Mois & May in France: two things to know
Delightful words and company: ravigoter

S'esclaffer: Never do this alone in France

 Smokey gets his stitches out today (test results back next week). Here he is taking a break from that uncomfortable cone, the protective collerette he has worn for two weeks. 

Tomorrow is le premier Mai.  Click here to learn what the French are up to.


    : to guffaw, to burst out laughing

listen to Jean-Marc
Download MP3 or Wav

S'esclaffer, çela veut dire de éclater de rire bruyamment. Exemple: Je me suis esclaffé d'un gros rire devant les dames dans la magasin. To guffaw means to burst out laughing. Example: I burst out laughing before the ladies in the store.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

By my 5th visit to the friperie, or thrift store, I was beginning to relax and even feel at home in what once seemed a secret private members only place for les démunis of our village.

"Mais non!" one of the volunteers insisted. "This shop is open to all!  Sales proceeds go toward helping those in need."

To think I could have been shopping here for years, instead of stopping in only to drop off sacks of clothes and bricoles! Once again, awkwardness and ripe imagination were to blame for robbing another of life's pleasures: getting out and rubbing elbows with the French.

And rub elbows I did as I squeezed through the rows, piles, and racks of second-hand clothing. Here is where I first spotted the bright green tunic (pictured here, at the end of this post). It seemed perfect--too good to be true. Why would anybody give up this pretty blouse? There must be a pépin.... Was the blouse secretly privately moche

"Do you like this top?" I asked one of the clerks, setting the matter straight.

"La couleur vous va à merveille, " the woman said, peering over her reading glasses for a better look. "The color really suits you."

"Merci!" I chirped, handing over one euro to the cashier before someone else discovered la chemise. After all, the place was buzzing with treasure-hunters. Looking around, the shop had everything: toasters, flower pots, wine racks, bed frames... and math teachers. Ah, there was Jackie's algebra tutor! So this is where she gets all those cool retro skirts....

"Bonjour, Valérie! " I said, kissing the institutrice on both cheeks. 

"How is Jackie?" 

"Fine! And you will never believe it: she is now sewing up a storm. (I knew Valérie would appreciate the news, as she herself is a talented seamstress. )

Valérie pointed out the piles of thrift clothing, "Tell Jackie to come here! She can pick out pants and tops and alter and recreate them as she likes!"

With that tip, Valérie blew me a kiss and hurried off to pay for  a few summer shirts. Still smiling in her direction, I watched as she picked up an old backpack. "Perfect for tomorrow's field trip!" She told the cashier. "How much?"

"I don't know," the clerk said. "Claudie, is this one for sale?"

The woman with the reading glasses looked up, "Je ne sais pas..."

"Elvire, do you know if this is ours... or someone else's?" 

"Antoinette..." is this our sac-à-dos... or a client's?"

Antoinette, in her endearing, whiskey-voiced French waved her hand and said: Qui sait! Vends-le! Who knows! Sell it!

As my eyes bobbed from one volunteer to the next, an amusing thought struck: What if Valérie was about to walk off with another client's bag!

That is when I heard the loudest, snorting laugh... The ridiculousness of the situation was just too funny. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt, and how good it felt to let go completely and share in the camaraderie!

Suddenly all activity in the shop stopped and you could hear a pin drop. Catching my breath I looked around. All eyes were trained on me. You'd think I had had une crise d'épilepsie the way the women were staring! The look on their faces was one of  sincere perplexion, even concern (not judgement or disdain).

What I had thought was chance moment of camaraderie, was just another awkward painful instant of being mal compris

Do you, dear reader, know the feeling?


To leave a comment, click here. Have you ever commited a cultural gaffe? What was it? And what else not to do when in France?




French Vocabulary

la friperie = secondhand clothes, thrift store
le démuni (la démunie) = destitute, helpless, down and out
une bricole = knickknack
le pépin = snag, hitch
moche = ugly
la chemise = shirt, blouse
instituteur, institutrice = school teacher
mal compris = misunderstood


Isn't friperie a fun French word? Here are some of your all time favorite French words. Click here--and add to this list!


Follow me on Instagram or Facebook and I will show you the nearby villages or what to see in the South of France! Many people write, asking for information, mais il suffit de me suivre...

Click here to follow me on Instagram - a wonderful site where you will find even more photos and info on France. Click here to follow me on Facebook.

If you prefer Twitter, click here. My post are automatically shared there.


And thank you for sharing today's post with a friend, who may enjoy these stories and photos--this last one taken in Vaison La Romaine.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Leslie M. Ficcaglia

Oh, I adore friperies! I got some wonderful sweaters at one in the Périgord the last time I was in France. Those and vide greniers are such fun!



More years ago than I care to admit, we were looking for an auberge in northern France. We stopped at a rural establishment and I asked "combien?". "Quatorze Francs" was the reply (yes, that long ago - 1969!). My imperfect French mistook this for "Quarante". "Merci, mais c'est trop cher" I said, and turned to leave. As I walked out of the door, I realised my mistake. We went back and apologised profusely. There was laughter all round and we spent a night there which I still remember fondly.

Roger Anderson

Smokey has many, many followers pulling for him to come through this as he did his early life injury. We're hoping for a good report and a good prognosis. Good luck Smokey!

Heather in Arles

Oh dear, I SO know the feeling. Isn't it crazy that after all of these years of living here we can still find ourselves in such situations? I have more stories like this than I can count!

For a while in Arles, one of the sellers at the friperie and the Wednesday market was getting his clothing from some source in Switzerland. Will you believe me when I tell you that I got the MOST amazing things from him during that time? Prada, Versace, Hugo Boss and Gucci for Remi, a Burberry trenchcoat and all for not more than 5€ the piece! Eh oui, I was mighty sad when he went back to his usual source!

Sending so much Love and Strength to beautiful Smokey...and to you all as well...

Judith Dunn

Been there,done that "... would be me...more times than I care to recall! My best wishes and prayers for Smokey! Think positive!, judi Dunn,
Tallahassee...( currently in Savannah, Ga. Marooned in the hotel room bathroom, with " pirate's revenge'.....beautiful and historic city. The food is
Delicious but very is always an adventure. J.


I often have those "I'm the only one who gets the joke" moments. I suspect everyone thinks I'm one of those eccentrics now- or just steers clear. As for thrift stores, there are whole streets & more in English villages devoted to thrift stores, each store supporting a different cause - great for a wardrobe change!

Cindy Mc

Cultural gaffes? Oh la la! Every time I opened my mouth bien sur. Only the politeness of French culture, most of the time, kept me blissfully unaware. Gros bisou pour cher Smokey.


I still do not understand why it was a gaffe?

Kirk Woodyard

Certainly snort-worthy!! Wish I could have been there.
I check out Emmaeus and Oca Deco almost daily when we're in Aix.

Susan Dautel

We want to see you in the green blouse! Hugs to Smokey...

Suzanne Dunaway

Laughing out loud and long is the best medicine for anything, but I thought it might have been YOUR packback and you didn't recognize it....
So who's was it? Hilarious.
Laugh all you want and don't give a damn.


My experience with ladies in a store where I was out of place was more positive. I sometimes take visitors to a huge Provençal fabric store. As I cook, one day I was looking at aprons. A group of three French women thought it wonderful that a man would cook and they volunteered to help me find just the right one. I held up many and tried on a few until they judged I had found the perfect one for me. I think of those delightful women every time I put on my apron to cook.

Karen Cafarella

I have been there done that more times than I care to admit. But I just smile and move on.



I'd like to share a favorite poem of mine that I think you will like and is timely for May and the spring season.

by Xavier Marmier

Oh! quand revient le mois de mai,
Avec ses fleurs et son feuillage,
Ses rayons d'or, son ciel si gai,
L'homme attristé reprend courage.

Dans son âme renait l'espoir,
Son front sourit, son oeil s'éclaire;
Car les jours sont si beaux à voir,
Et l'existence est si légère.

Qu'importe quel fut son ennui,
Sous quel toit reposa sa tête?
L'oeuvre du ciel est tout à lui,
Le printemps l'appelle à sa fête.

A lui le vert et doux gazon,
Les flots que la lumière argente,
Les bleus contours de l'horizon,
Les bois épais, l'oiseau qui chante.

L'âme s'envole avec le jour
A travers la plaine fleurie;
Puis, vers le ciel, dans son amour,
Elle s'élance et rêve et prie.

Le monde entier nous appartient,
La vie alors est belle et pure:
Car le printemps du coeur revient
Avec celui de la nature.


Our dear Kristi,
What a(another) wonderful post today!
Laughter is always the best medicine,even if you are not sick!
My dear belle pere would create a joke that only he knew,enjoy it to the fullest__meanwhile,the rest of us might not 'get it'for days (which of course made it all the more funny!)
So happy sweet Smokey is getting his stitches out!His recovery is from your TLC and is a gift !
Natalia. Xo

Cynthia P. Lewis

Keep laughing and smiling and being your charming self, always!
Hugs for Smokey and Braize. Heartfelt best wishes for all.

Debbie Houston

Yes, I know awkward. In 2013 I was vacationing in Paris. I bought a tee shirt from a man, hoping he would simply take my money and say, "Merci." Instead he took my money and asked me a question. I had no idea what he was asking, but did not want to admit I didn't understand him, so I simply nodded my head. He proceeded to place my tee in a plastic bag. So I was lucky. He asked if I needed a bag for the tee. How risky, though! What if he had asked ... Let your imagination go.


Kristin, your story is delightful, as are many of the other readers' comments! If I had been standing in that store, I probably would have started laughing just because you were laughing. Laughter is contagious, even when we don't know what it is that someone might have found so funny.


The dear one - Smokey" looks relieved to have that cone lifted off of him, that alone should help his spirit soar to day.

A funny story - now you may be known as the "eccentric" American Writer-blogger to all the local's. Not bad - kinda nice actually!

Carpe diem!

catharine ewart-touzot

sounds like fun indeed


Hope all goes well with Smokeys test!! I have in the last couple years entered a couple consignment shops and thrift stores. You cannot beat paying $4 for jeans. What a deal!!!

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Delightfully charming read! You are not alone. You’ve lifted my already high spirits and had me laughing along with you, on this gorgeous first day of May.

Since high school, I thrift store shopped finding many treasures, only falling out of habit due to the business of the past ten years. In high school, my sister and I would also buy designer goodies (YSL, Rykiel)at the Nordstrom Rack which were marked down to thrift store prices and alter them to suit us.

Sending you a lily of the valley bouquet to celebrate the sweetness of your friendship. Hugs to you and Smokey too!


I did the same thing once in a restaurant in Paris when my husband asked me if "pas de frommage" meant "you're welcome" en français. If "des regards" could kill.


The blouse is very pretty and the color is great on you!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love the word friperie! I would have been right beside you laughing! Also, the sign with the date Jeudi 20 Juin looks like it has a picture of "tighty whities". Have you heard that phrase? I don't think most men wear those anymore, opting for the looser underwear. :-)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)