Previous month:
June 2022
Next month:
September 2022

Entries from July 2022

Adieu Sweet Smokey: French for "Dog Heaven"

Sweet Smokey (2)

Forever in our hearts. Goodbye, Sweet Smokey: August 16th, 2009-July 16, 2022

We take a moment to rise above our sadness to thank you, dearest Smokey, for all the humor, love, and care you so generously shared. We will never forget you. As Jackie said, the hardest part is that this marks a new chapter of our lives.

Dear readers, we are gently turning this page here at home, quietly sharing with each other all of our memories of our happy dog days with Smokey. This journal will return in September, along with a new chapter of our lives, salt and peppered with French words, and ever sweetened with memories of our cherished chien who is now in dog heaven or Le Paradis des Chiens.  

With love,



Jackie and Kristi
Daughter, Jackie, Smokey, and Kristi.

Comforted. A young Smokey with his mama, Breizh, who he now joins au Paradis des Chiens.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Learn what "quiproquo" means via this familiar synonym + Vive Smokey!

Smokey golden retriever day lily
Our soon-to-be 13-year-old, Smokey and day lilies from our friends Anne and Kirk. Don't miss a beautiful picture of my Mom, Jules, at the close of this post (if your are reading via email, click on the link somewhere below to continue reading).

: "un malentendu" 

: a misunderstanding, misinterpretation, misapprehension

AUDIO: click here to listen to the example sentence below

Un quiproquo est un malentendu où l'on prend un être vivant, un objet ou une situation pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding where one takes a living being, an object or a situation for another.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

During yesterday’s heatwave I was looking for a cold treat to bring Mom. In the frigo I took a yogurt and a banana and headed out the kitchen door, to our garage-turned-studio where Jules has lived for four years now. Le temps vole!

Beyond the sliding glass doors I saw Mom resting on her bed. The ventilateur on the nightstand that had been cooling her was now whirring loudly on the floor beside our golden retriever.

“Mom, are you keeping cool enough? Let me bring in another fan!” I said.

“No, I’m OK. Pull up that chair I brought in for you.”

I set the goûter in the fridge beside the very same yogurt I’d brought previously and noticed it was untouched. On my way back I picked up the green metal fauteuil and set it in front of the kitchen island, facing Mom’s bed, and we settled into our late afternoon tête-à-tête, chatting while petting and fussing over Smokey, who turns 13 next month. As I caressed our dog I suddenly felt another bosse, this time between his neck and shoulder, nestled deep enough to go unnoticed as it grew…and grew. It was nearly the size of a tennis ball!

“When we had all those bumps removed 4 months ago, I knew it was only the surface of the iceberg.” I said to Mom, as a heaviness filled the room.

“Well,” Jules replied, searching the positive side, “he is one happy dog!”

That is true. And so much of it is thanks to Mom, who gives all the credit right back to Smokey. “Do you hear him talking to me?” Mom asks, as we gaze at one of the favorite members of our family, his blond hair whirling in the ventilator's breeze.

Yes, I do hear those two. I hear Smokey barking suggestions to Jules all day long, and have the pleasure and delight of hearing Mom translate them all to me as the two go about their day. At 7 in the morning Smokey says: Bark bark! It’s time for breakfast, Grandma, and by 8: Should we go out to the garden now, Grandma? Bark, bark!  Sometimes at 11, he'll wonder, Is it time for a snack, Grandma? Bark! And finally at 8 pm. It’s late now, Grandma, let’s head in for the night! Smokey’s humble, easygoing, loving and caring dogness is an ever present sweetness in our lives—and as you have seen, he is a helpful guide in Jules’s life. If I begin to think about our life without him I….

“Honey, reach up and turn off the stove,” Mom said, immediately dispersing our troubled thoughts.

I swung around, still in my chair, and turned off the electric burner. “What’s cooking?” I asked Mom.

Jules' face contorted at the thought of duck. “You know I raised ducklings as a child…”

Where this duck came from is a mystery. Mom’s been talking about it for a while. “I can always cook that duck,” Mom will say, when she wants to put off going to the supermarché

That duck. Mom said it was part of the purchase she made at Jean-Marc’s boutique, but I don’t remember my husband selling canard in his épicerie-wine shop. I turned around again to look at Mom’s fry pan. Inside there were kidney beans and strips of that duck.

“You must be desperate,” I said, and we both chuckled at Mom’s predicament. On second glance, I noticed something unusual: la viande était blanche.

“Mom, that’s not duck.”

“It isn’t?” Jules looked hopeful.

“No. It looks like chicken to me. It could even be frogs’ legs!” (The “strips” were similar in length...)

“Frogs’ legs!” Mom gasped. Even Smokey was surprised and he lifted his head in time to wrinkle his nose. Sniff, sniff…

“Could you show me the package?” I asked. Mom retrieved it and there, on the label, it was clear where the quiproquo began.

