Se rendre compte & We can be heros, just for one day
Gratin & Traditional French zucchini casserole

A fun French word for pizza, tart, or quiche crust + Mieux vaut tard que jamais

Collioures 102
Benches along a trottoir in Collioures, France. Photo taken 11 years ago, when Jean-Marc and I celebrated our 11th anniversary, while dreaming of owning a vineyard one day

TODAY'S WORD: le trottoir

    : sidewalk, pavement, curb
    : slang for the outer crust (or le rebord) on a pizza, tart, or quiche

Listen to Jean-Marc
 Download Trottoir

En France et en Suisse, par métaphore, le trottoir est aussi le nom communément donné au bord d'une tarte ou d'une pizza.
In France and Switzerland, as a metaphor, the sidewalk is also the name given for the crust of a tart or a pizza.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristin Espinasse

"Mieux Vaut Tard Que Jamais"

Yesterday--24 years after moving to France--I got the chance to thank Marianne. Marianne is the mother of Fred, who is the godfather of our son, Max. It was Fred who picked me up at the Marignane airport in the fall of 1992, after a 24-hour voyage from Arizona. I'll never forget him glancing down at my cowboy boots as he stood beside the baggage carousel, wearing a crisp Façonnable chemise and Italian loafers--at least I think that is what he was wearing--and if I retell this same story in 10 years, don't be surprised if Fred is sporting an Izod sweater and wingtips. While my memory may be foggy for details, it is crystal clear when it comes to kindnesses, as we will see in the following remembrance.

Fred drove me to his family's home in Marseilles, where we unloaded my U-Haul moving boxes and mes valises and waited for my then-boyfriend, Jean-Marc, to get off work. Fred lived with his parents, Marianne and Michel, and his 17-year-old frère cadet, Antoine. Over the next 10-months, I had the chance to eat many a Tuesday night dinner at Marianne's table, where I sat absorbing every detail. From pre-dinner ritual of apértifs (I loved Porto!) to the post-dinner digestif (le marc!), I drank it all in. Looking back, I wished I had put down my wine glass and helped Marianne carry all those heavy gratin dishes!

Yesterday was my chance to thank her. Michel and Marianne had come to see our vineyard and they were here, as well, to visit Château de Pibarnon, where they're considering celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. After touring the Bandol winery, we headed to the charming port of La Madrague, to eat at our local pizzeria, Chez Henri. Almost as soon as we were seated, I blurted out a decades-late remerciement:

"Marianne. You may not know what an impression you made on me all those years ago!"

Thinking about it, Marianne would have been the age I am now: 48. She would have been serving dinner in high heels and a slim, above-the-knee skirt. It may have been leather. With her shoulder-length wavy black hair parted in the center and her big green eyes, she looked as beautiful as when she left for work that morning at her law firm. And here she was, late at night, serving 8 of us homemade gratin de courgette and steak--followed by a cheese platter, salad, dessert, and coffee (and perhaps a limoncello maison...). 

Over the years I thought a lot about Marianne as I tried to cook and to entertain--all the while balancing kids, casseroles, and my own burgeoning career as a learn-as-you-go écrivain.

As I considered all I wanted to convey to Marianne, the waiter at Chez Henri appeared... and the focus was about to go to the savory pies he set down in front of us. It was time to hurry and sum up what it was I wanted to say to Fred's mom all these years later....

"I wish I had helped you clear the table!!"

Looking at me with those beautiful green eyes, which now sparkled and smiled, Marianne said: "I have no memory of you not helping."

As everyone dug into their pizza, I savored Marianne's words until Michel piped up with some perfectly-timed comic relief. Pointing to the crust on our pizzas, he said: Do you know what we call this in French? 

(Two of us shook our heads.)

"Le trottoir. The sidewalk."

The sidewalk indeed! This concluded our meaningful stroll down Memory Lane--Life's gentle path where we overlook shortcomings and recall only the best in others.

                        *    *    *


The crust or trottoir on my favorite pizza at Chez Henri. It's called "La Madrague"

Zucchini gratin casserole
Marianne's Easy Lasagna & A Favorite Word
Marianne's Zucchini Casserole

mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
la chemise = shirt
la valise = suitcase
le frère cadet = younger brother, little brother
un apéritif = drink before lunch or dinner
digestif = after-dinner liqueur
le marc =
a digestif made of grapes or apples
le remerciement = thanks
gratin de courgette = zucchini casserole
limoncello maison = homemade limoncello
un écrivain
= writer
le trottoir
= sidewalk, pavement

The view from Chateau de Pibarnon, where we visited with Marianne and Michel.

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


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Ahhhhh ... Collioure! Just up the road from the town where I live!
How I wish you'd decided to plant your vines in our region ........ >> :-)

Marcell Fabia

What delightful and warming memories :)


Gentle wonderful memories as always with food at their heart. I would love to see the recipe for the Courgettes gratin. Many thanks for your gentle writings and thoughts which always bring me back to my favourite holiday destinations in France.


Sweet memories Kristin! The pizza looks delicious!


Dear Kristin:

I love this story! Every person we encounter leaves an indelible mark on us in some way, whether positive or negative. So often we never get the opportunity to thank those who have affected us in a good way. It is sweet indeed for both parties when that chance does arrive. I'm happy for you that you seized the moment!

Marianne's reply was perfect-- for as you yourself know, as mothers and hosts, all we wish for and remember are the smiles, laughter and good times our children and guests have. In the end, that's all that really matters.

And YES, PLEASE to that delicious pizza, le trottoir et al!

I'm always uplifted by your beautiful stories. Thank you!


Love your blog Kristin! This was especially poignant and easy to see why you so admire Marianne. Am fascinated by Chez Henri La Madrague pizza!! Do you know the main ingredients? Yum, yum, yum!!

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

What wonderful memories - old & new. We never know when we will make an impact on someone. Marianne's response was lovely. All those years of small regret on your part, and she only noticed your enthusiasm for France and love for JM, I am sure. Beautiful story. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

A fun new meaning for a familiar word and a sweet story! Reading happily along, I was headed in a direction filled with humor and early impressions of France. Then, a heart-touching and thoughtful twist in the last line took me elsewhere. Eyes misting up ...

P.S. I, too, would love to see a recipe for courgettes gratin!


What a wonderful memory! True friendship does not keep track of all the "I wish I would have"s or "Why didn't she"s. Friendship continues throughout the years with only memories of the good times. Ne regrette rien!


Oui, oui, oui! C'est vrai, Kristin. (Look! I am attempting French!) How many times I have apologized later to others only to hear, I don't remember that. Beeeeautiful pizza pie!


Oui, oui, oui! C'est vrai, Kristin. (Look! I am attempting French!) How many times I have apologized later to others only to hear, I don't remember that. Beeeeautiful pizza pie!


Oui, oui, oui! C'est vrai, Kristin. (Look! I am attempting French!) How many times I have apologized later to others only to hear, I don't remember that. Beeeeautiful pizza pie!

Patty Cargill

Jeepers, how did that happen? Love from SW Virginia.


You took me down memory lane. Ah Coilleur!! Probably spelled wrong but the memory is very lovely. Swimming in the bay and painting - the truth is I was so depressed from dealing with family health issues that I hardly knew I was there. But my memory goes to the good parts. Lovely post. Thank you.


What a sweet story! And what a fabulous looking pizza!! How do they keep the greens from wilting or getting burned!!

Joanne Ablan

Hi, Kristin,
C'est vrai
que l'attitude
de la gratitude
soit une signe sûr
d'un coeur
bien fait.
By the way, to celebrate the arrival of my adult son, I made the Yaourt cake with raspberries and blueberries and toasted slivered almonds in a 9 inch cake pan sprayed with canola oil, dusted with flour, and baked for 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. C'etait délicieuse! Merci beaucoup! Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA


Gosh now I guess I have to ask: what are the toppings on the pizza??


What a beautiful story, Kristi! The most beautiful people I know always remember and appreciate the beauty of others, with kind gestures most definitely included in the memories.


That sounds wonderful! I'm sure your son enjoyed the cake very much.


Quel délice de lire votre message à chaque fois qu'il apparaît sur l'écran. Ces messages me rappellent l'odeur du thym dans la garrigue, le parfum de la lavande dans les champs bleus. je crois sentir la caresse de l'air chaud de Provence où j'ai vécu il y a longtemps, longtemps.
Merci, merci et bravo pour le partage des incidents de votre vie même le toutou devient familier.
A votre prochain message...

Jane Hoppe

Amen to Katia's comment!

Susan Souza

That Pizza looks wonderful what is on it? We have a small pizza oven on our deck and I love to try new things.


Le comble de mon jour, même au Texas!


Our dear Kristi,
What a(nother!) absolutely beautiful story!
You have just captured our hearts!
You took us along that wonderful memory lane,both then and now,and given us inspiration us to remember all the treasured people and their--and hopefully our own--random acts of kindness which have happened along the way.
The only thing left to say is that we only wish there were more Kristi's and more Marianne's in the world.
It would very definitely be a kinder,gentler place.
Natalia XO

Diane Young

How lovely Marianne is, physically and in manner. It's especially interesting in view of her name-carry the flag for France!

Suzanne in New Jersey

An especially wonderful story, Kristin. And a new French word I can use when next in France! Is Chez Henri the restaurant where my mother, sister and I ate with you? If so, I remember the delicious pizza and I think we may also have had fish. I have so many lovely memories of that day. The drive from Nice, lunch at the port and a relaxing afternoon. The last vacation with my sister and sharing it with you. I treasure the photos Max took of all of us that day. Thank you for sparking my own trip down memory lane.

Kristin Espinasse

Suzanne, Yes,  we ate ate Chez Henri that day. I treasure the memory too. 💛

Marina Garcia

What ingredients are in "la madrague"? Thank you for sharing..made me happy.

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