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Entries from February 2018

Au milieu + horses in the sea of La Ciotat!

Horse and cart in mediterranean sea kaki polizzi la ciotat france
A sight to behold in our seaside town of La Ciotat. The man riding the cart is Kaki Polizzi, an entraîneur de cheval, or award-winning horse-trainer.

"au milieu de" 

    : in the middle of

Click here to listen to the following sentence

Ne changez pas de cheval au milieu de la rivière. --Abraham Lincoln
Don't change horses in midstream.


    by Kristi Espinasse

My Mom once told me to take a new path each day. I never forgot her suggestion, although I took it littéralement the first time around (taking an alternate route to work the next day, enjoying the change of scenery there in the beautiful Arizona desert).

My wise Mamacita is also a horsewoman, and though she doesn't jump thoroughbreds any longer, she did get on a horse a few weeks ago, after it trotted right past her tin-roofed casa in the foothills of Puerto Vallarta. As nervous as I was seeing Mom on that horse (via the photo she sent with WhatsApp), it was yet another reminder to changer mon chemin chaque jour: change my path, change my schedule, change my habits--autrement dit--to shake things up in an otherwise predictable daily existence.

Mom jules horse puerta vallarta foothills

There is a reward in changing our habitudes, but I can't take credit for a recent gift that came of this. It was thanks to my daughter that I ventured out before daybreak on a Sunday morning. You see, dear Reader, I was on a "guilt errand" (the pastries I was after were my way of saying sorry for flaking out on our dinner date. Jackie, her boyfriend, Jérémie, and I were set to go to the brand new Casino (and its restaurant) here in La Ciotat, but by the end of the day I was worn out. So I gave the young couple my credit card (for a meal, not for gambling) and bid them bon appétit! 

The next morning I felt terrible for not joining them (in the end they went to MacDo, followed by a game of Monopoly here at home). To ease the guilt I hatched the "Pâtisserie Plan": surprise the young couple with fresh pâtisseries--a delicious selection of pain au chocolat, croissants, pains au raisins (and whatever else the bakery tosses into its mix of mini-size brioches (did you know croissants come in mini sizes? They do! 12 for 4 euros 50....)

And this is how I happened upon the most amazing scene! The boulangerie-pâtisserie in question is located en face de la mer--right across from the sea....where, for the first time, I saw horses in training! I leave you with a few images of these magnificent chevaux and a few reminders: when a young couple of the smartphone generation wants to play Monopoly with little OLD you, don't miss out, as I did. And, finally, each day, changer de chemin.

Post note: please forgive any errors today. I lost my entire story and had to rewrite it. Grrrh! To cool down from this aggravation, I went for a walk and, while walking along the sandy beach, snowflakes fell from the sky! Il neige ici à La Ciotat! 

entraîneur = trainer, coach, instructor
le cheval = horse
autrement dit = said another way
une habitude = habit, custom
bon appétit = enjoy your meal
MacDo = what the French call McDonalds
la boulangerie-pâtisserie = bakery (serving both bread and pastries)

Horse of Pride - One of my favorite books!
Le Cheval d'Orgeuil - (the same book, in French)
Embryolisse--the moisturizing cream I use (and so does my daughter), try it!
Saddles and horse supplies available on Amazon.  


Horses cart yellow wall

Horseman cavalier horse mediterranean sea training

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Un Matou + A Most Unusual and Creative Concept for Cat Adoption in Marseilles: Café "Le Coin des Chat'Mis"

le coin des chatmis chat mis marseille chat adoption
Today's bilingual story was written by my sister-in-law, Cécile. Don't miss this report on an unusual café in Marseilles....

Today's word: un matou

    : tomcat

Example sentence:

Derrière un vitre je peux déjà voir un gros matou qui dort du sommeil du juste dans son panier. Behind a window, I can already see a big tomcat who is sleeping like a baby in his basket.


par Cécile Espinasse, artisan at Courbes et Diagnoles Design

Chaque soir je prends à partir du Vieux-Port le bus 57 pour rentrer chez moi: C´est une ligne de quartier, où les bus sont plus petits parce que par chez nous, là haut, les rues sont étroites et que les grands bus ne passeraient pas.

Every night I take number bus 57 from the Old Port to go home: It's a neighborhood line, where the buses are smaller because from where we live, up there, the streets are narrow and the big buses would not pass through.

Tout le monde sur cette ligne se connait, au moins de vue et , engager la conversation n´est pas un problème. Chacun y va de son petit commentaire sur tout et rien, mais Marseille c´est çà aussi, cela fait partie du folklore!

Everyone on this line knows each other, at least from sight, and engaging in conversation is not a problem. Everyone has his little comment on everything and nothing, but Marseille is like that, it's part of its folklore!

Aussi, lorsque à un feu rouge ma voisine a tourné la tête, machinalement j´ai fait la même chose. J´ai tout de suite remarqué qu´un nouveau local venait d´ouvrir: Un bar? Salon de thé? Son nom : "Le Coin des Chat´Mis". Intriguée je regarde la devanture où, des pattes de chats étaient peintes sur le trottoir et sur la façade.

