Haphazardly in French + Serendipitous Meeting with a Stranger, Part 1
La Poubelle (when your work goes POOF! into the galaxy's garbage can)

The Stranger, Part 2 (+ The Word the French say When Smiling for a Photo)

Eglise cathedral church france la ciotat
A series of empêchements might have kept us from bumping into a stranger. Read on for part 2 of our story...

Today's Word: ouistiti!

    : Say cheese!

A ouistiti is also a small creature, this one.

A life of her own emilie carles
A book on my nightstand, and a memoir I've had for a very long time that is even more meaningful to me now. I hope you will enjoy Emilie Carles A Life of Her Own. Click here to order.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After smiling ouistiti for the photo, we left our accidental amie there on the cobblestone path and headed inside the art supply store. Mom needed a special product for prepping her unusual canvases (that's a whole other story).

As Jules searched for supplies, I listened to the commerçant, who said he may have to close shop--having lost 17,000 euros since les gilets jaunes began protesting last November. Mon Dieu, this poor man needed customers! Just as that thought ran through my mind, I heard jingle bells. And there, in the shop's entrance, les cloches still swaying on the doorknob, stood our elegant new friend!

Ah, rebonjour, Madame said. I was thinking.... it would be nice to have the photo your mom just took of us, she said.

Mais bien sûr! I smiled, reaching for my phone. Madame, with a perfectly manicured thumbnail, in clear gloss, flipped open her own phone which had rhinestones on it and a tiny screen which caused her no end of frustrations. Voyons... Madame mumbled.

I began searching with Madame until she got sidetracked by a photo album and there began an impromptu vernissage (or art showing of her daughter's works). I like the coquelicot, Madame said. Ah, but I musn't go on. Say, could you send the picture here, she said, pointing to a message box. 

Equally challenged by technology, it took me a few moments to figure out how best to transfer the file, but we succeeded, managing, at the same time, to record each other's phone numbers. A round of Who's On First ensued as we looked for evidence that we had indeed called each other...and so registered our numbers.

Mindful of every delicious minute we were enjoying together in this serendipitous meeting, hélas, the time had come to say goodbye. Kisses on each cheek, and Madame disappeared beyond les cloches, the door chiming behind her.

Only to reopen 10 minutes later....

I have a little something for your Mom, Madame announced. Hanging from her wrist, there was a little lavender gift bag....

Jules thanked Madame for the kindness, and was visibly moved by the surprise. I noticed Mom did not open the gift, and guessed she was going to enjoy the suspense a little while longer....

In the car ride home, I relived the entire encounter. Can you believe it, Mom. It was so easy to talk to her about everything and nothing--and there was so much spontaneous affection. It is rare to speak to somebody this way. I can't explain it... I went on, Madame was... She was...

Mom gazed out the car window, her mind drifting out to sea as she searched for the words I had not yet found. Her thoughts returned in three giant waves, to describe Madame:

She. Was. Real.

*    *    *
(For Part 1 of this story, click here)

I've not asked Madame permission to post her photo. But there's a snapshot, below, and here is a sketch from my Instagram. I hope you will join me over there, where I post mini-updates and photos throughout the week. I'm sorry for not posting a picture of the gift Mom received. Every story needs an element of mystery, don't you agree? 


un empêchement = hitch, hindrance
ouistiti! = say cheese!
un/e ami/e = friend
17,000 euros = 19,340 US dollars
mon Dieu! = my God!
les gilets jaunes = the yellow vests, see yellow vests movement
rebonjour= hi again
la cloche
= bell
la poignée de port = door handle
voyons = lets's see
le vernissage = private viewing of art
le coquelicot = poppy
hélas = alas, sadly

Madame and me la ciotat backpack

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Nyla Witmore

The brilliant blue shutters and the touches of red in the distant person and the closer rack of postcards ... well, so artistically composed though taken without the analysis...well, it is perfect and real, just like the chance meetng. Life is full of little miracles. You and Jules attract them. I am currently in Key West Florida and it seems every day that there are chance meetings of significance and quality conversations with strangers. Some places in the world are magnified in this way.. You also are in one of those places. Jules is a magnet for attracting adventures and life is even richer for it.


I may be wrong but I do believe "ouistiti" has another meaning too....

I can't find it in my ancient dictionnary....

It may just be a made up word that one uses with young children....

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,
What lovely encounter! I love those moments in life!


I may be wrong, but doesn't "la cloche" mean "bell" (and not "belle" as you wrote)? Thanks, Kristi, for allowing us to live another life and experience through you.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi David, thanks for catching that one. Off to fix it (*bell* indeed)


Hi, look at the foto above, your backpack is a face!


It is a Marmoset. I have a copy of Petit Larousse which include a sketch of one in the margin.

Robert Erwin


One of the most pleasant things about getting older is that you may say almost anything to anyone. And at 79 one of the things I love about France is the number of casual, lengthy conversations I have with total strangers. What a great combination. Kinda makes the aches and pains much easier to take. Keep up your good work.



I am hoping you will be writing us that you called this lovely person with whom you had such a great rapport, and invited her for tea...!

Chris Allin

It is a fascinating dynamic, the instant affinity that one can feel with someone when first meeting them. And if given the opportunity, it can evolve into a great friendship...

Chris Allin

It does have a face! So cute!


I want to add that in France, in the countryside, when you strike up a converstion with someone regarding their garden for instance, you are often invited to their home on the spot for an aperitif.. This has not occurred in Paris or Provence, but in little out of the way places while out for a walk. We have made several friends in this way, and it was often the highlight of our trip! Love the spontaneity and unexpectedness of these encounters!

Kristin Espinasse

I see it! And, haha, it is a bit serious just like the look on my face. 😂

Cerelle Bolon

Brava for you both..or all three. I have a similar story about meeting years ago a lovely French woman who spoke no English, and my little French hardly counts, but when you meet a 'friend of the heart' somehow you communicate! She was in her antique shop in Cordes-sur-Ciel and Bill and I went in to look for some salt dishes for my mother. Marie-France, the owner, was so charming and she had a darling dog and in no time we were somehow chatting away. I took a photo of her with her dog, she shared her address, and after sending her a letter and the photo, we started writing. I have been back two more times, once more with Bill and after he died, another time with a friend. Every time was wonderful and after so many years we are still in touch. Sadly, it is by snail mail, as they still don't have internet except at the base of this wonderful old perched village. Keep on meeting people, Kristi..one never knows who will become a treasured friend! And GOOD for Jules pursuing her painting which is really quite good, and certainly good for her! Hugs...


Chère Kristi,
J’adore votre Maman! Jules’ response to l’étranger is spot on. It is so refreshing to meet an authentic person. Your storytelling continues to engage and improve. ´The plot thickens’. . . Merci.

Stacy Lund

A lovely reminder to step outside our door with hearts and eyes open. We cannot know who we may meet or whose day we may brighten. Beautiful stories (Part 1 & 2), I'm inspired by your chance encounter and curious if we will see more of this woman who is no longer a stranger.

Judith Dunn

... as the Inspector said to Rick in Casablanca ..."this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship". This story will have many 'folds' to it I suspect. Two of my best friends here in Tallahassee, I met by chance meetings in stores. One of the gals is 92 and French.... and we both have Capricorn birthdays... so we always go out in January and splurge on an outrageous lunch for ourselves! I get to practice my French with her which is like having a private tutor, but with no lesson plan!!! What fun we have..... Have fun on your new " friendship adventure'! Judi, Tallahassee,

Patricia Sands

The serendipity of chance meetings such as these adds a special dimension to our lives.
Charmante histoire! :-)


Our dear Kristi,
What a touching and lovely post,wrapping us in hugs as only you can.
First thing that comes to my mind here is "entertaining angels unawares"--reciprocated feelings shared by all of you.
What a gift!
Natalia . XO


Kristi, Another lovely story! Thank you for taking me along. I'm still smiling!
A bientôt!

Karen Cafarella

Those are the best kind of encounters.


Kathleen from Connecticut

I hope that Jules is painting up storm. Please post one of her paintings, as I am sure your readers would love to see one.


Vada Hendrickson

Enjoyed over the years with all the family & critters ~

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