Serendipity in French: un heureux hazard
Paris story + How to say "locked out" in French?

How to feel alive in France & chapeau!

This picture appears in my book, where each hat represents a character in a preceding chapter. Some of these hats now represent the book's reviewers, including "Wise Owl," who writes:

 [Kristi] has lived in France most of her adult life raising a family and living in touch with the natural world. Her words and photographs capture the small and often unnoticed bits of buildings, blooms and interactions among people that help me feel that I have traveled to where she is, seeing new parts of daily life. Read the latest reviews for First French Essais: Venturing into Writing, Marriage, and France.

LE CHAPEAU (shah-poh)

    : hat

chapeau! = well done! bravo!
le chapeau de soleil = sunhat

AUDIO FILE: Thank you, Jean-Marc, for recording these helpful soundfiles in French! Listen here: Download  MP3 or WAV

Quand j'ai un chapeau, il m'arrive toujours des trucs extraordinaires. Mon chapeau d'aujourd'hui est un chapeau d'homme. Un feutre gris, très classique, chiné dans une friperie parisienne il y a déjà bien des années.... (from the text, Se faire des idées, by Landry Mestrallet)

English translation:
When I have on a hat, unusual things happen to me. My hat today is a men's hat. Gray felt, very classic, salvaged in a Parisian thrift store many years ago now...

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

After zigzagging down the street, wondering which way should I go? on my second-to-last day in Paris, I finally relaxed and followed my feet.

I had just turned right, onto rue du Chemin Vert, at times edging towards the buildings or teetering off the sidewalk into the gutter, allowing more-purposeful walkers to hurry by. I still had not decided whether to claim a free ride from Uber--and be instantly transported to Montparnasse--or to flâner on, in the 11th arrondisement, when a 6ft tall marker stopped me in my tracks....

It was one of those informational signposts that are dotted across La Ville Lumière. This one read Histoire de Paris: Les Botanistes, and went on to tell about this former sentier, or path, that was once lined with gardens. 

Vraiment? Pausing to look around me, all I could see was a concrete city. And then,  that strange sentiment returned, echoing my daughter's words: à Paris, c'est comme je n'existe pas. In Paris, I feel as though I don't exist. Reaching for my smartphone, about to dial a free ride out of this emotion, I heard a gentle voice:

"C'est un jolie chapeau que vous avez, Madame!"

Turning, I saw a trembling gray felt hat... when the owner wearing it looked up at me. Her blue eyes were several shades lighter than mine, from cataracts, and her upper lip formed a heart--owing to a small wart which tapped her lower lip, punctuating each of her words as she spoke.

"Merci, Madame," I smiled. "I... I was just reading about this jardin," I said, suddenly feeling the need to explain my existence.

"Cela vous va très bien!" the stranger affirmed. "Très, très bien," she said, her little wart busily punctating things, as if to say, You are lovely, EXCLAMATION POINT! I like you, PERIOD.

Tugging on the rim of mon chapeau, I thanked my hat admirer with a story. "It was a gift from my mom. I thought it looked (on second thought, no saying "like an old lady's hat!) That is, I thought it was not my style, but I have since grown fond of it, especially since my Mom left."

Holding on to my midnight blue hat with its "sky" of twinkle stars (the hat was sprinkled with silver studs), I listened to the old woman speak, quickly, familiarly, never enunciating as one does for a foreigner. 

"Every since I began wearing my hat," she was saying, "I have never been sick!"

"Ça, c'est bon à savoir! I wear mine for sun protection, I said, pointing to the scars on my face."  But as soon as I said it, I regretted it. The more I talk about myself, the less I learn from others. 

"That is a lovely pin on your hat!" I offered, and was quickly rewarded by the sight of soft blue eyes roving like a searchlight in the night as the woman looked for the exact spot on her hat where her rhinestone pin existed. As if settling on it, she  said: "It was a gift from my friends in San Francisco! Oh, how I would love to see that city!"

"Well, why don't you?" 

"Oh, I am too old now."

"Mais non! You are never too old!"

With that, the woman reached for my hand and we stood, for a moment, holding on to each other. Her little wart began to tap again, this time forming an elipsis as she said au revoir....

Watching her toddle off, in her pink coat, short pants, sagging navy blue socks and sneakers, I reached for my smartphone, to capture the endearing image. But, just like my feet, my hands had a mind all their own...and they put my camera gently away. 

*    *    * 

Next up, My sentimental hat disappears!

...for English or French mistakes... are welcome in the comments box!


flâner = to stroll, wander
arrondissement = a district in a large city
La Ville Lumière = Paris
vraiment? = really?
le jardin = garden


My daughter, making a silly face as she sends a snapchat photo to her friends of our train ride to Paris. And here's the blue hat my mom picked out for me. Do you like it. I hope whoever finds it enjoys it too. Read the next post, here, to learn what happened to my hat!

Do you enjoy hearing and learning new French expressions? Then "Other Cats To Whip" is a new must-have book!

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Graham Clark, moved to nearby Marseille in 2012, but suffered a language mishap when trying to drop the phrase "J'ai d'autres chats à fouetter" (meaning: I've got other fish to fry) into conversation with his boss.   Inspired by this story - which you can read in full in the introduction of the book - Graham and his co-author Zubair Arshad, have carefully crafted this book of delightful French idioms, each with illustrative cartoons, direct English translations and actual meanings.   The book is a great resource for learning these French expressions and even better for a good hearty chuckle. Here's one good example:


Starting at only £3.99, or $6.25 in the US, the kindle version of the book is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US and the paperback version can be ordered from Amazon UK and delivered worldwide.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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