La Cotisation: How much money I earn blogging $$ + a retirement pension for Americans in France?
Slang in French for "to have a bite to eat" & La Loco (a delicious Italian restaurant in Cassis)

What are "les patins à roulettes"? + Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy

vintage retro quad roller skates les rollers patin roulettes four wheel
Colorful, vintage "quad" roller skates. Je les adore! How about you? And do you rollerskate? Also, if today's word doesn't interest you, there are a dozen more useful terms to discover in the story below.

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY: les patins à roulettes

     : roller skates
FRENCH AUDIO: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy"

Vintage roller skates are back, making me nostalgic for the good ol' days when I'd fly out of bed and lace up my patins à roulettes. Off I'd glide round and round our trailer park, freer and happier than I've ever been.

I've wanted to skate for years now, but there never was a suitable place pour patiner (cobblestone paths when we lived in the village, then gravel driveways at our vineyard). Now that we're in a neighborhood paved with smooth chaussées, I admit something else's been keeping me from donning skates: self-consciousness.  I'm too embarrassed to wobble around on wheels in front of my neighbors.

Jackie and Braise roller skate skating in Frejus South of France
A 9-year-old Jackie rollerblading with Breizh (Smokey's mom) in the seaside town of Fréjus.

All that changed when my daughter drove us to Roller'n Co skate store in Marseilles last week. Chihab, a professional skater with a stylish afro and a cool name (Chihab means étoile filante, or shooting star) assisted us, recommending inline skates with heel brakes for more balance. Turns out those retro quads with toe stops are conducive to backward falls. Houlà! With that, we added protective gear--un casque, wrist, elbow, and knee pads--to our achat

With so much paraphernalia to tack on, it took a while to get ready our first time out. I remembered Chihab's advice to wear jeans for extra protection, and cautiously descended our front stairs, sur mon derrière....

Jackie and I began on the narrow trottoir in front of our house. Just like riding a bike, skating came right back to us as, knees and posture slightly bent, we glided down the wide boulevards of our voisinage, on our way to La Voie Douce. Having good quality gear and a professional bootfitting by a skate tech made all the difference: these Rollerblades fit like paws! (Did you know the French word for skate--"patin"--comes from the word "patte" or paw?). Even with our new paws, we had a few close calls, mostly while navigating multi-level surfaces (sidewalk endings were the worst!).

Finally, we were on the smooth, wide pedestrian strip known here as La Voie Douce ("The Gentle Path"). This ancient railroad track, now a repaved sentier, runs from the town center all the way out to the train station here in La Ciotat. It's an ideal piste on which to practice le patinage. We joined (and sometimes dodged) walkers, runners, bikers, wheelchairs, and mothers with strollers, along the path, flanked by blooming wildflowers and nice grassy patches to land on, si nécessaire. When it came time to turn back we noticed the downward slope. "Attention, Maman!" my 24-year-old coach called out. Pumping the back brakes of our skates, it was smooth sailing most of the way, until we reached the turn-off for our neighborhood and encountered a road full of potholes (the French call these "hens' nests" or nids-de-poule). Cautiously "walking" down the street we eventually lost our balance and had to hold on to a fence the rest of the way.

Ouf! Back safe in our neighborhood, we encountered one last obstacle: another downward slope or pente. For some reason (fatigue?), I wasn't having the same luck with my freins as before, and began to lose control until I "caught" a telephone pole.  "Mom! Take my hands," Jackie said, skating towards me.

"I can't!" 

"Yes, you can."

"We'll both fall down!"

"Mom, let go of that telephone pole and take my hands!"

There was no taking no for an answer. I let go of the pole and grabbed onto Jackie's hands. "Tu vois," my daughter said, smiling as we advanced in an awkward dance, swooping, swerving, laughing, and teetering. As we got closer to home a few of the neighbors looked on and, funnily, it didn't matter anymore. We were too caught up in our joy ride to care.

*    *    *

Jackie recorded a few short, funny videos of my first time back on rollerskates. Hit the arrow in the center to start the clip. Then hit the arrow on the right to see the other short clips. Can you see the footage, above? If not, visit my Instagram and swipe left to see the 3 videos.

le patin à roulettes = roller skate
patiner =
to skate, to ice-skate, roller-skate
une chaussée
= road
houlà! = yikes!
un casque = helmet
un achat = purchase
sur mon derrière = on my behind
le trottoir = sidewalk
le voisinage = neighborhood
La Voie Douce = The Gentle Path
la patte = paw
le sentier = path, way
la piste = strip (of land), runway
le patinage = skating
attention, Maman = careful, Mom
le nid-de-poule = pothole 
une pente = slope, incline
le frein
= brake

Improve your French via these vocabulary roundups from Spring 2017. You'll discover colorful words and stories you may have missed.