So then, when at a traffic light my neighbor turned her head, mechanically I did the same thing. I immediately noticed that a new business had just opened: A bar? Tea Room? Its name: "The Cat-Friends Hangout". Intrigued I looked at the front where cats paws were painted on the pavement and on the facade.

A voix haute pour moi même mais en regardant ma voisine je dis "tiens un nouveau local?!" Son nom est un jeu de mots. En général on peut lire "Le bar des amis "Tout pensait à croire que les amis en question étaient des chats... Ma voisine me dit qu´en effet dans cet établissement des chats de la rue sont recueillis, soignés, vaccinés, et proposés à l´adoption. Qu´on peut venir les rencontrer en buvant un thé, et grignoter quelque chose.

A little louder than I usually speak, I looked at my neighbor and said, "look at that, a new place?!" Its name is a play on words. Generally one reads "The bar of the friends." Everything led to the belief that the friends in question were cats ... My neighbor tells me that indeed, in this establishment, stray cats are collected, cared for, vaccinated, and put up for adoption. Here, we can meet them as we drink tea and nibble on something.

J´adore les chats... et moi qui ne sort pas beaucoup de mon atelier je me dis que ce serait sympa d´y faire un tour!
I love cats ... and I don't often leave my workshop, I told myself that it would be nice to have a look!

Je descends donc pour me rendre compte de plus près de la situation: La 1ere porte est fermée à clé et il faut sonner pour rentrer, mais derrière un vitre je peux déjà voir un gros matou qui dort du sommeil du juste dans son panier et que rien ne perturbe...

So I went down to have a closer look at the situation: The first door is locked and you have to ring to get in, but behind a window I can already see a big cat sleeping like a baby in his basket and nothing disturbs him ...

On vient donc m´ouvrir et m´expliquer que oui en effet, les chats sont ici pour être adoptés après avoir vécu dans la rue. Il y a çà et là, des perchoirs pour que les chats puissent grimper, des couvertures douillettes où ils peuvent dormir, des jouets pour qu´ils puissent s´épanouir... Et puis il y a surtout un tas de gens, parents et enfants qui , partageant un gouter, rencontrent ces animaux qui ont l´air bien détendus ma foi...

So someone opened up and explained to me that yes indeed, cats are here to be adopted after living on the street. There are, here and there, perches so that cats can climb, cozy blankets where they can sleep, toys so that they can flourish ... And then there are mostly a lot of people, parents and children who, sharing an afternoon snack, meet these animals who seem so relaxed--my goodness ...

le coin des chatmis marseilles cat adoption france
Il y a forcément une star! Grisou, 6,6kg, il dort comme un bienheureux et aucunes caresses, ni aucun flash de photos ne le réveille. Il est juste magnifique et impressionnant, avec lui on se sent en sécurité, un vrai garde du corps! la force tranquille et évidement il a trouvé une maison d´adoption ! Il y a aussi Jersey qui a le coup de pattes facile mais qui n´a qu´une envie, c´est de jouer. Chacun évidement avec son caractère bien trempé. Celui qui dort derrière la vitrine est plutôt solitaire, une autre parait-il voulait jouer avec tous les autres chats mais ne rencontrait pas l´unanimité... Dommage... !!

There's always got to be a star! Grisou, 6,6kg, sleeps like a blessed one and no caresses, nor any flash of photos wakes him up. He is just gorgeous and impressive, with him you feel safe, he's a real bodyguard! With his quiet strength obviously he found a home of adoption! There is also Jersey who has an easy swat but who has only one desire: to play. Each of course with its strong character. The one sleeping behind the window is rather lonely, another seems to want to play with all the other cats but is not finding any takers ... Too bad ... !!

J´ai bu un café, partagé un moment avec tous ces gens qui comme moi aiment les chats et font une donation pour leur nourriture, leur vaccin.Un peu de douceur dans ce monde de brutes, ca ne peut pas faire de mal! Miaaaaoooo....

I had a coffee, shared a moment with all these people who like me like cats and donate for their food, their vaccine. A little sweetness in this world of brutes, it can not hurt! Miaaaaoooo ....

Thanks, Cécile, for this delightful report. I saw so many French new French words and expressions that I'd like to use in conversation! Cécile, you are not only a wonderful sister-in-law, you are, like Grisou, a star. I so enjoy your writing and your creativity. (More at Courbes et Diagonales)

Le Coin des Chat'Mis on Facebook
55 Boulevard Vauban (14.00 mi) Marseille, France 13006 07 67 47 19 58

étroit  = narrow
chat'mis = wordplay for chat + amis = cat friends
la devanture = store front, front window, vitrine
un jeu de mots = a play on words
grignoter = to snack
atelier = workshop
faire un tour = have a look around
un matou = tomcat
ça et là = here and there
dormir du sommeil du juste = the sleep of the just, to sleep like a baby
s'épanouir = feel at ease, joyful, open up
avoir un caractère bien trempé = to have a strong character, to be resilient
la douceur = tenderness

The cat in the hat

The Cat in the Hat (in English and French)
The Cat Who Walked Across France, by Kate Banks
The French Cat: a stunning exploration of the country and its felines
My friend Suzanne's cat blog: Living With Loulou: A French Kitty Comments on Just About Everything
In cat supplies: the litter cat's love and Fancy Feast, Tuscany Collection

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

The hidden Provencal estate where I learned the words, "Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés"

Casa abril provencale bergerie architecture France pastoral
One week ago we were walking in the countryside around Flavia and Fabrice's historic domain, where we enjoyed a traditional French meal with some Brazilian sizzle!

Today's word: les ailes

    : wings

une aile = a wing

Click here to listen to les ailes and the following quote

Les paroles sont comme des oeufs : à peine écloses, elles ont des ailes. -Proverbe malgache
Words are like eggs: when they are hatched they have wings. -Malagazy proverb


    by Kristi Espinasse

It was a wonderful day, Jean-Marc said, remembering lunch at Flavia and Fabrice's last Sunday. If only my husband would continue that thought--and write the rest of this compte-rendu! The tricky thing, you see, about recounting your life in an online journal is knowing where to draw the privacy line--especially when writing about friends. But with my friends' blessing, I'll now share about an inspiring afternoon in the countryside near Aix.

...Entering the Franco-Brazilian couple's country home, I had the urge to take photos. Instead, I hung mes affaires on a carved hook, and tucked my smartphone (and its lens) inside my purse. After all, I didn't know Flavia and Fabrice well enough to take such photo-op liberties. Even if this was lunch at my sister's (it wasn't) I would not splash her life all over the internet--at least not without her permission.

Bref, it was thanks to my sister that this reunion with Flavia (who I'd met over 25 years ago at a wedding) came about. Flavia's son was going to Denver for an internship, so Flavia contacted me to see if I could put her in touch with my sister, Heidi, who lives in the same city....

By the time we walked into Flavia and Fabrice's library last Sunday, for the champagne apéro, I was kicking myself. Talk about a photo op! The entire length of one wall held a fitted antique bookcase and built-in fireplace with its carved mantel.  The fire below crackled as it might in an 18th-century novel (indeed, leatherbound books lined the paneled bookcase. Photos graced the shelves as well, offering a sentimental history of the family who lived here.

Fabrice and flavia gite house rental in provence near aix-en-provence
Fabrice and Flavia

After meeting at Berkeley and living for years in Sao Paulo, les jeunes mariés decided to move to France and into Fabrice's family home, which had been empty for decades. The young couple threw open the shutters, dusted off more than a few tables and chairs, and went about reviving the historic, memory-filled domain (Flavia and Fabrice were married there, years before) of 400 hectares, including family vineyards and wild thyme-scented garrigue. 

I took a seat on a long leather couch which faced several fauteuils, their carved feet reflecting the beauty of the piano in the background. 

"The piano doesn't work!" Flavia insisted, "but it is useful." Our hostess demonstrated by setting down a silver candleholder, a gift from Sylvie and Jean-Charles who had come up from Marseilles to join us for lunch. As we greeted les Marseillais, that awkward new-acquaintance feel quickly fell away and soon we were chatting passionately with the friends of our friends. Sylvie, a dentist, created an unusual concept for a French dental office: she put in a large window behind which her sterilization room is visible to clients. What a novelty in France! (My first French dental appointment was in a private home in Lille. I could smell dinner cooking in the next room while my dentist drilled my tooth...not bothering to first numb the area. Surprisingly it did not hurt, unlike a story--which can suffer when you wander off track....)

Back to Flavia and Fabrice's. It was now time for le dejeuner. By the time we followed our host, Fabrice, past a maze of rooms, past the sunny Provençale kitchen with its cast-iron cooker, to the dining room with its arched ceiling of stones, we were moving on to the meat of our conversation (as well as the meat of our Sunday meal!: wild sanglier--compliments of a local hunter. Flavia admitted her family receives a lot of "gifts" like this, and I could relate, having lived on two vineyards and having received more than a fair share of wild pig, rabbit, and even a feathery pheasant).

Back to the meat of our conversation, for me it was the moment Sylvie's husband, Jean-Charles, shared a quote that summarized the challenge I'd felt, up to here, about writing: 

In French we say, "Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés." Hearing the wise and sobering quote, I felt a familiar pinch.  Deep down I know a peaceful life is a private life.

"To live happily, live hidden" the words were immediately relatable, but it took on even more meaning when I returned home, to look it up. Turns out those are the last line in a famous fable, "Le Grillon," by Florian. Here briefly is the story:

A little cricket is lamenting his sort as he watches a magnificent butterfly go from flower to flower. Admiring the purple and gold of her showy wings, the cricket complains about his rather ordinary face and lowly existence...when next he sees a group of children chase after the butterfly. Grabbing at its wings, its head, and its body, the crowd accidentally tears the butterfly apart. The little cricket is stunned and promises never to want to live in the limelight, like the poor butterfly.

Jean-Charles, pointed out that in France, the French are careful not to be showy. They don't talk about their salaries or their possessions...or too much about their private life. They don't talk too much about themselves because... Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés! To live happily, live hidden. Or, said in another way, Great honors are great burdens.

To bring this essay full-circle, the fable helps to explain the pros and cons behind writing about the high notes or private notes of this French life. And so I said to myself on the way home from an idyllic lunch, I'm not going to write about this. I mean how would Flavia and Fabrice feel about me describing their library or their kitchen--their private home! A while later, still restless, I remembered my sister's words. "Kristi, you worry too much! You just have to trust yourself."

And there is someone else a writer has to trust, each time she writes a story: the reader. If you don't trust the reader you may as well put your stories in an old drawer. And you can put your wings there too. Lock them up forever. 

Now what would the little cricket say to that?

le compte-rendu = report
mes affaires = my things
bref = in short
un apéro = a drink before a meal, usually with hors d'oeuvres
les jeunes mariés = the young married couple
le fauteuil  = armchair
le sanglier = wild boar
Gites location apartments for rent in the provencale countryside
Thank you, Flavia and Fabrice, for providing some photos to illustrate this post, and for being such graceful and lovable hosts! 

Pictured above is "La Bergerie" - one of the rentals on Flavia and Fabrice's property (30 drive from Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles). Flavia writes, "If ever you have any friend looking for a rental in Provence I will be more than happy to send them info with pictures." For those who would like more information on this rental, leave a message in the comments and I will forward your request to Flavia :-)

Butterfly in st cyr les lecques france mediterranean sea

Whenever I read your blog I am moved emotionally. I feel the people that respond to your blog also add to the experience. 
-Kathy from Phoenix.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

How to be productive (hint: par tous les moyens!)

Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.


    : by any means

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read today's quote

Click here for soundfile

Tous les moyens sont bons quand ils sont efficaces. Jean-Paul Sartre
All means are good when they are effective.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Some mornings I set out in three different directions. Should I write about this event? Or that one? Or is today "laundry day"? (a.k.a. what household business needs taking care of)? This three-pronged fork in my daily chemin is both a privilege and une peste --for when it comes to working for oneself, there are no hours. You can even take the day off. But at the end of the semaine you must have something to show for your efforts.

More likely, at the end of the morning you must have something to show for your efforts. That is ma façon de faire.  And though I can usually crank out a post (or keep on top of our family's laundry), some mornings I'm just floundering. The 11th hour (it's 10:56 now...) is about to sonner, and what do I have to show for my efforts--besides getting the dog and my husband fed? (No offense to either one of them.)


I have ZIP to show for my efforts!

Here's what I do when that happens: pace. (Walking liberates ideas). Next, I pick one thing on my three-pronged list and finis-le! Earlier, I thought about finishing "the laundry," but when it comes to productivity, writing trumps all! Which explains why my words are polished..but my home isn't (tidy, but not polished. Not by any means. Which brings us to "by any means"...) The secret to completing a project is to get to the finish line par tous les moyens

Ouf and voilà. I leave you with that nugget of wisdom. I hope it was a nugget. Or maybe it was just a dust bunny? un mouton de poussière?... Plenty of those under my couch....

P.S. Today's post on productivity wasn't even on my 3-pronged chemin. (It wasn't planned.) But tumbled out while I was trying to figure out how to repost my story of sobriety. Talk about beating around the bush!  If you'd like to read that story, "So Much for Anonymity," click here. First read to the end of this post. Merci!

Moutons sheep in lorgues france c kristi espinasse
(dust bunnies or moutons?)

par tous les moyens = by any means
le chemin = path
la peste = pest
la semaine = week
la façon de faire = way of doing something
sonner = to ring
que dalle = nada, nothing, zip
finis-le! = finish it!
ouf = whew, phew
voilà = so there you have it
un mouton de poussière = dust bunny (ball of lint on the floor)

Embryolisse cream - my daughter and I both use it! 
Zaz -- you must listen to this artist (thanks, Reader Dave). The song Eblouie par la nuit will move you like no other. Order here.
Walk in a Relaxed Manner - a book I'm reading about the Camino
Nespresso capsules (Thanks, Dad, for reordering coffee from my site, via these links. I got a little commission for your purchase!)
Hanging laundry in Nyons France (c) Kristi Espinasse

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés - to live happily, live hidden. But what does this really mean?

My desk and almond blossoms

Recently I was telling some new friends just exactly what it is I do for a living. Since October 27th, 2002, I have maintained an online personal journal in disguise as a French Word-A-Day. That is to say, in order to get people to read my essays, I've dangled a carrot outside of my writing window. That carrot is the "word of the day." And here you are, Dear Reader--receiving more than you bargained for!

It hasn't all been wine and roses. (Well, there has been plenty of wine, none of which I drank after February 2003...) But you already know that. The question is: do you know too much? I hope not. For I have done my journaling best to "Keep it light. Keep it educational. Keep it inspiring." And for those tricky times when only the truth of a situation would enable this narrative to continue, without too much confusion, I tread carefully, sharing enough information to get us all to the next chapter of this French life.

If all this sounds like adieu--far from that! Loin de là! For as long as I have carrots in my garden...I will be dangling them out of my virtual French window.



*    *    *

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

    : to live happily, live hidden
    : great honors are great burdens


    by Kristi Espinasse

The French have a popular saying: Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés. (To live happily, live hidden). But what do these words really mean?  And where does the famous saying come from? Discover, today, the wise fable by Florian (Jean Pierre Claris de Florian), in French and in English. You'll also be able to hear the poem, read aloud by Jean-Marc.


Un pauvre petit grillon
Caché dans l’herbe fleurie
Regardoit un papillon
Voltigeant dans la prairie
L’insecte ailé brilloit des plus vives couleurs
L’azur, le pourpre & l’or éclatoient sur ses ailes.
Jeune, beau, petit-maître, il court de fleur en fleur,
Prenant & quittant les plus belles.
Ah ! disoit le grillon, que son sort & le mien
Sont différents ! dame Nature
Pour lui fit tout, & pour moi rien.

Je n’ai point de talent, encor moins de figure ;
Nul ne prend garde à moi, l’on m’ignore ici bas !
Autant voudroit n’exister pas.
Comme il parloit, dans la prairie
Arrive une troupe d’enfants.
Aussitôt les voilà courans
Après le papillon dont ils ont tous envie :
Chapeau, mouchoirs bonnets, servent à l’attraper.
L’insecte cherche vainement à leur échapper,
Il devient bientôt leur conquête.
L’un le saisit par l’aile, un autre par le corps ;
Un troisième survient, & le prend par la tête :
Il ne falloit pas tant d’efforts
Pour déchirer la pauvre bête.
Oh ! oh ! dit le grillon, je ne suis pas fâché ;
Il en coûte trop cher pour briller dans le monde.
Combien je vais aimer ma retraite profonde !
Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés.

Click here to listen to the poem in French: Le Grillon The Cricket fable by Florian Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés 

Cricket grillon sketch
  image and text from Wikipedia



A poor young cricket, small and shy,
Passing retir'd his summer hours,
Beheld one day a butterfly,
       Flitting among the flowers.
Of ev'ry color, ev'ry hue,

The gaudy insect well might boast.
From flower to flower it gaily flew,
Alighting where it pleas'd him most.
"Alas!" the pining cricket sigh'd,
"What diff'rences us two divide!
While Nature does so much for him,
For me she nothing does at all.
I'm void of sense and coarse of limb,
With figure despicably small;
I'm heeded not, am lone and lorn,
And might as well have not been born."
But while the cricket thus complain'd,
A sudden uproar round him reign'd;
A troop of children rushing by,
Came hunting for the butterfly.
With nets, and hats, and kerchiefs too,
The gaudy insect they pursue.
He struggles hard to get away,
But falls at last a helpless prey.
One seizes on his wings of gold;
Another at his body aims;
A third upon his head lays hold;
In short, each one the insect claims,
But leaves him mangled, dead, and cold.
"Ah, ha!" the cricket said, "I see
What 'tis a brilliant thing to be.
If such the cost to those who shine,
I ought no longer to repine;
But to live happy I must be
Contented with obscurity."

Order a copy of the Fables of Florian.

Buy the song "Le Grillon" by Florian...start your 30-day free music trial

Le papillon the butterfly

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Eblouir + A quote that will make you leap out of bed each morning

Church door in Roussillon France
"For my part, I am constantly dazzled by the phenomenon of life." Pour ma part, je suis sans arrêt ébloui par le phénomène de la vie. - René Barjavel Do not miss the entire quote. Use the link below (when reading this by email) to click through to the online version of this post, where you will hear the recording in French.

(from éblouir, to dazzle)

    : dazzled, awe-inspired, blinded; carried away

Improve your French pronunciation with the book Exercises in French Phonetics
With the Kindle Paperwhite E-reader you'll enjoy reading with larger fonts.


    by Kristi Espinasse

I was about to tell you the story of an amazing encounter... when I got sidetracked looking up the word éblouir. A web search led me to a French sci-fi author and his dazzling thoughts. I leave you with René Barjavel's words, read aloud by Jean-Marc. The English translation follows...don't miss it.

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

Il ne suffit pas d'être en vie, il faut être vivant . C'est à dire savoir à chaque instant qu'on est au coeur d'un prodige et être en contact, en harmonie avec lui. C'est difficile, mais lorsqu'on parvient à en prendre conscience, on en reçoit un perpétuel émerveillement qui paie au centuple des effors que l'on a consentis. .. Le plus souvent, nous voyons, mais nous ne regardons pas, nous entendons, mais nous n'écoutons pas. Les choses nous bousculent au lieu que nous portions la main sur elles. Nous devrions en disposer pour notre bonheur, et ce sont elles qui nous possèdent pour notre angoisse. Pourtant chacun de nous est au centre de tout, au milieu de l'univers entier. Chacun de nous possède les portes que le créateur (ou la nature, comme l'on voudra) lui a données pour y pénétrer. Mais nous oublions de les ouvrir. Pour ma part, je suis sans arrêt ébloui par le phénomène de la vie. --René Barjavel

(It's a rough translation. Feel free to offer corrections in the comments box, below)

It's not enough to be alive, you have to feel alive as well. That is to say, we have to know at every moment that we are in the heart of a prodigy and we are in contact, in harmony with it. It's difficult, but when you realize it, you get a perpetual wonder that pays back a hundred times the effort you've made. Most often we see, but we do not look, we hear, but we do not listen. Things jostle us instead of us getting a grip on them. We should get rid of this for our happiness, and it is this that brings on our anguish. Yet each of us is at the center of everything, in the middle of the entire universe. Each of us has access to the doors that the creator (or nature, if we prefer) has given him to enter. But we forget to open [those doors]. For my part, I am constantly dazzled by the phenomenon of life. --René Barjavel

The immortals rene barjavel

Some books by René Barjavel
The Immortals - "This book is a masterpiece of politic/fiction. Barjavel shows amazing mastery and errudition in creating an incredible fiction that happens to fit all the major events in the world during the cold war." Amazon reviewer. Order the book

Une Rose au Paradis - "Love this book, but he is also my favorite author." -Isa
Ravage - (French edition) "what would happen if there was suddenly no electricity, and no way to bring it back? This scenario is visited by Rene Barjaval in "Ravage". Hauntingly predictive, this book will make you think" -Amazon reviewer
French door in Les Goudes fishing village Marseilles France
Searching my photo archives for a door to illustrate today's quote, I found this one (taken in Les Goudes fishing village in Marseilles). It reminded me of why we don't always open the proverbial door: because we are so often distracted by all the flotsam that hides it.

Church door window in Roussillon France Provence
Feedback from a reader of this word journal....

I found this blog by accident around 2004 and was enthralled with the concept. As a school administrator and former French teacher, I encouraged my language teachers to use the blog as a resource in their classes. For years and years I have been a devoted francophile. Kristie, you provide a service that includes entertainment and education. Your photos are inspirational. I look forward to reading your blog as often as you can write it. Do not stop! --Gabrielle

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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"The world is violent and mercurial--it will have its way with you." Listen to this in French, don't miss the lovely end. + Paint in Provence

Abstract and Figurative artist Tess Baker paint in provence France La Ciotat pepper tree
The world is violent and mercurial--it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love--love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.” Tennessee Williams (photo of my friend Tess Baker, founder of Paint in Provence.)

Today's Word: MERCURIEL

    : changing (mood), fluctuating, inconstant, variable...

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following quote:

Click here to listen to mercuriel

Le monde est violent et mercuriel--il fera ce qu'il veut avec vous. Nous sommes seulement sauvés par l'amour--l'amour l'un pour l'autre et l'amour que nous mettons dans l'art que nous nous sentons forcés de partager: être un parent; être un écrivain; être un peintre; être un ami. Nous vivons perpétuellement dans un bâtiment en feu, et ce que nous devons en sauver, tout le temps, c'est l'amour. -Tennessee Williams


    by Kristi Espinasse

Tess came to visit this weekend! She's my longtime painter friend from England, who calls tomatoes toh-mah-toes, says things like "mercurial" (to describe the sea), and calls me Darling  (as in Daar-ling, we must get together soon!).

We decided to have lunch in Bandol so that Jackie and Tess could see each other, too. Jackie is my 20-year-old daughter and she's studying art in Toulon, and waitressing on Sundays for some argent de poche....

Jackie waitressing at Le Jerome in Bandol France with abstract figurative artist Tess Baker

If you happen to be in Bandol on a Sunday, stop in to see Jackie at Le Jêrome. And if you are looking for a recommendation, Tess and I highly recommend the pièce de boeuf. It's outstanding--charred on the outside, cooked à point. After lunch, Tess snuck around the corner, with Jackie, to stuff a big tip into the art student's pocket because in France all tips are collected by le patron, and little of it ends up in the pockets of workers. Jackie insists her boss is fair about this, but Tess wasn't taking any chances, having worked in French restaurants over the 4 decades she's lived here.

Abstract Figurative artist Tess Baker in La Ciotat France painting lessons Provence

After lunch in Bandol, and before our stroll beside the--mercurial--sea here in La Ciotat... Tess suggested we sit down and paint. Quelle idée! I haven't felt that self-conscious since blowing into a giant hunting horn during a proper lunch in a château. I thought my pants would rip right open (and that maybe more than my pants would rip as I let it rip trying to force air through that giant brass horn!). 

I felt this kind of vulnerability now. Sensing my fears, Tess had an idea. "We'll paint that lovely willow tree! Let's simply focus on a section of it. We'll paint those branches..." And the way she said it ("braahn-ches") kind of suckered me into this unexpected watercolor session.

My attention was scattered as I watched people walking by our house, sometimes slowing to view the artistic activity here in our garden. Not only was it nerve-racking to be painting beside an artist, but we now had a mobile audience. One of those passers-by was my 8-year-old golden retriever, who parked himself beside my chair. Smokey wanted to play artist, too! which reminded me: just play!

Smokey golden retriever red beret artist
"Notice the light hitting the side of the leaves, Tess was saying. "Now see the darkness on the other side. Let's start with the light...." Tess had already made several vertical brown strokes on her canvas. I hurried to pick up a paintbrush but it felt as awkward as chopsticks. And which one to use? Thank God there were only two. Mimicking Tess, I picked up the big one.

Tess was painting away with a shade of green...but where was this color green in the paintbox? A childhood rhyme came to mind, as I struggled to remember color mixing...yellow and blue make green... (or did yellow and red make green?) 

"Here, you can use the color I've already mixed," Tess offered. "Just start sploshing it on!"

I glanced over at Tess's own canvas, wondering what all those verticle brown lines were for?

"Those are the branches, darling," she explained, but all I could see (ahead of me) was the green of the leaves!

"Do you need to get your glah-ses?" Tess hinted.

Oh, yes! Mais bien sûr!

Finally seated, still feeling ill-at-ease before the blank canvas, I bargained with my art teacher: "OK, I'll paint--but only if I can throw it away in the end!

Tess agreed and before long I was settled in. If those paintbrushes felt like chopsticks, the act of painting felt like picking up slippery noodles with those foreign utensils, or brushes. Why was this so difficult for me? I began to think about Tess's former students, and the wonderful works of art I'd seen with my own eyes. And here I could not even paint a leaf--not even an abstract one (as we'd agreed to do, to simplify).

"Just let go!" Tess said. I brushed aside all the torturous thoughts and got on with the moment. When else would a chance like this come around again? A little while later I was giddily painting right over my braahn-ches and trees....with a shower of crimson wings (red for determination? Wings for freedom?). Feeling more and more relaxed, I went to re-dip my brush into the glass of water. That's when I noticed how close the cups were...

Teacup kristi painting

"Tess, What are the chances I've dipped my brush into my teacup?" I wondered.

But my good friend brushed aside the worry, "Oh, I'm sure I've done it dozens of times myself. Carry on, darling!

And like that, we sipped our colorful tea, and painted gleefully. The tourists strode by and the pepper tree swayed gently, mimicking Smokey's golden tail as he snoozed on and off beneath the artist's table.

 *    *    *

Post note: Later, when I went to prepare dinner, I was surprised to find my little painting tucked into the window above my kitchen sink. Tess had set it case I had a change of heart. I was glad it didn't end up in the poubelle. The little work of art was, after all, a sweet souvenir of our time together.

Pepper tree paints
Come to France and Paint Provence With Tess. Read about the time she brought her students to our vineyard, in the story "French Toilet Paper & Other Disasters" (disasters which had nothing to do with painting!

l'argent de poche = pocket money
pièce de boeuf = piece of beef, side of beef, tenderloin
à point = medium rare
le patron = the restaurant owner
quelle idée! = what an idea!
la poubelle = garbage

Drawing lessons

Read Patricia Sands book set in Provence, order Drawing Lessons here.

Also, Beautiful watercolor illustrations of Provence, click here for this sketchbook
La Petite Aquarelle watercolor paint set from France. Order here
Valrhona chocolate from France, and more in French groceries, here
All-new HD Fire Tablet - and many other tablet models here.
Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.

Kristin Espinasse paintbrush watercolor abstract painting in La Ciotat France French shutters
For those who enjoyed the opening quote, on art and love, here's a post from the 2010 archives. Open up your eyes and your senses and enjoy!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Maraicher: Flirting with the produce guy? Non. C'était autre chose.

Tomatoes artichokes farmers market maraichere
In today's story, was it a flirt or a crush? 

le maraîcher (la maraichère)

    : one who sells produce at a farmers' market

Audio File Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read this Wikipedia entry: Download MP3 file or Wave file

Le maraîchage... est la culture de légumes, de certains fruits, de certaines fines herbes et fleurs à usage alimentaire, de manière professionnelle, c'est-à-dire dans le but d'en faire un profit ou simplement d'en vivre, ce qui le distingue du jardinage. 

Le maraîchage... is the cultivation of vegetables, of certain fruits, of certain herbs and flowers destined for alimentary uses, in a professional manner, that is to say, with the goal of making a profit or of simply making a living, which distinguishes it from gardening.


"Even Church Mice Behave Like Smitten Kittens"

   by Kristi Espinasse

If I was flirting with the maraîcher I did not realize it. True, I had experienced that pang of annoyance when another customer arrived, at which point politesse required that I hurry and finish my business. No more lingering about! 

"Well, thanks," I said to the produce guy. "Oh, and I'll be by with that compost!"

Earlier I had struck up a conversation with the maraîcher, after spotting his "Stanford" T-shirt. It was an unusual sight on the small French Island where we were vacationing.  

"Are you American?" I had said pausing at his small vegetable stand.

"No," he smiled. "I am half Irish, half French."

The maraîcher seemed pleased to speak English. "My Dad is from Cognac, " he offered. "Mom's from Dublin." I noticed his accent was more on the Anglophone side.

"Summer job?"  

The maraîcher nodded, smiling into the tomatoes. I was struck by his charm. How to describe it? There was that noticeably timid temperament coupled with a studious-slash-athletic exterior. Superman comes to mind. Indeed, le maraîcher's slightly nerdy façade was quickly giving way to the muscular building blocks beneath it.

"My son is in the same boat," I blurted out, coming to my senses. "His father speaks French and I speak English." It occurred to me that by my mentioning "his father" one might assume I was a divorced woman! I quickly cleared up the misunderstanding, babbling, "My husband speaks French and his mother speaks English. Max's mother that is. Max is my son... He's 17."

The maraîcher laughed, listening to me as he rearranged the organic lettuce. I watched as he tore off some shriveled leaves and tossed them into a compost bucket behind the counter. A lock of sandy-blond hair fell over his eyes. He lifted his giant hand, pushing the lock aside and adjusting his glasses in the process.

Returning my attention to the compost bin, I shook off any errant thoughts. "Oh, that reminds me... I have been wondering where to put our vegetable scraps. I don't want to toss them in a pile in the yard, as we are staying on a rental property. I can't bear to throw all this black gold into the garbage!"

"We give ours to the ducks at the farm," le maraîcher laughed.

"Would your ducks like seconds?"

Farmers market france maraichere maraicher produce marche
                        farmers market in St Cyr-sur-Mer

The only thing more awkward than my conversation with le maraîcher (compost? Really! What a bizarre proposition that was!), were my attempts to avoid him throughout the remainder of our family vacation.... 

You see, as soon as I left the produce stand, I ran smack into my husband, outside the Tourist office. I must have been blushing. That's when Jean-Marc snickered, "Ça va le maraîcher?"

That was it. There was no way I could face the produce guy ever again—not after it dawned on me that I might have been smitten!

And so the dodging began. Each morning when Jean-Marc and I drank our coffee at the quaint farmers' market, I hid behind the hollyhocks or sat with my back to the onions and cantaloupe or dove for cover behind the giant pots and pans man. Instead of delivering the compost that I had promised, I avoided the produce guy. 

But I caught glimpses of the maraîcher, who continued to wear his Stanford T-shirt (I couldn't help but wonder, as I had back in 7th grade when my crush, Doug Pearson, wore that T-shirt that brought out the green in his eyes... I couldn't help wonder whether he had taken care to wear the special T-shirt for a reason (that same shirt that had drawn me in for the first conversation). The thought was as preposterous as it was inappropriate!)

One morning, four days into our vacation, I noticed the maraîcher had changed his shirt (he was now wearing Tintin, after the comic book hero). He was sporting a new haircut, too. My mind equated the change of T-shirt to a change of heart. He had finally given up on waiting for the Compost Lady, who had disappeared along with her kitchen scraps.

Yet, on the last day of our vacation, it didn't seem right to leave without saying goodbye to le maraîcher and offering an explanation for my disappearance. 

Waiting for the other middle-aged ladies to collect their lettuce and skedaddle, I hurried up to the vegetable stand.

"It's me, the Compost Lady!" I said, breathless. "I met you last week. Sorry I never made it back, but it occurred to me later that that must have been a slightly bizarre proposition--er, offer--to drop off compost."

Le maraîcher laughed. 

"We leave today," I explained. "Enjoy the rest of your summer," I said, bidding him farewell. "By the way, what are you studying this fall?" 

Blathering on, I noticed I was spitting as I spoke. Quelle horreur! I had just sprayed the tomatoes with my own bave!

"Engineering," the maraîcher answered, overlooking the tomatoes.

"Now there's a future!"

"I've dropped out." The maraîcher smiled devilishly. 

"Oh... Well there's a good idea!" I said. "I took a year off, myself. Where are you headed?"

"Hong Kong...."

How interesting. For love? For a job? I wondered. But it did not seem right to gather any more information from this charming soul, neither did it occur to me to introduce myself (beyond "Compost Lady on Vacation").

"Enjoy every minute." I cheered, waving peacefully as I walked away. 


Back once again at the tourist office, my husband smiled sweetly. "Ça va ton cheri?"

"Ça va," I answered, eyes still twinkling.


(This story was originally posted in 2012. If you missed part one of this story, read it here.)  

Vespa (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.


la politesse = good manners

le maraîcher = truck farmer

quelle horreur! = how embarrassing!

la bave = spit

ça va = all is well

But you are in France Madame by Catherine Berry
* Read Catherine Berry's But you are in France, Madame.
* And for The Adventures of Tintin, order here
* Everyone should have a kitchen compost bin. Order here.
*In French skin care: La Roche-Posay

Farmers stand in st cyr-sur-mer produce france organic

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.