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

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav

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


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Marcy Alexander

What a joyous post, Kristin! I felt as if I was there with you - and the scene of the sheep bundling together is just delightful. I have to explore a trip your way in the next year -

Cheers every day -



Dear Kristen:

I can just picture Breizh returning to all the laughter and hugs and thinking, "What's all this fuss about? I was merely napping!"

David's boot-- it took me the longest to see it. I found the shoe-flower first, and thought that was it for a bit, till I peered once more at the door.

I visited Tess' site last time you mentioned her... that sounds like such a lovely French vacation. The pictures in today's post make seem even more so! Maybe one day... The quinoa salad sounds amazing-- as well as your artichoke soup photo and recipe over on Instagram-- gorgeous and delicious!

And the shepherdess! Oh, the stories that must exist in her weathered and wizened face. I do hope you get to return one day and sit at her feet and bask in some of her well-earned wisdom, and nab that photo-- if it does not make her too uncomfortable.

YAY! Jules returns! So happy for all of you. Wonderful of Jean Marc to accommodate her wishes by making her an entrance from her room to the beautiful garden.

Bisous et câlins a vous tous!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Thanks for sharing, Kristin, and taking us along on your country stroll.

I also took a stroll through Alison's sight; her voice is very soothing. Oh, how I would love to pick up and go!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

oops ... should be "site"

​"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." Jon Kabat-Zinn

John P Senetto

Bon Jour Kristin,
It's a shame your friend Tess only has one leg. How does she manage to drive?
Love your FB stuff,
John P Senetto

Kristin Espinasse

Alisa, Glad you discovered the boot from the wall, where it blends right in! 

John, it took me the longest time to figure out your comment about Tess only having one leg. I thought: Well what have I managed to leave out of my story this time (or to subconsiously add in!) And then I remembered the single boot photo. Haha. Tess mustve left the other boot beside the lavender patch, where shes busy chasing away the wild boar, boot in hand!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Kristin, I found the boot right off, but I thought I missed something, too! Slow to John's humor I guess. :)

John P Senetto

Ha, ha, I'm glad you guy's didn't take offense. It just struck me funny, the one boot that belong's to Tess.

Bon jour est amicalement

John P Senetto


That does look like Paradise, Kristi! What a beautiful life! Breizh has the right idea, to fall asleep in the blossoms. I would join her in a flash.

You must be getting very excited about Jules's visit.

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Lovely post and photos, Kristi! Regarding the shepherdess -- I don't think I could have resisted making a few pictures, but certainly after taking the time to "warm her up". She has the right to say no, you know. Hmmmm, maybe you'll go again one day soon.


Our dear Kristi,
Thank you for this wonderful post and gorgeous pictures.
We are instantly transported to a place of peace and tranquility....a joyful place we don't want to leave and will revisit often.
I have created a lovely image of the shepardess in my mind.Sometimes better than the real thing!
What a gift you have given us!
Natalia. Xo


Another delightful blog! Merci encore! 17 days to go when you (plural) will meet another amazing, delightful person. Perhaps you won't agree but David and Fred seem to look somewhat alike. Je pence que tous va bien le 22 and 23 Mai. Comme toujours.


What a wonderful, blissful day you must have had ... :-)

Andrea Hughes

The camera sure loves the French countryside, doesn't it! The epitome of a pastoral scene!

Julie Farrar

So glad your day ended better than it started. As a new eater of quinoa, I will have to try the recipe you mentioned. I'm sure it will be healthier than all the fingerling potatoes my husband and I slice and saute in butter when in France (yum!). Back from my own day at the local nursery with the first load of plants to stick in the ground. I hope someday to see the fabulous work you've done with your own garden in Bandol.

Faye, Gleneden Beach, Oregon

Great post & fab photos. It made my morning. So glad your mom is with you. Enjoy!

Stay well!

j gibson

Kristin, Where is your hat out in the lovely sunny countryside?

Petrina in Brittany

What a great post & such wonderful photos! Still keeping everything crossed for Smokey.

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

I’m so glad your day went as planned! A day with friends, especially when the setting is one of such beauty, is restorative to the soul. Tessa’s home and surroundings look like absolute paradise to me. Thank you for sharing your day with us. I am so curious as to that shepherdess! Her dog is lovely as is Tomas.

I’m checking out the courses taught by both women; dreams, plans and travel also do the soul good! Lovely day dear friend!

Karen Cafarella

So glad Breizh was just napping. I always got scared when I couldn't find my fur baby.

The pictures at Tess's are so warm and inviting.

Have a great time with your Mom!! Looking forward to the adventures of Jules and Kristi.


edie schmidt


There is nothing like a lovely day spent with good friends to lift your spirits!

Edie from Savannah

Francine Huffman

Bonjour Kristi,
You are living the life that the rest of us envy! Please, never stop writing your marvelous blogs through which your readers and devoted fans live vicariously. You would be sorely and sadly missed!
Will you kindly share your beauty secrets with us at some point too? Somehow, as humble as you are beautiful, I strongly suspect that you will attribute your beauty and countenance to the magical Provence in which you reside.
Looking forward to your next posting.
Francine Huffman 🌹👒😍🌷🇫🇷

Jan Leishman

Lovely post - and Lorgues is so close to Les Arcs where we'll be in July-August! You have made your beautiful wide-brimmed hats your 'signature'.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi J, that is me in the hat - I am taking a photo of Alison, farther away in the field.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Your readers have so well described the gift of friendship and the magic of Provence that you have brought to us in this post. The pictures are "Jules-worthy". Any of them would make a beautiful painting, especially the one on Instagram of you alone, kneeling in the flower field. So many treasures await your mom at the end of her journey to Provence. Enjoy your precious time together~

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,

I love this post today! What a perfect day! "La chipie" looks so lovely among the daisies! :-)

Diane Young

Hail, Jules! What a time you two will have. We all look forward to reading about the visit.
Have fun and make beautiful memories.

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