Bonjour de La Ciotat + La Remoulade
How Egg rolls are Eaten in France & L'appétit vient en mangeant

Peeping Toms, street-side meltdowns, and this new city life in La Ciotat

Beach in la ciotat
So far it's been nine days that we've lived in La Ciotat. The residents of La Ciotat are called les Ciotadins or Ciotadines. Listen to the previous sentence in French via the link below.

Today's Word: LA CIOTAT
    : French town located in the Bouches-du-Rhône

from the Occitan "ciutat" -- ciutat is also a variety of grape. It seems Jean-Marc cannot get away from them!

Click here to listen to the following sentence

Voilà neuf jours que nous habitons à La Ciotat. Les habitants de La Ciotat sont appelés les Ciotadins ou Ciotadines.


by Kristi Espinasse

With a new life comes new habits.  Instead of typing this post indoors on a desktop computer in a quiet room, I am borrowing Jean-Marc's laptop which I've set up outside on our front terrasse. This change came when my old ordinateur slowed to a turtle's pace last week.  Bear with me as we adapt to more change--and many new surprises!

Collared dove pepper tree faux-poivrier
Friendly collared doves, or tourterelles, strut past Smokey here on the front terrace. More photos here.

Seated outside with an awkward keyboard and our golden retriever, Smokey, something else is smoking: a spiral mosquito disk which I have placed on the ground as a further deterrent (after covering my arms and legs with long sleeves and pants and lots and lots of oily lemon balm). We have been battling mosquitoes since moving in last Monday. We didn't notice the blood-suckers last March, when we signed the promise to buy this bungalow. And though we have no regrets for this property, we do regret our unwanted roommates and are arming ourselves and our home with a barrage of defense: plug-in units of mosquito repellent, essential oil candles, essence of eucalyptus...and we are searching for any sources of standing water (such as the potholders, or saucers, beneath our plants or the puddle that forms beside the garden hose or the leak beneath the kitchen sink. I hadn't thought of Smokey's water bowl. Does that count as a humid, welcoming environment for les moustiques?).

Biting pests are enough to put anybody on edge, so to help us relax and settle in we invited our first guests: our next neighbors to the west and to the north (we live on a corner). Neither of our voisins knew each other, though their families had owned these homes since the 50s. Slathered in lemon oil we toasted, raising our glass, as well, to the previous owner, Deborah, who joined us on that fourth night.

Two days later while sitting on the front porch I noticed a man peering into our front gate. On closer look it was one of our guests from our meet-the-neighbors night. I waved my hands and hurried over and opened the gate. Our neighbor to the west was a little embarrassed, explaining he was just out on his morning walk when he glanced over our gate. Little did he know my thoughts: nosy neighbors are a good thing! Here's to your morning walk and don't hesitate to check on us whenever you are out and about!

But the next day when I noticed an ominous figure staring past our front gate it wasn't our neighbor! As I looked up, the man startled and darted off....

A lot of people walk past our front gate on the way to the beach. And as they walk back to their cars we overhear a lot of meltdowns--young children who are not happy to return home and they are keen to let the world know of the injustice by their high-pitched screams which rattle my bedroom window behind which I am trying to nap. With so many meltdowns each day, during tourist season, we are putting double-vitrage windows high on our list of priorities.

Other than the tantrums, or crises de colère, we hear a lot from our quiet perch on the other side of the leafy fence. Because the tourists can't see us, they freely express themselves, with the help of a lot of cussing, fighting, and otherwise private conversations. My daughter Jackie and I shared notes as well as other observations about the neighborhood: You know that now that we live in the city we could be cambrioler...

Burgled? The thought brings me back to the mystery man at our front gate. Was he casing our property? Or was he peeping? Jean-Marc had another, more reassuring scenario:

He is probably another curious neighbor. In that case, take a good look at us! And if you see somebody else here please call les flics! We'll look out for you, too. In France, that's called Voisins Vigilants! Now if only someone could look out for these blood-suckers, the abominable moustiques!

Kristi porch hammock pepper tree
On the front terrasse, waiting for our guests.

la terrasse = patio, terrace
un ordinateur = computer 
un moustique = mosquito
un voisin = neighbor
double-vitrage = double-paned
la crise de colère = tantrum, angry outburst
les flics = cops
My sister-in-law Cécile, welder, woodworker, superhero writes about her latest creation:

Jean Marc avait fait taillé les oliviers du mas des bruns et m´a proposé le bois;
Jean-Marc had the olive trees pruned at Mas des Brun and offered me the wood;

il a séché 2 ans et demi...
it dried for two and a half years...

le hasard a voulu que l´assemblage se fasse maintenant.
as chance would have it the assembly happened now.

un clin d´œil...une douceur , l´olivier a tellement de symboles: paix, réconciliation,victoire, force....
a twinkling...a gentleness, the olive tree has so many symboles: peace, reconciliation, victory, strength
To inquire about this sentimental piece--contact Cécile via her website:

Thank you for the suggestions you have sent in, regarding what to name our home in La Ciotat. So far we have not picked a name. Jean-Marc likes Dolce Vita and, lately, Shalom, which means "peace" and is used as a Jewish greeting and farewell (Merriam-Webster). He picked up the term in this helpful devotional, which we began reading every morning during last year's storm.

This brings us to our readers and friends in Houston. Our thoughts are with you. I can't find the hearts on this foreign keyboard, so we are releasing a virtual sky full of coeurs from here in La Ciotat.  Bon courage, Houston.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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