Broken bones and Broken French
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French Toilet Paper and other disasters

I wanted everything to be perfect when Tess and the artists arrived. But when I went to check my appearance in the mirror, after greeting my guests, there was pink toilet paper stuck to my eyelashes!! Read on.

le papier toilette

    : toilet paper

ECOUTEZ/LISTEN - hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: click here or here:



by Kristin Espinasse

I am feeling pulled in every direction on this, a beautiful sunny October day! I want to be in the garden, where the saffron is blooming. I want to sort out lunch for our olive harvesters (a modest team of three), and I really need to vacuum this house and wash the dirty windows! And bible study! Oh my! I completely forgot about our weekly Skype bible study with Tami and Erin! I'll never be ready! 

Forget about writing stories. There is no more time for that.... not if I must write perfectly and dust! So I will leave the housework, audit tonight's bible study, and take this chance to write an imperfect story with an imperfect name  ("Toilet Paper").

*    *    *

"Le Papier Toilette"

One thing I began to notice, after moving to France, was all the pink toilet paper! The supermarket shelves were full of it as were all of the French bathrooms--at a friend's house,  in a local restaurant, at the rest stops along the autoroute.  In spite of being the biggest Francophile in the world, one who put every quirk of French life up on a pedestal, I could not relate to the French penchant for le papier rose. And as soon as I learned that le papier blanc did exist, I begged my husband to buy it instead. Like this, our house has been free of pink toilet paper for twenty years now.

But last week my daughter did the shopping, returning with a toilet paper value pack. 24 extra big rolls OF PINK TOILET PAPER. "They didn't have anything else," Jackie explained. So touched that she had noticed this quirk of her mother's, I all but embraced the purchase.  But Jackie's brother downright hugged it!

"I'll take it! I'll take it!" Max--my son and starving student--volunteered. "I don't care about the color--ça coute la peau des fesses! Toilet paper costs an arm and a leg in Aix-en-Provence!"  So the toilet paper problem was settled. It would return to school with a very grateful bachelor.

Then, yesterday, Tess came over with a lovely group of watercolorists, including one of my readers, Valerie, and three of Valerie's longtime friends from Washington State: Meredith, Marsha, and Trilby. I didn't make it to the store in time to switch the pink rolls, and so resolved that if anyone would be okay with pink toilet paper it would be these artists - to whom color is a vital medium (indeed many artists, like my feisty Mother, abhor white! But I am getting off topic...)

As Tess pulled up to the house and I saw all the new faces inside the car, I did my best to appear at ease, even whispering to Tess, as her group exited the vehicle, just how relaxed I felt this time. But my body was showing other signs and, as I spoke my eyes and my nose and my skin began to water

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a tissue. Having no Kleenex in the house--and certain this friendly-looking group of women would take no offense--I proceeded to dry my eyes and nose and brow with the wad of pink toilet paper. "So lovely to see you all, " I sniffed. "What a warm group!" Meantime my body poured out it's anxiety, drop by drop.

Once the ladies were settled before their paint trays, I hurried up to the house to check my mascara. Given how my eyes had watered, I was sure to find black streaks running down my cheeks. But I couldn't have imagined the real disaster when I looked into the mirror.

My eyes were plastered with toilet paper! There it was--my old pink foe--stuck to my eyelashes and paper machéed to the crow's feet just beyond! Even more alarming was the realization that I had been posing with the group for photos with little clumps of pink TP glued to my eyes like far-out false lashes!

Using a cotton swap to clean up the mess, I rehearsed what I could say to my guests. But I never got the chance to explain. By the time I walked back out into the sunshine, to rejoin the warm circle of artists, I had completely forgotten about it!

And from this day forth, I shall stock my bathroom with rolls and rolls of pink papier toilette--and so honor the day that yet one more anxiety up and rolled away.

*    *    *

Tessa's PAINT IN PROVENCE- If you would love to learn to paint in Provence, or to further your skill, then you will adore staying at Tessa's farmhouse. Details here.



With our three cherished olive pickers - Evan, Max and Edward. I took the painters down to see the harvest underway. You can't see it, but I still had pink toilet paper stuck to my eyes here. And at least one person seems to notice!



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Kate Dickerson

Oh my goodness - you do crack me up! I love the pink TP story. : ) Looking forward to seeing you and tasting your Bandol in November!



I LOVE this! Not laughing AT you, but WITH you, and proud of you overcoming your anxiety du jour! You handled your "role/roll" perfectly! Bravo!

I love the pic of you with your three young harvesters. What joy is on your face! And the pic of the olives over on Instagram is so mouth-watering! Mmmmmm... The table you had set was such an inspiration, as well. Beautiful!

Keep on rolling and writing on, Kristi, your stories are a wonderfully bright spot in our days!

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

I haven't gotten past the first two sentences, and I'm laughing. First a snort, then laughter.

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

Nice lesson, as always. And that's a great picture of you. (Although I wish you'd posted one where we could see the TP … er … le PT.)


What a beautiful way to start ones day with laughter!! I can't stop and I know your story will bring a smile to my face throughout the day! C'est La Vie en Rose pour vous, maintenant, n'est-ce pas? Merci, Kristi!

Leslie NYC

This is a classic, wonderful post! Thank you!

Kristin Espinasse

Oh,  Nancy,  La Vie En Rose Would have been a perfect title for todays post!
Thank you all for these delightful responses.  Your words motivate me to keep writing,  no matter the circumstances.

Sally Smyth

My dear K.,
PLEASE don't forget to "dust" with your leaf blower! If you do not have one, do
you have a (excuse the e expression" suck/blow on your vac? Connect the
hose of the vac to the blow hole and gently "urge" those dust bunnies into the
garden. I am devoted to this manner of house work... PLEASE don't ask me
how to poach a salmon in the dishwasher!
Love you,

Kristine, Dallas

On my first visit to France I noticed the same thing and thought it odd~ the next visit when I see it I shall think of you! And your post today reminds me of the quote by Eleanor Roosevelt “You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Wear your pink toilet paper eyelashes in style! Thank you for the joy this morning!


I'm sure the artists didn't even bat an eye (ha!) at seeing you with those decorations on your lashes. It must have appeared to them as a deliberate attempt at creative self-expression. Thank you for this morning's laugh, Kristin! :) Enjoy the olive harvest and the beautiful sunshine that surrounds your home!

I was feeling a little down this morning, and then I read your blog . Laughter erupted from this old gal. I could just imagine your surprise to see toilet paper stuck to your eyelashes.I remember my surprise when I saw it trailing me stuck to my shoe.Thanks for your blog, Kristi!


Haha! I NEVER buy the pink TP either. And I love seeing Chris mentioned here...we often run into eachother at the grocery store but not in the TP the peanut butter aisle where we are en lice for the precious import.

Audrey Wilson

Had a good laugh at this ;Kristin . I did always notice this fashion for pink loo rolls ,but now Auchan, Carrefour, et al have gone WHITE ! And of course there is Lidl & Aldi with not a pink roll in sight !
Keep smiling !


Absolutely hilarious! And well-told.

Dawn Johnson

I have always got a kick out of the pink TP whenever I come to France. I've seen it in other colors too. I've always wondered why it comes in pink. Do you know why? Does anybody?
Anyway, loved this story, I was seriously laughing out loud.

Eleonore Miller

Kristin, Too hilarious. Hey, that pink stuff also exists in Italy. I think somewhere in some Euro-country there are little pink gnomes industriously working away in some underground factory producing reams of the cheap, scratchy stuff!

Lana Stephen

Very funny post. I once saw a woman emerge from the ladies room with three feet of toilet paper hanging from the back of her waistband down to the floor like a tail.

I heard about the big hurricane headed to Porta Viarta. My prayers are with you mom and hope she will be safe.

Joan L.

Talk about "roll" with the punches....Pink rules. I heard somewhere that life is like a roll of TP; the closer you get to the end of it, the faster it goes!
Bon weekend a tous.

Julie Farrar

Oh you gave me a good chuckle. Something like this happens to all of us at one time or another. I'm glad that the anxiety over it just rolled away with the sun and the company. And bon chance for you mother.

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

You are a true delight and move me to tears, pink TP and all! Grateful you share these moments and lessons with us! I've had the same reminder this week. Hugs from across the pond. xoxo


Funny Kristin! I am still wondering why the TP is pink? Is it scented with roses? :-)

I thought you were going to say you ran out of TP and while the artists were there! That would have been really embarrassing! :-)


I was googling pink TP in France and found out that toilet paper (commonly known as PQ here – from pécu which is short for papier cul ie bum paper).
Have a great weekend!

Randy Komisarek


Good post. I am slightly color blind and often don't see pink in things. On more than one occasion I have gone to Lidl and come back to our boat with a month's worth of pink paper. The first time was understandable. The rest were a guy just not paying attention. At least you had Max to take over the mistake. We had to live with it for a month. Love the ending to the story.

Joanne Ablan

Hi, Kristin,
Quelle belle coïncidence! My son also saved the day, yesterday, when we met in
SF for lunch in North Beach. When I have not seen him for awhile I get very anxious
and then proceed to spoil our encounter with my anxieties which I share. Instead
of pushing me away, my adult son reminded me of this bad habit. His observation made me recall a poem I had written recently which I just happened to have in a journal I brought. So I read aloud to him this poem I wrote:
Of all my thoughts, both weighty and light,
I've decided today to record those that are bright:
when love, regardless of outcome, was my intention,
when I welcomed the challenge in adversity,
when I wrestled with some difficult convention,
when I realized that grace overcame perversity,
when I found liberty in lawfulness,
and accepted my own sinfulness,
when I sought mercy in silence, sacrament, and solitude,
and regarded everything and everyone with gratitude.
From then on, the day unfolded almost magically. It was memorable for
me for the beauty, harmony, and fun in all that passed before and between us.
Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Kristin Espinasse

Yours is a very beautiful and encouraging poem. Thank you,  Joanne!

Geo Olson

On my visits to Provence in the late '80s, not only was the toilet paper pink, it was NOT on rolls, but little individual squares, neatly folded and stacked in a dispenser at my friend's home. Not really a "dispenser," but a box of the proper dimensions from which you took them from the top. Now THAT was weird.


Our dear Kristi,
Once again you've shown what a gifted storyteller you are! This caper with pink toilet paper really wrapped us in smiles!
And also another wonderful ending that gives us inspiration
to deal with our anxieties the way you have!
One thing I was particularly relieved to know was that you didn't scratch your eye--TP fibers are coarser than kleenex.
I did the same thing and ended up with a scratched cornea.
Oh boy,did that sucker ever hurt!
(PS are the milk bottles still a challenge to open?)
Beautiful pictures!The plumbago just captures my imagination.
Love them!
Natalia. xo

Cynthia P. Lewis

Kristin, this story really "got to my funny bone"!! You look like a sixteen year old girl in today's post. Thank you so much for sharing this hilarious experience of yours. (As an aside: years ago the grocery stores here all carried green, pink, blue plus white toilet paper. Now you can only find it in white. I think the dyes were found to be irritating to the skin. Being a Pollyanna, I'd say that the bits of pink paper attached to your lashes were much more becoming than white bits would have been!) Again, thanks and best wishes....


You are too cute; I'm sure all your artist guests were totally charmed!

Kristianne Bernard

Pink toilet paper! Yey! Now, I'm more excited about my trip to France next year! I'm taking French classes via Skype at ( ) in preparation for the trip, and reading helpful articles like yours. Love pink! I ca't wait to "use" the pink toilet paper. Hehe..


I don't get it...why would friends not tell U if U have pink(or any other color) toilet paper in your eyelashes (or spinach in your teeth)!

Debbie Ambrous

I'm happy to hear about your Skype Bible study. Jim and I study regularly, and we study with others. Although, we haven't tried Skype for studies yet. Sounds like a great idea! Never give up in searching for answers to life's difficult questions. We are in France for another week with blue toilet paper in our bathroom in a rental house near Roussillon. Wish we could see you but I got sick with a head cold, cough etc. I don't want to share my germs. Keep going with you study and your great sense of humor.

Rick Spring

As I was reading your epistle about papier toilette rose, I was thinking back over the several trips to Europe since 2001. The most recent, in June and July of 2014, out of seven weeks in Europe, I spent about four weeks in France, two weeks in Cleon, Normandie (Mutrecy, Caen), the D-Day landing beaches, and surrounding areas, Plus two in Paris and surrounds. In all those times I cannot remember encountering papier rose. However, that may say as much about my memory or powers of observation as it does what papier toilette I encountered. I will pay more attention next time. Thank you for this wonderful story and all the ones preceding it.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

So funny! Finding humor and levity in everyday life is often what helps get us through the tougher moments.
You are truly a joy!

I will spare you the story of the toilet paper squares of yore when I lived in France ~ the thin, slick, shiny, translucent squares of tissue paper...

Lee Isbell

I think everyone in France had the cough the past few weeks, myself included. There was a chorus of coughs in the plane on the way home a couple of days ago.


You brought up a subject I've noticed for the past 10 years...why always buy pink toilet paper? Even when it doesn't match the decor of the petite toilette? I see plenty of choice on the shelves here in the north- even a lux store nearby has deco black, red, bright purple, but pink always came home in the shopping sacs. After mistakenly thinking the pink was blood one day, I finally revolted and refused to continue this "tradition".

And for Chris, above- on one of my early visits to France, someone had thoughtfully cut up newspapers into regular sized squares, and stacked them for other's use....


Love this one! I recently got locked in a bathroom (happens often in that one apparently as the lock had been broken for weeks) in a beautiful restaurant overlooking Lac d'Annecy and it was not only stocked with pink toilet paper, but it was a tiny room completely wallpapered with a pink toilet paper pattern. It made the situation even more absurd...

Janet from Delaware

And why did the French choose pink? Here in the US I only see white. I think I'd like colors to choose from to match the room but would not like the dyes. Quite a funny story! Liked your Skyping for Bible Study. Spending time reading the Bible is my first priority everyday!

Koula Louras

I Absolutely loved you pink toilet paper story !! I was reading it on the train giggling out loud !!
You continue to be an inspiration for us all!
As for Pink toilet paper, I must confess, having returned to Australia recently after being in France for a year, I do miss the quirky toilet paper and of course all things French !!

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