“Mom, it says ‘dinde,’ not ‘duck’.”


“Yes, Dinde…turkey!” 

Dinde, dinde, wonderful! Am I pronouncing it correctly?” From the looks of things Mom had won the food lottery (and gained a new favorite French word).

“Would you happen to have any rice to go along with it?”

I offered to go and make some, but first, I reached down to caress Smokey. What I’d give to sort out his situation as easily as we did Mom’s. 

“Everything is going to be OK," Jules said, finding just the needed words. "We are all in God’s hands."

As for these heavy hearts, I'll remember He comforts those too. With this spiritual balm easing our painful emotions, we are now free to live each day to the best of our ability--for us, this means rearranging priorities in time to play ball and run through the sprinklers! Or whatever else our favorite furry family member enjoys this side of the rainbow bridge, and may it be miles and miles and miles away. Vive Smokey!
13 year old golden retriever Smokey and his tennis ball
Smokey, resting from another tennis ball run. It's true what they say about dogs: every lesson we need about life can be learned from man's best friend. For starters, Get up, go outside, chase the ball today. Always wag your tail. Never complain. Show enthusiasm at all times. Be one big furry ball of love. 


Audio File for vocabulary

Audio file here

le frigo = fridge

le temps vole = time flies

le ventilateur = fan

le fauteuil = armchair 

le goûter = 4 o’clock snack, tea time

le tête-à-tête = private talk

la bosse = lump, bump

le supermarché = supermarket, grocery store

le canard = duck

une épicerie fine = fine foods, delicatessen

la viande était blanche = the meat was white 

quiproquo = misunderstanding, mistake

la dinde = turkey

vive = long live

IMG_3683 (1)

Photos: a closeup of Mom’s kitchen island and its decor

July 14th, 2022. Jules, the first garden tomatoes of the season, and a smiling Smokey. He really is a happy dog. Thanks so much, Mom, for spoiling him with your round-the-clock presence, love, and treats.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

La Grande Randonnée: Jean-Marc's GR 20 trek in Corsica: Part II bilingual story + full audio recording

Did you know that "GR" of  “GR20” is an acronym for “Grande Randonnée” or “long hike”? Today, Jean-Marc recounts his recent adventure along this mythical footpath, one of the most difficult treks in Europe—located on the beautiful island of Corsica.   

In books: Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica.

TODAY'S WORD: la randonnée

    : hike, trek, ramble, walk

OUR GR 20 TREK IN CORSICA by Jean-Marc Espinasse

After a day by train on the famous Corsican Micheline, a ride by cab and a short walk, we arrived at our refuge in Asco. Nicolas and I leave the next day at dawn for our first stage of the trek. Except for the first half hour which is relatively flat, this hike comes with very strong positive and negative changes in altitude. We pass our first and only névé to cross the Col de La Pointe des Eboulis after 5 hours of effort. There follows a short traverse on a ridge from where we can already see our refuge at the bottom of the valley. But if the ascent gives our hearts and breaths a workout, the descent is much harder for the muscles and the refuge that we had seen a few hours ago is still far to reach. It is thus after 10 hours of walking over stones, without trees and in full sun that we reach our first destination. Just before that, bathing in a small natural spring water bath was a well deserved reward.

The next day, our legs were very heavy for a segment with 1,000 meters of positive altitude difference. Before that, we crossed a beautiful Alpine forest with a few streams allowing us to refresh ourselves. After four hours of walking, the final climb of 900 meters was very difficult but the fresh air, the idea of the traditional Corsican omelette and a cold beer at the finish line motivated us to reach the highest refuge of the GR 20, at almost 2000 meters.

The following day was the longest segment. We started very early and walked more than 26 kms through different mountain landscapes, forests and green plains, passing by beautiful wild horses, still taking advantage of lakes and rivers to refresh ourselves during our breaks. On arrival at the Manganu refuge, we asked the keeper for information because our initial itinerary for the next day was to double a segment in order to reach Vizzavone in the evening and take the train to Ajaccio. Antoine told us that it would be very complicated because the next two segments are "Alpine" and therefore very steep. Other hikers coming in the opposite direction (the GR 20 is done in both directions) also advised us not to try this adventure, especially since we were tired after three days of intense walking and little sleep. Finally, we learned that there was a possibility to leave the GR 20 to join another path leading to a lake accessible by car and from where it is quite easy to hitchhike to Corte, which we managed to do in 10 hours and which allowed us to take the train to Ajaccio.

These four days of walking were physically demanding, especially since we were both, for very different reasons, very badly prepared. They also allowed me to think without too much anxiety about my personal situation, which was certainly very different from that of a year earlier when everything seemed to be smiling.

Last year, I had already done half of our first stage 2022 and, on my way back to Asco, my starting point, I got injured a few minutes from the finish, spoiling the end of my stay. This year, when I passed by the place where I was injured, I told myself that this accident was in fact the first of a very bad personal phase that has led me to face a difficult psychological situation today.

So, as I passed by this place, one year to the day after my accident and at the very beginning of our 2022 hike, I also made a wish that this would signify the end of this bad cycle and that better days are now to come.

(Translated with


Audio File: click here to listen to Jean-Marc read his story aloud

Après une journée en train par la fameuse micheline Corse, en taxi et une petite marche, nous arrivons à notre refuge de Asco. Nicolas et moi partons le lendemain à l'aube pour notre première étape. A part la première demie heure relativement plate, cette randonnée est avec de très forts dénivelés positifs comme négatifs. Nous passons notre premier et seul névé pour franchir le col de la pointe des éboulis après 5 heures d'efforts. Il s'ensuit une courte traversée sur une crête d'où nous apercevons déjà notre refuge en bas de la vallée. Mais si la montée fait travailler le cœur et le souffle, la descente est bien plus dure pour les muscles et le refuge que nous avions vu il y a quelques heures est encore loin à atteindre. C'est donc après 10 heures de marche dans les pierres, sans arbre et en plein soleil que nous atteignons notre première destination. Juste avant cela, se baigner dans une petite baignoire naturelle d'eau de source fut une récompense bien méritée.

Le lendemain, les jambes étaient très lourdes pour une étape de 1 000 mètres de dénivelé positif. Avant cela, nous avons traversé une belle forêt Alpine avec quelques cours d'eau nous permettant de nous rafraîchir. Après quatre heures de marche, la montée finale de 900 mètres de dénivelé fut très difficile mais le bon air frais, l'idée de la traditionnelle omelette Corse et une Bière bien fraîche à l'arrivée nous a motivé pour rejoindre le plus haut refuge du GR 20, à presque 2 000 mètres d'altitude.

Le jour suivant fut la plus longue étape. Nous sommes partis très tôt et avons parcouru plus de 26 kms à travers différents paysages de montagne, forêts et plaines verdoyantes, passant à proximité de magnifiques chevaux sauvages, profitant encore des lacs et rivières pour nous rafraîchir lors de nos pauses. A l'arrivée au refuge de Manganu, nous avons demandé des informations au gardien car notre itinéraire initial du lendemain était de doubler une étape afin de rejoindre Vizzavone le soir et prendre le train pour Ajaccio. Antoine nous a dit que cela serait très compliqué car les deux prochaines étapes sont "Alpines" et donc très cascadées. D'autres randonneurs venant en sens inverse (le GR 20 se fait dans les deux sens) nous ont également conseillé de ne pas tenter cette aventure, d'autant que nous étions fatigués par trois jours de marche intense et peu de sommeil. Finalement, nous avons appris qu'il y avait une possibilité de sortir du GR 20 pour rejoindre un autre sentier amenant à un lac accessible en voiture et d'où il est assez facile de faire du stop pour aller à Corte, ce que nous avons réussi à faire en 10 H et qui nous a permis d'y prendre le train pour Ajaccio.

Ces quatre jours de marche ont été éprouvant physiquement, d'autant que nous étions tous les deux, pour des raisons bien différentes, très mal préparés. Ils m'ont aussi permis de penser sans trop d'anxiété à ma situation personnelle, qui était certainement bien différente de celle d'un an plus tôt où tout me semblait sourire.

L'année dernière, j'avais déjà fait la moitié de notre première étape 2022 et, en revenant à Asco, mon point de départ, je me suis blessé à quelques minutes de l'arrivée, gâchant ainsi la fin de mon séjour. Cette année, lorsque je suis passé devant l'endroit où je m'étais blessé, je me suis dit que cet accident était en fait le premier d'une très mauvaise phase personnelle qui m'amène aujourd'hui à affronter une situation psychologique difficile.

Alors, en passant devant ce lieu, un an jour pour jour après mon accident et au tout début de notre randonnée 2022, j'ai aussi fait le vœux que cela signifie la fin de ce mauvais cycle et que les jours meilleurs sont maintenant à venir.


Cows in Corsica on GR20 hike
Besides wild horses, JM and Nico encountered cows, goats, and wild pigs along the GR 20...

In Books: The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas

Trekking the GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route: This guidebook describes the classic GR20 trek, a north-to-south traverse of the rugged mountains of Corsica, renowned as Europe's toughest GR long-distance route.

Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking GR 20 in Corsica
All rocks and no trees for shade: Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking the GR 20 footpath in Corsica

Jean-Marc resting in a cool creek along the GR 20 in Corsica France
Mediterranean Plunge. Jean-Marc cooling down in a creek along the GR 20 trail. Read another post from Corsica, France's "Island of Beauty" where we went for ou 23rd anniversary (this week we celebrate our 28th, Waouh!). Pictured below: a blossoming caper plant and view off the coast of Corsica.
Caprier caper plant on corsica France

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety