Audacity and "avoir du culot": going beyond the limits in Elba, Italy
How to say "not-to-be-missed" or "must-see" in French + tonight's winetasting in Marseilles with Château de Pibarnon and Chateau de Roquefort

Raconter des salades (Fountain Guy takes us for a ride) = today's expressions: se faire empapaouter or se faire berner:

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

se faire berner 

    : to be deluded, to be duped, taken in

se faire empapaouter

    : to be had, to be screwed

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following text in French:

Click here to listen to the sound file

Se faire berner ou se faire empapaouter, voilà deux façons pour dire que nous nous sommes faits prendre pour des cons
To be duped or to be had, two ways to say that we were taken for idiots.


    by Kristi Espinasse

I love breaking down words and finding meaning--or forcing a meaning if necessary. Take the enormously hilarious French word "empapaouter": from this, I get "to out papa". Only, we're not outing papa in today's story--we are outing the man who was hired to repair our fountain (here-to-for called Fountain Guy). 

Come to think of it, we are "outing papa"--or exposing a pathological liar--for Fountain Guy's first mensonge was, "My daughter was in the I couldn't show up the other day." This was his excuse when Jean-Marc called to remind him of our appointment here in the front garden where a lovely, broken down, fountain was in need of repair and remodeling. After getting three devis, or estimates, we chose Fountain Guy. 

When Fountain Guy finally showed up, after a few initial delays, I greeted him at the front gate. "I'm so sorry about your daughter."

Fountain Guy looked confused, so I elaborated, "I hope she is out of the hospital."

"Merci," said he, proceeding to the fountain, to have another look at it. Over the next 6 months, he would repeat this entrance (if he entered our yard at all): there would be another hesitation on his part, another excuse ("the parts are in my garage and my wife has the key" or "I don't have my truck so I can't transfer the material today" or "my other clients are giving me a hard time"). 

Early on I made excuses for Fountain Guy. He's young. He has a little problem with time management. And, out of desperation to believe his intentions were good, I said to my husband: He seems to be having personal problems.

Fountain destruction

But my husband wasn't buying it. Il ment come il respire! Jean-Marc insisted and, 6 months into a sentimental project which should have taken a few weeks, our petit bassin looks worse than before: the center column was knocked out, leaving a pile of rubble--and six inches of murky water currently attract the first mosquitos of the season. When Jean-Marc tried to pump out the water, he discovered the pump had broken. He was about to resort to pouring bleach into the pond, when I protested: Pas de javel dans le jardin!

"Anything to keep the mosquitos away!" Jean-Marc argued. The fountain situation now had us at odds with each other! This was no time to divide. It was time to unite! 

I usually hide behind Jean-Marc--making him do the "confrontational work". But I had had enough of Fountain Guy. It was time to out mama! Time to let the big mama residing within me give this guy a piece of her mind:

The next time Fountain Guy showed up with another excuse as to why he could not work today, I said: "This isn't working. At this point it would be best for you to return our money." Now, dear reader, if that didn't sound fierce to you, you can imagine how flimsy it sounded to Fountain Guy who did not flinch....

PRISE EN FLAGRANT DELIT (Caught red-handed)
Taking Fountain Guy to small claims court for the 300  euros would be complicated. We had no choice but to give him two last chances, which would have turned into 2000 last chances if Jean-Marc hadn't caught him en flagrant délit!  This happened when Fountain Guy didn't show up again. So Jean-Marc rang him. Incredibly, Fountain Guy answered and said, "I can't come today. I am working at a construction site in La Seyne-sur-Mer."

My husband hung up in frustration and went along with his day, which began with a doctor's appointment. After the doctor didn't show up for the appointment (!), Jean-Marc left the medical office and headed to Darty (electronics store) to look for a cable for our T.V. ....and who did he see dressed to the nines in an elegant suit and standing in the very same aisle? 

Fountain Guy looked like he'd just seen a ghost! Jean-Marc's words were brief: "I am not your father, he began... "Je ne suis pas votre père. Mais, si je l'étais, je vous conseillerais de dire la verité plutôt que de raconter des salades!" (I'm not your father. But if I were, I would advise you to tell the truth rather than to tell lies.)

Post note: This was a sentimental project as the repair of our fountain was a thoughtful housewarming gift from several readers here, thanks to Margaret, who suggested it. The experience with the fountain guy cast a very dark cloud over the project. The good news is we have been reimbursed...and will be able to find a new fountain guy. I already have dependable somebody in mind: Mr. D.

un mensonge = a lie
un devis = estimate, quote
mentir = to lie
il ment comme il respire = he's lying through his teeth
le petit bassin = the children's pool (or little pool)
pris en flagrant delit = to be caught in the act
raconter des salades = to tell stories, to tell fibs

-Bonne Maman lemon tartlettes and many other French grocery items available here.

-365 Days of French Expressions. See the book.

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If you haven't yet read my book, please check it out. Many thanks! Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

First iris in our La Ciotat garden
First iris in our garden here in La Ciotat

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Audrey Wilson

Sounds just like one of our plasterers when we were restoring our barn .Held much of the work up by his non- appearance & then came round for some of his money ! We made him wait a month by saying (which was true) that we had to get it from the U.K.
p.s Do you know about' The March For Our Lives 'in Phoenix organised by young people ?

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Good for you and Jean-Marc for cutting this fellow off and getting your money back! After such a frustrating experience, a flowing, bubbling fountain will mean that much more to you... and to your readers. Very much looking forward to the serenity you may finally experience in your garden as the water flows and sparkles in the dappled sunlight.

Deborah Frost

There is an entire burgeoning genre of literature devoted to the travails of dealing with French workmen (or non-work, as they case seems to be!). No home renovation (particularly for foreigners) has ever gone well-- from Olivia De Havilland ("Every Frenchman Has One") to Fiona Bloom's more recent tome.

Gail in Tucson

And David Lebovitz's account of renovating his Paris apartment in L'Appart. But it worked out in the end.

Carolyn R. Chase

My heart goes out to you. It's hard to be let down by someone. Contractors seem to be as unreliable as cars and computers! We've had our own share of issues, some very expensive. I'm not sure how to find reliable people - but they do exist.


Our dear Kristi,
I can't think of anything so disheartening as to
encounter--make that trust!--repair people who promise a lot and actually do very little--or nothing!And this after being paid!
Like many others,we have run into the same set of liars(wonder if it is contagious?) who guarranteed to show up and install railings on our pool so in our older days we would not keep slipping and falling.
Hope does spring eternal,though.After a long search,somewhat like Diogenes with his lantern,we actually did find an honest soul who finished the work on time and within his estimate.
I am certain that this will happen to you!
And the reward of that serene,beautiful fountain will be so worth all the aggravation!
Don't give up!!

Natalia. xo

Patricia Sands

Oh, Kristi, it doesn't matter where in the world one lives, there are always people who operate in just this way. Like you, I always find excuses for them at first ... hoping for the good in everyone. Kudos to you and J-M for holding your ground and being reimbursed. Good luck with your new choice of Fountain Man. We are all excited to see how the project turns out! Bonne chance!

Linda R.

Not a happy experience but good for your readers' vocabulary lesson. Best wishes in having a beautiful fountain flowing in your jardin come summer.

Dawn Johnson

I can feel your pain, I’ve had lots of work done on my house and I have my share of frustration stories. Nothing as blatant as fountain guy though. I love that Jean Marc ran into him. So many books I’ve read, memoirs about people buying and renovating properties in France are full of some crazy stories. One of my favorites is « Fat dogs and french estates 3«  where the couple finally find the house of their dreams and begin work. Some of these characters that show up, you couldn’t possibly make up.


Bonjour, Kristi,
Something similar happened to me when I hired a painting contractor to paint my house. His helper tried
To bring in another helper to do some more work I had
not contracted. I my utter amazement the helper began the unsolicited work. I made him stop. Then he wanted to collect money for it in the middle of the night! Miraculously I was in the hardware store and accidentally ran into the contractor to whom I explained the situation and my hope that we could work it out amicably. We are.

Judith Dunn

.... Kristi.... ooooooo lala!!! Been there, done that... You are so lucky to have gotten your money back! We always ask for references we can call up and talk with.... after having learned our lessons the hard way over the years. We have also learned, the 'you get what you pay for'... in the end. Our son is going thru the horrors of a bathroom half done, due to flimsy excuses over many weeks... and I doubt that he will ever get he's money back... People can be real 'poops' and I am not sure there is a good translation for that ! I wish you best of luck with the house renov and the fountain as well. I just ordered two new fountains for our deck as the re-building and finish work and painting is all done. Bon courage... it will all be worth it!! Judi Dunn, tallahassee, Fl. 79 f here today and lovely!

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

There are so many "Fountain Guys" in this world! I am a believer the truth always prevails! I am so very grateful you received a refund and now have a dependable person on the project. How exciting to see progress on your remodel! I imagine the peaceful pleasure of a working fountain will soon wash away the dark clouds.


I agree = buyer beware. We try to get positive references from other consumers but...things can still go awry.
Nous espérons que vous aurons enfin une bonne expérience. ✌️❤️


Very surprised you got your money back- but delighted you did! I have found some builders to just habitually make up stories (someones uncle always dies on every project), and it makes me wonder if they lie to their spouses and friends, also. Maybe they don't even know it, because it seems to be part of their life. Not everyone, for sure, but it is a delight when someone is organized, and will just tell you when they are coming. Life is so much easier for everyone- so why can't they see that it is also easier for themselves?

Marilyn Ferrell

What a cauchemar! I'm glad it will finally be repaired before mosquito season arrives again and I can't wait to see it finished. You need an Angie's List or Home Advisor in France. Maybe a "Liste de Kristin" to protect others from people like your Fountain Guy. I'd love to advertise my vacation rental in Asheville, NC (Paris of the South) on your site. Couples will love the French decor and feeling of staying atop the Eiffel Tower with an amazing view here. Please send me details. Merci! Rick and I would love to see you again if you're ever back in town!


This kind of behaviour is not unique to France, but there are probably more of them here than anywhere else. These so called artisans lack the ability to say "no ... I cannot do it" I just returned from three months in Florida with family, where everything is done yesterday. On return I discovered my grass cutting tractor would not start so I asked the local guy to pick it up and fix it. One week later he picked it up and two weeks later I am waiting to get it bac, and not a word in the meantime. Strangely, would I live in Florida or go back to UK. Most definitely not


Never pay 100% up front.

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