Previous month:
March 2018
Next month:
May 2018

Entries from April 2018

Alarming news at the Dentist's + Jackie applies for Fashion school in Marseille

Impasse gagliardo rochas blanc
Thursday we went to Marseille for a few appointments. Jean-Marc took the opportunity to drive us through our old neighborhood, in Le Roucas Blanc (our first home was there on the left, behind the house with the blue shutters--at the end of the Impasse Gagliardo. On the hilltop, you are seeing the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde). We also passed the church in which we were married...see it at the end of this post.

Today's words: "sans dents"

    -- without teeth

French Slang: Do you speak the real French? Essentials of French Slang book, order here.

Example sentence and sound file: 

Click here to listen to the audio file

L'homme naît sans dents, sans cheveux et sans illusions, et il meurt de même, sans cheveux, sans dents et sans illusions. --Alexandre Dumas

Man is born without teeth, without hair, without any illusions, and he dies the same way: without hair, without teeth, without any illusions.


by Kristi Espinasse

I am sitting next to a pile of clothes on my bed, trying to wrestle my foot into a high-heeled espadrille, the third pair of chaussures I've tried this morning. "You are only going to the dentist," Jean-Marc points out.

"Yes, but...she's so chic!" My behavior perplexes me as much as my husband, but I can only shrug my shoulders: I am a chameleon, most comfortable disappearing into the background. The neighborhood where Sylvie, la chirurgien-dentiste, is located is in a fashionable quartier in Marseille, and all my efforts to fit in will be en vain. In vain--such is vanity! I end up pulling on a pair of cowboy boots as old as my firstborn. I know the women in Marseille will be wearing ballerinas or sandals, but the women back home in Arizona...well what do I know about Arizonans anymore?--I've lived in France half my life!

And it is showing. At 50, I soon learn my teeth are in grave danger of le déchaussement: loosening and eventually falling out!

"You have beautiful-looking teeth," Dentist Sylvie (who I met at Flavia's) assures me, but beneath it all la maladie parodontale is underway. Sylvie shows us (I've dragged Jean-Marc along for a consultation, too) our radios. "Do you see those tâches noires? Evidence your bone mass is diminishing!"

Having worked on the American military in Italy, Sylvie's assistant, une hygiéniste dentaire (also named "Sylvie"); chats with me about my countrymen until I am relaxed. She lowers the examination chair to get a good look at my pearly-whites (or pearly-wrecks?). A few flicks with a sharp metal probe and she runs right into inflamed gencives. "Not good!" As she alerts the other Sylvie, I am remembering past warnings, from my own belle-mère (Lynne, in Seattle, who lectures internationally on dental health), and another favorite dentist, Robert, back in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, who warned that if I did not begin wearing a mouthguard, for bruxism, I'd be in trouble down the line.

Here we are 20 years down the line and it seems this inflammation is, in part, related to tooth grinding (which may be related to anxiety). Stress has indeed been linked to periodontal disease! And gum disease is linked to everything from heart disease to erectile dysfunction (i.e. not flossing your teeth could lead to trouble below the belt). If that, dear reader, isn't motivation to floss your teeth and brush twice daily what is? 

I leave Sylvie's office with an estimate for something called surfaçage radiculair (tooth planing and scaling) and something called "les Inlays-Onlays" (ceramic tooth fillings) which are designed to repair all those holes in my teeth, from nightly grinding. Overwhelmed, or dépassée, from all the information (and the cost estimate...) I wish I could just go home and gargle with salt water--like my wise Uncle Tucker! Wouldn't that, eventually, clear out all that bacteria living up underneath my gums? Or is something more radical (scraping around the roots...the "tooth planing") needed? One thing is sure, this dentist appointment chez Sylvie has been a wake-up call and I am grateful for that: I promise, from here on out, to brush my teeth twice a day, floss, rinse my mouth after every meal and to once and for all quit being such a worrywart! Stress seems to be at the root of every illness, doesn't it? More than gargling with salt water, I'd do well to take a chill pill!

Jackie vintage gucci belt
Our daughter who turns 21 in September.

From the dentist's office we headed to Le Cercle des Nageurs--the oldest swim club in Marseille--and where Jean-Marc and I had our wedding reception back in 1994. We were here to meet our daughter for lunch, and then take her to her meeting at IICC (Institut International de Création Et de Coupe). What a coincidence! 23 years earlier, pregnant with my son, I tagged along with my friend Suzanne who, like Jackie, had an appointment at this very same fashion school.
Kristi and suzanne at bagatelle mariage
That's Suzanne, to my right. This was our Town Hall marriage. The church wedding was a few months later (church picture below)

I vaguely remember walking up La Canebière, searching for the building which was located beside a cathedral. And I can almost see Madame Ortega, with her shiny auburn hair who is presently greeting us...but not before chewing out her assistant (who up until now had done a smashing job showing us around) for leaving the door wide open.

"What do you want--all of our computers to be swiped? GO CLOSE THOSE DOORS!" Having put her cohort in his place, Madame took her seat. My eyes took in every inch of this colorful personnage, all the way down to her red-lacquered toes. Jackie was as intimidated as the rest of us, and vowed after the meeting never to be in the crosshairs with Madame.

For the second time that day (after the dentist's) we were given a rundown of fees.... and my mind reeled with it all. I looked over at my daughter (who was still agonizing over the school workload she was about to commit to) and I said, "What if we just chuck it all and go live on a horse ranch in Montana?"

What with these cowboy boots, one of us would fit right in!


Notes: Chirurgien-Dentiste Sylvie Bensoussan offered me a bilan, or dental check-up, in her state of the art office at 7 Parc Jean-Mermoz. More info at her website.

I am now using and loving this toothpaste and have bought soft-bristle toothbrushes for JM and me. It's a start! On my goals list: to get an oral irrigator. Would love your thoughts. Do you use one?

Update: Thanks to your recommendations I have ordered the Electric Rechargeable Sonic Toothbrush 


les dents = teeth
les chaussures = shoes
le chirurgien-dentiste = dental surgeon
le déchaussement = receding of gums, loosening of the teeth
la maladie parodontale = periodontal disease
la radio = X-ray
la tâche noire = black spot
la gencive = gum
hygiéniste dentaire = dental hygienist
la belle-mère = mother-in-law, stepmother
surfaçage radiculaire = root planing
dépassé(e) = overwhelmed
personnage = character
le bilan = assessment, appraisal, check up

Jean-Marc and Jackie in the office at IICC marseille
Jean-Marc and Jackie, at her rdv at IICC Fashion School. I wonder if my friend Suzanne is reading, today, and if she remembers her own interview in this historic room!

Saint Antoine de Padoue church eglise marseille
Saint Antoine de Padoue, the church in Marseille where Jean-Marc and I were married in 1994.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Caboter: A relaxing, agreeable thing to do along the coastline in France

Boat ride coast near calanque de figuerolles la ciotat cassis 
Ça y est! Part 1 of our La Ciotat renovation ended this week! We've been busy tying up dozens of loose ends, so it was wonderful to get away from it all via a little boat ride up the coast! Read about a breathtaking petite escapade from La Ciotat to Cassis in today's column, below.

Today's word: caboter

    : to navigate from port to port along the coast

Example Sentence, Audio File read by Jean-Marc

Click here to listen to the soundfile

Dimanche nous avons caboté dans les anses de La Ciotat jusqu'à Cassis.
Sunday, we navigated along the little coves from La Ciotat to Cassis

The book Pronounce it Perfectly in French emphasizes speaking, sound discrimination, and standard intonation patterns that are typical of native French speakers. Order here.

Women at DRC
Autumn excursion in France, especially for women - "Women in Burgundy: Life, Laughter, and the French Paradox” October 18 to 27, 2018 - includes two nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.


    by Kristi Espinasse

A Black Eye, A Boat, and delicious Boquerones!

Jean-Marc got a pretty good deal when he rented us a little boat from that guy with the black eye. The pleasure craft was a semi-rigide or bâteau pneumatic, as seen in the opening photo to this post. If only you could see the type who rented it to us. Had he gotten into a fist fight or bar-room brawl last night?

"Normally, I rent out my boat for full-day only," our lanky loueur explained, as we stood at the new port in La Ciotat, right across the street from the historic Éden-Théâtre. (La Ciotat is the birthplace of film. The guy handing us our clés de bâteau could've been a young Al Pacino...) "I was able to make an exception, this time, and rent it to you for only a half a day, he said, because my girlfriend gets off work at noon, and, as her husband is watching the kids today, I'm taking her out for un petit tour de bâteau...."

So that's how he must've gotten his shiner, his oeil au beurre noir! And how we got a smokin' deal on our little boat--ours for 3 full hours, which began near Parc du Mugel and ended in Cassis with the most delicious lunch in the whole wide world: a simple baguette-and-sardines sandwich which we ate on our boat which anchored in a turquoise blue calanque.

I recounted the coastal adventure--especially the delectable picnique sur le bâteau--to my mom, in Mexico. Reliving our cruise vicariously on the other end of the telephone line, Mom explained just why that sardine sandwich tasted so darn good. I cannot remember exactly Mom's poetic words, but poetry had something to do with the experience: It's the salty air, the sea's mist, the atmosphere, Mom said. The senses are heightened along the Mediterranean coast.

Everything must taste better when you are relaxed and dépaysé, or "in a change of place." (Some would say everything tastes better in France!) I leave you with pictures of our little périple across the coast.

