary

Herm inPhoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin and Jean-Marc

Joyeux anniversaire mes amis, je suis très heureux pour vous.

À bientôt

Carolyn Curtis

I see I am not the only one who thinks this is one of your very best posts. In that little vignette you captured so eloquently what must have resonated for all of us in long term relationships. I am exactly 30 years ahead of you and there continue to be stumbles and obstacles to staying the course but the rewards are so great.

Debby Howell

Your photography is outstanding. Beautiful colors,always beautifully composed, charming wonderful subjects that give the essence of the town or island--all adding up to la belle France.

It is a wonderful few minutes in the day to read your beautiful stories and gaze at the photos and think of being in those places--or remember when we have been in some of them.

Thank you for the wonderful blog
Debby in West Linn, OR

Ann Mah

Happy anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc! You two are an inspiration. Sending lots of love! xoxo


Happy Anniversary to you both! How fun to be surprised after years of marriage...and yes, we have to be like those cats. xx

Karen from Phoenix

Beautiful story! Happy, Happy Anniversary to you both, and many many more.


Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

I join all the others in wishing you both a very joyous anniversary and a life with all the sweetness and tartness that is all part and parcel of 'tenant la route.' David and Dayton captured my two favorite sentences from your post - just beautiful! But, the entire histoire was like looking in a mirror, it so well expressed many moments and feelings in my long, wonderful, and winding road with my dear husband, all these past 45 years! Thank you for your gift that you so beautifully share with us! Judi

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane

It's all been said in earlier comments, but I'll just say it again: A beautiful story, and of course congratulations for staying the course!

And from my own experience I've realized how precious a gift it is to our children to be happy as a couple. Your daughter too, is lucky!

Debbie Houston

I enjoyed your story. It just goes to show you it's impossible to meddle with God's Grand Plan .

Sue J.

beautifully written, Kristi. Felicitations to you and to J-M.

Jan  Hersh

I am so happy for you, Marriage is not easy and two must work hard to make it last, wishing you many more happy years!

Nancy,                     Cambridge

Yep, that last paragraph is one of the finest I have read anywhere. Speaks to me directly. You nailed it!

Allyson Gretz

Thank you for sharing your heart with us. It's always a joy to read your posts because you always write from the heart and share with us what is true. Many blessings to you and Jean-Marc!


Lovely post. And congratulations on your anniversary! Mine is September 24 as well (13 years) but my husband is in China on business so we will have to wait to celebrate until he comes home. Perhaps we will go out and I will order a slice of cake! Thanks again for sharing.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Bonjour Kristin,

I loved this story. Very touching, but also sort of funny. Congrats on your anniversary! I esp loved reading about the homeless cats --- I went and hugged my dear cat, Ms. Twilla!

Thank you for your generous spirit and for sharing parts of your life.

Stay well!

Deborah Page

This was one of the most wonderful, and beautifully written, entries I've read! It made me tear up as well, and reminded me of a certain similar dynamic in my own marriage of 35-plus years. Happy Anniversary, and many more.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Kristin, only you could have woven the hungry cats under the tables so beautifully and with such meaning into your writing. Please add my tears to those of all of your other readers. Happy Anniversary! Be certain to celebrate both dates each year.

Harriet Hughes

Lovely. Thank you for having the courage to share what is in your heart.

Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

Really beautiful story and writing, Kristin. Merci beaucoup and congratulations to you two.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Dear Kristi,

What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing so many personal moments with us. You expressed your emotions so clearly, I felt I was right there with you. Happy Anniversary to you both! Paul and I are not far behind you as we celebrated 16 years this summer. Our stories are so different but we probably share just as many ups and downs! It feels good to have bien tenu la route, doesn't it? We should all be very proud!

Love and best wishes to you both, Carolyn

Peter Tidy

Moving, evocative, honest

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Peter! 

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