peau de banane: soothes the skin, whitens teeth
apprendre à se connaître

Favorite word for car in French

2cv classic french citroen car

A car is une voiture in French. But the word "bagnole" has so much more character--and this 2CV, especially. Speaking of character, read about it in today's story!

la bagnole (ban-yol)

    : car; ride, set of wheels

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

Last Sunday I hid in our bathroom as our guests collected their purses and coats. "I'll be right back," I said, promising to meet up again in the parking lot, where we were about to drive to the beach.

Hightailing it to the loo, I locked the door and sat down to collect my thoughts. This particular W.C. is hidden behind another "guest" restroom--the one I keep as tidy as possible in spite the crackling paint. But all my efforts to conceal the parts of our life that are not up to snuff were about to crumble like the paint next door.... 

As I sat on the throne of our hidden W.C., my guest's words echoed in my mind: "We'll need to take your car." 

My car? But my car was worse than a mess! Sticky with after-school snacks, it attracted dust, parking receipts and dog hair (heavier items--such as books--collected on the floor). This accumulation of horrors is my secret shame, and it was about to come waltzing out of the closet with a toothless grin on its face. Like drunken kin who show up to the party unbidden, so was I at heart: undisciplined.

But no, it isn't true. Just because my car is a mess doesn't mean that I'm one too!  And so went my reasoning as I sat on the pot, in the dark--the light-bulb having burst weeks ago.

And then another light went off.... It occurred to me that if I sat there long enough things might work themselves out on their own! I leaned forward, putting my ear to the bathroom door. I could hear Jean-Marc chatting with our guests. Knowing my husband, he was busy redirecting everyone towards the other bagnole--our guest's car. I needed only to wait out the crisis a little longer--then appear in time to dive into someone else's back seat, in time to avoid humiliation.

Alas, when I exited the petit coin I was surprised to discover one of our guests getting into my car! At that point I was left with one all-consoling thought:

Character. Remember. It is what you most admire in others. So why not begin to appreciate it in yourself?

Shifting the car in reverse, I heard the familiar jingling. Besides dust, who else has a sheep bell tied to their gear stick? I smiled at my graceful passenger and we both laughed as my car lurched out of the driveway, jingling all the way to the shimmering blue sea.

*    *    * 

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French Vocabulary
w.c. = water closet, toilet
la bagnole = car
le petit coin = powder room

Creperie du hameau

Had a wonderful time at our meetup yesterday, meeting a handful of delightful readers. Will have more photos and a story for you soon! Beside me, in dark blue, is Najima, who, along with husband Frédéric, run this delicious crêperie in the port of Madrague (near St. Cyr sur Mer).

See another cool French bagnole in the post "Where to Rent a Car in France"

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


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Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

Charming as usual, Kristin. I always marvel at how your stories seem to have a perfect rhythm to them. Brava!

P.S. I'll be emailing you again soon re: My Paris Story!



Yes, that old car is perfect for me as i march along my road to destiny. I was thinking it might be great for my 70th, yes I am planning my big bash a couple of years early - so everything will be in place for my big day. i definitely want to spend some time at your lovely friend ¨Najima´s¨cafe on the Mediterranean Sea. What more could I ask for…except of course that darling CV.

Love your stories, they always hit a home run in my life. I would die if someone ever looked in my dresser.



Mary liz

You hit the nail on the head. Who of us has not had that moment you so aptly describe ....not being up to snuff in ...well...something...anything!
Our kids, or our house, or our job, or our hair, or our figure, ...or something!
The marvelous thing is that you can toss all this out the window and chuckle about it ...Bravo.
Mary Liz


My "dirty little secret": my garage. The black hole where everything that can't find its tidy home in the house goes to reside in shame. Inevitably someone is walking by or out in their yard when I have to open the door. "What," they must wonder, "Does the INSIDE of the house look like?" But the inside looks magnifique, thanks to the "holding tank" beyond. In this world, as busy as everyone seems to be, who has time to keep ALL the balls in the air? Something must be let go. How much better to do as you did, Kristi, to realize that the really important thing in life is the good time that can be had with gracious friends and family. So open the doors-- car doors or garage doors-- and rejoice!


A wonderfully organized and creative friend once had this posted on her refrigerator:

"A clean stall is the sign of a dead horse."

Glad to know you are alive and kicking!!

Jan in Atlanta

Here's what's happening, Kristi: You are busy living life! You have your priorities right, it seems to me. My most recent embarrassing moment came yesterday when my daughter, who was visiting, had to help me flush one of my cats out from under my bed. My room was a real mess, but the day had started with an alarm going off, then, since we were all up anyway, why not go birding for a few hours on a beautiful spring morning...voilà!

Chris Allin

I'll bet ol' LSE took a tumble as you climbed into your car, Kristin! appears in all your stories and is what endears you to this reader. That, plus sensitivity and your wonderful sense of humor~

Karen from Towson, Md


I love it when a "YIKES" moment turns into an "Ain't no big THANG" moment. It's those little personal unveilings in life that set us free.


Thanks Susan! I'm penning a 'clean stall...dead horse '
sign right away!

Kristin Espinasse

Susan, love the stall sign. Want to copy it, like Cindy!

Chris and Jan, thank you, and everyone, for these cheering messages, kicking LSE in the pants!

Mom, happy to know you are planning your 70th, this many years in advance. Hope you are feeling better today. 

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Never heard the stall quote before but, having grown up around horse, love that! Here's another old stand by: "Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.” ― Bernard M. Baruch

Patricia Sands

A car with character is so much more fun than one spotless and without personality. How lovely to get in the car and immediately laugh! Life is what it is … carry on, Kristin … it's what's in your heart not what's in your car that counts! (LOVE 2CV ~ I smile every time I see one!)


Mine reeks of personality. It's a mini-office.

Julie Farrar

"Character. Remember. It is what you most admire in others. So why not begin to appreciate it in yourself?"

We all could use this reminder sometimes. For me the issue is my house. In the ten years we've lived in this very old house I've not gotten organized enough to begin the renovations it's in sore need of. At first I was hesitant to sign up to host the neighborhood needlework group because my house wasn't as nice as those that had been brought back/updated to their former glory. However, I wanted to do my share for the group, so I clean it up the best I can and focus on baking treats they all rave about. And it's great fun. (However, this is the year we have the renovation plans drawn up).

Bridey Porter

Il faut vous dire que la formule "le petit coin" est une des plus charmantes en français.

When I was much younger, I worked in an upscale hotel in California. When any of us needed to use the restroom, to excuse ourselves and not be vulgar in the face of our well-heeled guests, we would simply declare that we would be "around the corner." I still use that phrase today, although no one ever knows what I mean.

catharine ewart-touzot

I like what Julie has said. Character is what you admire most, and what most of us admire most. There are so many homes, streets, hotels, cafes, in France and elsewhere that are quite perfect.. but for you and for me and for 100's of others that is not what we want to see, or live in, or buy, or visit or read about; wee want to see the humanity of the scene. My son keeps his cars spotless, I do not. I enjoy getting into my son's cars, and I wish my cars were neat, but I guess, they could be neat if I really wanted. My house with it's flaws is fairly neat. Kristin..stop beating yourself up and realize you have followers because you, we love the "mess".

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Ladies, for these wise words! It is such a pleasure to read every comment. 

Julie, I relate 100 percent to what you say and am happy to know you went ahead--and made treats for everyone, too! We have guests coming tomorrow and I did not go out and buy a new tablecloth. Am busy washing placemats--the ones that came with the house (as did the table and the buffet). The furniture is not Louis V, but it was loved and lived with by the family who spend summers here, for years and years before we moved in. The other day (with the guests in the story) we drank water out of jam jars. I really did not have anything else as the dishwasher was full. The same gracious lady who rode with me in the car made a lovely comment while sipping her water and eyeing the jar: Bonne Maman--my favorite jam! Just the right thing to say! (Thank you Diana, if you are reading XOXO)

Gordon Lyman

Kristi, I've learned from you that one could know all the words, and the rules for stringing them together, but without that remarkable honesty you have, there'd be a whole lot less to read.
Don't the French have an expression, "Bonne courage"?
Anyway, I say you have wonderful courage, and it makes all the difference.
I admire too the license JM and your other family people give you to bring them into your lively essays.




I once had a neighbor who didn't want her unexpected guests to see her bathroom, so she told them hers wasn't working and sent them all over to my house to use mine! That was appalling! How I love la bagnole with the Little Prince. Charming, as are your tales of life. I always look forward to them.

Sandy Maberly

My car is a continual embarrassment ...not to me, but to Mark! It is always packed to the gills with bits of furniture, planks of wood, tie down straps, old tire, plastic tarps, grocery bags, etc. On our way to the pub on Friday nights we can't even stop to give a ride to friends who may be walking through the village because the back seat is always full! We finally took it through a car wash the other day and Mark, being his usual sarcastic self, exclaimed that he'd forgotten that the color was red. :-)

Kristin Espinasse

Gordon, thank you very much!

Ginene, what a story! Thanks for sharing :-)


Our dear Kristi,
What a wonderful post today!(as always)
But what a beautiful message you give us: be yourself!People--especially friends--are not going to judge us if our car is full of fun stuff(more like they'll appreciate not having to walk!)Or if we drink beverages from jam jars!I remember one gathering we had with every piece of' china' and 'silver' mis matched.(this was long before it was okay to do this!)Our guests still talk about it because everyone was at ease
and enjoying the casual ambiance instead of feeling uptight!
As we get older we realize that it's just THE best feeling to just be ourselves and not worry what people might say or think.My parents told me this--at the time I thought it was baloney--now I agree with them!
Natalia. xo

Bob Haine

I noticed after a few minutes of looking at the Citroën 2CV what made it so interesting: On the right side and on the back side (and I assume on the left side as well) are copies of drawings from "Le Petit Prince". Included are the Little Prince and his planet (actually an asteroid named B612), the planets of the geographer, the king, the lamplighter, as well as the migration of wild birds that helped him escape his planet. VIVE LE PETIT PRINCE!

Joan Linneman

And of course, in Le Petit Prince, the message of the renard fits right in your bagnole: "On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." Thanks to Bob for pointing out the decoration on the 2CV; I hadn't noticed.
Joan L.

Eileen deCamp

Great post today Kristin! We have all been there. I always have to say, "wait, let me clean it out first"… I always have lots of junk laying around every flat surface in the house too, magazines, papers, bills, etc. I love the stall sign saying! Is that your little bagnole in the photo?

Eleanor Baizman

Fell in love with your Le Petit Prince car! That's my favorite book so your car touched my heart!

Diane Young

Boy, can I relate to that.
Today when I got into my car, I vowed I would get it washed and vacuumed this week.
The Easter lily had fallen over before I made it home from the store on
Good Friday and I'd tried to vacuum up the dirt but it still looks bad. And all those stains from spilled liquids, crumbs from food. Quel horreur! Loved the sign about the stall. At least we're alive and running, messy car and all!


Kristin Espinasse

Natalia, thanks for your words, which always feel like hugs!

Eileen, no, that is not my car ... But wish it were! Loved your note: Wait, let me clean it out first! :-)

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Have just discovered this wonderful story a with its kindred-spirit comments a month later, Kristi and fellow fans, whilst clearing out my inbox -- what perfect timing, as I'm in the midst of the seasonal clothing and linens changeover, and spring-cleaning's topsy-turvy time. For me, it's merely a switch from one type of comfy clutter to another ... and a clinging to the established links between creativity and apparent physical 'chaos'! Adopting the Clean Stall saying IMMEDIATELY! And cherishing your own beautiful reminder, warm as a fond embrace:
"Character. Remember. It is what you most admire in others. So why not begin to appreciate it in yourself?"
Merci, merci, merci --

Christopher Reinhold

Appreciate it regarding share.......... I am hoping inside foreseeable future it will be definitely great for us......

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