Family Safe in Mexico + Secret to traveling/working in France at the age of 90!
La Crève and Chili Basta! Fast and Easy Chili recipe with a Provençal twist

France's "Island of Beauty" and the expression "essuyer les platres"

Muddy view

For our 23rd wedding anniversary, we went to Corsica--to a hotel that looked very tempting as it was recently renovated... Unfortunately, it was not ready to welcome us in the best conditions. At the end of our stay, we can truly say we "wiped the plaster" with our very own clothes! Find out the meaning of today's expression essuyer les plâtres--and read about our trip to France's "Island of Beauty" in today's post.


    : to be the guinea pig

    : to cope with teething pains, to  endure the early hiccups of something new (hotel, business, service, etc...)

AUDIO FILE - listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French: 


Pour notre 23 ième anniversaire de mariage, nous sommes allés en Corse dans un hôtel qui avait l'air fort alléchant car tout récemment rénové.... mais qui n'était malheureusement pas prêt à accueillir dans les meilleures conditions. A la fin de notre séjour, nous pouvons dire que nous avons "essuyer les plâtres".


    by Kristi Espinasse

When you are married to an outdoorsy kind of guy nice hotels are not a priority. The idea is to spend vacation time exploring--and not lavishing in a cozy bed made up of fine linens. Instead, lumpy mattresses, bathrooms shared with strangers, and noisy streets just outside our window are something I have grown to expect when my husband reserves "une chambre". And though we have moved on up, over the years, to nicer and nicer accomodations, I never expected Monsieur Rough-It to reserve, for our 23rd wedding anniversary, such impeccible digs...or at least they were touted that way in the newly-made-over hotel's presentation.

So there we were on Corsica this past Thursday, wrinkled and stiff after an overnight ferry ride from Toulon to Bastia...but that didn't matter as we were headed for an impeccible piscine (as seen in the hotel's impressive ad) to float to our heart's content--i.e. pass the time until our room was ready....

If only the pool were ready.  Ah well, a few dirty cushions, a pile of wet towels (no more dry ones available so Jean-Marc lounged on a tea towel), and an unfinished poolside bathroom did not take away from the scenery. Just look at the view of the Mediterranean! But when the hiccups continued to our room (faulty light switches, a garbled telephone line to the reception, and no T.V. or internet, we soon realized the hotel was experiencing teething pains ... and that we guests were, as the French say, wiping the plaster!

Even if the newly-renovated hotel's plaster had dried weeks ago, there were many unfinished bits. Instead of detailing all of them in this post, let's turn our attention outward--beyond the boastful (and soggy) what the French call "The Island of Beauty"....

Caper bush on Corsica with capers and flowers

Quelle trouvaille! What a find to see these beloved capers growing high up on the island. If Corsica is known as L'Ile de Beauté, it is also appreciated for its delicious harvests. Chesnuts, olives, figs, citrons (heritage tree, grown for its skin), grenadines, grapes, pomelos.... and those ball-like strawberries growing in the wonderful arbousier trees. Jean-Marc pulled off to the side of a breathtaking (so steep I couldn't breathe) road to gather a handful of the ripend fruit for us to eat. (I'm looking for the photo of those strawberries to show you now, meantime, here's a picture of the châtaignes we gathered by the side of yet another winding road... They should remind you of another of Jean-Marc's favorite things to hunt and eat. Can you guess?)

Corsican chestnuts chataignes are in season in october and used in flans  fiadons  and many of the islands culinary specialties

Chestnuts looking very much like oursins, or sea urchins! Jean-Marc loves both of these Mediterranean délices.

Apart from the goodies you can pick along the roadside or in the wild maquis, we sampled a lot of Corsican dishes made up of local cheese, like brocciu, and "tested" a lot of creamy desserts, like fiadon - a Corsican cheesecake recently discovered at the spectacular Mugel plage here at home in La Ciotat

Fiadone - a dessert specialty on Corsica  similar to cheesecake.

It took a lot of seaside naps--relaxing siestas in which we were rocked to sleep by the waves at the beach, to digest so much Corsican goodness....

