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To Get One's Money's Worth, in French + Downton Abbey

A rare tornado in France over the weekend!

A tornado on the outskirts of our village!  (filmed by firefighter John Liqr (c) photo copyright /Facebook)

TODAY'S WORD: une trombe

    : whirlwind, waterspout, torrent

démarrer en trombe = to hurtle off, leave in a whirlwind
en trombe = at full throttle
des trombes d'eau = a downpour

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Hear Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: 
Download MP3 or Wav

C'est une trombe marine qui a dégénéré en tornade
It is a waterspout that degenerated into a tornado.


by Kristin Espinasse

Chatting on the phone Saturday with my dad and my belle-mère, I was confused when Dad asked about the weather, "I hear you are having some bad storms?" he said.

I looked out the window and quickly reported back that, no, it was only lightly raining outside, or, as Jean-Marc would say sarcastically during last summer's canicule and the brief respites,  hardly enough to wet the vineyard stones or mouillés les cailloux...

Speaking of wet... Mon Dieu! the scene outside the living room window had suddenly changed--and now things were pouring down rain! I handed the phone to Jean-Marc, so he could say a quick word to my belle-mère, Marsha, but he had barely said bonjour when the telephone line went dead. By now I was in the kitchen, watching my patates douces roast when the oven shut off--along with every light in the house!

The sky thundered once more, sending me scurrying towards The Comfort Zone (my bed!). But the old windows in the bedroom shook so much that I feared they might burst. 

The thought of windows reminded me of windshields, and the fact that Jackie should be home by now. She had only this week passed her driver's test... and now she might be navigating through this horrible storm.  Maybe Jean-Marc had heard from our daughter? I needed to go and find out.

Leaving my room, I felt a bizarre sensation behind me--something like a swirl lightly caressing my back as I walked out. I quickly turned, but all I saw was the window, which was still closed. Etrange....

No sooner did I find Jean-Marc, but Jackie arrived. "J'avais la peur de ma vie!" I have never been so scared, she said, recounting her ride home from the mall. "I could not see a thing. I was driving through a cloud. And then the car skidded!"

Jackie described how she had lost control of the small vehicle when it hit a flaque d'eau, or puddle, on the freeway. She held on tight to the steering wheel, trying to steady the car, having just passed a semi-truck which had slowed during the storm.

After listening to Jackie's story, we read this French news article and learned that it was a tornado that spun along the coast, right near our home to which Jackie was returning.


The next day I received an unexpected visit from my neighbor, Annie, who, weighed down with sacks of persimmons and pomegranates, walked slowly up our driveway as the sun shone down. What a calming scene after last night's flurry!

I thanked Annie for the fresh fruit and listened as she talked about the rare tornado in France. "There was one other..." she said. "I think it was in the 70s... It cut the cypress trees in half and carried off a part of the Chateau roof!" Annie said, of the historic building up the road from our house.

"I know it sounds odd," I said to Annie, "given we were miles away from the whirlwind...but I was walking out of my bedroom around the time Jackie was delivered safely home when I felt a light flurry at my back. But when I turned nothing was there."

Looking at me thoughtfully, Annie dispelled the mystery, "C'était la queue de la tornade." It was the tail of the tornado.


To leave a comment click here, or see the link near the share buttons at end of this letter.


Annie's delicious persimmons!  


It is rare that my husband and I co-read together, but Dierdre Heekin's book "An Unlikely Vineyard" is a treasure. "You are going to love it!" Jean-Marc said when he read the intro. Thank you, Nina and Charlie in New Hampshire, for this educational gift which I will use to further my permaculture garden studies!

When you order An Unlikely Vineyard, or any item at Amazon, via the previous link, your purchase supports this French journal. Merci beaucoup.

RECIPES - La Tarte Tomate
There are several classic French recipes on this blog, like this one--which is perfect for those end-of-summer tomatoes. Make the classic French Tarte Tomate. Click here

And how could I forget Annie's recipe! (Not for vegetarians...)

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


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Heather in Arles

I am SO glad that Jackie is all right! I saw the tornado on the news last night but thought that it was closer to Nice or I would have sent an email!! Such strange times with our weather. We had rain and thunder non-stop on Saturday and it was enough to put our old roof to the which it failed...

Audrey Wilson

So relieved to here you are all O.K Must have been very frightening for Jackie What you might say was a 'baptism by Fire ,or is this case water" !!


