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Entries from February 2014

Serre Chevalier + How to say "flat rate" when searching for $ deals in France

Ambition is the downfall of man. (L'Ambition est la perte de l'homme). A message on a lazy sundial in Serre Chevalier. 

un forfait (for-fay)

    : flat rate, package deal, 

un forfait week-end = weekend package (price)
un forfait mensuel = monthly subscription
un forfait boisson = drinks included
un forfait de ski = ski pass

Audio File and Example Sentence
Download MP3 or WAV

Jean-Marc a trouvé un forfait hotel pour les vacances d'hiver.
Jean-Marc found a hotel package for winter vacation.

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

"Kissed by a Stranger--or A Bise in Le Bez"

Jean-Marc drove us to the mountains for our kids' spring break. I guess I need to quit saying "kids"--as our son Max will soon turn 19! All the more reason to profiter or take advantage of these family getaways!

"Does Jeanne ski?" I say, turning to the back seat, where the kids are settling in for the 3+ hour drive home. Jeanne is Max's petite amie and I'm wondering if we should bring her along next year--and so stretch these family vacations as far as they'll reach! But there I go trotting off to the future again....


I put a stop to the "eventualities" by looking out the car window and focusing, instead, on the four good days we have spent in Serre Chevalier--where Jean-Marc found another package deal, or forfait: 4 nights, petit déj compris! But dinner was not included in the deal, so we were delighted to be invited to our good friend Fred's!

I hoped our son's godfather (Fred), who normally insists that we stay with him in his family's chalet, would not be offended that we picked a hotel this time. As we dined with him and his family that first night--enjoying 4-cheese fondue in the cozy living room, I searched our friends' faces for disappointment, and listened, waiting for the inevitable question: Mais pourquoi vous n'êtes pas restés chez nous?

But when I saw how relaxed our friends were--and how they never questioned our hotel reservations--I began to wonder if we shouldn't get our feelings hurt instead!

Kidding aside, it was probably a nice break for both families to have their own chez soi. I feel for people who own a home in a vacation mecca and who are regularly visited by travelers. How can they ever enjoy their own pied-à-terre or home away from home when they are busy sorting out sheets and towels and meals?!

But just because we aren't sleeping under the same roof doesn't mean we can't enjoy each other's company by day. While helping Fred's mom, Marianne, put away the dishes, she asked if I would like to join her le lendemain for a hike in Névache. I panicked, thinking about hours and hours outside in the unforgiving sun. It's not worth going under the knife again! But rather than try to explain things, I rattled off something about needing to spend the morning finding a summer school fashion program for Jackie. (And when the latter heard this, she perked right up, solidifying my plans!)

The next day I had to follow through with my promise. While I did plan on doing a little research, I did not want to spend our 4-day break behind a computer screen. So by noon, I was ready to take a small stroll through the village of Le Bez, where our hotel is located.


Le Bez is a tiny hameau nestled into the base of the mountain. As I walked up the slippery hill, the place began to look familiar to me... Oh yes, there was that cadran solaire I had photographed the last time we were here... and beyond, I saw a sign to the sentier botanique. Oh to be back in springtime--enjoying all the wildflowers and papillons along the path!


Like a butterfly, I weaved back and forth along the snowy path, enjoying the charming buildings as though they were filled with nectar. I pulled out my smartphone and begin snapping photos. So much for promising to bring my real camera (which is less and less practical the more I use my camera phone! I'll live to regret this when the day comes to print the pictures; meantime I'll believe recent studies about how lower quality pictures no longer seem to faze viewers--who are content, instead, with content. Indeed, it is the subject of the photo that moves us--rather than its sharpness).

  A tiny chapel doesn't budge as les oeufs, or eggs, travel up the mountain.

As I left the fountain and headed up a small snow-capped path, I ran into a local and was greeted by a very warm bonjour...

"You are not from here?" The gray-haired mountain man said. "Alors, je vous fais la bise!"

With that the one-man welcome committee reached over and planted the most friendly kiss I had ever received on my cheek.

        shadows and a little warning "careful of snow sliding from rooftop"

That was funny. Last time I checked the French were a lot more reserved than that. Any cultural know-how I'd gleaned up to now told me that complete strangers did not kiss--not unless they were with a person who knew the kisser.

Ah well, I reasoned, surely the local knew my friend Fred! Still, something told me that if my friend were here he might not have recognized Mr Kissy Face. But his fist would have! 

                                            *    *    *


Electric Fondue Maker! When a small fire broke out on our table as we sat enjoying fondue that first night, every French woman seated declared "This is why I have an electric fondue maker at home and not a traditional one!

Fondue is a great way to entertain and not a lot of work, either! (An added amusement is the games the French play while eating fondue. "If your piece of bread falls into the melted pot of cheese," Fred's dad, Michel, tells me, "then you have to remove an item of clothing." I was very careful to keep that bread on my tiny fork, but my lovely neighbor was not as lucky.... Order a fondue maker. Lots of fun!

French Vocabulary

la petite amie = girlfriend
le petit déj (déjeuner) = breakfast
Mais pourquoi vous n'êtes pas restés chez nous? = but why didn't you stay with us?
chez soi = at home
le hameau = hamlet
le lendemain = the following day
le cadran solaire = sundial
le sentier botanique = botanical path
le papillon = butterfly
bonjour = hello
alors = so then
je vous fais la bise! = I'll give you a (welcome) kiss!



Next Meet-up: April 8th in Paris

Join me in the Marais for a musing on foreign accents! I'll be speaking at Adrian Leed's "Après-Midi"-- following in the footsteps of artists who have spoken there before me. Click here to add your name to the Facebook "attendance" page. (If you can't make it, please hit the "maybe" button on the Facebook page and I will bring you with me in my thoughts :-)

(James Navé will give a talk in March; also check out his upcoming class "The Poetics of Writing: Imaginative Storm Paris Workshop") 


For you menu readers: blettes, courge, and chou (chard, squash, and cabbage).

Just look at this wooden water way coming from the 18th century fountain. Felt good to run my hands along the side, appreciating the artisan's efforts.

Apple tree
The old apples are still hanging on, waiting to be pushed forth by blossoms.

Blossoming in Provence review: The value of this charming and instructive book by a natural writer and observer of the (French) social scene is that it makes picking up new vocabulary easy because you remember the lovely stories in which they were packaged. --Ellie 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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stomach ache in French

Jean-Marc and Kristi in 1992

When Jean-Marc came to Phoenix to woo me we exchanged gifts. For me, a Provençale skirt 3 sizes too small. (Does my face look as pinched as my waist? At least he looks relaxed.) Twenty-four years later and we still miss the mark--but so far we keep trying to understand each other. (Photo from the forthcoming book "First French Essais." Out next month!)


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

avoir mal au ventre

    : to have a stomach ache

j'ai mal au ventre = I have a stomach ache.

J'ai mangé les restes et maintenant j'ai mal au ventre.
I ate the leftovers and now I have a stomach ache.

Audio File:
Listen to the words and phrases above: Download MP3 or Wav

Chief Grape will be staying home this year. In his place, two of the lovliest French wine embassadors ever! Meet Audrey Vidal and Caroline Jones. (Click on their names to visit their vineyards and to see Audrey and Caroline's 2014 tour schedule!  

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

Last night when my husband got into bed and reached for me like a giggly teen, I groaned.

"J'ai mal au ventre!"

It was true. Ever since clearing out our kitchen cabinets and our frigo, my stomach has been smarting.

"J'ai fini par jeter des choses!" I finally had to throw stuff out! I admitted to Jean-Marc. "But not without trying to finish them first!"

"Ah, ma chérie!" Jean-Marc laughed as he massaged my back. But when his fingers tiptoed over my side, I barked: "J'ai mal au ventre!"

"Aw, désolé, Chérie."

For a split second I enjoyed the unexpected commiseration. I guess my days of hiding three-day-old sandwiches at the bottom of the poubelle are over. Hurray! My man can finally accept that SOME things need tossing!

As I turned to plant a rewarding kiss on my husband's lips, I puckered out on hearing this:

"T'as jeté quoi exactement?"

Just what did I throw out? He dared ask a woman in the throes of stomach labor JUST WHAT DID SHE THROW OUT?

Men may never understand women. But here's the first clue: Don't ask! Ne pose pas une question si tu ne veux pas entendre la réponse!

 *    *    *

Ever seen someone chasing after a bus they've just missed? Shouting Wait! Wait for me! Well my husband will have to run fast to catch up with the kiss he just missed. He'll have several opportunities to make up for the misstep, beginning Wednesday--when we go into kitchen renovation mode! For the next three weeks our fridge (the one I emptied), our oven, and our campstove will be docked in the living room. We'll wash our dishes in the tiny bathroom sink, two rooms over. On second thought, maybe the outdoor hose is closer? Wish us luck!

To respond to this story, click here. (And if you are writing in to ask about the "labor" I mentioned, that would be stomach labor (from the bubbly parsley pesto I ate) and not uterine labor!) 

French Vocabulary

j'ai mal au ventre = I have a tummy ache
le frigo = fridge
ma chérie = my dear
désolé(e) = sorry
la poubelle = garbage can (or bin)
Ne pose pas une question si tu ne veux pas entendre la réponse! = Don't ask a question if you don't want to hear the answer

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

  Jean-Marc and Kristi

For those of you who stuck with me to the end of the post, your reward: a translation of the poetic French shirt I offered Jean-Marc (have another look at the opening photo) 

J'ai brisé les liens bleus et les limites de la couleur. Plongez-vous dans la blancheur et nagez dans cet infini. I broke out of the blue lines and the limits of color. Dive into the whiteness and swim (in the white free abyss) infinity is before you. (line two of quote by artist Kazimir Malevitch, born in the Ukraine. Serendipidous timing, as our thoughts and hearts go out to Ukrainians at this time.)

The picture above was taken on a family vacation, in 2006, and is full of symbolism. Years after I gave Jean-Marc that poetic T-shirt, he continues to show me that experiences are one of the most rewarding things in life when you dare to break out or briser les liens et les limites.

tree blossoms in Tulette (c) Kristin Espinasse
"J'ai brisé les liens bleus et les limites de la couleur. Plongez-vous dans la blancheur et nagez dans cet infini."

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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c’est le monde à l’envers + Malta!

St Juliens bay in Malta

An unexpected twist on our romantic Valentine's getaway... to Malta. Read on in today's story column.

c’est le monde à l’envers

   :  the world's gone crazy (or: it's an upside-down world)

Audio File: click the following links to hear today's word and definition Download MP3 or Wav

L'expression "c'est le monde à l'envers" c'est quand les choses sont dans le contraire de ce qu’on attend.
(from Wikipedia) The expression c'est le monde à l'envers means that things are different than expected.

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click here for more pictures.


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

One of the pluses of living near Marseilles is the city's proximity to so many lively destinations. My husband is the travel bug in our family and he can't help but be tempted by the discount air carriers and their latest offres. When Jean-Marc noticed a round-trip ticket to Malta for only 70 euros--he quickly located a room at 60 euros per night and a car at 100 euros for 3 days.... and so found the perfect Valentines surprise for his chérie!

In the blink of an eye we had touched down at Malta international airport on La Fête des Amoureux. I didn't realize we would be arriving after midnight, but then there were a lot of things I was unprepared for--like the fact that the Maltese drive on the opposite side of the road!!

Jean-Marc and I were standing in the dimly lit rental car lot when this disturbing detail revealed itself to us:

"The key doesn't work!" my valentine said, trying in vain to locate the lock.

"Here. Give that to me," I said, reaching for la clé. It was four hours past my bed time and I was anxious to get out of this dark and vacant car lot and get to our hotel. Grabbing the key, I began to thumb-punch it, trying to automatically unlock the car. Meantime, Jean-Marc had walked around to the other side, looking for a keyhole.

"Ha! The driving wheel is on the right!" Jean-Marc announced, more amused than concerned.

Well that's odd, I thought. Why would they give us a car like that?

"You need to go back to the rental desk and get another version," I told my husband, trying to decide if I should go with him or wait alone in this spooky car park.

"Chérie, there won't be another 'version.' Visiblement, the Maltese drive like the English--on the left side of the road!"

Reality hit me like an arrow in the gut. Cupid's aim was waaaay off, and with it all the kissy-kissy-goo-goo feelings my husband had bargained for along with this bargain vacation! But bargaining with our lives was NOT sexy. 

"We can't drive like this!" I stamped my foot. 

"Well, we don't have the choice!" Jean-Marc's tone was firm. The amusement my husband experienced a moment ago had waned. Sensing I was going to dig my feet in, Jean-Marc told me to get in the car. "Everything's going to be okay. I'll drive!"

My heart seized up as Jean-Marc grinded the gears into first. He was completely disoriented and we hadn't even left the parking lot. Oh God, we were doomed! My mind began jumping to its colorful conclusions and I could queerly appreciate the romantic ending our couple had come to... as we RIP'd together on the Mediterranean island of Malta. It sure beat a collision on the 1-10 in Apache Junction or Phoenix!

"Good thing the accelerator and the brakes aren't reversed!" Jean-Marc chuckled, trying to lighten the mood. But his joke only caused me more distress. At this point that wasn't so hard to imagine! 

"Stay on the left! ON THE LEFT!" I screeched as we entered the first roundabout. Just as expected, I watched my husband's reflexes kick in. He had wanted to go right! Yes, however slightly, he had edged over to right! No matter how he denied it. I saw it with my own bulging eyes!

Jean-Marc tried distraction. "Look for the signs to Mellieha," he said. But all I could see were cars racing past us in the roundabout. How strange to see cars going clockwise! The trick would be to fight our reflexes--and remember to do everything opposite! But it was so easy to get confused--especially in a foreign land, after 1 a.m. in the morning!

I couldn't help but evacuate the stress at every frightening turn--ever struggling to remember whether to first look left or right for oncoming traffic. I found it helpful to remember the giant lettering written across the streets of London. "LOOK LEFT". The avertissements are designed to prevent visitors (from countries that drive on the right) from being crushed by oncoming vehicles!

"Left! Stay left!" My orders were punctuated by a series of short breaths, the kind the nurses demanded when I went through labor for each of my children. 

Worried I might hyperventilate, Jean-Marc put me to work. "Here! Read these notes!" he ordered, handing over the map to our hotel.

"Keep your eyes on the road," I scolded. "If you need to reach for a paper--ask me. I'll do it!"

"We should be there in twenty minutes. Don't worry!" Jean-Marc said, trying to calmer le jeu, or ease tensions. 

Worrisome now were the directions. The names of the Maltese roads were obviously foreign--with a lot of tricks--or "Triqs" thrown in. 

Triq, it seemed, was the name for street--the word being mention over and over again.

"Read me the name of the street," Jean-Marc said, swerving to avoid a car that had just entered our roundabout from the left. Whoa! 

"I can't (puff! puff! puff!)." How could I read him the name of the streets, when I could hardly breathe?

What's more, the streets had funny foreign characters (an "H" was double barred through the center). It wasn't pronunciation that concerned me, it was the way all the lines began to run together: I could not keep my eyes on both the directions and the road at the same time.

Jean-Marc tried in vain to remind me that HE was the driver and I could keep my eyes on the directions (and off the road) but this was an impossibility. The only way to feel safe was by exercising the small amount of control still in my power: by keeping an extra set of eyes on the road we would reduce our chances of collision!

 Jean-Marc gave up and reached for his Smartphone. 

"You mean you had a GPS this whole time and didn't want to use it!!!" I guessed connection fees went contrary to our budget vacation!

