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Entries from June 2018

Que nenni! A fun, useful new expression + a must-see beach along the French mediterranean!

Mediterranean garden and stairs to the Rayol-Canadel beach
Stone stairs leading down to the beach in Rayol-Candadel-sur-Mer

Que nenni? If you think today's expression has anything to do with the following travelogue...que nenni! (Not at all!) It's just an expression that jumped off the page as I sat reading an article on sardines, recently, chez le coiffeur. Speaking of fish, we ate a lot of this when Dad and Marsha visited. We also discovered magnificent places--de beaux endroits--I had never been to before--all a short distance from La Ciotat....


    : not at all

 Thanks, Jean-Marc, for your regular recordings, like the following

(Click here to listen to the French expression "que nenni")

Décidément, cette presqu’île me réservera sans cesse des surprises. Je pensais la connaître par cœur, et pourtant… C’est par faute de l’avoir parcourue, par la mer ou par le sentier du littoral. Mais que nenni, j’y découvre toujours quelque chose.

Decidedly, this peninsula will never stop surprising me. I thought I knew it by heart, and yet ... It's not by fault of having traveled it, by the sea or by the coastal path. Not at all. I always discover something.


    by Kristi Espinasse

"Bad-wah," my belle-mère, Marsha, giggled, as we sipped l'eau gazeuse at a restaurant overlooking the sea at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

Bad-wah? Funny! I never saw it that way before. Eyeing the bottle of popular French fizzy water, I wondered did anyone else notice a small marketing flaw for Badoit? (Pronounced "bad-wah" as you may have guessed).

Good thing it's "good wah", a favorite of ours, as were the Mediterranean waters below us. We had swum all day in the little cove, one reminiscent of a beach in Italy. 
Rayol-candadel-sur-mer palm trees stairs to the sea
De -- pronounced deuh ou der?
A hillside of beautiful stone stairs leads down to the sandy beach. You can see the last section of the escalier above, in the picture of Jean-Marc and my dad. As Marsha and I trailed behind, my belle-mère practiced her French, which sounded good...until it came to "de"....

"Der" she said, as per the pronunciation guidebook she had in her beach tote.

I've seen the pronunciation for "de" written that way, and I know anglophones who pronounce it comme ça, but for me... the French word "de" sounds like "deuh". But who am I to give lessons (I still can't pronounce dessus or dessous--or even truffe--some of The Most Difficult Words in French to Pronounce). Still, I stand by my pronunciation of de (it's deuh!). But let's not waste this travelogue on a debate (let's duke it out in the comments box, instead :-)
Les galets agates along the beach at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

The sand at Le Rayol-Canadel beach sparkled and was covered with "agates,"as my belle-mère called them. Holding a palm-full of the amber or black or white stones, Marsha talked about the chance we had to find these pebbled beaches in France.

As we lie there on the sand, chatting, a couple in their 80's made their way toward us, lugging a kayake! Marsha and I looked up, to the mansion above us and realized we'd parked our foutas right before their private entrance!

To our surprise, the man and woman humbly excused themselves and encouraged us to stay put. As they tugged on the two-seater kayak, lifting it three feet, up to its storage spot, we were mesmerized. Gazing up at their white locks and athletic builds, Marsha and I must have had the same thought: I want to be paddling across the sea--in my bikini with my sweetie--when I'm an octogenarian!

Meantime, my dad, all of 76 years young, was swimming like a kid in the gulf. "I love this salty sea--I'm floating!" he smiled, as we joined him for a swim. I never thought about the buoying effect of l'eau de mer, and it felt great to finally let go and allow the sea to partly carry me. 

Farther out, beyond the Gulf of St. Tropez, we could see les Iles d'Or (Porquerolles, Port Cros, and Le Levant), as well as the famous mauve hue, which announced the beginning of the sunset. As my dad and Marsha marveled at their chance to be in this magnificent place, their gratitude caused me to polish my own lenses, and see our part of the world...indeed life..."anew."

There is so much to look forward my 80s, my sweetie, bikinis, and nouveaux défis (those bikinis?). And, most importantly, this growing sense of appreciation I have at 50. 

Aioli at rayol-canadel sur mer france 
At L'Escale restaurant, Dad loved this "aïoli with a twist" (sweet potatoes and beets replaced a few classic ingredients)

Jean-Marc returning from beach at rayol-canadel sur mer
Jean-Marc returning from the beach

que nenni = not at all 
chez le coiffeur = at the hairdresser's
les beaux endroits = beautiful places
la belle-mère = stepmother (also means mother-in-law)
l'eau gazeuse = sparkling water
l'escalier = stairs
le foutas = popular towel on Mediterranean beaches (photo below)
le défi = challenge
l'escale = port of call, stopover, refueling stop
Chatting with my belle-mere in rayol-canadel sur mer
Me and my belle-mère. Readers of this journal associate belle-mère with another woman dear to my heart. Her story, here.

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.

It's good to be back! How to say "go with the flow" in French + La Ciotat recommendations

Kristi and Dad at Le Vieux Port in La Ciotat
Me and my Dad at the old port in La Ciotat

Today's phrase: prendre les choses comme elles viennent

    : to go with the flow

Audio file: 

Click here to listen to "go with the flow" in French

"Call Me Flo"

  by Kristi Espinasse

At 3:30 this morning, au milieu de la nuit, we sat around the coffee table eating chouquettes and drinking coffee. Dad and Marsha were dressed for their flight home to Sun Valley, Idaho. We had spent the last two and a half weeks together, and yet we had not shown our American family all of La Ciotat. 

We didn't go to Figuerolles and we never took La Voie Douce--the former railroad track which was now converted into a beautiful nature path for walking, cycling, and running... Ah well, there's always next time, la prochaine fois! Meantime, we ate, we swam, and we saw.... Here is a little of ce qu'on a vu.....

Pointus fishing boats
The charming "pointus" or wooden fishing boats at Port des Capucins, which we often passed on our way to the old port. This time of year the fishermen were painting and repairing the colorful vessels, a task that summed up my Dad and Marsha's view of La Ciotat in general: a clean, well-cared for city! My family was so impressed by the city's organization, by the clean streets, the urban renewal going on here at the moment, and by the kindness of the locals, including Sam who invited us over for un vrai festin (we thought we were coming for an apéro (drinks and cacahuètes), but this Algerian-born, former soldier in the Israeli army--who went on to become a bodyguard for a member of The Jackson Five--served us a rainbow of local specialties including pissaladière, anchoïade, and pastis. Sam represents just one in a colorful soup of characters who call La Ciotat home...imagine the myriad of stories that remain to be told by the rest of La Ciotadins!
Restaurant la crique
Speaking of characters, the waitresses at Restaurant La Crique (what a find) have 'tude! They remind me of the take-no-bs servers from my American childhood (well, at least those on TV. Does anyone remember Flo, of "Mel's Diner"? While I'm here, I'll sidetrack to a nickname I've recently acquired, "Flo". It's short for "Go With the Flo" which is exactly why I did not keep up this French word journal while my Dad was here. I needed to put aside my rigid publishing schedule of the past 16 years--and chill!

Mirabelle plums
It is important to point out these mirabelle plums, after we discovered two of these trees in our small garden (we suspected something was growing here, after seeing sticky prints on the ground when we moved here last August! The fruit has a delicious tartness which, when matured, is very sweet. We ate them like candy in between our aller-retours to town and to the beach...

Municipal park in la ciotat

In addition to the breathtaking Parc du Mugel, La Ciotat has an impressive municipal garden, somewhere near (over?) the underground parking lot. You can relax on a public bench and eat your sandwich... if you don't mind strangers wishing you "bon appétit". Swallow quickly and say "merci!"

Dad at Plage du Mugel
Asked what was the highlight of their trip, and Dad and Marsha enthusiastically replied Plage du Mugel!...but at that point they had not seen another secret hideaway, farther up the coast. I'll tell you about that in the next post. It is time now to take a vacation from my family's vacation :-) I'm off to begin a new chapter in Ann Mah's lastest book, THE LOST VINTAGE, which just came out today. Please read along with me, order your copy here.

The lost vintage

au milieu de la nuit = in the middle of the night
les chouquettes = little round puff pastries with large sugar sprinkles
la voie douce = the gentle path
la prochaine fois = the next time
ce qu'on a vu = what we saw
le festin = feast (read this entry from the archives)
un pointu = old wooden fishing boat, read more here
la pissaladière = a kind of pizza without tomato sauce (only carmelized onion, anchovy and olive)

Max jackie jean-marc marsha dad and kristi
Relaxing with our grown-up kids and our adventurous guests, who have landed in Amsterdam, by now, and are getting ready to board their flight to Salt Lake City. Bon voyage, Marsha and Kip! 

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.

Relâcher: A day to fly a kite (or fly like a kite!)

Poppies and bees
A vocabulary-packed Sunday letter for you today. The regular edition will return in a fortnight or less.


For the second time in four weeks, I'm breaking my "no working on Sunday" rule. My Dad and Marsha arrive Tuesday and I'm in a flurry of last-minute To-Do's--including keeping up this blog--which is silly because, really, a year from now who will even remember whether or not a post went out "twice-weekly" in June of 2018? I should relax and just enjoy this day. Tomorrow will come and go. A chaque jour suffit sa peine....

But it is no trouble, or peine, when my Dad and belle-mère visit. Any "flurry" goes back to my perfectionistic strivings (and these are only strivings, for if you took a shower in our guest bathroom--which I did just by chance this morning--and thank God for that!--you'd see spider webs on the ceiling and when you reached for the savon... il y aura que dalle (there wouldn't be any)...because I don't buy shower soap! No, I'm too practical for that (I use a tout-en-un-- an all-in-one shampoo. I can even wash my bathing suit with it!)

Even so, I'm adding "toile d'araignée" to my to-do list--as well as savon, and après-shampooing (I don't have cream rinse in my guest bathroom either. Je suis trop pratique : when the kids come home I give them my cream rinse--then I rouspète (rouspéter, to grumble) when I go to condition my hair, having forgotten the bottle's downstairs! 

Back to last-minute to-dos... this morning I'm all over the place, and a little bit rouspéteuse that my husband is away kitesurfing for the weekend. But I 'm not really mad at Mr High-in-the-Sky. Deep down I admire Jean-Marc for "living each day"--especially le dimanche. Sunday is the perfect day to dream and to play (unless you work at the mall or in a restaurant or at a vineyard, which I did. In that case you need to designate another day in which to relâcher, or let go).

Smokey golden retriever epuisette
Smokey's doing yoga while I'm getting ready to collect pond scum for my permaculture garden!

So off I go, back to my favorite morning activity: using my new, chouette, épuisette -- a Mothers Day gift from Jean-Marc. The net-on-a-pole allows me to go fishing in my pond...for mulch! As the pepper tree loses its tiny leaves, they collect on the pond's surface....

As the leaves swell with nutritive water (so as not to say fish poop) I see it all through a Willy Wonkian lense: only, my garden is my chocolate factory. Zipping back-n-forth from the fountain-pond to the vegetable beds, in a world of my own, I am, finally, in my element. Oompa oompa ooompa-dee-doo...let those cobwebs collect in the bathroom--I'll figure out how to make them garden fodder, too!)

Enjoy your week while I catch up with mon père. A bientôt, chers lecteurs!


à chaque jour suffit ça peine = each day is enough trouble of its own
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "stepmother")
le savon = soap
après-shampooing = conditioner
que dalle = nada, nothing
toile d'araigner = spider web
tout-en-un = all-in-one
rouspeteuse = complainer
dimanche = Sunday
chouette = cool
epuisette = shrimp net

Sauterelle grasshopper anis dill plant flowering
Look closely at the flowering dill...see an Oompa Loompa or a sauterelle?

The less creators have to worry about their funding platform, the more they can focus on what everyone wants them to do: create. --Ethan Siegel, Forbes Magazine

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.