Glad you are all must have been sudden and so violent! And the tornado shook its tail at you! Yikes!! Too close for comfort!!

lou bogue

Hard to believe the weather in your area, saw the wild pictures of destruction in the NICE area reading the TELEGRAPH sunday morning,had no idea it could reach clear over to you, glad you are OK and Jackie got home safe.


So happy all is well with you and your family after this frightening storm.


Last night the news was on in the kitchen at work as I went to cook dinner. I try to stay away from it. But flooding in France caught my eye. I wondered how you were doing. So glad Jackie made it home safe and all of you are well. I had to respond years ago to a call in the interstate during a storm. A tornado that had just destroyed a neighborhood went across the road in front of me. It was wide at the bottom, touching the road. It was like everything was in slow motion. It cleared the road and we continued on the a woman who had a seizure causing her to run off the road. I was a new medic, driving the medic unit. Stay seems to be wrecking havoc everywhere.

Patricia Sands

My thoughts turned to you, your family, and your fragile vineyards as I read about the storms. What a relief to know all is well chez vous. The results of the storms along the coast have been shocking. Quelle horreur! Let's hope that is the end of it. On a happier note, I ate many persimmons while in Spain last month. We even made persimmon ice cream and it was delicious. Try it! :-)


Oh my goodness! I'm so glad that Jackie made it home safely. I know how scary it can be for a new driver to be caught in a bad storm. What a story! I'm glad that you and your family are safe.

catharine ewart-touzot

Thanks be to God that this freak storm there was no worse for you and for us on the east coast, that the hurricane stayed in the Atlantic. A very scary learning experience for Jackie, now she knows a bit more about the often changing "art" of driving.It also brings to mind the fragile day to day existence we all have and that "farmers", vineyard keepers, and all that deal with life
face daily.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
So happy Jackie made it home safely! We used to live in tornado alley in Kansas. We had many tornado warnings and would run to the basement. There is such an eerie calm right before a tornado and a weird light. I remember the birds would stop chirping and the change in the air temperature was noticeable. Glad you are all OK!

Nancy R. LoBalbo

I saw yesterday that Cannes was hit very hard with flooding. It looked to be Biblical proportions! I hope none of that affected your area ( being some ways West of there) --BBC News online has some horrific photos. Glad you all are safe and sound and Jackie made it home after her harrowing experience! Stay safe xoN

Joy Bryden

So glad Jackie made it safely home, how scary for her, and for all of you in such a storm!
Enjoy the beautiful fruit!


Our dear Kristi,
Thank God you all are okay and dear Jackie made it home safely!You are in our prayers and we thank Him for hearing them!
Especially,too, for the angel who covered your and Annie's backs and protected you both from the tail of the storm.
The Tomato Tarte recipe is as wonderful as Annie's fruit is beautiful.
THANK YOU for sharing them with us!
Natalia XO

John Bell Smithback ~

Imagine something like that going on for fifteen hours as we did during a typhoon on our little island off Hong Kong several tears ago. My wife and I huddled behind a blocked door in our small kitchen as the steel window frames were blown in throughout the house. We heard glass smashing, the solid apartment building shook and rattled, the remaining wall between us and the rest of the apartment showed a long crack and rainwater began dribbling down the wall. The sound was like that of a train roaring through the house...for the entire time. When it was over, we saw huge ocean-going ships parked on the sandy beach below our house. The only deaths were of people who went out of doors to experience a typhoon directly and personally. Always enjoy your stories. Thanks

Vivian Langley

So thankful Jacki arrived safely. In Louisiana we have hurricanes and are in the hurricane season until November. The last bad one and a mandatory evacuation and spent ten days at my sister-in-law in North LA and ten days in San Diego with nephew, a Naval Officer and his wife. Then back to my damaged home and to securing roofers, carpenters, etc. Hope no more tornados and hurricanes.

Kristin Espinasse

Vivian and John,  I am thankful not to have experienced those kinds of storms. Glad to hear you made it out (or to a family members,  as Vivian did).
Thank you all for the stories you shared and for your thoughtful words.
All tucked in now,  glad for a quiet night outside!

Karen Cafarella

Scary for sure. So glad everyone was okay. The weather had become so unpredictable.

Hoping for blue sky and calm thoughts!


Cheryl in STL

I'm so glad you are all safe and that there was no damage for you.

Leslie in Oregon

I am so glad that you all are safe. I felt a bit of what a tornado or other violent windstorm can be like as I flew from JFK to Portland, Oregon on Saturday night. For about :45, our Airbus A320 was shaking so violently that I really wondered if it was going to come apart. In eight years of flying as a crew member and many flights since then, I had never experienced anything like it. I could only hope that there were no animals in the hold; we could hear things moving around down there. How did Smokey do during your storm?


Very glad you are all safe, especially with the terrible floodong news from France. But I write also because there might be a mother thing going on ... many years ago, my mother dreamt there were flames coming out of the telephone, realized it was ringing, answered ... to learn it was my (much) younger sister calling to say that her car engine had caught on fire, she was on the side of the road, needing a ride. She was safe and I tell you the story only because .... the sometimes incomprehensible power of mothers .... Be well, love your posts


Glad Jacki is home safe and dry. A few years ago we were in Sanary sur Mer, which is close to your area and we had a tornado go through. It cut a swath a few hundred feet away from the house we were staying in. Huge trees were toppled over on houses and cars.It was so amazing to see the damage. It seemed like the tornado would go up and down and hit arbitrarily...not in a straight line. It just blew in off of the Mediterranean and danced along causing havoc until it blew itself out.


So glad you all came out of the tornado safely.


Glad Jackie is safe as well as you and JM. Hydroplaning in a car is not fun, but everyone should learn how to control the car during that time. Jackie will learn to slow down in the rain and to watch our for puddles. If the road is 3 lanes, then drive in the middle lane where there are fewer puddles. Hold the wheel tightly and slowly slow down if there aren't any cars right behind you.
I never want to see a tornado. Here in New England we missed the latest hurricane, but the season isn't over.


So glad everyone is safe!😅

Kristin Espinasse

Ali,  thanks for the info and description of another tornado in the area.  Sanary-sur-Mer is ten minutes from here! Maybe we should not convert the old ( underground)  water tank... into a wine tank... But keep it for a shelter!

Kristin Espinasse

Suze,  that is so interesting! Was that strange swirl at my back,  then,  a mothers 6th sense?

Kristin Espinasse

Leslie,  how frightening! Thankfully you are OK,  and so thoughtful of you to think of any animals that might in the hold.

George Lucas

We have tornadoes here in Kansas all the time. Always scary.


Funny that Ali mentioned Sanary-sur-Mer, as I just read The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, in which the main character takes his bookshop-on-a-barge from Paris through the canals and down the Rhone. When he leaves the river, he goes to Sanary, and along the way has a glass of Bandol, which had me thinking of you already.

Lee Isbell

Four of us friends were driving from Avignon to Lourmarin Saturday afternoon when that violent storm crossed our path. We didn't hear of any tornado near us, but the rain fell so hard we were plowing through water on the roadway and it was spilling off the edges like rivers. We and many other drivers pulled off until it lessened a little. I estimate maybe ten minutes. Hail also fell, eventually some so loud it sounded like golf-balls. Scary stuff.

Ken Curtis

The only thing about a shelter is deciding when the weather is bad enough to use it. I lived on a ranch in tornado alley in Texas for a year that had a tornado shelter. The only thing was that it was generally occupied by large nasty spiders, scorpions and mice. When there was tornado warnings you'd have to decide which was the less of the two evils - the high winds and hail or the dark underground shelter with all the wildlife occupying it. One storm blew out 8 windows but I remained in the house instead of going out in the dark to the shelter. Fortunately, I don't think you'll be dealing with tornados that often in the south of France.


When I read "I felt a bizarre sensation behind me--something like a swirl lightly caressing my back...but all I saw was the window, which was still closed", I recognised a familiar feeling.

I have been a meditator for nearly 40 years with that strange sensation occurring many times, mostly in meditation, but also at heightened times in my life, like the frightening experience you described. There is a coolness to the feeling in my case, and the sense someone has just walked past. It was strange at first,but now I am used to it and, with time, have come to understand that it is the presence of my guardian angel letting me sense her closeness.

Kristin, as you are doubtlessly sensitive and intuitive you may feel this again sometime in more peaceful circumstances. And it maybe that Jackie was truly protected by angels.

Love your wonderful work.


Dear Kristin,
A tardy correction to this:
mouillés les cailloux... = mouiller
I envy your "grenades" and "kakis".
I've had a pom shrub for years and is flowering prolifically at the moment, for the first time... Fingers crossed I get a harvest. I wonder it the brushtail possums will like them as much as they like my pawpaws!?

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