La sieste - even mr sacks had a nap at the beach on Corsica

Even Mr Sacks--Jean-Marc's dear, elderly sacoche, needed a nap--because, you know, in dog years Mr Sacks would be 140 years old....

Kristi and Jean-Marc 23rd anniversary2

And in married years, our couple is 23 years old. We are both grateful to continue to love and to cherish. Thanks, Jean-Marc, for planning a wonderful celebration on France's Island of Beauty! Corsica was as beautiful as ever...even if it didn't feel as authentic and rich as the first time we ventured here years ago (to Ajaccio). Jean-Marc had a simple explanation for that: 

"Because back then we were roughing it!"

The earthy scents and rugged fare came back to me, remembering those inexpensive inns run by old Corsicans who probably hunted the sanglier they used for their rich terrines, and picked the figs from their own modest gardens. Next time we may skip the fine and soggy linens in exchange for a lumpy mattress and one of those authentic inns.

  Smokey getting luxury treatment at the sitters

It looks like Smokey got a good deal at his hotel. We found a couple here in La Ciotat who charged very little, but gave so much more to our 8-year-old (in human years) golden boy. As Smokey continues to snooze (here at home now) I'll be working on this edition--adding more photos and info about France's Ile de beauté

Thank you

Strawberry fruit from the arbousier tree in Corsica France

Arbutus unedo - or "strawberry tree". As you can see, these don't really look like strawberries and the fruit can be as bland as a mouthful of sand...unless you pick it as just the right time. The last week of September must be that right time. Wow, these were good!


Jean-Marc and I both chose Barcaggio as a highlight of our trip. The charming port, the swim JM enjoyed (and the sea urchins he caught and ate sur place) and the U Fanale restaurant were delicious discoveries. We will never forget the chestnut flan we had at the restaurant!

U Fanale restaurant at the port of Barcaggio

Driftwood lounge chairs before the Mediterranean Sea Corsica France beach
Driftwood lounge chairs for drifting to sleep before the peaceful sea.

Happy Birthday Jules message on the sandy beach in Corsica France

From Corsica to Mexico. Sent this birthday wish to my beautiful Mom, who turned 71 on September 23rd.

Driving onto the Corsica ferry
Driving onto the Corsica ferry for our overnight trajet, or journey.

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Suzanne in Monroe, NJ

Once again, a lovely post. The felt transported to Corsica.


Poor Kristi, I do sympathise about the letdown over accommodation. Ironically when your blog landed I was in the middle of a letter of complaint to a very famous Oxford college where I've just spent the weekend. The accommodation was basic which was what I knew to expect but the dust, mould and litter I did not! In the past it has all been pristine. But as ever in your blog you remind us to look on the bright side - and indeed I had a wonderful weekend in all other ways. You are shining bright in your lovely couple photo and I love that you included one of Smokey for us.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Margaret, Glad you enjoyed the weekend despite the mouldy hotel. I may have motivated you even more to get out and explore. We, too, took the time to write a letter. Hopefully it will help... even if we have not heard back from them.

Cicely Hand

Your blog on Corsica came at the perfect time as my husband and I were considering a motorcycle trip over from Nice for 5 days. In the end, we decided to get more acquainted with the nooks and crannies of the Côte d'Azur. We have recently moved to Nice for 7 months and are so happy we choose this ville. We love the fact that we are just 3 blocks from the beach and delightful walks along the Promenade. Our BMW R 1200 is our preferred mode of transportation and we look forward to our adventures. I have enjoyed reading your blogs for more than a year now. They helped inspired us to try French living for a while when we retired. So here we are!

Audrey Wilson

Such a pity about the hotel ! But Corsica is beautiful Have had two holidays there One in the North near Bastia & one in the South Both different but beautiful & interesting Lots to see & great food too
Enjoy !!!


Wonderful post! We have known a few Corsicans but have never been there. The chestnuts, even in those prickly shells, almost made me drool. Happy anniversary and many more!

April Ethridge

Beautiful trip for the two of you! I can no longer hear the audio files on my Mac. I do not have Typed and the files will not open. Any hints out there for me from readers who may be more tech savvy?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Suzanne. Maybe you will go there when you come back to France? 👍👍

Pam Luckey

Hi Kristi, Happy Anniversary! I can't make the sound byte work for Jean Marc's French part. Is anyone else having problems with it, or are you in the middle of recording, just now?

