Décontracté at Chateau de Pibarnon: a visual report
Boire la Tasse: Short story by the sea including funny French sayings

Porquerolles sea-hunting trip + My husband's creative (and quirky) side

Kristi on beach island of porquerolles
If you have ever been harmed by words, today's quote may help you. (Photo of me by Jean-Marc, more in today's lighthearted story.)

"la lance"

    : spear

The most destructive of weapons is not the spear or the siege cannon, which can wound a body and demolish a wall.
The most terrible of all weapons is the word, which can ruin a life without leaving a trace of blood, and whose wounds never heal.

Let us, then, be the masters of our tongue and not the slaves of our words.
Even if words are used against us, let us not enter a battle that cannot be won.

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence

La plus destructrice de toutes les armes n’est pas la lance ou le canon – qui peuvent blesser le corps et détruire la muraille. La plus terrible est la parole – qui ruine une vie sans laisser de traces de sang, et dont les blessures ne cicatrisent jamais.

Soyons donc maître de notre langue, pour ne pas être esclave de nos paroles. Même si elles sont utilisées contre nous, n’entrons pas dans un combat qui n’aura jamais de vainqueur.

--Paulo Coelho


by Kristi Espinasse

While preparing for a romantic getaway, I asked my husband where he had set his suitcase. That was when he informed me he wasn't taking one. I guessed the shirt on his back would be, once again, sufficient for an overnight trip, and that he would just borrow my toothbrush and deodorant, comme d'habitude.

No matter how many times I object—Beurk!—regarding the toothbrush-sharing and—c'est pour les femmes!—concerning the deodorant, he does as he pleases. Such accoutrements and hygienic hassles are unimportant details—downright snags—in his very down-to-earth existence.

Meantime, life beckons with its rugged, cobalt-blue sea and its remote, Mediterranean coves now bursting with succulent sea urchins or châtaignes de mer. Such were the treasures we were about to rediscover over the weekend, on the quaint French island of Porquerolles, where Jean-Marc had reserved a Valentine's Day retreat.

On the eve of our departure, I found my husband in the kitchen fashioning an impromptu spear from a floor mop.

"Where'd you get that?" I questioned, pointing to my mop.

"I didn't think you used it," he said, innocently.

"That's beside the point!"

Rather than argue, Jean-Marc began to pierce holes in one end of the mopstick, having already removed its stringy top....

"Hey! What are you doing?!" I asked as I stood there, goggle-eyed, not sure whether I really cared about the mop, but shocked, all the same, to witness its demise.

Jean-Marc opened the silverware drawer and reached for a fork. He had found an old shoelace and was now using it to tie the fork to the end of the mop. For an instant, I was tempted to calculate just how many gasoline points we had saved to pay for that fork... only this, too, was beside the point. Come to think of it, just what was the point? What on earth was he rigging together this time? A hunting lance, I think he said it was?

"Let it go!" I thought to myself, for the umpteenth time in 10 years of marriage. I walked out of the kitchen, leaving my husband to explore his creative side—at the expense of yet another cooking or cleaning utensil.

By the time we arrived in the coastal town of Hyères to catch the navette, I'd long since gotten over the novelty of the wacky, homemade hunting implement. It was when we began to receive odd looks from the other passengers that I realized just how goofy (worse—psychopathic!) my husband appeared, sitting there with a blank look on his face and the mop-fork spear at his side. One woman got up and changed seats. Another pulled her child close. A few people whispered. More than one set of eyes narrowed.

Jean-Marc sat oblivious to the commotion. I'm certain he was dreaming of the day's catch—all those spiky oursins (and the delicacy inside them: sea urchin roe), the ones he would soon rake in with his clever, multi-purpose outil.

There he sat, dreaming of the new frontiers he would be forging with the aid of his... mop. He was terribly impressed by how the mop-spear doubled as a walking stick.

"Look," he said, tap-tap-tapping it against the ground, stepping gleefully forward and backward for effect.

I shook my head, reminded of life's simple pleasures, and of my husband, who is like the child who pushes aside the newly-acquired toy to play with the champagne cork. May he continue to free himself of life's superficial snags, to enjoy the ongoing adventure that thunders beneath his French feet. May he go forward, unadorned by all that is superflu. May fashion or deodorant never hinder him from his burning quest to discover the rugged coastline, where shellfish rock gently beneath the shimmering sea.

Should the road less traveled ever get too bumpy, he'll have his mop-stick to lean on—and he'll have me, too.

Today's essay is from Blossoming in Provence, a collection of stories from when this blog began. If you are new to this blog, you might enjoy this little book, which will introduce you to many of the characters in this blog. Click here to order.

Roulez au Pastis (c) Kristin EspinasseLook closely at the photo of Jean-Marc, and you'll see a fork head at the top of his spear. (As for the sign behind him, it reads: Roulez au Pastis (instead of the usual "roulez au ralenti", or "drive slowly"--and "walkers have priority").


comme d'habitude = as usual
beurk! = ew, yuck!
la garrigue (f) = Mediterranean scrubland
la navette = shuttle (ferry boat)
une lance = spear
un oursin = a sea urchin
un outil = a tool
le superflu = excess

Download 2 free audiobooks when you begin a free trial at Audible. Start here.

Porquerolles sign

Porquerolles France Sign, to order click here

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

La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports

In summer reading: The Promise of Provence, by Patricia Sands

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

Location de velos on Porquerolles
More photos and information on the must-see island of Porquerolles in this post.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much 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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Marsha Tessler

My daughter signed me up for French Word A Day 13 years ago when I moved to Luxembourg. I've looked forward to receiving the mails not only for the additional instruction but have truly enjoyed the normal trials and tribulations of a "real" family.
Now it's time for me to switch to Spanish and move back to the States.
Thank you for all your time and effort.

Liz Konold

One of things that charms me (and that I had to get used to) is the "individualism" in France. The varieties of dress, hairstyles -- and colors (such as fire engine red)--the nonchalance with which the French carry themselves, the unconcern with 'fitting in.' It is no doubt what has made them leaders in literature, the arts, and even engineering (the TGV and Concord airplane). I'm hoping that it rubs off on me.....

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Fun story today! It makes me want to go pull my copy of Blossoming in Provence off my bookshelf and read through by the pool! Supposed to be really hot outside today! Hope you are staying cool in France!

Kristin Espinasse


Best wishes for your move back to the States. That will be a change after all this time in Europe. Change is good! Please thank your daughter for me, for sending you our way. And thank you for reading this blog all this years.

LaVonna Fahey

Thank you Kristi, I've enjoyed reading your insights into life's pleasures and trials aside from the French lessons. Living outside one's comfort zone is not an easy life, but it certainly is interesting. I've enjoyed the glimpses you have shared. LaVonna

Ladee Rickard

I think that the sign is funnier than the original interpretation. I consulted an on line dictionary when I saw that "'tis" was handwritten on the sign.

Rouler en pas - means to go at a walking pace. So the sign originally said "drive at a walking pace and pedestrians have priority". When someone added "TIS" to the sign, it now referred to the Beverage of Hemingway fame, which lends itself to funnier interpretation.


I have an eery sense of a familiar story. Has this happened before ... or am I becoming a clairvoyante? By the way, why not pack J-M's toothbrush if he won't?


Oops, if I'd read the footnote, I'd have realized that of course I HAVE read it before! So much for my new fortune-telling career!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Ladee. This is a helpful explanation. I have had that picture so long that I no longer saw the *tis*, the original reason for which the photo was taken - the mop-spear being a happy accident and chance to illustrate the story. 

Kristin Espinasse

Good idea about packing his toothbrush. That takes care of that! 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, LaVonna! 

Patricia Sands

Another hilarious episode! It's always fun to return to past memories. What fun to read Ladee's explanation of the sign! Love it!

Hedy Holmberg

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words can kill the soul. Your post about being harmed by words is so very true.
Thank you for your beautiful photos and words of wisdom.


Oh my gosh, this story had me laughing out loud! I'm sitting in a garage waiting for my snow tires to be taken off and the all season tires to be on (no judgement- I know it's July!), and my three little kids asked what I was laughing about. I then told them the story, and they were laughing. BUT, we are all wondering how the story ends! Was JM successful???

Leslie NYC

I think a successful adult is someone like Jean-Marc, who retains his way of doing things and, as you said, lets the superfluous fall away.
Bravo to him; brava to you for for the story!
My good friend (and a mother) once said, "Children are as smart as they are already."
We just have to not lose our wisdom and spirit!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for the cozy scene you shared, winter tire change, summer, kids. As for any success with the hunting implement, yes--he managed to collect some sea urchins, which we enjoyed right there on the shore--along with the rest of our picnic.


This is a beautiful, heartfelt post. May I, too, remember to 'let it go' and see the creative underneath!


What I admire and find helpful - and often amusing - is your ability NOT to "sweat the small stuff". Your tolerance is admirable - and wise. I just loved the whole toothbrush saga (in your place I might have "killed")- especially the reader solution. Yet alongside the tolerance, you clearly are a person of principles. You walk that tightrope very gracefully and if sometimes you fall - momentarily - you reflect, learn and share, both the dark places and the light. So your blog is gloriously interactive. Your periodic affectionate and amusing replies show us that you are there and listening. Nous aussi!

Linda R.

Memories - today's post brought a smile. : )


Great story! Really fun to read....

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Margaret! ☀ These comments and feedback are a much appreciated gift from readers. I mark them to re-read on days when doubts set in. I hope to continue writing and sharing for as long as possible.

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristin,
Your story is amazing. In fact, I think you will need an Amazing Grace to continue
to live with Jean Marc! Specifically, the beatitudes counsel meekness (kindness) to
replace what stirs us to be annoyed, irritated, and downright angry, although your
endless love seems to trump all of J-M's antics. What a gift!
I recently watched the Jacques Tati film, Playtime, which was released in the US
in 1972 and which was not recognized for the masterpiece it is. Tati's films created
the character, Mr. Hulot, who like Jean-Marc, was himself in the world. It is an insightful
comedy. Watch it on some dark and stormy night; there are many physical gags which
will lighten any dark night. By the way, there are very few words in this film as Tati
relies on a wonderful visual narrative to give the viewer his message.

Mike Young

I suggest that a quirky husband can only have a quirky wife?

Kristin Espinasse

Totally :-) 

Kristin Espinasse

Amazing Grace--a favorite song! JM and I are both mellowing out - and this past year, especially. Thanks for the Tati film recommendation. Looks like a good one! 


Our dear Kristi,
All your posts wrap us in hugs,but this one also wraps us in smiles!And laughter!You absolutely paint pictures with your words!
And while you write about your 10th anniversary,we share your joy over now being 23 and ever more joined in your love!
I particularly enjoyed reading about misadventures shared by both of us.Rod and I shared a toothbrush,too,because we always seemed to be in a hurry and short of any real space for stuff stashing!
Your gas coupon forks translated for us into four piece china place settings/ gas purchase with purchase.(looking at them now they don't look so great,but back then,our dishes consisted of $1.00 a place setting and these others were a vast improvement).We had three sets(had hoped for four);we were transferred out of town and used our last gas fill up to buy the 3rd set.I asked the station owner in the nicest way if he would PLEASE consider just selling us one since we were leaving.Scowling,he responded with an emphatic "NON!" and turned his back on us.Well,51 years later whenever we use those plates I still think of this incident and laugh (while being P.O. 'ed!)
THANK YOU for reminding us to cherish every day!
Natalia XO


Hello Kristi, your style of writing keeps me enthralled. I always smile or laugh when I read your posts. Bonne continuation!


Loved this story-- thank you as always for sharing your stories with us!


My mother always said that you can't take back what you say ( which is not entirely true) , but it is also valid to say that you cannot take back what you do not say also. Silence is not neutral, and errors of omission can wound just as much as errors of commission.


I sometimes think that my husband is too quirky. Then, I read stories such as this one and remind myself that quirky people generate the most amusing stories, and that we can learn a thing or two from them. Kristi, I hope you and JM had a wonderful 23rd anniversary celebration.

Robert Hyman

Your posts are charming, clever and well-written. This post has such beautiful meaning
by relating a timeless quote......with a present day experience.

Thank you for sharing your life,your philosophy and your insight!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Robert! 

Ken Curtis

A word or two about the power of words. A little verse I wrote several years ago goes as follows:

The Power of the Word

The word ever so powerful
Can uplift or tear down
Can unite and draw together
Or can bring low and separate

The word has set armies in motion
It has ceased the rue conflict
It has brought love where none was
It has destroyed its very existence

The word chosen in haste
Becomes a saber or shield
Defending not love
But stealing its place

The word spoken in anger
Will undo the best
Its base and mean spirit
Not easily reeled back in

For the word is either the servant of love
Or the messenger of deceit and avarice
Used as a weapon will always return
The same spirit to its speaker

My words I will not toss about
My words I will now choose
With consideration for the effect
They have on others, as well as myself

I will not go sparely with them
Neither will I spend them foolishly
I will use them wisely with intent
To create the world in which I intend to live...

March - 1998

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