P.S. Those delicious "sardines" were actually boquerones--or anchovies in vinegar and olive oil. Jean-Marc sells them in the Marseille wine shop where he works, but you can find them online, here. Whatever you do, don't leave any oil/vinegar in the package--soak everything up with the rest of the baguette. C'est une tuerie! It's to die for! ...Which brings us back to where we began--and the guy with the black eye. He's anxious to retrieve his boat as he's got a hot date. Mais gare au mari! (Watch out for the husband!!)

le type = guy, bloke
loueur = one who rents out (apartment, boat...
la clé = key
le bâteau = boat
un oeil de beurre noir = black eye
la calanque = rocky inlet or creek along the coastline
boquerones = fresh anchovies
un périple = a little journey
une tuerie = to die for
gare à, gare au = watch out for
le mari = husband

Coastline littorale between la cioat cassis

Grotte or cave people on paddle boards mediterranean sea  la ciotat cassis
Paddleboarders approaching une grotte, or cave.

Figuerolles calanque beach la ciotat coastline
Paddle boarder heading toward the beach at the popular Figuerolles calanque

Ruiins near cassis france sea
Our little boat arriving going past Cassis and some ruins along the coast. We passed a lot of kayakers, too.

Near calanque En Vau this is Port Pin

Swimming in the calanque en vau near marseilles

Never without my hat, after a couple bouts with carcinoma. If you haven't read my story, here's motivation to wear a hat!

La ciotat shipyard yachts boats

Returning to the famous La Ciotat shipyards, where yachts are now serviced (before, in times past, this was an industrial port)

Sailboat on the mediterranean france calanque cassis la ciotat semi-rigide

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Glâner: a useful, necessary, verb for Earth Day 2018

Earth Day 2018 Glaner figs Agnes Varda dumpster diving
April 22nd is Earth Day. Reading about our earth's demise has me thinking of a little known French verb -- a verb underdog if you like.  Meet the humble Glaner ("to glean"). Certain French artists highlighted the practice years ago--making the art of gleaning as fashionable as the art of wandering. In other words, it's time to glaner as you flâner! Please read today's story.

glaner (glah-nay) verb

   to pick, to gather, to glean

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following text: Download MP3 or Wav file

Quand vous ferez la moisson dans votre pays, vous ne moissonnerez pas vos champs jusqu'au bord, et vous ne glanerez pas ce qui pourra rester de votre moisson; vous laisserez tout cela au pauvre et à l'immigré. - Leviticus 23:22

When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you.

by Kristi Espinasse

In the dramatic opening scene of her memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls is riding in the back of a New York taxi, wondering whether she has overdressed for the party to which she is headed, when she sees something that knocks the wind right out of her Park Avenue sails.

Out there on the curbside, an older woman wearing rags is rooting through a dumpster. On closer look, the garbage picker is Jeannette's own mother! 

As I read the page-turner memoir, I could only imagine how a daughter's heart seized up on seeing her intelligent, artistic, and once athletic mother resort to rooting through the trash. What had brought her to this? And, more curiously, why was the waste picker smiling?

It wasn't until I saw the fascinating documentary, The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse), by French filmmaker Agnès Varda, that I began to see this touching scene quite differently, and even to recall a few gleaning episodes of my own. Before writing about those, I will share some of the eloquent descriptions I gathered from viewers' reactions to The Gleaners:

... a wonderful documentary that reminds us of how much we produce and waste in the world and how the disenfranchised (and artistic) make use of that waste to survive... The characters Varda encounters are equally compelling and interestingly are not portrayed as whiny or blameful of others for their situations: they simply state how they live and we are left impressed with their ingenuity. (anonymous)

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when we are introduced to a wizened Chinese man in Paris living at home among a heap of dumpster gleanings. He has taken in a boarder—a happy-go-lucky black man who hunts the day long for discarded food and items that he himself will repair and give away to those less fortunate than himself. "Somebody might need this," the ragpicker says. Evenings, the Chinese man will cook up the dumpster chicken in one of the ovens that his resourceful roommate has brought home. As the men prepare to dine together, seated on crooked chairs and ever amazed by their "fortune", I have to reach over and hit the pause button. Have you ever seen such sweet faces, such sparkling eyes, than on these two lovely men who care for one another and for others? 

In another scene, we observe a clean-cut wirey man stooping here and there as he scours the market stalls in Paris at the end of market day. Here and there he pops a broken piece of celery or apple or lettuce into his mouth... "Beta carotene! Vitamin K! I'm a biology major," he explains, adding that though he earns a salary, he still needs to eat and by the way, he's vegetarian! He admits that cheese is a little more difficult to find, but there's plenty of tossed out bread. We later learn that though he holds a scientific diploma, this biologist chooses to sell papers outside the train station. In a touching "who'd have thunk it?" scene, we see the same garbage picker volunteering his time, each evening, to teach refugees English. His carefully illustrated blackboards featuring, among other objects, a hand-drawn bike and its phonetic word equivalent, attest as much to his selfless and caring soul as to his professionalism and skill.    

