Fresh as a lettuce : and other delights from Mama's in Mexique
If we left France, Where we could move...

New friends, new words, and meme pas peur!

Voici une photo d'un caraco. Here is a picture of a caraco. Worn by Jackie, to her brother's birthday party.

TODAY'S WORD: le caraco

    - camisole
    - bodice, corset

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word:

Download Caraco

Ni un débardeur, ni un marcel, le caraco c'est une camisole
Neither a vest top or a tank top, a caraco is a camisole

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


    by Kristi Espinasse

Talking To Strangers

Let's begin with a brand new French word: le caraco. I have not used it in the years that I have lived in France. But that does not mean it is not an essential. For some it forms the very basis of a garde-robe. You guessed it, un caraco is an undershirt. In old-time French, is was a corset. Whether or not this fits, I am going to force this item of female covering to connect our story, or at least lead into it. For just like the tight, pinching, can't-wait-to-unlace-it garment--so was that urge of mine, over the weekend, to throw off all pretenses and talk to strangers.

The port town of Bandol was unusually busy this time of year. Was it the sunshine that had brought everyone out on Sunday? We were having a mother-daughter lunch, Jackie and I, when a striking woman and her daughter sat down in the bistro table beside ours. When their eyes became focused on the glossy carte, I stole surreptitious glances while drawing up a colorful story in my mind. I'll bet she lives in that house up on the hill, beside the one for sale that we visited. She may be our future neighbor! She seems to be a very strong woman. She looks like my sister-in-law. Is she North African? What is that pink pass around her neck?

The woman wore heels and a silk Chanel-style top. It had to be real. Her dark hair tumbled past her shoulders in smooth waves. Her daughter was her sosie, or twin, down to the pink pass which hung on a long pink ribbon. Though inches away, the mother spoke in tones so low I could not make out what she was saying. The daughter responded in kind. The pair were cool, reserved, assured. French.

Wearing sandals and an Hawaiian-print dress, I chatted wildly to my daughter, all the while keeping tabs on the duo to my left until I turned, abruptly, and said with a strong American accent, "Are you having a mother-daughter lunch too?"

"Yes," smiled the mother.

"Yes, yes, I thought so! Yes that's what I had guessed!"

And so our conversation began, between Madame Yes, and Madame Yes! Yes! Yes! which gives you an idea of  personalities, opposites with at least one thing in common: curiosity.

We continued talking until their order arrived, when I finished my sentence, adding, "Je vous laisse manger tranquillement. I'll let you enjoy your lunch now."

"You care too much about what others think," the woman said, referring back to my intro, in which I admitted a number of attempts to strike up a conversation, each sabotaged by the fear of rejection.

"And you don't care at all," I smiled. "Do you realize you are the perfect heroine?" I said, referring back to her intro, in which she explained she was in town to attend The Festival of New Romance. (Those pink passes around their necks.) Avid reader of chic-lit, the woman and her daughter had spent the morning meeting famous authors.

"Yes! (Yes Yes)" I continued, "You are a beautiful doctor of infectious diseases who lives where coconuts fall on your front lawn--in the Amazon! You leave your laboratoire to board a paddle boat and travel upstream through the jungle, to do your researching!"

The doctor from French Guiana smiled in amusement, seeing herself in a new light, and not just the florescent one beneath which she spends most of her days, hair tied back, lab coat  and glasses on, looking down into a microscope.

I was beginning to see myself in a new light too: a little more brazen than before. I might still care too much about what other people think. But so far it hasn't kept me from life's biggest adventure: writing.  There, words are coconuts and paddle-boats, the sentence is a winding river, and the next paragraph is the Amazon--ever lurking, unknown, thrilling.

Related stories:

On Writing, How to Write

On our decision to move:

Même pas peur! (what this expression means)

A picture I forgot to show you, from my visit to see Mom and sister in Mexico. Yes, it's real!r.

Selected products
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PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

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APRONS, French-themed - keep the tomatoes in the tart and off of your nice shirt. CLICK HERE.

