Un avion de chasse: after “canon” another French word for “hottie” or “babe” + French vocabulary: prendre sa revanche, taquin, rebonjour, phare, pantoufle
France's "Cité de L'Espace" and SpaceX "dearMoon" + Jules is ready to fly the coop.

Update on Max + Mortgage is a creepy word! Use this French expression instead! + bien immobilier, hypothéque, piaule, licitation judiciaire

Old port de plaisance marina in la ciotat france
The colorful port de plaisance in La Ciotat. Apartment sales in our town are exploding at the moment.

Did you ever stop to think about the word "mortgage"? The first four letters are a clue-in: "mort" in French means death and gage = pledge. Mortgage = death pledge. If the term is too creepy for you, then use one of these when in France:

- un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
- un prêt immobilier = real estate loan
-un prêt hypothécaire and une hypothéque (when you mortgage part of your home for cash)

AUDIO/SOUND FILE in French and English
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce all of the French words in today's story (see French Vocabulary section, below)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

From our kitchen where I am quietly making lunch, I enjoy seeing our son work at the dining table. His laptop is open and he is on the phone with clients. Depending on which language he is speaking—French, English, or Spanish—I can guess which country he is calling. (I know I'm bragging. I am so proud of him!)

Though Max lives in Aix-en-Provence, he sometimes works here in La Ciotat on Fridays. Having gone into the wine business after graduating from Montpellier Business School, he’s making waves like his father in the wine world (whoops! I’ve gotten the “waves” idiom all wrong! But we’re sticking with it as the next sentence depends on it...). Speaking of les vagues, they’re one of the reasons Max is here on weekends: after work, he grabs his kitesurf and off he flies, to the nearest plage (he loves Almanarre beach on the Presqu'île de Giens, near Hyères).

Un Chez-Soi (A Place of One’s Own)
No surfing today though. Max needs to figure out where he will live after his lease expires in June. He’d like to buy a place instead of spending part of his paycheck on rent, and after meeting with a loan officer he is aware of his limited budget. So today, we are visiting an apartment in le centre ville de La Ciotat…. Only, by the end of the tour I’ll have a few tips for Max!

The split-level apartment is deep in the old town, along une rue piétonne. He’ll have to park a ways away if he moves here. Before we ring the sonnette, Max points to the end of the street where we see the sparkling sea and even the boats on the old port de plaisance. “Ah, and there’s the Irish Pub!” he smiles.

Pas d’ascenseur (No elevator)
We meet the owner at the giant wooden door leading into le bien immobilier. After climbing three flights of stairs, we arrive at a narrow landing on le deuxième étage and enter into the duplex. The stairs immediately to our left lead up to a small loft. Straight ahead, the main room/living area has a kitchenette along one wall. At the end of the counter, there’s the entrance to the tiny bathroom, opposite the fridge. Everything is nickel--super clean and tidy--which helps us to see big in a small space. The window on the facing wall looks onto the building across the street, right into the neighbor’s place.

Astuce no 1: Don’t let the owner know you don’t like his taste
“I’d change the paint right away,” Max admits as we head up the narrow escaliers to the loft. “This blue reminds me of my bedroom when I was a kid.” (Such a comment might’ve been ok were he talking to the agent immobilier, and not the propriétaire who politely showed us around his bachelors pad.)

Astuce no. 2: Don’t tell the owner how much you like the place!
Apart from his distaste for the paint, and his concern for the uneven walls, Max was full of compliments, perhaps too many.

“There’s lots of storage space! I can put my kiteboard here in this placard… and my valises in that one… Everything looks good, I won’t have to renovate (apart from the paint)...No extra expenses there...”

Up in the loft, we have to duck down in order to reach the bed (a mattress on the floor). Max pushes open the skylight and we stick our heads out and look across the rooftops all the way to the port……

Astuce no. 3: Don’t get the owner’s hopes up!
“I like it. I’ll call you next week with an offer,” Max says, as we wave goodbye to the owner. I have my doubts but keep quiet pour l’instant...

Back at home, the family weighed in with their wisdom. “Max,” I said, “with the current pandemic, you might want to find a place with a terrace or balcony, so you won’t be cooped up inside...”

Next, Grandma Jules piped up. “Buy a piece of land in the hills beyond! And get out of the city!”
“Where’s he going to sleep?” Jean-Marc laughed.
“He can get a tent!” Grandma insisted.
“Or maybe a van?” I wondered, having seen several surfer vans (with built-in kitchens/beds) in our beach town.
“I’ll put a van on the property too!” Grandma cheered.

...And don’t get Jean-Marc started, he’s been wanting a VW camper for some time!

Astuce no. 4: Don’t listen to everybody!
Meantime, with everyone now dreaming of the wide-open road, I’m reminded of one final tip or astuce: Don’t listen to too much advice when shopping for your first pad, or you might end up sleeping in a car, with the whole nutty family--avec tout ta famille de barjots!



Listen to the following list of French terms
un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
une hypothèque = mortgage, loan agreement
les vagues = waves
la plage = beach
une presqu'île = peninsula
un chez-soi = a place of one’s own
le centre ville = town center
la rue piétonne = pedestrian street
la sonnette = doorbell, buzzer
port de plaisance = marina
un ascenseur = elevator
le bien immobilier = the property
le deuxième étage = third floor (in French)
nickel = spotless
une astuce = tip, trick
le placard =closet
la valise = suitcase

to brag = se vanter
bragging = vantardise
bachelor pad = garçonnière
un bail = lease (apartment, house…)
loan officer = responsable des prêts
duck down = se baisser
pad = appart, piaule
legal auction of property = licitation - vente judiciaire 

Estate sale
Max has (by now) visited 5 apartments (he found them via ads on sites like pap.fr and leboncoin.fr. Another way to find a place (apart from visiting the local real estate office) is via bank repossessions, estate sales, or "licitations". Here is a sign that appeared a few years ago on a derelict home (not far from the beach!) in La Ciotat. (The end price was two times the price listed on the sign.)   
Max pot de depart
Max and friends in 2017, before our son left for an exchange program in Mexico. (Max is the one under the sombrero)

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Lolly Rios

You can brag all you want about Max, you've earned it. Did he decide on a place yet?
The VW idea sounded fun 😄, but then again, space matters. As always, you have a lovely family stay healthy and blessed.


:-) funny! Death pledge. The whole system needs changing...

Your Mum sounds a hoot!

Good luck to Max whatever he decides. May it be graceful and ease and fun!

Christine Broussard

I ll pass this to my Florida friend who just opened an Airb&B in LaCiotat!
Great looking bunch of students! Mexico must have been a fun place to study. I have enjoyed that city myself many a time in the ‘80 and very early ‘90’s!

Jeanine Woods

Thanks for the fun post today Kristi- What a great way to start my day :) Trilingual and a successful businessman- you should be proud, mom! I hope Max has found the perfect apartment by now. Bonne soiree!


Kristin, I would love for you to do a comment on this sign from out in the Luberon near Oppède.(sited in mid-February; still there in mid-March. Tried to paste a photo but wasn’t successful.

“Cessation d’activité
Pour cause de retraite”

Carla Walker

Bonjour Kristi,

I have a word to share with you that "popped" into my head earlier this week.

It is "Covidized" meaning someone who has been vaccinated for the Covid virus.

Have you been Covidized?

I am trying to spread this word around the world so if you hear it let me know!

Carla Walker

Suzanne Dunaway

I love your mama to come and live with us for about a month just to see what it’s like oh and then we’ll talk...l.l

Cheryl in STL

Bonjour, Kristi!
My younger son bought his first home in October. He's in Dallas and we're in St Louis so we were only able to see pictures from the real estate website. We were all nervous. Dallas is becoming an expensive market and homes sell quickly. We were able to drive down to see him shortly after he moved in! We love the house and the neighborhood! And it's been such a blessing for him to be out of the apartment complex and into a home with a yard in the midst of this pandemic. Working in his yard is so therapeutic for him and that makes this momma happy.
Keep us posted on Max and his decision! It's a big one! Thanks for sharing this new adventure with us!


Very exciting times for Max and you. Have a wonderful weekend.

Elizabeth in WNC

Thank you for the recent updates about both of your children.
Please translate "ta famille de barjots!" for us. It's not in my dictionaries, and Google translate doesn't know "barjots" either.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Best of luck to Max on this search for his first place. It is often an apprehensive time for a young person.
But once done, very exciting!

I totally understand Jean-Marc wanting a VW camper! It was my dream car for years and we we're able to purchase one in 1984 in Wiesbaden, Germany. We had that car for 17 years! We sold it with tears...and memories of adventures traveling through Germany and France. You brought it all back for me today. Thank you.

Maybe someday Jean-Marc will get his VW camper. After all...anything is possible!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! Your note about your VW camper helps me to see Jean-Marc’s wish in a new light! It is good to read about your happy memories from those Germany/France road adventures. My Dad got his VW camper around the same time you did, and he loved it too!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Elizabeth, It means *nutty or crazy family* (in an innocent way)


For the record, the term for un prêt hypothécaire/une hypothèque commonly used in the U.S. at least is home equity loan.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Michael. I was hoping for a better explanation for those terms and your note helped. 


Hi Kristi,
Great post today! It's nice that you have Max fairly close by! Tell Jules that my daughter Tara is living in a pop up camper in the wilds of KY following her dream of rock climbing.

Kristin Espinasse

Love it! I will tell Jules! All the best to Tara. 


Kristi, VW camper vans are the quintessential New Zealand road trip vehicle. Some people spend weeks or months driving around the country and camping out of the van. That's something I have yet to try.

It sounds like Max is already very successful and has a good understanding of the ideal work-life balance. Wishing him the utmost success in his search for a new home.


Death pledge sounds very appropriate for the huge mortgages here in Australia!


Today’s post really entices me to move-even with all the challenges and costs!! Bon chance a Max!!

Marianne Rankin

I thought "gage" was "grip",not "pledge." So mortgage is "death grip."

I am very impressed with Max's accomplishments at a relatively young age, and certainly wish him well.

Can apartments be owned in France? In the USA, owned apartment-type properties are "condominiums," or "condos" for short. So in France, people own apartments, and there are no condos?

As well as Max is doing, I'm surprised he can afford to buy a home this early in his career. I don't think the properties are especially cheap, either. Or is he going to have a mortgage or the equivalent of a home equity loan ("heloc")? I suppose if he can afford the down payment, he can manage the monthly payments.

If he winds up on the third floor, all that stair-climbing will keep him in shape, along with the kite surfing (wind surfing, but actually up in the air?)


Hello Kristi,

I loved this week’s posting and read what you had to say about Max nine years ago. I was also a young mother in France in the pre-internet days. For me this was in Paris. It was a sad and lonely time, until I began to make friends and
appreciate all of the good things about life in Paris. Women would stop me when I took my daughter out in her stroller and feel free to give me unsolicited advice: she’s too old for a bottle, you must cut your son’s (sic) hair, it’s too cold for
her to wear a dress without tights. My all-time favorite was, “Madame! You must wear a belt when you have on pants
with belt loops.”

Keep on writing! I love what you have to say.


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Alice. I loved your note and could so relate! Too bad we didn’t live closer to each other and know each other back then. We could have laughed about all the good-intentioned Frenchies :-)


We led very similar lives, which is crazy! We spent many wonderful vacations in Provence and Cassis, just a long swim from La Ciotat. My husband spent studied oenology in Lausanne, and I attended the University of Montpellier. I am smiling thinking about the rendezvous we could have had this summer:
if not for Covid. Maybe another year.

Kristin Espinasse

*A long swim from La Ciotat* — that made me smile. Will look forward to meeting up one day. 

Carrie Anderson

Hello Kristin, I found your book Blossoming in Provence at an estate sale today! I have enjoyed refreshing my French as I read your book. It has also been fun to revisit memories of my solo trip to Europe in 1987 and the 'novel' I wrote (self-published in 2013) about my experiences, VOYAGE SANS BAGGAGE. Limited French helped me navigate my journey from Cherbourg to Mt Saint Michele then from a tavern in Brittany to Paris and Rotterdam.
I printed 25 copies which I have shared with friends enjoying their comments that it is both a travel narrative and a romance. Over the years I have sent copies to Wales, Bali, and Paris as well as Budapest and Amsterdam. I would love to share a copy with you? I look forward to reading your stories and French lessons.

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