There are several other heart-awakening moments in which Agnès Varda steadies her lens on the outcasts who in turn teach us more about the art of living than we will ever glean from the pages of any New York Times bestseller on the subject. The rag-wearing, sometimes toothless characters could write volumes on the subject. Meantime they have more meaningful pursuits: getting by, while managing to smile at life. 

As for my own dumpster days—as a privileged child—I'd root unselfconsciously through the trash bin (one we shared with the neighbor), ever amazed at the ongoing source of riches (in this case--cans of Hamm's beer which could be recycled for cash after stomping the cans flat!). Our neighbor, a single, middle-aged woman, regularly replenished the trash bin with this blatantly underestimated source of income! I began to feel sorry about her loss, which to me related to her pocketbook and not her liver health (I had no idea that all those cans equaled addiction). 

I regret losing the desire to salvage things (publicly, at least, though the occasional foray through a stranger's trash still happens), but I am grateful to live here in France, where gleaning is alive and well and rooted deeply in the culture! How many times during family outings has an uncle or a cousin or a grandma stooped to pick up a tumbled down apricot or a chestnut, or paused to uproot a lonely asparagus or a bunch of herbs from the edge of a neighbor's yard. "Have you seen what they charge for this at the markets?" my in-laws shake their heads. Soon they'll make up a fresh batch of herbs de provence--more fragrant and delicious than can be found on any supermarket aisle. 

When my husband returned from the States after his multi-city wine tour he brought me an unexpected surprise: two charming rush-bottom chairs!

"I found them in the airport parking lot," Jean-Marc explained, "beside the dumpster." I admit, if he had brought those home 15 years ago--as a consolation gift for his two-week absence, I might have been hugely disappointed! Nowadays, I don't want the ill-fitting T-shirt that he had quickly rung up at a pricy airport trap shop. (I'd rather have a couple of bars of chocolate, or, in this case, some adorable chairs!) 

Each time I look at the chairs, I feel the same kind of affection one feels when looking at some of the characters in Agnès Varda's documentary. They are quirky. They are imperfect. They are charming. They are lovely. And, as one of the men in the film said, "they are needed."


    - To see a preview of this wonderful film, click here.
    - Rent the entire video here or let us know if you found --gleaned it -- it somewhere ! Thanks.

Film maker Agnes Varda turns her camera lenses toward modern day gleaners--the poor, the dispossessed, the ecologically aware and the alienated--to paint a new but still somewhat romantic image of those follow along behind the parade of life, picking through its remains. - Jean E. Pouliot

I enjoyed seeing parts of France not normally seen on the screen or by tourists. In fact in some ways this documentary could serve as a kind of travelog so widely does Varda and her camera travel about the French countryside and cities. - Dennis Littrell

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

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Dégouliner: the rain trickled, dripped, and poured but it didn't keep us from touring La Ciotat

Cement church tiles in la ciotat France salamander
Something about these reptilian tiles tells me they are not as old as our church (built here in La Ciotat in 1603. The cement tiles, it turns out, were set down 8 months ago, during a partial renovation). I do like them, though, and you? Some say the salamander is symbolic. Of what, I wonder? My friends from North Dakota and I had hurried into the 400 year-old église to escape the deluge outside. More, in today's column, below.

Today's word: dégouliner

    : to drip, trickle, bleed 

Example Sentence and Audio File, text read by Jean-Marc:

Click here to listen to the sound file

Couler lentement, goutte à goutte ou en filet. La sueur lui dégoulinait dans le dos. Peinture qui dégouline du pinceau. -les-synonyms
To slowly pour, drop by drop, or in a stream. Sweat trickled down his back. Paint that drips from the brush.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Il y a des jours comme ça!  Grrr! I've lost the previous version of this post--poof, just like that! At times like this I am tempted to jeter l'éponge, or throw in the towel. Speaking of sponges and serviettes (oh, the power of French words to get us back on our feet again!), we could have used those last week, during le déluge. Instead, my friends from North Dakota and I ventured out into la pluie--unwilling to let a few too many raindrops gâcher notre vie!

Brian Miranda Erin  Smokey golden retriever
First stop: home! Brian, Miranda, and Erin stopped by our (still-under-renovation) house, to pet Smokey.  Wearing K-ways with built-in capuches they were ready to face the upcoming cloudburst, or rafale de pluie.

Church door la ciotat France notre dame de l assomption vieux port boats
Beautiful carved wooden door and anciennes tomettes carrées. Looking out to the Vieux-Port from inside Notre Dame de L'Assomption

Briocherie la ciotat franche vieux port potted tree
How would you like to live behind a briocherie? Would you be tempted to stop there each morning? I hope you are reading closely, because this is a first hint about some news we have to share with you. Here's hint number two: the next time someone asks me the following question, I may be able to say "Oui!"...

