Sacoche: How to say "Man Purse" in French + update on Mr. Sacks
French for "fighter, warrior, survivor" + Fate, Love, and Dogs: Our golden retriever is “un battant”

Lunch in Arles, "Séjour" in Camargue, wild horses and a cool rancher's hut

Flamingo bird park in camargue
Les flamants roses--pink flamingos in the Camargue. More photos from our weekend in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on my Instagram (please follow for upcoming entries), and all our recommended addresses are at the end of this post.

Today's Word: un hébergement

    : accommodation, lodgings

French Audio/Listening:
 Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the MP3 file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

One perk of getting older and traveling sans les gosses is better accommodations! When I think back to some of the doozies my husband has rented--a flea-ridden room in Madrid, a stinky suite in Barcelonnette, or a bunk (yes, just a bunk--shared with strangers) in Queyras --I can't believe how far we've come. The key to this betterment (besides having more flouze than we did as newlyweds) is an agreement Jean-Marc and I came to years ago: he will do the trip planning as long as I do not complain about accommodations or scheduling.

Fair enough, wouldn't you say? Especially if you are like me: not a details person. I would rather do anything than work out so many particulars of a family vacation: what transportation we will take, where we will séjour and eat and sightsee. My husband enjoys organizing trips so why not let him handle our itinerary? I'll take care of the snacks (never travel without un en-cas, my sister Heidi taught me that), the cleaning, and how about the retelling? As Anaïs Nin said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." So let us briefly relive the past weekend and thank you Jean-Marc for so many great picks...from restaurants to local attractions--tu as tellement bien choisi!

Our dépaysement began with a meal in Arles. A freezing Mistral wind accompanied us up and down the corridors of old Arles as we searched for the restaurant Jean-Marc had reserved, but I did not complain--and was rewarded by a gallant proposition: "Would you like my coat?" Jean-Marc offered. His gesture was enough to warm me through and through. No coat needed, and before long we were tucking into Le Gibolin, its warm and velvety vapors escaping the kitchen, thawing us instantly. 

After a lunch of roasted butternut squash stuffed with pasta and veggies (Jean-Marc loved his main dish), we were on our way to the flattest part of Provence, made up of pools of water: La Camargue! Pulling up to an iron gate behind which two independent cabins with their grass rooftops were set back from the waterfront, I looked over at my driver. Jean-Marc, you really outdid yourself when you found this authentic rancher's cabin! Newly renovated, the white-washed walls, the wooden touches throughout, the seafoam green tiles in the bathroom...this little abode was so thoughtfully decorated and it instantly transported us into its cozy luxury. 

Cabane de gardian
Ours was the hut on the right.... and this side of the water is another narrow strip of land where wildlife filed by....

From the one-room cabane de gardian with its mezzanine (and échelle leading up to the bed--this steep setup is not for everyone, but Jean-Marc insists my  80-year-old father could climb up and down that (unattached!) ladder during the night), we could look out a low-lying window with a panoramic view of the glorious marsh. Note: low-lying because of the low-lying roofline above the window, typical of these Camargue ranch cabins which sport a thatched rooftop measuring well over half of the building's height.

The view reflected in the window
A selfie from the yard looking into the hut. That's a fake heron on my right, but there were many real and exquisite birds--and more....

What a view! Our little cabin was 20 feet from the marsh, or étang (is there a difference?), where pink flamingos, an industrious and very cute castor, and--surprise surprise!--a local jument grazed. That docile horse, which graced our view of the horizon all weekend, was the icing on this Camargue cake. 

La jument. The mare.

Our romantic weekend included two nights dining in (Jean-marc brought a selection of cheeses and a steak from his wineshop-épicerie, and we bought pastries from the local baker in Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer where we strolled along the seafront each afternoon. 

"This is the best hébergement you have ever found!" I praised my husband, and praise, I am learning, goes a long way! I wish I knew this as a young bride, wish I'd counted the goods instead of the bads. Thankfully, we've made it this far along our marital journey and no looking back except to count our lucky stars!

"Could you live here?" I asked as Jean-Marc drove us the 1.5 hours home the last day, past fields of wheat-colored reeds and cattle feeding. "No, it's too flat for me," Jean-Marc admitted. He's headed back to the Alps this weekend, for his mountain fix and I (une casanière at heart) am happy to be home, though ready to follow my husband when wanderlust hits him next. Bye for now and please share your experiences/recommendations for the Camargue, as we will surely go back...with our grown kids, nos gosses--and Grandma Jules and dear sweet Smokey, too! Papa, get that flouze ready! 

Cabane de gardian camargues
The cabane next to ours (I believe the owner lives there, but she was away).


Le Gibolin restaurant in Arles--delicious!

Parc Ornithologique Pont de Gau--where you'll see more pink flamingos than you ever thought possible! (Do not miss my Instagram page, where you'll hear the unusual sounds they make)

La Cabane du Pêcheur--Jean-Marc absolutely loved this lively restaurant with three unique seating areas (we chose the indoor "antiques" tent, where statues and various treasures surrounded us). You could also eat at the lively bar: loud music and a saloon-type atmosphere or sit outside by the marsh where the bbq is full of fish: sole, loup, rouget...

Domaine de Méjanes--our last day we visited a park bought and created by Paul Ricard (of the famous pastis), where you can take a charming train around the property to see wild horses, more flamingos and the breathtaking landscape of la Camargue. Not to be missed.

And here's the AirBnB listing for the Cabane de Gardian where we stayed two nights.

sans les gosses = without kids
le flouze = cash, dough
le séjour = stay
un en-cas = a snack
tu as tellement bien choisi = you did such a good job choosing
le dépaysement = change of scenery
le castor = beaver
un hébergement = accomodation
la cabane de gardian = rancher's hut
la mezzanine = wooden loft
une échelle = ladder 
une jument = mare (horse)
un étang = pond, pool of water
casanier, casanière = home-loving, homebody
Papa = Dad

LES ARCHIVES: Do you have time for another story?
The story Pêle-Mêle features a memorable hotel room in Barcelonnette where we lodged when our kids were little.

La jument the mare horse in Camargue
Do you see la jument

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety