Une bêtise: You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
Draguer: At what age are you "lucky" to be hit on (or even noticed at all)?

Boui-boui: Jackie and I lick windows in Miami while Jean-Marc gets stuck in immigration

Signs in key west floridaKeeping this French language journal going is a joyous struggle: there is joy in writing it and there is a struggle in maintaining it. Your help is not only appreciated--it keeps me employed. One very helpful way to support this site is to buy a book for a friend, via this link. Or scroll to the end of this post for other options. Now on to today's story, packed with useful French vocabulary in context. Enjoy and bonne lecture! 

Today's French Word: un boui-boui 

   : a small, cheap restaurant, a greasy spoon

Audio File: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read in French:  

À Freeport, une île de l'archipel des Bahamas, je me suis arrêté pendant 10 minutes dans un petit boui-boui pour avaler des ailes de poulet. In Freeport, an island in the Bahamas archipelago, I stopped for 10 minutes in a small greasy spoon to woof down some chicken wings.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

A Quick Jaunt to the Bahamas from Miami? Quel Calvaire!

All the mask-toting travelers at the airports in Miami, Marseilles, and Munich, made me ill-at-ease, but, apart from the coronavirus scare, our trip to Florida to visit our 22-year-old daughter went relatively smoothly.

Now relaxing on South Miami Beach, my husband suggested a day trip to the island of Bimini--a 4-hour boat ride aller-retour--I knew right away I didn't want to go. The old Kristi would've tagged along (and moaned and groaned the whole intrepid way). But the new Kristi simply released her thrill-seeking husband to court the unknown all on his own. "I'll spend the day with Jackie," I asserted, and so followed my instincts this time around...

...and was spared The 20-hour épreuve my husband would soon suffer....

On Sunday morning Jean-Marc's alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m. causing Jackie (asleep on an air mattress on the floor of our studio rental) to stir and me to ask a few pertinent questions: sun hat? water? ESTA* papers (in addition to his passport, would he need some sort of Visa or waiver)?  

Jean-Marc threw on his yellow and green Brazil soccer jersey, his old swim trunks, and donned his purple Phoenix Suns casquette in time to catch a shuttle that would take him to the port in Fort Lauderdale. As he rushed out the door into the cold dark street, I stretched cozily across the bed, enjoying the extra space and une grasse matinée. 

By 9:45, Jean-Marc was four hours into his journey to the Bahamas (and still waiting for his boat in the Fort Lauderdale terminal...). Meantime, ma fille et moi were en route to a leisurely breakfast at The W Hotel on South Beach. And quelle chance! Jackie's manager treated us to a free buffet, in thanks for Jackie's excellent service as a waitress at their establishment. Qu'est-ce qu'on est fier de notre fille! As we enjoyed les gaufres with heaps of cream, strawberries, and syrup, Jackie mentioned that Papa needed help with his odds-n-ends (yellow, green and purple...) wardrobe. "Your Dad is into vistas and not vêtements... Seashores and summits, not style or trends," I laughed, trying to imagine just where he was now in his adventure: snorkeling beneath turquoise waters? Sunning on a pristine Bahamas beach? Kissing a mermaid? (as he threatened to do when I declined to go with him).

As we ate we were blissfully unaware of Jean-Marc's own petit déj : he had only managed to down a coffee, too seasick from being stuck on a ferry boat. Turns out after that 45-minute shuttle from hell (crazy driver!) and the 2-hour wait at the port terminal, our day-tripper finally made it onto the boat for the 2-hour crossing...only to be redirected away from Bimini owing to rough waters! It was too bumpy, too dangerous to let passengers disembark. So the ship set sail to another island. 

Jackie left a gigantic tip for our waitress and thanked her manager before we left the 5-star hotel and headed to Miami's Design district to faire du lèches vitrines (that's "window licking" in French, i.e. window shopping). A few hours later we had a delicious snack before Jackie needed to head to work for her 4 p.m. shift.

By this time, still on an empty stomach, JM had earned his second pair of sealegs, having finally made it off the rocking boat. He had traveled 10 hours only to get back on a little bus that would drive him 30 minutes across Freeport island in time for 15 minutes of tourism (if you included the greasy chicken wings and beer he wolfed down at a God-forsaken boui-boui).  

Back at our cozy studio, Jackie showered and left for work while I enjoyed a few quiet hours to organize our bags for the next day's journey to Key West. So good not to have to rush! At 6 pm I put on a pretty necklace, some lipstick, fluffed my hair and headed back to the W Hotel for a solo dinner and the chance to see my daughter in action. Her colleagues gave me a grand welcome and showered my daughter with affection, assuring me she was in good company. One of the waiters opened a bottle of champagne in my honor, delivering it to my table with a flourish. I was sorry to have to refuse it, and how ironic that this happened a very special date: This week I celebrate 17 years of sobriety.* 

As I sat sipping bubbly (l'eau gazeuse) and being treated to a four-course meal (including lobster!) I did not know my poor husband, nary a chicken wing in his tummy, was about to be stuck in some hangar in Fort Lauderdale, nor did I realize he did anything other than snorkel or kiss mermaids for the day in the Bahamas....

When Jackie returned to our rental after 11 pm, her Dad was nowhere in sight. By midnight we were sick with worry until a message came through: JM was stuck in immigration. "What if they keep him?" Jackie worried, having had a few of her French friends experience the horror. 

At 1:15 a.m. our intrepid traveler returned from his bumpy ride (still swaying back and forth as he walked) and gladly ate the 5-star take-out from the dinner Jackie had helped treat me to, via her employee discount. After a glass of rosé and a full tummy, our marooned (if only in buses, terminals, and boats) daytripper sank into bed and was out like a light. The old Kristi would have been furious he was kissing mermaids in his sleep. But the new Kristi said, Let him dream his dreams. He deserves it.

Post note: Jean-Marc says the immigration officers were watching the Super Bowl, which took place that day in Miami, and that this is the reason for the delay in passport check. 

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (a typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!


bonne lecture = happy reading
le calvaire
= cross, ordeal 
un aller-retour = round trip, return trip
une épreuve
= ordeal, trial
la casquette = baseball cap
faire la grasse matinée = to sleep in, to lie in
ma fille et moi = my daughter and I
quelle chance = what luck!
Qu'est-ce qu'on est fier de notre fille! = how proud we are of our daughter!
une gaufre = waffle
Papa = Dad
un vêtement = item of clothing
le petit déj(euner) = breakfast
faire du lèche-vitrine(s) = to go window shopping
l'eau gazeuse = bubbly, sparkling water
un boui-boui = low quality eatery

ESTA = Electronic Papers for Travel Authorization

Jackie and Jean-Marc in Key West
Jackie and Jean-Marc in Key West.
Jean-Marc in Key West

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Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Janet M

That's quite a tale. What a good decision you made! And since you asked: The phrase is "wolf down" (not "woof down"), and "waiver" not "waver" would be correct.


Glad you got him back - you are a wise woman. Has the dermatologist seen JM back lately? Not trying to be pushy just cautious.

Carolyn Chase

Since you asked, If you are using it as a subject in a sentence, "ma fille et moi" would translate as "my daughter and I"


Le pauvre.... mais felicitations de tes 17 ans!


Hi Kristi,
Aren't you glad you went with inner feeling and spent a relaxing day with Jackie. Poor Jean-Marc!

Jerry Wood

I feel sorry for JM dealing with usa boarder guards. Before my wife died we went to a hospital for an MRI and other tests. One test called for a very small amount of radioactive iodine injection . As we were going to the USA that night to have dinner with American friends the hospital gave me a letter for the Guards. They waved a gigercounter (sp?) at us, would not read the letter and put us in a cell while they searched our car. My poor wife was frightened and crying.


Our dear Kristi,
What a disappointing sojourn for Jean Marc(!!)but ,dear Kristi,how we applaud YOU(!)for your wisdom in having arrived at the golden plateau in one's mind (and marriage!) Of not being fearful to be honest and simply do what one prefers without the worry of hurting your mate's feelings(at the expense of your own!!)
Rod and I will be celebrating our 55th in September,and life is more pleasant with this understanding!!
Natalia . Xo


Qu'elle bonne histoire, Kristi!
Tu mérites dix-sept étoiles pour la sobriété and dix-sept de plus pour la sagesse.


Oh, le pauvre Jean-Marc! What an adventure he's had, but how great that you have the opportunity to share it with us. It sounds like you're enjoying a lovely stay with Jacqui in Florida.


It's a great story and so engagingly written, Kristi.
And since you asked, shouldn't it be "comme nous sommes fier" or "combien nous sommes fier" de notre fille?


Oops, with an s on fiers of course!

Laurence in California

Apologies if someone pointed it out already, but "faire DU lèche-vitrine(s)" sounds more correct.

Thanks for all the fun stories Kristi and Marc!


This career English teacher agrees with Janet M! Loved the back and forth adventures contrasting your day with the progression of Jean-Marc's!


I like "qu'est-ce qu'on est fier...." "On" is such a great pronoun, so versatile, especially since you don't have to worry about making modifiers agree (since it's singular). I remember using it so often in writing French papers, telling myself that if someone didn't agree with what I wrote, I could always say that "on" doesn't necessarily include "moi"!!!

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL, USA

Only a typo, I'm sure in "I enjoyed a few quiet hours to organize our bags from the next day's journey to Key West" would be "for" the next, as in preparation for your journey coming up, not "from" a journey just past. Congrats on 17 years (SEVENTEEN!) of sobriety!

Kathleen Bidney

It seems that you didn’t have any difficulty getting into the US, in this Trumpian time, I am so happy that JM did not have any problems ré entering the US.
Enjoy the Keys. I have a friend who lives down there and writes books about it. She goes with the pseudonym Lucy Burnette. Her books are murder mysteries and her character is a food reporter for the local newspaper. Light but fun reads. If you some how you bump into her, Roberta Isleib, say hello from me. I know “fat chance” but hey, you never know. 😎
Enjoy you vacation with Jackie and the warm weather.
Peace, Kathleen

Gary Mcclelland

I had a similar experience in Iceland. I had to choose between riding in a cold, uncomfortable van throughout the night looking for Northern Lights or eating a multi-course dinner atop a hotel overlooking the city. I selected the meal. Next morning everyone on the van trip told me I had made the correct choice.


Hi Kristi

About the struggle you mention about keeping this blog going ...

Why don’t you charge a monthly fee like a magazine? Like $2 or $5? It doesn’t have to be a lot but would be something to help support the cost of running it?
No one would even notice such a small amount going out each month but to you it would be a lot.

The universal law of fair exchange... you give... and the balance is to receive...

At the same time it is also about reeducating people about valuing things.

There will always be people who complain about it... while they go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money on things that don’t nurture their soul!! Strange human behavior sometimes.

Struggle wasn’t intended for anyone. We have to break up with it. This is as much a note to myself as it is to you.

All the best

Hildred Sullivan

This article is relatable on so many levels. Like Jean-Marc my husband doesn’t care a bit for his wardrobe, particularly when we travel. This drives me crazy! FYI using ‘woof it down’ in place of ‘wolf it down’ is called an eggcorn. You can remember the correct way by thinking of Red Riding Hood!

Frank Chappell

I enjoyed the little sampler that you put in the email so much that I went on to the main story . You might call that a " come-on " , and with such a word " boui-boui " . And in my reading , I learned not only that a waffle is a gaufre , but a gopher is gaufre . This continues my practice in English of researching the etymology of words as I learn them . Then , I came to " une faute de frappe " , and remembered fondly what I told the rental car agent in Rouen — " Nous avons frappe un petit ile dans circulation " , which not only explained our predicament , but helped talk us into a Peugeot , as we walked away from our wounded Opel . An Opel , by the way , is lame , even when it is not wounded .

Kristin Espinasse

Mille mercis to all who shared corrections! I have just updated the blog and am so grateful for your help and suggestions. Off to run errands with Mom. See you in the next edition. Get your red pens ready.

Lynn, thank you very much for your concern. Your note reminded me to remind Jean-Marc of his upcoming rdv chez le dermato. So helpful. Merci.

Cathia Gantz

Oh yeah! Mighty oaks from little eggcorns grow.


Hmm waiver IS what I see, not waver, beneath ESTA about the 3rd paragraph... same one you're referring to Janet? n'est-ce pas?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Nina, thanks for checking. It was misspelled and I corrected it just after seeing Janets comment. 

Cerelle Bolon

Oh My, POOR Marc! You certainly made the right decision in not joining him on THAT adventure! Sometimes we need to do just what our wishes and instincts tell us and not feel obligated to do something we know we will not like! And, Kristen, Congratulations on your continued sobriety. You know it was the right decision and your life is much better for it.
Best wishes from Phoenix,
Cerelle Bolon

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