"Kristi, do you know of a place I can rent in La Ciotat? A darling little place overlooking the port? One where I won't mind climbing 3 flights of stairs to get to that magnificent view?"

Enough hints. On to the next pictures (all taken by Erin) which have nothing to do with the upcoming news (except that they are near the historic old port of La Ciotat--just like that neat short-term rental unit!)

Kristi miranda brian la ciotat square
Standing with Miranda and Brian in La Place Sadi Carnot. This little square is usual alive with bistro tables and people enjoying the sun, but, as stated earlier, pas de soleil today! A note about Place Sadi Carnot--it was part of the ancient cemetery, surrounding the church, in Roman times.

Cafe de l horlage

Boucherie orientale
The scent of roasted chicken drew me and Miranda (still wearing her trusty capuche) right into this Boucherie Orientale.

Voilà, those were just a few more photos from my friends visit. You can see part one (Cassis) here. And Miranda has written more over at her blog. If you click on the smaller photo near the end of this blog, it'll start the seconds-long video of the stormy sea. What a contrast to those beautiful and peaceful tree blossoms in the foreground! 


dégouliner = to trickle (rain), drip (paintbrush), run (make-up)
gâcher la vie = to ruin one's life
une église = church
une éponge = sponge
le déluge = downpour, torrential rain, The Flood
la serviette = towel
K-way = windbreaker or raincoat
la capuche = hood
les anciennes tomettes carrées = old square terracotta tiles
la rafale de pluie = cloudburst, blowing rain, rain squall

Merde!: The Real French You Were Never Taught at School (Sexy Slang Series)
Paris-themed mini umbrella 
T-Shirt "I Don't Need Therapy I Just Need to Go to France."
La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports
Nothing says "summer in the south of France" like these wonderful quick-drying towel used in Mediterranean countries

Women at DRC
Autumn excursion in France, especially for women - "Women in Burgundy: Life, Laughter, and the French Paradox” October 18 to 27, 2018 - includes two nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.



Dogwood blossoms or some other kind in la ciotat on the beach
"Cercis siliquastrum." These beautiful arbres de Judée, or Judas trees, are blossoming all over town! You can just see the raindrop on the edge of that lower branch of this "redbud tree"... the drop about to dégouliner or trickle down to the ground. I hope you enjoyed today's périple, or trek through La Ciotat. See you in a few days.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Quel temps de cochon! Beastly weather in La Ciotat, Cassis, and Sanary-sur-Mer!

Hudson and the Puppy lost in Paris
Out now! Jackie Clark Mancuso's latest in her much-beloved Hudson series: "An expatriate dog in Paris meets a young stray and helps him search for home...via a whirwind tour of Paris with stops at Hudson's favorite haunts." Order a copy here.

un temps de cochon

    : lousy weather, beastly weather, 

Thanks to my friend Dominique for sharing today's expression!

Audio File:

Quel temps de cochon: click here to listen to the sound file

Quel temps de cochon!
What lousy weather!

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


    by Kristi Espinasse

My friends from North Dakota just visited us here in La Ciotat and got soaked! Erin, Brian, and daughter Miranda (joining us from Slovakia, where she's working with Cru (an international campus ministry), are avid hikers, used to the rugged outdoors, so we didn't let the pouring rain and this veritable temps de cochon hold us back from some local sightseeing.

We began our tour at the Parc du Mugel, but no sooner did we drive into the parking lot than the sky opened up and it began to pleut de cordes! That's when Jean-Marc suggested we take the Route des Crêtes and see the countryside via car. As our car lurched up the side of hill toward the famous cliffs overlooking Cassis, some of us kept our eyes off the snaking, two-lane road which did not have a safety wall. It helped to focus, instead, on all the calming wildflowers that carpeted the national park! The rosemary was blooming and its purple-blue tint drew our vision--and our feet--out over the gorgeous landscape. You can see how windy it was by the state of Miranda's blond locks, which took flight!

Mirandas hair
Miranda walking arm and arm with mom, Erin

Cliff near cassis france
Le Cap Canaille--the almost-highest sea cliff in France, above the Mediterranean along the Route des Crêtes--or "Road of the Ridges"--which joins La Ciotat and Cassis.

Bird of paradise in cassis
Erin took this photo after we arrived in the little port of Cassis. She loves bird of Paradise (l'oiseau de paradis), which, we decided, would go well in our garden here in La Ciotat. Qu'en pensez-vous?

Poissonnerie fishmonger in Cassis France blue shutters striped awning charm
Even in off-season it is sometimes tricky to find a parking spot, so Jean-Marc kindly dropped us off near the port and went searching for a place to se garer...
Friends and umbrellas parapluie
My friend Erin and our trusty parapluies. It was so windy that one of the umbrellas broke!

Cats and jasmine in cassis france
We noticed all the potted jasmine dotted throughout town, and lots of "window cats."

