Boire la Tasse: Short story by the sea including funny French sayings
Eplucher + More about friendship... and Bernard's Courgette Carpaccio!

Best City in which to live? La Bonne Reponse...

House in cassis
Cannes, Cassis, Annecy...what is the best city to live in? Read the response below.

la bonne réponse

    : good answer

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following French translation of our opening sentence:

Cannes, Cassis, Annecy...quelle est la meilleure ville pour y vivre? Lisez la réponse ci-dessous.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Saturday night we drove to Marseilles to celebrate two guys birthdays. Alexis and Bernard were collectively turning 100!

At Bernard's house on the edge of the Roy d'Espagne neighborhood, not far from the Calanque of Sormiou , we gathered with a handful of friends who grew up in these ideal childhood stomping grounds near the sea's rugged coastline with its fragrant Parasol pines.

Bernard and alexis
              Bernard and Alexis

Beneath these magnificent trees teeming with cicadas in summertime, we had to raise our voices above the din, and when I could no longer understand the French words flying all around me, I sat back to enjoy the characters at the table, their faces so relaxed, yet engaged and highly animated. I caught snippets of a ski trip to La Grave (known for its hors-piste skiiing, where two of the women stayed in a mountain refuge with 50 others and only one room for all to sleep, one bathroom, and nowhere to change--so everyone slept in the clothes they had skied in all day. "But it was worth it for the sunrise the next morning," Nathalie said. Manu, her friend, nodded in agreement.)

I so admired those women, who weren't the only ones aventuriers: Bernard, Pierre, and Jean-Marc have trained together for triathlons and, on the way to see U2 in concert in Dublin eaten pork and beans for breakfast (a true adventure for the French, who eat toast for breakfast). Meantime David bought a home in Greece (on the island where Mama Mia was filmed!), and that leaves Vincent and Claire, who I am still getting to know (though I sensed the latter's personality in the way she wrapped herself up in fluorescent construction zone tape before leaving the party...more about that in a minute...)

Were you a cicada high up parasol pines looking down on things, you would have quit trilling for a moment, and your ears would've softened as you listened now, to longtime friends catching up on subjects closer to the heart--the mother who has Alzheimer's, the son with autism, and other concerns here in the most beautiful place in the world.

"This is the most beautiful place," I said to Pierre, as the topic shifted once again and the cigales resumed their song. I noticed Pierre's hesitation and so I asked him, "If you could live anywhere in the world--any place at all--where would you want to be?"

Before Pierre answered, a now gleeful 4-year-old ran up and brushed his hand forward from under his tiny chin....

"That means, 'Bonjour,' in sign-language," Bernard said, adding that all forms of communication were encouraged for his youngest child. Next, we all had the pleasure of a personal bonjour from the little boy who continues to hone his social skills - shutting them off and on just as the cicada does in the tree above us. 
New York? Greece? Corsica? I looked back at Pierre, anticipating his answer, when his response took me by surprise...

"Là où sont mes amis. Wherever my friends are. That is the best city, and where I'd want to be."

Pierre's words stop time as wisdom and truth convey a message which twirls through my brain. Not long after, Claire, who I told you about earlier, appears, twirling in a floor length wedding dress decked with bright yellow construction tape. She's on her way to another party where, she says, she may find herself a good-looking maçon!

Claire exits with wolf whistles and winks as an audience of fans cheers her on, and the meaning of friendship is on full display. Even the cicadas are clapping, from high up in the trees overlooking the world's best city, which could be your city or mine. Tant qu'il y a l'amitié.

Friends under the parasol pines
Photo by Pierre, who should be in this snapshot!

French Vocabulary
le refuge = mountain shelter
la cigale = cicada
là où sont mes amis = there where my friends are
le maçon = builder, construction worker
tant qu'il y a l'amitié = as long as there is friendship

Pierre and jm
Voilà - a picture of Pierre and Jean-Marc, about to run a race.

T-Shirt I Don't Need Therapy I Just Need to Go to France

La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports

Net shopping bags like you see here in France - (good for collecting sea urchins, too!)

une cousinade = family reunion
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "step-mother")
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le soin = care
le mas = old French country-house/farmhouse
le livreur = delivery man
un agneau = lamb
le pois chiche = chickpea or garbanzo bean
le poulet = chicken
la canicule = heatwav
une cousinade = family reunion
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "step-mother")
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le soin = care
le mas = old French country-house/farmhouse
le livreur = delivery man
un agneau = lamb
le pois chiche = chickpea or garbanzo bean
le poulet = chicken
la canicule = heatwave

 This type of wash mitt, or gant, is the traditional washcloth in French homes

Finding Gilbert
Friendship is one of the themes in this wonderful story. If you've already read Diane's book about living in Provence, you might enjoy her other memoir about France, La Réunion, Finding Gilbert, a very touching account about how she found the French orphan, Gilbert, who her father had tried to adopt during World War II.

Order a copy here.



A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Presque... I feel like I'm there with all of you! Just bought that adorable t-shirt. Much better than therapy! Hope to see you in September.

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristi,
Bien sûr, il n'y a aucune voisinage comme un quartier plein des amis!

Henrik Docker

Henrik Docker, Copenhagen, said....
La bonne reponse was translated into English as "The good answer".
To my mind (a mon avis) it is "the correct/right answer". I am only a Dane, so I have to take turns with two foreign languages in sorting this out!

Devra Long

Love this post!
Felt like I was there!

Liz Konold

Such a very true philosophy! I'm torn between two cities - one in California, one in Provence - both with wonderful friends who add much to life! It doesn't make it easy to choose...although Provence is certainly an attraction for those inclined to travel. Maybe summers in Provence, winters in CA? Sigh....


Hi Kristi
One of my favourite children's books is called: The Three Questions - based on a story by Tolstoy and written by jon Muth. The ending is "Remember that there is only one important time, that is now, The important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do for the one who is standing at your side". I am a teacher and I often read this book to my students and my little great nieces. Its a simple sweet book with a wonderful message.
Your friend Pierre reminded me of this book. Bonne journee, Patricia

Carolyn Bush

La sagesse, tout simplement !

Rich Mahoney

Rully, Bourgogne est le meilleur village en France.

Bill Facker

Kristi, the Spirit of this post is so exceptional .. Superb! Mahalo et Merci for sharing!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, cher Bill! And thanks to all who have responded to this post. You are like the friends in this story, and much appreciated. 

joie in Carmel

I must have this book. Makes me smile not even having read it yet.

joie in Carmel

Good question; best answer. I sent this to someone who needed that today. Merci.

Edie Rosenbaum

Dear Kristi,
Loved this post. The cigales were singing quite loudly this summer!

I had to have the T shirt and also ordered Diane's book!
We were in Provence for 3 weeks this summer. Boy do I miss it! We plan to visit again next summer and hope to connect with you then.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
Lovely post! I'm enjoying Diane's book!

Cynthia Lewis

Thank you, Kristi, for this "oh so true" post. Growing up my family moved quite often since my father was in the military. What I remember most about the many places we lived are the friends I made along the way. I still keep in touch with a friend I made while going to school in Nancy, France (1954). You have unleashed many a pleasant memory for me.

My thanks again and best wishes,


Our dear Kristi,
Once again,your words have wrapped us in hugs and given us a loving reminder of what really matters in life:loved ones and friends.
We would be so lost without either one.
Thank you!
Natalia XO


"La, ou sont mes amis", exactement, Pierre! C'est pourqoui je suis rentree aux Etats Unis apres sept mois dans le Gers. Mon fils et mes amis me manquent!!!

Patricia Sands

Vérité! La vraie amitié est sans prix. <3

Chris Allin

What a wonderful testimony to friendship...always endearing and enduring!

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

So much of this story resonated with me - starting with the sub-title! Annecy being my second home, I would be hard-pressed to choose just one 'best city'. Fortunately, I don't have to, as your lovely reflection lets me off the hook. I have also spent the night in a mountain refuge in close proximity to unfamiliar sleeping partners, and can attest to the adventure! I really enjoyed this post. Thank-you.


Il a raison, Pierre, Vive l'Amitié!


Thank you for the story. I fell in love with Annecy last year when I vacation there. Thank you for making me think of it. Hope all is well. I have been in the pacific northwest and down to San Francisco. I like my visits to Europe better but the views here were nice.

Take care

Judi in Lake Balboa

It's just so great to see you and Jean-Marc enjoying your friends! What a lovely day you were haigñr

Pam Horovitz

Kristi, our good friends Sam and Susan Gish have just moved to Aix-en-Provence. While I do agree with them that it is a wonderful place to live, Philadelphia is now poorer without them.


What a beautiful essay. Thank you.

Diane Young

you and Jean-Marc are really blessed with many friends, not only in France but also around the world who read your messages. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experiences. L'amitie est pour toute le monde!


What a beautiful, heartwarming story! Family and close friends truly do make any place a home.


Thank you dear Kristi, for your words (as they so often do) spoke out loud what I wasn't able to articulate as an expat so far from home and friends. xx

Cynthia Crumlish

Ce commentaire n'a rien à voir avec les bonnes villes, etc....cependant, I wanted to give you a very belated thanks for mentioning (years ago?) that you use Embryolisse face cream. I finally found it here in the USA and have thrown out all other products! C'est une aubaine!! Merci infiniment!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Diane. We are blessed to have you, and those in this community, as our friends. 💛💛💛

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

Beautiful way of living...xoxo.

Stephen Battalia

Nice one Kristi--sad about Max, but you have to let them go--then when they come back like my Michael and Alessandra--then very sweet again...

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