Roller skating across the French RivieraFrench Roll: Misadventures in Love, Life, and Rollerskating Across the French Riviera. From the icy peaks of Germany to the steamy beaches of France, this coming-of-age story begins when Michael, 19, gets a letter from his girlfriend asking him to meet her in Barcelona. He quits his daredevil job at the top of the German Alps and plots a risky two-month trek across the coast of southern France — alone, on roller skates. He leaves his alpine friends behind to follow his heart with only a backpack, ski poles, and roller skates. Order the book.

La Voie Douce in La Ciotat. Have time for another story? Learn the French word for "objective", "goal "or "aim"  here.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Very brave. Bravo. Bon courage.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

Looks like so much fun and I love the video of you going down the steps!

Petra Douma

You're very brave, Kristi! I hope you continue to have joy and no misadventures.
By the way, the device to slow you down is spelled "brake".

Catherine Berry

Gosh, this takes me back to our first week in France only our purchase of rollerblades ended with a quick introduction to the medical system and a plaster cast. Have fun.

Jeanine Woods

Comme toujours, une histoire amusante et well written (bien ecrit?). C’est parfait pour la commencement de ma journée. Merci Kristi.

Diane Covington-Carter

Adorable! I love that she wanted you to hold her hand, much like you did when she was younger, I am sure.
Lovely. And all that joy!


Awww I love and miss Fréjus

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Petra, for catching that one. Off to fix it now.


Oh, your story brought back such wonderful memories when I would clamp my metal skates onto my saddle shoes and head for the school ground across the street. Sidewalks and a reasonable blacktop awaited me! I would certainly have appreciated all the modern amenities - gliding wheels, tight fit and brakes! Then perhaps all my childhood pictures would have been void of the perpetual bandaids on my knees! Forge on, Kristi, and have a blast! I’m so proud of you! - Janet

Kathleen Bidney

I too remember the skates with the key to tighten them onto your shoes. We would skate up and down the roads and go the school playground.
Bon chance and have fun 🤩!
Peace, k


Our dear Kristi,
Oh ma chere! What bon courage! All of us totally applaud you and your beautiful daughter!!
I share similar memories as Janet,especially for not letting fear inhibit my fun.
Now at soixante-quinze,caution is a necessity!Brought even more to the forefront after breaking my finger(right hand,ring finger) two weeks ago. A real nuisance,and well, a real pain in the finger!!!
Natalia XO

Carolyn Chase

Loved the story. Brought back memories of my metal clamp-on skates that you hooked on to your shoes, - probably "saddle shoes" - with a key, and going on the slate sidewalks in upstate New York, all of which were uneven. "Downtown" there were some cement walks a few hundred feet in each direction. In high school the kids went to the next small town where there was a skating rink. I had no car or ride, so got to go rarely but do still have my wooden wheeled roller skates. I loved it - the freedom of gliding along.


Brave girl... Fear of falling is the worst. I lost my nerve a few years ago when I broke my wrist in a bike accident. I think young people know how to stay relaxed and don't tense up when they fall. At 70 years old, you can do real damage when you fall.

Kristin Espinasse

How cool that you still have your skates. A treasure!

Suzanne Dunaway

I cana't believe you are doing this. GREAT inspiration for me, but on our little narrow steets I would probably break someone's flowerpots whilst breaking parts of ME.

Karen in NY

What fun!! And, yes, I've missed out on fun stuff for fear of embarrassing myself. One benefit of the troisieme, I'll take the joy, thank you very much. I wave and smile at the critics. I liked skateboarding more than roller skating. The option to hop off the wheels met my clutzy needs. And these days, if I fall, I crunch.

Sarah LaBelle

You are a good sport! Your daughter is good fun, too. I hope you have more inline skating in your future.

Chris Allin

I, too, am of the clamp on skates with a key generation. Although, there were occasions at an indoor skating rink with laced shoe skates.

When I was 7 my family moved to Germany. In the winter we used German snow skates (with a flat blade) to slide around on the snow packed streets. So much fun!

You certainly have a way of evoking long past memories, Kristi, and wonderful memories at that!

Diane Heinecke

Wow! You were so brave to invest in skates, helmet, pads. You must have known you'd love it! How wonderful to have an activity that you share with your daughter. Bravo!


Way to roll, Kristi! :) This is such a lovely way to share time with Jackie! I, too, have recently felt the glee that goes hand-in-hand with pushing past my fear and embarrassment.

I love that potholes are called "hens nests"! I'm going to borrow that term!

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