Brian and jean-marc at Restaurant la Table in Cassis
After checking out all the menus along the old port, we skipped back to Rue Severin--one of the little streets without a sea view, and found a delicious menu at an affordable price! Only 14 euros for both an entée (we had salade de chèvre chaud) and a delicious filet of fish. One waitress served all the tables and did a great job (even our basket of bread was crispy and hot from the oven!) (The place: Restaurant A Table, 7 Rue Severin Icard, Cassis)

Kristi and erin in Cassis

Jean-Marc introduced Brian, Erin, and Miranda to the world-famous white wines of Cassis, which our friends loved.

Erin jean-marc kristi in cassis
Thank you Miranda and Erin for these pictures. My friends are already headed back to North Dakota. They've escaped the deluge, here, but face a blizzard at home. Wish them luck, and Miranda, too, as she continues her work in Slovakia.

Erin and miranda on the beach in la ciotat
Something else about Erin: she created the interior for my books Blossoming in Provence and First French 'Essais'. She works with my friend Tamara and TLC Book Design

I will be uploading more pictures from our visits to La Ciotat and Sanary-sur-Mer... so check back this weekend for some more colorful scenes. Thank you all very much for reading and enjoy your weekend.

Quel temps de cochon! = what lousy weather!
il pleut des cordes! = it's pouring!
l'oiseau de paradis = bird of paradise
La Route des Crêtes = Route of the Ridges
qu'en pensez-vous? = what do you think?
se garer = to park
salade de chèvre chaud = salad with hot goat cheese
la parapluie = umbrella

Merde!: The Real French You Were Never Taught at School (Sexy Slang Series)

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

Gourmet French Macaroons

Window in cassis france palms
A window with a lot of character, that never seems to change each time we visit.

Port of cassis france colorful buildings waterfront
Lighthouse or phare in Cassis France
Looking in the opposite is the phare, or lighthouse.

Old wooden fishing boats and le chateau de cassis hotel restaurant
Old wooden fishing boats, or "pointus", and the Château de Cassis (now a hotel-restaurant) high up on a sea cliff. 

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Piquer une tête: An insider's guide on where to swim in Marseilles

Marseilles letters
Today's is a French-only edition written by my sister-in-law, Cécile. Test your reading comprehension and let us know in the comments how well you understood the story. Many thanks and enjoy!)


    : to take a dip, to go swimming

365 Days of French Expressions: Learn one new French Expression per Day


    by Cécile Espinasse

L´hiver touche à sa fin! Ouf! cette année le froid s´est invité plus longtemps que d´habitude. Sachant qu´ici à Marseille nous ne savons pas conduire quand il pleut et qu´on a même eu droit à de la neige! Autant vous dire que çà n´a pas été triste sur les routes! Sans compter la grisaille, le vent et ce froid qui nous est venu de Sibérie. La météo était dans la bouche de chacun. J´ai rendu visite à des amis Berlinois à la fin du mois de février: Moins 14 degré la nuit, Moins 7 la journée, mais un soleil radieux qui a permis de belles balades.


Bon ! On va dire que tout ça est bientôt derrière nous! J´ai hâte de retrouver le littoral et de plonger dans l´eau! J´adore me baigner...
Nous avons la chance de bénéficier de nombreuses plages non loin du centre ville et il n´est pas rare de voir après l´heure de sortie des bureaux les gens se presser, pour piquer une tête. Je vais donc vous parler de quelques unes de ces perles rares qui se suivent le long de la corniche Kennedy et qui pour certaines sont chères à mon cœur.

Catalans copie

La première en partant du vieux port s´appelle la plage des Catalans. Je l´aime l´hiver parce qu'elle est vide, et qu´il y a un joli pro-montoir à partir duquel on peut admirer le large. L´été, c´est la plus populaire pour ceux qui habitent le centre ville. Elle devient une caricature des plages bondées, de gens collés les uns aux autres, d´enfants qui courent dans le sable et vous le font manger... Les sauveteurs qui surveillent ne savent plus ou donner des yeux, font des appels incessants au micro. Autant dire que je n´y mets pas les pieds.

Malmousque copie

Plus loin on trouve la anse de Malmousque. Quelques privilégiés y ont leurs maisons. J´avoue, je suis jalouse... Après avoir descendu quelques marches d´escaliers on arrive sur un minuscule port, ou quelques pointus sont amarrés.On longe la roche où il est difficile de se croiser et l´on se pose sur les rochers. Les places sont chères parce-que rares, j´ai l´habitude de dire qu´on y est installés comme des pingouins parce-que l´on ne peut pas s´allonger confortablement, mais c´est là que réside le vrai plaisir! Celui d´être dans un cadre authentique. On n´oublie pas de prendre son masque, son tuba, et de faire un peu d´exploration sous marine.C´est aussi là que le soleil vient se coucher, et quand les jours commencent à raccourcir c´est un vrai plus!

