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Entries from September 2019

Relationship tip? Keep 'em guessing! Deviner is the word of the day

Alcudia Majorca Spain Balearic Islands
For our 25-year marriage anniversary, I reserved a surprise for Kristi. Guess where we are going to go... (Listen to Jean-Marc read his sentence in French, below.)

Today's word: deviner

    : to guess
    : to figure out
    : to surmise

Click here to listen to the following sentence in French
Pour notre 25ème anniversaire de mariage, j'ai reservé une surprise à Kristi. Devinez où nous allons aller. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

When Jean-Marc told me he had reserved a surprise destination for our 25th wedding anniversary, the guessing began as I packed my carry-on: if we took a plane, all these toiletries would need to be under so many grams in weight (just how many?). But if we were traveling by train or via ferry boat, then this giant-size tube of sunblock could go with us. Did we even need la crème solaire?

Mais bien sûr! That much I knew about my husband: this Mediterranean likes to go where he can put his feet in the sand while setting his rosé on the table--alongside his olives and cacahuètes (autrement dit: he loves to dine on the beach--les pieds nus)!

I emptied out some hotel shampoo bottles and refilled with lotion and sunblock just in case we were boarding a strict carrier (living near Marseilles is wonderful for that: so many islands (Malta, Sardinia, Corsica) and cities (Rome, Barcelona, Palermo) can be reached via the friendly skies in under 2 hours for under $100. I packed a swimsuit and various layers to cover any situation: la pluie, la canicule, le froid... and then threw all cares to the wind, or tried to, and got into our car wearing my best version of adventurer.

Which reminds me of one of the reasons I married Jean-Marc, there would always be adventures, which is just what this homebody who likes to know what's going to happen next needs. Speaking of what's next, who knew if our car ride would be 45 minutes (to the Marignane airport) or 2.5 hours (to the Italian border?)--or an all-day journey to Croatia (we drove there once. You should have seen the look on my family's faces when, at border patrol, and after 15 hours on the road--in traffic and heat for the last leg--I realized I'd forgotten my passport)....

I have never forgotten my documents since! "But I cannot find my Residency card..." I said to Jean-Marc, panicked. (If you are a foreigner living full-time in France, you must be ready to show this extra ID card at immigration along with your passport when traveling outside of the country). When my husband wasn't concerned about the missing card, I realized we were probably not flying anywhere...

And when Jean-Marc drove right past the port of Toulon, I had to scratch "ferry boat" off the list of possible destinations. Now it seemed we were headed to the Nice airport, another 2 hours down the coast.... But just when I felt sure, my driver did a switcharoo, looping back into town. By now I was laughing. I love this! I said. The control freak inside of me must have nodded off for a siesta. Meantime, my soul was awake! Oh, the power of letting go! Freeing yourself of reservations, fears, conclusions, expectations and the rest of those monsters and party poopers.

At last we drove to the Port of Toulon, and it was crystal clear we were taking a boat over these turquoise waters just ahead. But which direction? There were three lanes leading up to the drive-on boarding: one read "Ajaccio." One read "Bastia." And the lane in the middle read "Alcudia." All boats read, in huge letters CORSICA FERRIES, leading to many assumptions....

So we are going to Corsica, I chirped. I love Corsica! And I love taking the overnight ferry! 

Jean-Marc's sideways smile told me the game of devinettes wasn't up. "If that is what you think," he said simply. Looking back at the signs, I had to not being able to identify one of those cities on a giant Map of Geography. Just where was Alcudia located? It had to be Corsica...for everything pointing to that direction. 

"Can I use my phone and google it?" I begged. 

"If you want," my driver said, nonchalant.

And that, dear reader, is how I learned that Alcudia is located... on the Spanish island of Majorca. Now I will never forget that and, si Dieu le veut, look forward to many more geography lessons in the next 25 years!

*    *    *
Mr Sacks and Jean-Marc pointu boats
Guess who came with us on this trip: Trusty Mr Sacks. He's almost as old as our marriage. More pictures of Mr Sacks over the years, click here. 


autrement dit = said otherwise
les pieds nus = bare feet
la cacahuète = peanut
la pluie = rain
la canicule = heatwave
le froid = the cold
devinettes = guessing game
si Dieu le veut = God willing

Reverse Dictionary

carry-on = le bagage à main 
toiletries = produits de toilette
Beach in majorca spain
Jean-Marc needs sun. I need shade. We're learning to work it out. That could be our memoir in a nutshell. Chapter 8 has just been posted, and the second half of it (Jean-Marc's account) is coming soon. Thank you for reading our book-in-progress.

Church door in Roussillon France
Church door in Roussillon, photo from the archives of this blog. I just received this note--via snail mail--from Elaine: 

Kristi, So enjoy your work and finally can send a check by mail. Every best wish, Elaine

Thank you so much, Elaine! And for those of you who enjoy this journal, it is now possible to support it via a check in US dollars or in euros. Here is the information:

Le Vin Sobre
Att: Kristin Espinasse
45 Voie Ariane
13600 La Ciotat

Horse and cart in mediterranean sea kaki polizzi la ciotat france
The shores here in La Ciotat. Photo from the archives of this blog. Thank you very much to those who read it and support it.

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!
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On s'aimera toute la vie

Vintage book

Chapter 8 of our vineyard memoir has been posted. Below, I am including an excerpt from the end of that chapter, which includes these charming illustrations. I leave you with today's phrase and wishes for a lovely weekend!
Today's phrase: On s'aimera toute la vie
    : we will love each other all our lives

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
(the following passage is a postnote from the end of chapter 8...)
The title of this book (from the 50s) reads: We will love each other all our lives. Finding this vintage volume was serendipitous: I had been returning from a morning swim, having taken Jean-Marc's invitation to join him. On my way home, I stopped at the neighborhood book lending box, and was instantly enamored by this treasure looking up at me from the shelf.

I had been struggling to find a photo for this latest chapter, a passage I procrastinated on because it seemed dark (were the past chapters dragging the book down?). The illustration on the cover reminded me of the underlying theme of our book...and that is why I find it perfect for the end of this chapter.

Peynet illustration
The drawings (by Peynet) inside the book are cheeky. This one jumped right off the page and delighted me. It speaks volumes of our relationship. From the moment I married him, Jean-Marc has kept me wagging my fingers with each and every DIY impulse of his! In the moment, it really frustrates me. But looking back over all of the quirky creations and repairs he has done (he would indeed go as far as to borrow the back of my dress if it served a purpose!) I can't help but smile in appreciation for it all. "It all" being the life we have shared up until now.

The memoir Jean-Marc and I are writing will speak volumes to anyone in a relationship, and anyone who has ever followed a dream and suffered setbacks along the way. Your purchase is a great support to us as we face the next chapter, always seeking the balance between transparency--and (to use the illustration above...) not revealing too much! Click here to purchase our book-in-progress, and thanks in advance!

Drawings from the book on s aimera toute la vie

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

Two Milestones: News about Jean-Marc and Jackie

Jackie Jean Marc Max Kristi at Vin Sobre Wine shop La Ciotat
Photo of our family in Le Vin Sobre wine shop--a project Jean-Marc has been working on all summer. The doors officially opened, here in La Ciotat, on Friday. (left to right: Jackie, Jean-Marc, Max, and Kristi.)

Today's word: vieille canaille

    : old scoundrel

Click here to listen to the following sentence
Bonjour, c'est Jean Marc. Je vous invite à venir visiter ma cave à vin - épicerie fine à La Ciotat. Vous y découvrirez toutes mes sélections ainsi qu'une section intitulée "vieilles canailles".

Hi, Jean-Marc here. I invite you to visit my wine shop/épicerie fine in La Ciotat. You will discover all my best selections as well as a section called "old scoundrels".*

"Old scoundrels, here, refer to Jean-Marc's old vintages, for sale at the shop.

, by Kristi Espinasse

Two Milestones

The picture, above, was snapped moments before we took our daughter to the train station in Marseilles.  Her voyage to Miami, where she began bartender school on Monday, was about to begin. Sometime last year our youngest began a transition, leaving behind her fashion studies in France to find work in the States. The job she found at the Ritz Carlton, serving drinks and occasionally helping as barback, awakened a longtime interest in mixology. Voilà for the first milestone which passed the week of her 22nd birthday (which is today, September 18th! Happy Birthday, Jackie!!).

The second milestone belongs to Jean-Marc, who opened his Vin Sobre wine shop here in La Ciotat on Friday! He could not have known when he began his journey into winemaking that he would end up here. But, if there is one thing I am learning, "to end up somewhere" is not in his vernacular.

There is no "end," only a day to day trek towards the future. Happy travels to all and, should you find yourself in the area of La Ciotat, please enjoy a rest stop along your journey... at the Vin Sobre wine shop, located conveniently off the motorway :-)

Le Vin Sobre La Ciotat
45 Voie Ariane, 13600 La Ciotat
Tel : 09 88 06 18 58 - 06 65 21 35 92
Instagram : @le_vin_sobre_la_ciotat

Vin sobre cave wine shop la ciotat

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!
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Freedom & Fer: L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.

Bird tracks on the beach and the sea
Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains. Don't miss the translation, below.

Today's Word: le fer

    : iron
    : shoe, horseshoe
    : rail

les fers = chains

Click here to listen to the following sentence

L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.  --Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    by Kristi Espinasse

Have you ever noticed the self-imposed prisons we sometimes check into when we put limits on our freedom? Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously wrote: L’homme est né libre et partout il est dans les fers.
La liberté is a gift. To some it is a right. Either way it is something to be thankful for each and every day, so why would anyone ever restrict their own champ des possibilités
We do this in ways in which we are often unaware...
Out walking along the seafront this morning, I suddenly froze at the sight of a familiar figure in the distance. I felt the urge to turn around and hurry home, or else bump into somebody I was avoiding. I could have bucked up and continued on, but it would have been an awkward march forward. Which, come to think of it, is better than a bloody march forward, as those who have fought for our freedom have suffered on not-so-distant sandy shores....

Because of this absurd social dilemma I now had to change directions, which was dommage as it would curtail my daily walk (an exercise that began a year ago, with the goal of restoring peace of mind. Quelle ironie!
Alors, in a quick change of itinerary, I took up a parallel path on the sandy beach just below. By zigzagging up and down the narrow plage I could elongate this alternate route and--unexpected bonus-- improve my workout, thanks to the different niveaux along the beach, and to the sable, which is more challenging to walk on.
No sooner did I begin snaking my way home (down to the water, back to the boardwalk, and down again) than I became aware of just how dorky this looked (in comparison to the other morning sportifs, all advancing in a straight line, on a designated path), for who loops up and down a narrow beach if not a loopy person! 
Oh, but it was enjoyable while it lasted! even if the couple in their beach chairs stared (I swear I could read their thought bubbles: "What's up with Loopy Doop?").
That's when a thought bubble of my own came up: YOU HAVE GOT TO PRACTICE YOUR FREEDOM! 
This was true... And here! And now!

At that moment I looked down and saw hundreds of fine tracks in the sand--made up of little affirming steps just like mine! The tiny four-toed footprints zigzagged and looped up and down the beach... What was striking was who left these exquisite tracks... it was no other than the symbol of freedom herself. For who is freer than a bird? 

Allez. En avant! No matter your setbacks, keep moving forward in your own original way, thankful all the while for the freedom to be able to do so.
Doves by the sea in la ciotat
les fers = chains
partout = everywhere
la liberté = freedom
le champ des possibilités = field of possibilities
dommage = too bad
quelle ironie = How ironic
alors = so
la plage = beach
le niveau = level
le sable = sand
le sportif = athlete
allez = go on!
en avant = keep move forward

Bird tracks on the beach


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

Un coup de bol + ras le bol and recipe for "le pain en cocotte" (dutch oven bread)

Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith
photo by Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

A SPECIAL WELCOME to students who have just signed on to this journal. It is an honor to have you with us! This blog began in the South of France in 2002 when our children were 5 and 7, and I worked at a  Swedish-owned winery while my husband sold Italian wine bottling machines. (I am American and he is French.) We left our jobs, focused on writing and wine and eventually bought a vineyard of our own. Currently, we are sharing a more personal story and you may follow along as we write it: The Lost Gardens goes behind the scenes of this lighthearted, cheerful (in the style of today's column, below) blog to the dark and hopeless moments that punctuated our private life. Feedback on our memoir:

"A raw, honest, and heart-wrenching telling of a trying period. So vividly told." -Janet
"Your combined story is powerful..." --Chris
"This book will be a great help to others, and a testament to the strengths you have each discovered in yourselves." -Ellen 

Anyone who has ever chased a dream while trying to hold on to their loved ones will be moved by our book's dual narrative: my husband writes about his ambitious pursuit of winemaking, and my chapters focus on our relationship as our vineyard rises.... and ultimately falls. But that is not the end of the story.... Purchase the memoir here and begin reading right away.  

Today's phrase: un coup de bol

    : a stroke of luck, a fluke, lucky break

Sound File: click here to listen to the French phrase below

Un coup de bol... à ne pas confondre avec le ras le bol (ce qui veut dire " fed up").
A stroke of luck... not to be confused with le ras le bol (which means "fed up").


by Kristi Espinasse

"Wonder Bread"

Quelle Trouvaille! I was hunting through the second-hand shop, with Mom, when I stumbled upon a dutch oven. Le Creuset no less. The torn white sticker read 5 euros. But it weighed a ton! Did I really want to buy this empty canon ball?

Oh, but it was canon! A real knock-out as go dutch ovens. Cherry red. A slate-black handle (so handsome you'd forgive it the first time it blistered your fingers). The retro typography L E  C R E U S E T. The creamy enamel interior. Tu vas regretter, a little voice said as I began walking away. And so I turned on connâit la suite....

I am typing this with burnt fingers which reminds me to include the following disclaimer: pay attention when baking today's wonder bread and porter des gants!

Now that you've been warned, and you promise to be mindful while making this fastoche bread recipe--don't hold back! This is every bit as good as a French baguette and simple comme make.


Follow the simple video instructions at the end of this post for a no-fail loaf that will wow your family and friends! If you don't have a dutch oven and can't locate one second-hand, check out these dutch ovens on


le pain en cocotte = dutch oven bread
quelle trouvaille! = what a find!
canon = gorgeous
on connaît la suite = the rest is history
porter des gants = wear gloves
fastoche = easy
simple comme bonjour = easy as hello
The antique hachoir berceuse (rocking chopper) was another find at the second-hand store! You can find these new here

Even the underside is beautiful, reminiscent of the marbled French yogurt cake!

I've finally run out of farine, or flour, after making so many loaves :-) Latest obsession: to add Everything but the Bagel seasoning mix to the top. So good! I leave you with the video that simplifies the steps:

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