Bon bout d'an! + What is an adult? (Surprising answer by one of France's most famous philosophers)
Amour-Propre: Breakfast, Boundaries & A Blow to the Ego

Marquer le coup (A hike, swim at Parc du Mugel) + Do what you want to do


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Today's phrase: marquer le coup

    : to mark the occasion, to celebrate

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

New Year's Day began with blue skies, birdsong (les gazouillis, as JM calls it), and an urge to get outside. There were some things I wanted to do before le premier janvier slipped by, and with Mom's suggestion still strumming in my mind I set out to marquer le coup.

It took a while to get around to what I wanted to do, what with so much chicken poop, but after cleaning le poulailler (carefully transferring the fumier, or black gold, to the base of our plum tree...) I ran to my seed baskets in search of more fava beans. Les fèves are the easiest things to grow. You could probably drop one on the ground and it would spring up a few weeks later! Plus, fava leaves make nutritious salad greens...while you are waiting for the haricots to develop.

While sowing these giant seeds (which also serve as the trinket in this season's Gâteau des Rois), I bumped into Jean-Marc, returning from his morning run. Do you want to pack a lunch and we can go for a swim? I said, vocalizing my 2019 goals: more picnics! more hikes! more swims!

I packed a salad of pois chiches, red onion, diced fava leaves, chopped turmeric, and a few other ingredients Dr. Greger recommends (and some he might resent: fromage and foie gras...) and off we went to Parc du Mugel--the most glorious spot in La Ciotat. 

Mugel walk
Wearing our bathing suits under our winter clothes and doudounes, we hiked up to the botanical park, past the flowering Bird of Paradise, some bright red bougainvillea, and down into a swimming hole my father discovered a few years ago. On seeing two couples of a certain age swimming in the turquoise water, Dad exclaimed, I'm going to return here and swim. (And he did! Only it wasn't the first of January....).

Looking around the otherworldly coastline (the smooth falaise across the bay looks like something out of Planet of the Apes--or the part of the surface of the moon) the land meets the turquoise waters below, which lap over a rock island in the center of the inlet, before rising up to the east with hills of green as in a dream.

Rocky calanque at  parc du mugel la ciotat
picture, showing the rocky terrain, taken on a previous hike

Settling down on a rocky perch, we sat beside our backpacks and Jean-Marc put his head in my lap. As he napped I debated whether or not to brave the icy waters when I noticed un plongeur wearing a thick, full-length wetsuit!

Fait ce que tu as envie de faire, my husband said after lunch, as we packed up our picnic and hiked to another beach, But I am going to swim!! 

Fine, you swim, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself, I said, looking across the beach to where a crowd of New Year's Day swimmers stood beside a line of drying wetsuits.... As we got closer to the others, music filled our ears. I looked up to a quartet of jazz musicians--a talented family ranging in age. The wonderful sound carried us across the pebble beach where we set out our towels. 

Jean-Marc was the first in! And no sooner did he disappear under the glittering surface than a taste for the same experience tickled my senses. I began peeling off my clothes and, as discreetly as possible--not wanting to make a spectacle of myself...I walked over to the shore. Hard to do on those big, slippery pebbles!

Like a newbie on a trapeze, arms flailing for balance, I fell into the water. One more new year's goal bubbled up through my mind: Keep on trying new things, regardless! Better a plunge into exhilarating waters, than a staying put on a bed of rocks.

He looks cold!
Jean-Marc navigating over the slippery rocks. The water was cold but very enjoyable (at about 15C or 60F)

les gazouillis = chirps
le premier janvier = January 1st
marquer le coup = mark the occasion
le fumier = manure
poulailler = henhouse
la fève = fava bean, broad bean
un haricot = bean
le gâteau des rois = King's Cake
le pois chiche = chickpea, garbanzo bean
le fromage = cheese
la doudoune = feather, down jacket
la falaise = cliff
un plongeur = snorkeler
fais ce que tu as envie de faire = do what you want to do
  =>Try Mastering French Vocabulary

Yogurt cake kings cake gateau des rois hack
Here's another cake hack for you: If you cannot find a gâteau des rois in your area, why not make a traditional yogurt cake (easy recipe here) and stick a magical fava bean inside (magical because I have actually planted the bean after plucking it out** of a cooked cake. The seed grew!).

From Wikipedia: À l'intérieur de celui-ci, était introduite une fève ; celui qui avait la chance de la trouver dans la part qu'il recevait était nommé roi. Inside (the cake) a bean was inserted; the one who had the chance of finding it in his slice was named king.

Happy New Year! May it be filled with peaceful moments and inspiration to follow your dreams.

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Well done! New Year’s Day swim! Bon courage.

Catherine Berry (But you are in France, Madame)

The pebbles do make for a potentially less gracious entry. You did it, though - bravo!

Audrey Wilson

A Very Happy New Year to all the family May it be prosperous & healthy !!
How brave to swim on January the 1st . I'm afraid the water has to be a good deal warmer for me !
p.s Just received a photo from my daughter showing snow in Phoenix ! Climate change in action?

K.J. Laramie

You are one brave lady! I would have stopped at my big toe and taken more beautiful photos instead! Brava, Kristi! Happy New Year!


If you are putting that chicken manure directly on the base of your plum tree, doesn't that 'burn' the tree with too much uncomposted, concentrated nitrogen?


I agree! Just the thought of sticking even my big toe into 60 deg. F water chills me on this winter day!

Kristin Espinasse

Good question. I am careful to keep it away from the trunk. I think it will compost on top of the earth, away from the roots. I will keep my eye on it! Here is a picture of the beautiful mirabelle plums (halfway through this post), which ripen in May:

Sarah LaBelle

It sounds like a wonderful way to start the year. Good meal and more time outdoors, with your husband.


Happy New Year to you both. How fun, exhilarating and wonderful that you love in literally to the start of 2019 Kristi. Bravo.


Oops dove in

Rosalie Hill Isom

It’s that space in your mind before the leap, don’t you think? Into the water, into life. 2019, why not? More and different experiences. Merci, Kristi et bonne année à vous deux.


Keith Van Sickle

That will certainly wake you up for the new year!


I could NEVER get in that two are amazing. I have to have bath water to swim...over 24 degrees is PERFECT for me. But I have great admiration for your plunge.
They plunge here in Argeles, too, on New Year's. I, instead, stayed home and made la galette de roi!!!
Forgot the bean, so slipped it into a slice for a guest....

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
What a fun way to start the New Year! Love all the photos and the IG post from JM!


Chacun à son goût, Kristi! Ce n’est pas pour moi l’eau glacée, mais le Gâteau des Rois, ça me plait. Quelle bonne idée! Je vais prendre une pour partager avec mes amis cet après-midi.
Merci beaucoup.


Kristi, you continue to inspire me. Somedays, I feel too chicken to take a dip in the ocean in the summer, let alone in winter temperatures. Yet, this year I, too, am determined to try new experiences and avoid overthinking. NZ offers many opportunities for adventures both daring and more subdued, so I'm in the right place to get out of my comfort zone at a pace that suits me. :)


You mention le gâteau des rois. I wonder if that is the same la Galette de la Fève that children in Paris love on le six janvier. It’s a cake with one haricot in it and the child that gets the section of cake with the bean in it is the king for the day and from that moment on he/she is le véritablement maître of the fête. If I recall I think it’s called c’est le jour de Rois.


What a brilliant life!!


Our dear Kristi,
Are so proud of you!
Once again you give us both inspiration and example!
It snowed here in Las Vegas(!)
and after reading your words today,Rod and I got the nerve to jump into our pool and do laps.Nearly fainted when I saw the temp--27 degrees!
Thank you,Kristi,for helping us
to finish what we had only hoped
to before now!
Natalia. Xo

Karen Cafarella

Happy New Year Kristi! Wow a plunge in the water. You are braver than me.

Wishing you peace, joy, and love!

Kathleen from Connecticut

Oh WOW ... we are not happy unless our indoor pool where we do Aquapump is 80F or 27.77C. Congratulations on the 60F. You are a trooper.
We love Parc du Mugel. The beaches are nice, secluded and the paths are wonderful to hike. We also love the botanical gardens.
I am going to make David Lebovitz’s Galette du Roi. He suggests that you use puff pastry which has butter in it. I just checked the price of one I found in a health food store and it was $12.99 for one piece. Ouch!! I will use another one without butter.
Happy Epiphany- Three King’s Day.


2019? How''d that happen?


Congratulations for taking the plunge!!i so rarely try something new but when I do, it really feels good! Happy New Year!!

Patricia Sands

Happy New Year, brave soul! Way to go! I'll make your delicious yogurt cake instead of taking that plunge. But I admire you and JM for doing it. Onward to more adventures in 2019!


Happy New Year a little late but still heart felt. Sounds like you had a beautiful start to 2019.

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