Marie-Louise LaFond

When I was a student at the university in Nice we had a few other students from Corsica, who played the Corsican guitar in the evenings at our cite universitaire. Have you heard it? It was unlike anything I have ever heard. Beautiful. They used to sing, too.

Anne Umphrey

Your post has made me want to go to Corsica. This is one place I've not visited. Now it has gone on my bucket list. Bon Anniversaire de mariage!


Happy Anniversary! What a lovely retreat. Sometimes hotels like this provide great stories and laughs, augmenting an overall wonderful time. Sounds like you two made the most of this beautiful place. Looking forward to more pictures!


Kristi, my husband says that's 46 years of marriage...23 for you & 23 for your hubby!
My husband & I are celebrating 70 years next week! 😉

Betsy Foree

If you are still in Bastia, a trip up the coast to Erbalunga with it's artist colony and wonderful beaches would be a nice detour.


As always, I love your posts!!! But, as others have said, I am unable to open the audio files now. I usually read on my IPad, so maybe it's an Apple incompatibility. Never had the problem until recently.
Hope you can resolve it as I'm dying to know the correct pronunciation of the inhabitants of your new village.
Happy, happy anniversary!!
P.S., Im still disappointed that I was unable to make it to your wine tasting, I think it was 2014 or. '15. I was in Provence both years but I'm not sure which year it was. May even have been earlier, time flies by so quickly.


Alors Cristine, pourquoi pas, vous n'est faire les audios en Francais?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Elly, and friends who have responded about the soundfile issues. I just realized I was not downloading in MP3 format! I have uploaded a new file. Please scroll back to the top of this post and let me know if this file works for you.


Magnifique !!! Maintenant, ça marche bien.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Betsy, we loved Erbalunga -- where we had a coffee and, as no one was around, swam in our underwear (our swimsuits were farther up the road, in our car...). We did not see the artist colony, though. P.S. Did you bring your bike? We saw so many bike riders and motorcyclists, too!

Kristin Espinasse

Happy to hear that. Thanks, Elly! And looking forward to seeing you next time you are in France.

Kristin Espinasse

Marie-Louise, No, we did not hear the Corsican guitar but will hope to next time. Thanks!


I am fortunate enough to have a friend who is Corsican and has a house in Bastellica. I have visited her there a few times and have always been bowled over by the beauty of the island.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Looks like you both had a wonderful anniversary trip despite the not so great accommodations! You'll always remember the fun you had! Love all the colorful photos!


Kristi, I'm admiring the sunny beauty of Corsica from my rainy corner of the world. Despite the soggy accommodations, it looks like you and Jean-Marc enjoyed a lovely get-away to celebrate your anniversary. Congratulations, once again!


Delighted to say that on both my iPad and iPhone the new sound link works beautifully. Easy and instant. Well done. I do hope it works for everyone else too.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi, Amado, Because I would not want to mislead you in your pronunciation. My husband, a native speaker, is best for the job! And he has a nice voice, nest-ce pas?

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Marvellous vicarious holiday for me today, thanks to this lovely blog, Kristi! Warm congrats on your 23rd Anniversary, you two Darlings. And thanks so very much for including a pic of Smokey snoozing blissfully -- the perfect capper. Today's photos seem extra luscious too, for some reason. Perhaps it's the glow in the Corsican air? Or just that a happy-making holiday, even a 'borrowed' one, can have that effect!


Our dear Kristi,
First of all,Happy Anniversary!
May the love you share,and your devotion and commitment to each other continue to grow and blossom with each day and every year!
And! Your wonderful words again show us that it is the two people involved who make their anniversary an occasion to celebrate together,despite
disappointing rooms and hotels!
Natalia XO
PS Snoozing Smokey is precious!!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Cicely! You and your husband would love touring Corsica on your motorcycle, and would join countless others who do so. We saw many on our ferry ride over, and many passed us along the steep and winding roads. A lot of people were on those electric bikes, too! This time of year is a good time to go as there are a lot less people. But by October 1st, many of the seaside restaurants and resto-plages will be closed.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Sarah! And happy (35th?) wedding anniversary to you both!

Patricia Sands

Happy anniversary, Kristi and Jean-Marc. What a lovely photo of the two of you to mark this special occasion! Glad the hotel woes didn't spoil your enjoying the beauty of Corsica. Here's a toast to many more celebrations of lasting love ... *clink*


Congratulations on your anniversary! Your pictures are lovely and I love learning these new French expressions. The strawberries are interesting though never seen ones like that before.

Leslie in Oregon

I have the same problem on my MacBook Pro, and I'm missing hearing Jean-Marc's beautiful Provençal French. (I do not have Typed either.)

Leslie in Oregon

Happy Anniversary!! And thank you for the lovely photographs, particularly the one of Smokey sleeping happily at home. Since Henry, our wonderful 14-year-old Golden, died of cancer on Memorial Day, I find have found that Smokey stories and photographs mean even more to me. (P.S. I still cannot listen to today's audio.)

Deanna - Portland, OR

Thanks for adding the "updated soundfile link" - now I can hear Jean-Marc again! Haven't been able to do that for awhile.

Marianne Rankin

Kristin and Jean-Marc, congratulations on 23 years of marriage - and I wish you many more!

You will be happy you got the Kindle. My son gave me one a few years ago and it's wonderful for travel - I take it on the subway, and it's like carrying a library with me. Some folks are able to do a lot of things with theirs; I use mine mostly for books.

Although your latest trip wasn't "perfect," it was still a great experience, and as time goes by the memories will mean more and more to you.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

I wouldn't have had the courage to eat the strawberries without a local doing the same! I met my husband when he was the camp leader for my group of college students (I was the teacher, not student!). Needless to say, back then we roughed it all the time, camping, kayaking, walking etc. Life was good. Very true that good hotels don't necessarily maketh the holiday.


Happy Anniversary! Beautiful pictures. Your story reminded me of when we traveled to Spain, stayed in budget places, in order to save our pennies for a beautiful, renaissance Parador. As it was JUST renovated, we breathed new paint all night and could hardly wait to cease "wiping the plaster." Oh, well. Corsica still looks inviting, and thank you for sharing its beauty.

Kristin Espinasse

Leslie, So sorry to learn of Henrys passing. Smokey and I send extra hugs your way. 💛

Suzanne Dunaway

Great travelogue complete with all the glitches and then uplifted by so much beauty. Send Jean-Marc over to our arbousier to harvest so that they won't drop on the terrace every day and leave nice little round squished punctuation marks in a four-metre area!!! I'm the only one who eats them because of the sandy texture, but I made confiture of them once, too. No one wanted that because the taste is fairly nondescript. But our huge tree shields us from our neighbors' gazes as we have lunch! Thank you so much for the recommendations but I'd love a hotel we CAN stay in with a pool (preferably filled).

Leslie in Oregon

Thank you, Kristin and Smokey...that means a lot. XOXO


Tres bon anniversaire! Your post reminds me of a great film called "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," set in India. A group of Brits of a "certain age" cannot afford the cost of retirement in England. They end up at a hotel in India advertised just like yours, but when they arrive, nothing is ready for them, and they cope in different ways, as you did... The film is sweet and charming.
It has finally cooled off in the Chicago area after six straight days of 90+ temps, and our school has air conditioning in only select areas (think administrators' offices!).


Happy Anniversary. My husband Dean, celebrated his 81st birthday on Sept 26. We have been been to Corsica, maybe someday. Look forward to more pictures.


Kristin Espinasse

Happy birthday to Dean! 🎇🍾🍰😘😘


I got a prompt response from the Oxford college President and an apology but no redress, as in partial refund etc. which is quite poor on a bill of over £200. I hope you do better.

Kristin Espinasse

Glad you got a response. We have not heard back from our hotel....


I just read an interesting and well-written book about Corsica:
The Rose Cafe by John Hanson Mitchell.

I wonder how his description of life there in the early 1960s compares with your observations of life there now.

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