Fausse monnaie copie

Un peu plus loin on trouve la anse de la fausse monnaie , c´est un peu la même configuration que Malmousque mais en plus grand et plus confortable. Là, les rochers permettent de s´allonger. Il y a le coin des habitués, des personnes à la retraite qui se baignent du matin au soir. Je les appel affectueusement "les raisins secs" tant leur beau est burinée par le soleil. Ils sont bronzés toute l´année. Ce sont des personnes de confiance pour jeter un œil sur votre sac lorsque vous êtes dans l´eau. Il faut plonger directement des rochers, il n´y a pas vraiment d´accès comme sur une plage.C´est mon spot préféré. On s´y retrouve souvent entre amis le soir pour un picnic ou un apéro.

Saut corniche copie

Depuis ces roches plates on peut voir sur la corniche les minots sauter de la falaise de plus de 10m de haut! C'est interdit évidement mais rien ne les arrête. Ils sont blindés d'adrénaline, il y a malheureusement des accidents. Un joli film tiré d´un livre a été réalisé à ce sujet: "Corniche Kennedy", ce sont les adolescents qui sautent tous les jours qui ont tournés dans le film.

On continue notre route pour tomber sur la plage du prophète. Véritable plage de sable naturel, ambiance familiale et détendue. Tournois de volley, bar, glaces, consignes pour les vêtements et objets de valeur. Depuis chez moi c ´est la plus proche et bien que je n´aime pas trop le sable je ne fais pas la fine gueule si je suis un peu pressée...L´été dernier une fois par semaine un écran gonflable était monté sur la plage et le soir on avait le cinéma en plein air !

Prophete copie

Allez! on quitte la corniche on fait un bon de quelques kilomètre, mais on est toujours à Marseille, on passe la pointe rouge, ( c´est un quartier ) et on trouve la petite plage de l´abri-côtier, où j´allais dans ma jeunesse. Les cabanons de bord de plage vont être détruits cette année : Ordre préfectoral... Çà ne va pas faire que des heureux... Plus loin , le bain des dames et juste à coté : le bain des hommes ! Celui des dames est plus fameux ! Allez savoir pourquoi !!!

Tous ces lieux conviviaux sont majoritairement fréquentés par des Marseillais. La liste est longue mais non exhaustive , il y aurait tant à dire encore ! Mais chut ! Une chose est sûre : Tout ceci doit absolument rester entre nous! Je tiens à préserver ces écrins, je compte sur vous !

Le bain des dames copie
For more of Cécile's creative work--apart from writing today's story--check out her Facebook page, Courbes et Diagonales, where you will see her designs. 

Good-looking sun hat with string -- essential for windy southern France!

La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports

Lounge chair with built-in sunshade

Foutas  - wonderful quick-drying towel used in Mediterranean countries

Women at DRC
Autumn excursion in France, especially for women - "Women in Burgundy: Life, Laughter, and the French Paradox” October 18 to 27, 2018 - includes two nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

A funny IRS story from France

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

Today's word: le fisc américain

  : the IRS

365 Days of French Expressions: Learn one new French Expression per Day

Example Sentence :

Depuis 2014, les Français nés aux Etats-Unis sont tenus de déclarer leurs revenus au fisc américain, voire de payer des impôts aux Etats-Unis alors qu'ils n'y ont jamais vé 

Since 2014, French people who were born in the States are required to declare their income to the IRS, and to pay taxes to the United States even if they have never lived there. 


by Kristin Espinasse

A Hussy to the IRS

"Listen to this," I say to my husband, waving the letter I've just received from the tax authorities. The Internal Revenue Service, or le fisc américain, has been trying to correct my name and address for some time, and this latest attempt is downright hurtful.

"Kristin Espinasse, 'Pute de Port!' That's what they've written this time--instead of 'Route de Port'!" 

They haven't even gotten to my house number--line three, after my route (normally line two)--before I've taken the first blow to my ego.

"Tiens. Donne-moi ça," Jean-Marc snickers. Grabbing the envelope, he's shaking his head in appreciation. But when his eyes meet with an icy regard, he's quick to wipe the grin off his face.

"You are not a slut, Darling. Look here, there's an "o": poute--not pute!"


The story above was written a few years ago. The photo, below, was taken on Wednesday, after Jean-Marc went diving for sea urchins. Those are special scissors I'm holding, for opening the carapace, or shell of the "oursin". Wishing everyone a good weekend.

French Vocabulary
le fisc américain = the IRS
tiens = here
donne-moi ça = give me that

une pute = a hooker

Merde!: The Real French You Were Never Taught at School (Sexy Slang Series)

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

-La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated the best by Consumer Reports!

Gourmet French Macaroons and other French edibles


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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

Partir en vrille: Approaching Two Decades of Sobriety when a "loaded" piece of chocolate leads to a lapse (or a relapse?)