TABLECLOTH, Provence-themed - scroll down to the Maison d'Hermine Birdies on a Wire, HERE. I love this one!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE book- for the chapter "Casse-Croûte" and for the pleasure of a real French picnic. Buy the book, HERE.

FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

Paris PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty. Click here

Jackie and I went to Bandol and had a few serendipitous encounters. Happy to discover a juice bar tucked into this fashion accessory boutique. Pierre, the owner, is so kind and welcoming. Be sure to stop into "Sunset Blvd Bandol" if you are ever in the port of Bandol! Like them on Facebook at Sunset Bandol.

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Diane Scott

Kristin, you have sold yourself and your stunningly beautiful daughter short. Had I been seated nest to the two of you, I would have sought out the nearest paper bag to put over my head!

Joan L.

Awesome post. I wish I had your gift for talking to strangers...

Patricia Sands

Kristi, your candid, honest enthusiasm is irresistible ... in your books, your blog posts, and I suspect even more so when one is sitting next to you in a bistro! Don't ever hesitate to just be YOU!


Kristi, you were perfect. Whenever I return from a trip, my sons usually ask "What new friend did you meet on this trip?" So true as that is part of the adventure. Don't you agree?

Audrey Wilson

I love doing this when we're camping in our caravan. One meets people from all over the world .Hear about their adventures, learn where to visit in the region where we are & even about other campsites .
It often turns out to be a small world too.
Will you keep in touch with your glamorous new acqaintances ?


Love the photo of the four blondes!

Alyssa Eppich

I think we get braver as we get older, Kristi. That's what's happened for me. Verite sans peur! That's my old boarding school's motto, which I seem to now be living! LOL! Have a great rest-of-the-day!


Such a beautiful photo of the three of you on the beach...and the amazing color contrasts with your yellow snake!

Kathleen from Connecticut

I too like to talk with strangers, especially those seated at the next table or in a shop or grocery. I think that it started when I started traveling and traveling alone. It was a way to not feel lonely and to meet new people. I have been invited for dessert, to dinner and to visit with them, because of this willingness to talk with strangers. So I totally understand. And I grew up as an introvert.


edie schmidt

Bonjour Kristi:

Enjoyed your post and photos as usual, though I'm not a snake lover!
Brief encounters can be a chance to see yourself in a new light too!
Speaking of romantic writing,I enjoyed 2 books in a series of 3,English translations of novels by French author Katherine Pancol. They were a combination of romance and suspense. Are you familiar with her work? Unfortunately the third book in the series hasn't been translated into English yet, but I'm hopeful.

Edie from Savannah

Kristi, how a gorgeous blonde (yes, I am a brunette) could ever be intimidated is inconceivable to me!I have to say I am almost annoyed with you, a slim, (no, I am not slim) beautiful, talented, thoughtful woman who has adapted to living in a foreign country, learning the language and customs and working side by side with her husband to help him fulfill his dream. And, to be shy with a woman who would attend a romance writers conference? Yea, I know, to each his own but you share your soul. The romance writers share what?

Joanne Ablan

Bon dià de Catalunya, Kristin!
Coincidentally, while descending the Natvidad
Tower of the Sagrada Familia here in sunny Barcelona
two young ladies graciously offered to take my photo.
We chatted as we went cautiously step by step. Apparently one young lady had new shoes which she thought might be untrustworthy of the challenge the steep stairs presented though the heels were less than an inch. Nevertheless, she exclaimed "yes!" after each of the 260 steps down to solid ground!
Flamenco, Montserrat, then Perpignan and voilà Arles and a
cruise up the Rhone River to Lyons.
Life is good, n'est-ce pas?

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I am an introvert at heart and always have to push myself to meet new people or speak out in a group. Someone I met recently at a neighborhood gathering told me about the book "Quiet" by Susan Cain....The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Love the photo of you, your Mom and sister!

joie in Carmel

Hmm,, i would say being in Mexico with your mother rubbed off on you. She may be the queen of meeting new people. You really can meet so many interesting people that way. I too used to be very reserved about speaking to strangers, but now am a bit more forward. And everyone has a story.


Our dear Kristi,
What a wonderful post!Once again you have added hugs and brightness to our day,and!filled us with inspiration for
the way you go forward turning new acquaintances into friends!WOW!Awesome!No other word describes it!
(the picture with the snake?You look gorgeous,the snake,well,not so much!!!)(EEEWWWWWW!!!) :)
Natalia. xo

Nancy Stilwagen

I have seen it written that the older one gets, the less she cares about what others think. I do believe it is a benefit of maturity!

Gordon Lyman

Kristi, great post. You were really cookin' when you did and wrote this one!
And, I really agree with mgoest2.


I love everything about today's edition, Kristi! I have always found it very challenging to strike up conversations with strangers. When dropping off my children at school, I sometimes feel too shy to merely say 'Good morning' to the other parents, even the ones with whom I have previously exchanged small talk. Your stories about stepping outside of your comfort zone to meet fascinating people always inspire me and remind me of the idea that strangers are people whom we simply have not yet met.


A brilliant book!

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Dear Kristi, Patricia has so perfectly stated my exact thoughts! You are irresistible!

Diane Young

I am really impressed with the new Kristi. When I first began reading your blogs years ago, you were a shy flower. You are now a blooming rose! Not only in looks, which have always been great, but you have blossomed into a woman who enjoys meeting new people. Bravo! Encore, bien sur.

Carolyn dupont

Does that mean that you are searching for a new home in Bandog?


Hi Kristi, We all keep growing up and maturing all of our lives. So wonderful to read your experience and to have had it with such a kind woman!! Also, mother and daughters, all have the same beautiful smile!!! A lovely picture! God bless you, C-Marie


What a fun post! I loved how you described the French women, reserved & assured was it? Then the part about caring what others think too much. I am now thinking that is a very female "American" trait. Caring what others think has lead me down a rabbit hole of misery. It is very tiring to keep up the game of figuring out how to present yourself in a good light to a particular person. I believe in the American culture it is expected that you do that depending on who is most alpha in a given meeting. One gets to set the stage and the other must respond in such a way as to not take over the lead. I am sure you were just as fascinating to them as they were to you!


Oh, I'm so curious about you traveling alone. My husband, with whom I always traveled, passed away last September and I've been asking myself if I could ever travel by myself. I want to but I'm afraid I'll be lonely and miss having someone to say -'Oh, look at that, isn't it wonderful, beautiful, silly, interesting!' If you get this reply, I would love to hear your thoughts! You must be very brave, and certainly have changed from an introvert! :-) Marvelous! Judi at [email protected]


I loved this post - it had a 'lightness' that shone through - I think some things are changing! I'm wishing you well in whatever decisions you and Jean-Marc make! And, of course, once again, your daughter certainly inherited your beauty! What joy to see her and your son celebrating his birthday. Jean-Marc looks fabulous. "Times, they are achanging."

p.s. I'm so interested in Kathleen from Connecticut as she mentioned she travels alone - I replied to her above, but not sure she will see it. I want to travel but fear the loneliness without Chris - so your post today also helps a bit to say I might just be able to do that and make some friends along the way - just not sure that will sustain me. Just pondering!!

julie camp

Great story, Kristi dear. Candor becomes you... it grows your garden. -julie-

elizabeth Taza

I love the paddle boat, coconuts, jungle and the Amerzon. Yes, you look fab also mother and sister in Mexico. Wishing I too was enjoying the sunshine and family get together. So, happy for you all. many happy returns to the Birthday boy and the 'caraco looks great. Thanking you for a lovely story.

Hello Kristin, I read your words with especially great interest this morning. Like you, I too have a fear of rejection and this has been to my disadvantage as you would know. I have taken courage from your story and will endeavour to 'reach out' to strangers (when appropriate) and not worry what thy may think of me. Thank you for impressing me and I do enjoy all your stories and photos. Keep up the good work.

Chris Allin

Another great book for Introverts...although extroverts can benefit from it as well!

The Introvert Advantage - How to Thrive in an Extrovert World
by Marti Olsen Laney

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