Speaking of contrary, we were now back on track even if that track was still reversed. Now with the GPS, I could concentrate on hyperventilating and all the intermittant screeching. "I can't help it!" I said to Jean-Marc, who--guided by my OHMYGOD gurglings--managed to veer away once again from oncoming traffic. (Adding to stress were all those SPEED KILLS signs, which dotted the road before many a hairpin turn. That's when an additional threat came to mind: we were driving in party hour traffic, after midnight! Hopefully the Maltese would remember which side of the road they usually drove on!)

All the shrieks and heavy breathing didn't make my driver's job any easier, but, little did he know, Jean-Marc was quickly racking up romantic points. For as much as I fault him for his impatience, my husband can swiftly shift into calm mode when the tables (or roads) are turned and I'm the one flipping out. I deeply appreciated his soft and encouraging words during our harried drive (and the few times he snapped he was quickly forgiven!).

Jean-Marc even managed, here and there, to maintain his sense of humor. Arriving to our hotel, he pulled the keys out of the ignition and, handed them to me, he chuckled. "Demain, c'est toi qui conduis!"


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French Vocabulary

une offre = special deal
chéri, chérie = darling
la fête des amoureux = Valentine's Day
la clé = key
visiblement = evidently
un avertissement = warning
calmer le jeu = calm things down
demain c'est toi qui conduit! = tomorrow you're the driver!

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.

Paris Metro Apron - a fun and whimsical tablier to wear


In Mdina, the old capital of Malta, the English influence can be missed... In  1964 Malta achieved its independance from the UK.


My favorite visit while on the island: the Argotti Botanical Gardens. Visits are by appointment only, but we were lucky to wander in and pay for our visitor pass (3 euros per person). We spoke to the curator who told us about all the Somalian students, currently working on site. "They are all exiled." I looked at the teenage boys, many of whom had lost their families. "They have only two choices back home: go to war or be killed," the curator explained. Cheers to Argotti Botanical Garden for creating this insertion program where they are teaching refugees skills to carry with them to their next destination (Matla beind a temporary landing for many of the unfortunates).

Other gardens on Malta: the San Anton Botanical gardens, where the president lives at the palace. See the impressive kitchen garden and the exotic birds. 


Malta is a plant lovers paradise! Whether tumbling from balconies or carpeting the vineyards, flowers are blooming everywhere in February! I loved the roadside fennel with its giant round pom-pom flowers (so different from our Provence fenouil), and Jean-Marc helped me collect pocketfuls of snapdragon seeds! Some say the name "Malta" comes from the Greek "meli" (honey). And some call Malta "the land of honey." 


Remember those tricks or "Triqs" I talked about in today's story. Here's a road sign.


Guess who we took with us on our romantic getaway? Mr. Sacks, bien sûr! Jean-Marc's ancient sacoche sat with us at outdoor cafes, on rocky piers, and sandy beaches. Here are more things we all enjoyed:

Mellieha Bay - where we found lounge chairs to rent (3 euros for the day) and ordered a hot lunch for under 10.

Golden Bay - beautiful hike down to the water (the path is flanked by purple and yellow wildflowers this time of year). Have a coffee at the bar overlooking the Mediterranean.

St. Paul's Bay - colorful fishing boats and a stroll along the boardwalk

Spinola Bay – St. Julians. Go to Gululu's -- a restaurant for traditional Maltese food. I loved the octopus stew with capers, olives, raisin, walnuts and vegetables.

Also loved the restaurant Two and a half Lemons, in the Vittoriosa Marina--for the fresh tuna and for our wonderful waiter. Sitting outside, facing the boats, the sounds of the clanking masts is relaxing.



The island of Gozo is something we didn't get to see. It's going on our bucket list for next time! Have you ever been to Malta? Will you share some "must see" places there? Click here to comment.

Further Reading

Jed Christensen's article "Five Fine Days on Italy's Toe" includes an excellent and historical review of Malta.

I missed the chance to photograph all the beautiful stone walls, restanques, and cabanons on Malta. Thankfully Janet recorded some at her blog Malta Meanderings.

Googling "botanical gardens malta", I found Jess's blog--and great photos of San Anton Gardens (which I then visited).

The Kappillan of Malta - this book came highly recommended from one of our readers (Thanks, FM).

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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Coup de Foudre + French students seek host families in USA or England

2CV (c) Kristin Espinasse

How to say VROOOM! in French? If the topic today were onomatopoeia, then we'd surely have that one nailed by the end of this post. But there are two other pressing matters to figure out today:

1) How to say "Be my Valentine" in French? and
2) Who, in the States or in England, can host my French friend's 17-year-old? And/or can anyone recommend a fun USA camp for 16- or 17-year-olds? (Is 16 or 17 too old for camp?). Skip to the end of this letter and let me know!

Coup de Foudre (koo-deuh-foo-drh)

    : love at first sight (from the original definition: a thunderbolt)
    : A sudden unexpected event, especially an emotional one (Wikipedia)


Beautifully renovated and decorated home in the Luberon. 4 bedrooms and a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. This villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.


Sound File: (note: our Francophone speaker is away so you are stuck with me, a French accent-challenged Arizonan. Listen at your own risk!) Download MP3 or Wave file

Quand j'ai vu Jean-Marc pour la première fois, c'était le coup de foudre!
When I saw Jean-Marc for the first time it was love at first sight!

If you have been reading this journal for a few years, then you are familiar with our growing list of LOVE TERMS. Click here for a list of terms of endearment and other related Valentine's Terms


When I saw this 2 CV at the docks the other day, c'était le coup de foudre! It was love at first sight. 

"Oh no! Don't drive off!" I shouted, as the man in the striped cap walked into my camera's viewfinder and got into his classic car. I lowered my Smartphone and waved my arms, urging him to wait.

"May I take the photo with you in it?"

A bright and toothy smile was the unexpected reward for venturing to ask a stranger for his picture!

Alain is his name. Notice his toothy gap. Do you remember the charming French term for that? We learned it in the story Not a Cougar, A Wife Hen, where the young salesman flashed his "happiness teeth," or les dents de bonheur, and hearts went pitter-patter.


By the way, the backdrop in the very first photo is the bay of La Ciotat, west of Marseilles. And here, in the foreground we have jonquilles (daffodils), coquelicots (poppies), and palmiers (palm trees)--Nature's perfect frame for this classic car photo.

And who can blame those leaves for reaching out and tickling this adorable Citroën? Dried and about to wither away, these "cougars" of the plant kingdom can still appreciate the ever youthful deux chevaux.


Vroooom! Au revoir, Alain--et la deux chevaux d'Alain! Goodbye Allan and Allan's "two horse" car. A+ (à plus) or see ya later!

Two places to stay in postcard pretty France:

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in this beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet. 

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

Jackie (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jackie on her BMX.

Moving on now to our second question of the day: Would you like to host a French student? Or could you recommend good summer camp in the USA?

My friend Isabelle called the other day, wondering if I knew of anyone in the States (or in England) who would be interested in hosting her son for three or four weeks this August.

I told Isa that I could relate to her quest--as I am also looking for an enriching summer activity for my 16-year-old, who would love to improve her English! (In our case, we are looking for a summer camp in which Jackie would be surrounded by American kids her own age.)  

The goal is to keep these kids busy, away from the TV, and immersed in English. So if you are an active family who loves to get out and do things, leave a message in the comments box and I'll forward your address to Isa (or maybe steal it for myself!)

Both Jackie and Thomas love sports. Jackie enjoys tennis, horse riding, and fashion (it would be wonderful to find her an internship or a connection in the field!). Thomas skies, surfs, hikes, and loves to hang out in his hometown of Marseilles with friends his own age.

Isabelle spoke about the possibility of an exchange (her child visits you, your child visits Marseilles) but that would mean 6-8 weeks together, in total--something that might test a teenager's patience, don't you think? So if having a French student at your place is in itself an enriching experience and exchange, and if you have a child around the same age, 17, please get back with Isabelle--in the comments section--and I will make sure she sees your note.  

And, for Jackie, don't forget to recommend USA camps in the comments section, too. I really appreciate it! Note: an overnight summer camp in Colorado would be ideal! Then Jackie would visit family in Denver :-)

Thanks for using the comments box, only, as this will help me to locate your note! And thank so much for your interest in helping!

In other nouvelles...

Lavender planting

After planting lavender it will soon be time to plant the first grapevines--rows and rows, like an audience of goodfellows. Encore, Chief Grape!

Planting lavender

Has a friend forwarded you this letter? Never miss a word or photo: sign up here for your own free French Word-A-Day!  

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

cafe litteraire

Cafe litteraire

In the café littéraire meet-ups of yesteryear, old establishments like this may have welcomed book lovers.

un café littéraire : Download MP3 or Wav

Un café littéraire est un lieu de réunion où l'on parle de littérature, échange des idées, écoute des extraits de livres lus par des comédiens, assiste à des spectacles érudits tout en dégustant un café, ou autre boisson. A café littéraire is a meet-up place where one talks about literature, exchanges ideas, listens to book excerpts read by performers, participates in intellectual plays, all while enjoying a coffee or other drink. (French text from Wikipedia)

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.



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

"Namedropping in Paris"

When Robin invited me to Paris to speak at her book salon my first thought was No. I can't

It was a reaction that made very little sense given that my big dream in life was to one day experience an historical tradition: le café littéraire. And here was the chance! A longtime reader and supporter was not only inviting me to one--she wanted me to be a guest speaker!

It was not the first time opportunity knocked on my door. A few years ago I had the chance to speak at Karen Fawcett's--in her beautiful salon overlooking Paris. That event, in which I sat cross-legged on the floor eating a home-cooked meal and chatting with journalists and authors (including Cara Black!), was a stepping stone. So how is it that when another stepping stone appears, I sometimes want to stay put?

I'm laughing now realizing I'm not the only one to stay put. I am finally at Robin's, on rue Cherche Midi, waiting for the first guests to arrive. Only they're in limbo too! The ascenseur appears to be broken and they can't make it up to the 6th floor!

A few minutes later the couple appears, faces glowing from their trek up several flights! The initial thought of climbing six flights was daunting, but now they're at the party. And, so, metaphorically, am I!

Familiar faces begin to arrive, including longtime readers Rosemary and Bernard:


By now the elevator is working and invités are pouring in, along with fellow guest-speaker Ann Mah. I begin to wonder about two things: will everyone fit and will there be a chance to have a meaningful conversation with each guest?

The first question has already been thought out by Robin's husband John. He googled it: "stand up reception how many people can fit into 4 X 6 meters?" Sure enough, there's elbow room for everyone!

As for meaningful conversations, I notice there are many unfamiliar faces. Which were friends of Robin's? Friends of Ann's? Or readers of my blog? Should I just march right up and introduce myself? (And come off as cheesy as a used-car seller?) (Note: nothing against used-car sellers!)

Once at a booksigning in New York I tried circling the room, intent on thanking each person for coming out to the event. The next morning I received a vitriolic email from a guest who had hired a babysitter and driven all the way to the event--only to be "ignored" by the author! 

Looking around Robin's apartment, now full to the brim with guests, a variation of "speed-dating" seemed a good solution this time! All we needed was a bell to keep things moving along--and wouldn't you know one manifested that very instant!

Only the chime I had just heard was the call of Robin's voice....

"Thank you everyone for coming! I would now like to introduce you to our speakers!"


No time for speed-dating, we needed to high-tail it over to those chairs beside the fireplace!

Ann and I sat wringing our hands during the introduction, but our presenter put us at ease. We listened as Robin shared the story of a chance meeting and a growing friendship.

Robin told about the day I received an unexpected email from Simon and Schuster. I remember nearly falling out of my chair the moment I checked my inbox. Soon after I would learn about Ann Mah--the then journalist from Beijing who had discovered my blog and sent a link to the New York publishing house! That was in 2005. Ann and I have been getting to know each other ever since. And reading Ann's latest book Mastering The Art of French Eating, I've learned even more about my down-to-earth friend (who knew this food journalist's favorite comfort food is toast?!).

Before Ann and I spoke to the audience, Robin took the time to acknowledge some of the others in attendance, many of whom had helped her realize her own dream of coming to France. Adrian Leeds, Karen Fawcett, Ann and Kirk WoodyardHeather Stimmler-Hall, Janet Skeslien Charles, Marjorie Williams, Victoria FeraugeKatia Grimmer-Laversanne, Meredith MullinsBrian Spence, Mary Winston Nicklin of France Today -- the journalist, bloggers, and writers and bookstore owner all contribute to our crush on France.

Pictured left to right: Marjorie, Anne, Robin, Adrian, and Karen. Thanks to Anne's husband, Kirk Woodyard, for taking many of these photos!

I could relate to what Robin was saying when she told the audience she could pinch herself, being here in Paris surrounded by a community of writers. I felt the same way, and Ann acknowledged the sentiment too when she answered Robin's question What's the best thing about having published book? by holding out her hands, embracing those who had gathered in the name of shared stories and the love of France.


The audience response was so warm and encouraging. But I still feared someone could go home disappointed. That email from New York still haunted me. But Robin's next announcement eliminated any chances of that!

"For those who have come here to spend a moment with Ann or Kristi, you can meet with them at their private stations." (Ann's station was in front of the fireplace and mine was in the only other space available: the bedroom!)

It was finally time to put to rest my worry of disappointing a reader, and what better place to put it to rest than in bed? I took my seat on the edge of the bed where Robin had placed a stack of my books, a pen, and my publicity flyers.

"If anyone wants to talk to me, I'm here in the boudoir. Come on in!"

(First in line was Bernard, whose eyes twinkled. "I’m going to tell Jean-Marc that I was in the boudoir with you!!" he said, chuckling as he handed me my book to sign.)

*    *    *

Phew! I hope you made it through this story. Events like this are the most difficult for me to write about. There is always so much to say and so many different ways of recounting the event (and I didn't even get to mention the delicious amuse-bouches or bite-sized hors d'œuvre, that Robin served--along with the champagne). Thank you very much for reading! Click here to respond.

A word about the title of today's story
Namedropping in Paris is a funloving poke at a commenter who wrote in following my previous post. I wrote back that it was not my intention to puff up my story (or myself) by mentioning local personalities--but that it's good to shine the light on other bloggers and writers--and point readers to other stories beside my own. Here are a few more places to visit:

Sponsored by:
Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.


It was a sheer delight to meet Rina, seated here listening to Robin's presentation. Rina, I have good news: I'll be back in Paris on April 8th. I've been invited to speak at Adrian Leed's "Après Midi"! More info to come! 

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bibliotheque + American Library in Paris & Ann Mah and Patricia Wells!

Authors and journalists Patricia Wells and Ann Mah are as down-to-earth as dandelions--something these culinary divas could appreciate--sauteed with lardons fumés (and a glass of Mas des Brun rosé bien sûr!) 

la bibliothèque (bih-blee-oh-tek)

    : library

Confession: I still mix up the terms bibliothèque and librairie, but une librairie--no matter how misleading name--is still a book store as we noted here.

Audio File & Example Sentence: Will try to update--as soon as Jean-Marc finished his vineyard chores!

Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France. Click here for pictures.


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

When I realized my train arrived in Paris's Gare de Lyon at 5pm--not long before the exciting book event--I doubted there would be time to do more than drop off my bag at my hosts' apartment on Rue du Cherche-Midi. I had hoped to arrive early to the American Library and score good seats at the author talk featuring Patricia Wells and Ann Mah!

"Don't worry, we have plenty of time," Robin said, showing me to her guest room. Take off those heels and come have a little snack. Did I prefer salé or sucré? my hostess quizzed, and when I saw the plate of artfully arranged fruit--framboises, clementines, and myrtilles--the choice was fastoche!  

"Have you met John before?" Robin asked, as I stood in the hallway studying a charming and familiar face.

Had we met? Or was the internet playing tricks on me again? Had I seen so many pictures of Robin's cheri--on Facebook and through photo-sharing--that I couldn't distinguish between the real and a virtual meeting? 

Heureusement, the same doubts seemed to be plaguing my host--who quickly broke the embarrassing spell by sharing kisses on both cheeks (i.e. on a fait la bise). 

After the raspberries and blueberries and kisses we were now one hour away from the big event! Were we sure to make it on time? 

"Will we take the metro?" I hinted, as Robin dressed for the event (putting on her belt with the gold panther buckle). Quelle question. Of course my hostess would get us there. In leopard time! If God created a guardian angel to help travelers navigate Paris in all her complexity, that ange (with panther accents) would be Robin. She knows all the shortcuts, whether it's getting from point A to point B--or getting a good bite to eat!

As we sped towards the 7th arrondissment, Robin lavished compliments on our driver. UBER is the best company and the drivers are as charming and helpful as this young man. Our cabbie lit up, delighted by the attention, and he laughed as Robin shared disaster stories regarding the competition (like the time one Parisian cabbie refused to clear his lunch off the passenger seat, preferring to keep his sandwich and coffee intact and turn away passengers who needed a lift!). 

Arriving smack in front of the American Library, the historic bibliothèque was deceivingly silent. Little did we know that behind the front door the place was buzzing with excitement and the seats were already being snapped up.

It seemed we were early so Robin suggested we get a more substantial bite to eat. Just around the corner from the library a bistro happened to have the most delicious and fluffy croque-monsieurs we'd ever tasted!

Still unaware of the crowds that were forming inside the library, we took a leisurely moment to compliment our waiter on the food we'd just eaten. But what was the French word for "fluffy". Légère? aéré? I suggested, deciding to inform him of the cozy English word instead: Fluffy! We say fluffy!

By the time we entered the library I was feeling like a fluff-brain, duped by the silence that had fooled us a half-hour before. But Robin didn't waste time with regrets--she beelined it to the seating area and charmed someone into switching places--so as to free up two side-by-side seats. Robin then gave those seats to her husband and me, and grabbed a stepping stool for herself.

Audience at American Library
Where's Waldo? I took off my glasses as soon as the speakers finished. Dumb idea, for then I couldn't recognize the other local personalities!

In addition to the fascinating speakers, there was a host of interesting characters in the audience! I recognized Karen Fawcett from Bonjour Paris and Ann and Kirk of Music and Markets and Lisa Taylor Huff of The Bold Soul and photographer Meredith Mullins. And, studying this picture (swiped from Ann Mah's Facebook page) I wonder was that Lindsey Tramuta sitting only a row behind me? Zut, I didn't see her at the time!

But, as you can see, if many of the local personalities blended in incognito, it's because all eyes were on the speakers who mesmerized the room!

I put on my glasses and listened as Charles Truehart, the American Library's director, honored the speakers in a warm introduction, and he also took the time to encourage readers to support this beloved library!    

And without delay, Mr Trueheart turned the spotlight over to the writers of Mastering the Art of French Eating and The French Kitchen Cookbook--who would now be interviewing each other.

We were in for a treat as Patricia Wells began, using every bit of her journalism know-how to familiarize us with Ann Mah. We learned about Ann's first book, Kitchen Chinese, and about her go-to comfort meal: toast! (A confession that caused the guy behind me to "Huh?" aloud. I guessed he needed to read Ann's book. Then he'd be chuckling like me :-)

When it was Ann's turn to interview Patricia, Ann admitted to using a bit of crowdsourcing to come up with some good questions. Ann's avowal was so heartening! It was good to know that even seasoned journalists, like Ann, are stumped for words when facing their heros.

And by the time Ann finished her interview, Patricia Wells--lover of slow food and clearly someone with a warm and welcoming joie de vivre--had become my hero too! 

To respond to this post, click here. Did you locate me in the picture above? Were you by chance at this event? Or are you familiar with these authors? Which books are your favorites? Add to today's post by sharing feedback here.

P.S. Among the local personalities in the audience, was Marjorie Williams, author of Markets of Paris. She wrote a wonderful write up of Ann and Patricia's talk, here. And we'll see her again soon... when I tell you about the Champagne Book Signing at Robin's--where I had the honor of joining Ann Mah to talk about writing and France! 

French Vocabulary

salé = salty
sucré = sugary
une framboise = raspberry
une myrtille = blueberry
clementine = little orange
fastoche = easy, easy-peasy
heureusement = happily
on a fait la bise = we kissed-greeted

Two places to stay in postcard pretty France:

“La Trouvaille”--a true find in Provence!  Affordable vacation rental in this beautiful old stone house in the charming village of Sablet. 

New rental in Provence! La Baume des Pelerins, in Sablet--spacious, comfortable the perfect place to return to after a busy day’s sightseeing, bicycling or hiking.

Good to have a guardian angel who knows the Paris transit system (thanks, Robin!)--or I'd panick, taking any apparent option. Scoot over, leafy commuters, make room for me! Now, how to say "Hit it!" in French? 

To comment on today's post, click here and many thanks for reading!

Has a friend forwarded you this letter? Sign up here for your own free French Word-A-Day! 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Our former vineyard now also a B&B

Our former vineyard is now a B&B. Would you like a room with a view? Read on!

chambre d'hôte (shahmbrh-dote)

    : B&B

Audio File - (includes an extra term for you: "à titre onéreux"). Listen to the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Les chambres d'hôtes sont des chambres meublées situées chez l'habitant en vue d'accueillir des touristes, à titre onéreux, pour une ou plusieurs nuitées, assorties de prestations.

B&Bs are furnished rooms situated at the homeowner's with the aim of welcoming tourists, for a fee, for one or more nights, and various services.

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

If you have been reading this blog for more than a year, then you were there when we moved from the Rhône to "appellation Bandol" (my sneaky way of not telling you which village we actually live in!). 

I wasn't always this secretive; once upon a time we opened up our vineyard to thousands of guests. The lieu, or place, was perfect for receiving groups and it was a lot of fun hosting those weekly wine-tastings, where we had the chance to meet so many people. Though we welcomed visitors into our home, one thing we never did at Domaine Rouge-Bleu was offer lodging.

Now all that has changed--ever since the new owners moved in! I've written about Caroline and Thomas before, but I wanted to take a moment to reintroduce this charming couple from Australia (she's from Perth) and France (he's from the Vosges).

Caroline and Thomas
Here they are toasting to our new vineyard, in the appellation Bandol area...

When we put our vineyard on the market, in 2012, it was not easy finding the right people to take up where Jean-Marc had left off. His vines, remember, are his babies. Selling our home meant giving up our vines for adoption. Who would be the most loving, caring parents? Would they remember to sing lullabies and would they race out to protect little Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan in the middle of the night? 

Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse
That first harvest Jean-Marc exhausted himself caring for his vines. Whomever took over his vines would have to be willing to sweat.

Before Caroline and Thomas miraculously appeared, we had a few dubious candidates. One man (looking like a Scandinavian Mick Jagger) showed up in his Rolls Royce. After touring the house he tiptoed anxiously across the muddy driveway to have a peek into the wine cellar.

"Is it very complicated to make wine?" he asked.

At a loss for words, I guessed he could expand the domain into a recording studio--as the former owner of Brangelina's vineyard did--but I knew Jean-Marc wouldn't go for this--not unless the buyer was Bono. Only then would Jean-Marc reconsider! But then he'd have me to contend with--and I'd rather open a seed-saving factory for Heirloom varietals!)

Sorry for getting off-topic. Moving on, another couple arrived for a look-see but were quickly factored out when the woman giggled, "This could be fun! We weren't actually looking for a vineyard but why not?" 

While "fun" certainly tempers the grueling work day of a wine-maker--there are just as many days when a farmer loses all hope. These mettle-testing moments define a true vigneron. To find the perfect parents--or proprietaires--Jean-Marc wasted no more time with the real-estate ads. He went headhunting for Caroline and Thomas!

We knew the couple (and friends of ours) were sincere about winemaking when they overlooked the extraneous details: like our inelegant storage rooms (old maritime shipping containers) and our homely company car (certainly no Rolls Royce--would Scandinavian Mick have driven it?)

"That'll work!" Caroline said, overlooking the clunker's appearance, appreciating, instead, its utility. 

"You can get a lot of buckets in the back! Lots of grapes!" I chirped. But there was no need to sell her on our family van-turned-vineyard vehicle. Caroline was happy to adopt the car--along with the vines.

Photo of Caroline and me taken last weekend. Sorry for the blurry picture, you can wag your finger at the photographer, Martha Melvin.

I had always admired Caroline's no-nonsense personality, and beyond her beautiful exterior a creative, intelligent, and hardworking farmer was longing to make wine. It was sad we were moving because I would miss spending more time with Caroline--having shared a love of plants, "repurposing" objects, and slow food. 

Her partner, Thomas , equally charming and hardworking, has extensive experience in wine retailing. He managed a wine/beverage company in London before he and Caroline bought our Domaine Rouge-Bleu vineyard. Thomas enjoys speaking about and sharing his knowledge of wine.

And together the couple now runs a B&B at Domaine Rouge-Bleu--in the 17th century mas that came with the vineyard!!!

You can see all the photos of the wonderful improvements they have made (last year they added beautiful blue shutters to the old farmhouse!). And be sure to like their Facebook page, which they regularly update with news of their Domaine Rouge-Bleu vineyard's progress.

Also check out their website--where you will see pictures of the beautiful B&B rooms they have available (they've transformed my writer's nook into a bedroom with ensuite bath overlooking the vines! Or, if you prefer, you can stay in Jean-Marc's former office-come-cozy chambre.

Don't hesitate to reserve your room in this beautiful vineyard. And please tell them Kristi sent you!

Bye bye vineyard dogs, Domaine Rouge-Bleu now has a vineyard cat. Say bonjour to Mirabelle!

I leave you now with some of my favorite things to do in the area of Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes, where Domaine Rouge-Bleu is located. When you book a room at Caroline and Thomas's vineyard,  you'll be located right in the middle of dozens of postcard pretty villages!

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Grignan, only a 25 minute drive north, is brimming with roses in May--and it's a fun place to have a coffee and maybe swipe some sugar.


Buis-les-Baronnies--where lovely characters appear around every photogenic corner


Not far from Orange, Roquemaure is a fun stroll. And the villagers are chatty and warm.


And Caromb is so poetic you might find yourself talking to the windows..... Out of room now, or I might've posted photos of Sablet--speaking of which....

Sponsored by: Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. Click here for photos.

Mas de la Perdrix-002

So as not to confuse anyone, our new vineyard--in appellation Bandol--is not a B&B (in case you were looking for comfortable digs in France...).

To comment on this post, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.