Women at DRC
Autumn excursion in France, especially for women - "Women in Burgundy: Life, Laughter, and the French Paradox” October 18 to 27, 2018 - includes two nights in Paris. Click HERE for details.

Today's French expression: partir en vrille

    : to spin out of control, to go astray, to go south, to run amok, to go off the deep end

Click here to listen to "partir en vrille"

Après avoir dégusté un tout petit morceau de chocolat, elle est partie en vrille au centre commercial. After sampling a very little morsel of chocolate, she ran amok.

365 Days of French Expressions. Click here.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Last December in Denver, when Mom and I were kicked out of the marijuana dispensary I should have taken it as a warning. Instead, we waited for the rest of our motley crew (my husband, my sister, and her boyfriend)--those with proper IDs--to finish touring the "medicinal" pot shop. I never intended to eat any of it--that chocolate bar we were after--I was just going along with the adventure. But as my grandfather used to say, "when you're around trouble, you're in it!"

Next thing I knew there was this THC-laced candy bar hanging around. It was carefully zipped into our suitcase, lest one of my sister's sheepdogs found it. It ended up in our rental car (after the dogs figured out how to pick the locks on our bags), where I noticed it each time Jean-Marc drove us somewhere. The day after Christmas, on our way to the mall, I suddenly swallowed a piece....

A Tesla showroom in Toronto (similar to the one we visited at a Denver mall) photo by Raysonho via Wikipedia

It was tout minuscule--a half of a half of a morceau. It didn't really count and, besides, I wasn't feeling it. So I had another. Forty-five minutes later I was on a shopping spree that ended with a visit to a Tesla (voitures électriques sportives et de luxe) and a serious conversation with a loan officer for a cute little home in a seedy (but up and coming!) part of the city.

The chocolate must have gone to my head, or gone into effect, around the time we (for Jean-Marc had had a piece too) strolled through Macy's, where I bought my husband three new sweaters and a dress shirt. The shopping spree continued at a barber boutique, where I was now on a mission to buy my husband an "ecological" razor (no more plastic to end up in a landfill!). I quickly brushed past the low-cost gamme and raced right over to the top razor (which looked like a cool pocket knife!) and all of its pricy paraphernalia (like the leather ceinture used for sharpening it--who knew leather could sharpen steel. If only it could sharpen my senses! 

Walking through the mall like a Sugar Mama, my husband trailing behind me with all his Macy's packages (and un razoir costing slightly less than my wedding band), I turned to watch Sugar Baby walk into the Tesla showroom. If the cannabis-infused chocolate had relaxed my grip on my wallet, it didn't completely shut off sound reasoning--besides, there wasn't enough fric in my bank account to continue pampering Sugar Baby.

But that's what loans are for! In the last scene of our regretful story, Sugar Mama and Sugar Baby are standing in a little brick home with my sister the realtor. We had called Heidi outside the Tesla shop after stumbling into a brightly lit home sales display there at the mall. Just like that, within the hour, we were teleported out of the shopping center--to a seedy (but trending!) Denver neighborhhood. My dear sister had no idea I was under the influence, or she would not have called up a loan officer for me.

Long story short, I failed the income part of the interview. My salary as a blogger might be able to fetch a loan for an RV--but it would not secure funds for a home in Denver--no matter how dilapidated the neighborhood. Speaking of dilapidated, by now my brain was returning to normal and this whole chaotic episode would soon be but a memory. A memory of losing my sobriety for a few hours in Colorado. 

Every time I see my husband's platinum razor on the bathroom shelf, I am aggravated at the decision I made to swallow that tiny piece of chocolate, but my sister is quick to remind me of the bright side:

"I could be worse," Heidi sympathizes. "You could have bought a house!" And surely I'd have found a way, had the effects of that dumb chocolate lingered on.

Post Note: Cunning, baffling, powerful...

Some, in the field of sobriety, would consider it a relapse--my split-second decision to eat that drugged piece of chocolate.  The thought is troubling, but ultimately, I shall have to wear my Big Girl Pants (or Sugar Mama pants, if you like) and decide for myself whether or not I may continue to say: I have 15 years of sobriety.  (Or whether the truth, now, is: I have 3 months....)


Related story "So much for Anonymity"

la voiture = car
la gamme = range of products
la ceinture = belt
un razoir = razor
le fric = cash
tout minuscule = teeny tiny
un morceau = a piece, a morsel

Safety razor (I should have gotten JM this one, or something similar! It would have saved the environment and my wallet!)

Embryolisse - the multi-purpose French face cream my daughter and I use--get the 2-pack here.

Eiffel Tower Peace Sign T-shirt, order here.

If you haven't read my book, please have a look at Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
Outside livwell medicinal marijuana dispensary in denver colorado

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 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!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice