S'esclaffer: Never do this alone in France
mesaventure: Mom's mishap, Smokey's in limbo, and I choked on a pill

Delightful words and company: ravigoter

I love this picture of my friend, David, at his farmhouse in Lorgues. Notice the garden boot about to fade into the wall beside him. It belongs to his lovely wife, artist (and gardener) Tessa Baker. If you have the chance to attend Tessa's "Painting in Provence" course, this beautiful mas and its relaxing garden will be your inspiring retreat, and these cherished friends will be your hosts.

ravigoter (verb)

    : to perk up; to buck up

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Cette journée avec mes amies ainsi que la conversation avec Tessa et Alison m'ont ravigoté.
The day with my friends, as well as the conversation with Tessa and Alison, perked me up.

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

Not ten minutes after I took this photo of our 9-year-old golden, Breizh, she vanished. What was supposed to be a day of rest turned into a moment of unrest. Moment being the key word. When I can remember to stay in the now instead of pole-vaulting to a doomsday future, I can s'en sortir, or make it through just about any crisis.

And so it was that after checking the wine cellar, the garage, the TV room... circling the neighborhood in my car and calling the neighbors, Breizh stumbled back into the front yard, comme si de rien n'était.

La chipie!

I happened to be dialing my friend Tess, hoping she would help me sort out my panicked thoughts. I  was also about to cancel the plans we had to spend the day together.

   More photos on my Instagram page.

That's when You-Know-Who arrived, like a groggy grandmother. Given how slowly she was walking, there was no way she would have wandered off the property. And now I understood the situation: she'd gone for a nap in the backyard, fallen into a bed of blossoms where she was hidden from sight!

"I will see you in an hour," I chirped, hanging up the phone with Tess. Completely invigorated now, perked up or ravigoté, as the French say, I was ready to head out to Lorgues, to Tessa and David's former flower farm. Passing through Bandol, I pulled off the side of the road to buy several baskets of strawberries for our lunch, to go with la tarte aux pignons from the boulangerie.


And oh what a déjeuner! Nick (in black) brought a quiche lorraine, Martin (in red) offered a rotisserie chicken, Alison (in blue) and Tess (in white) added roasted asparagus, a cheese plate and salads to the table (the quinoa with pinenuts, truffle oil, and cilantro was the best! Tomas (below, center), whose leash was accidentally wrapped around my ankles as I sat in that chair, kept me from diving into the quinoa salad for the third time!)


 I had heard so much about Alison. She is a long-time friend of Tessa's, and she offers mindfulness retreats here in the South of France. My friend Michele had the chance to go to one, and spoke enthusiastically about her experience.

As eloquent and expressive as creative types can be, it is something else getting them to talk about their work, so I pinned Alison down for more information about her mindfulness retreats, challenging her to a two-line presentation. Voilà, here it now:

Alison Prideaux offers mindfulness weekend retreats with hiking and healthy juicing in the beautiful Gorges du Loup. A wonderful opportunity to refresh and relax by the crystal clear waters of the River Loup.
Thank you, Alison!


 After lunch Tess and Tomas drove us to Tessa's favorite spot. She calls it Paradise....


Some of the angels we saw in Paradise. Missing from the photo  is a picture of the shepherdess: an elderly woman who held both a staff and a pick for digging up wild plants. Her face was made up of a hundred wrinkles, deep as the river beside which we walked, and she wore layers of rags. I wanted her photo desperately, for the beauty of her character. But I did not dare ask for her picture and risk her wondering "Why?" Did she see herself as beautifully as we did? Or would she feel threatened and exposed? Would a photograph published in this journal exploit her?

When I get over all these complicated thoughts, perhaps I will venture back and ask to spend time with the shepherdess. 


One of the shepherdess's dogs.


Tess took this photo of Alison and me. It is a favorite, as it reminds me of what I love: taking pictures! Many more pictures from this lovely day, on my Facebook page.


On the one-hour drive home from Tessa's, the images from the afternoon trotted through my mind. How much more relaxing to think of sheep and rivers and fields of wildflowers, than to conjure up chaos.  So the next time you find your thoughts racing, head out to pasture: peace is as close as a park or a friend's back yard. 

Wishing you une bonne journée...


Meantime in our garden, a snail has found a custom-fit bed on the leaf of this white valerian plant. Help keep these photos and stories going out: purchase a copy of First French 'Essais'. Thank you for your support!

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