“Smala” & Family Visit to Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles
A Hidden Beach in Cassis, Freedom & Laughter = Eclats de rire!

"Ebloui": Star-struck in St. Tropez at Club 55 with Roger Federer

Club 55 Pampelonne beach St Tropez France
Cushioned matelas and grassy paillotes on the beach at Club 55 in Ramatuelle near St. Tropez

TODAY'S WORD: EBLOUI (ay-bloo-ee)

    : star-struck, dazzled

The following news headline is from Tennisworld.fr. (English translation by Chatgpt) 

Elena Rybakina, éblouie en voyant Roger Federer pour la première fois. Elena Rybakina a admis qu'elle était en état de choc lorsqu'elle a vu le grand Roger Federer pour la première fois en personne. Elena Rybakina, dazzled upon seeing Roger Federer for the first time. Elena Rybakina admitted that she was in a state of shock when she saw the great Roger Federer in person for the first time.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

While my family's visit to France was the chance to spend time together, it was also a tender pèlerinage for my sister, Heidi, and her children, who lost their father a few years ago. My brother-in-law Doug was a larger-than-life character whose generosity, humor, and sharp wit still echo in our hearts to this day along with colorful memories from our time together on the Mediterranean.

The last time Doug was in France was in 2002. He was married to my sister, and they traveled across the French Riviera with baby Payne in tow. We stayed together in a rented villa perched in the hills of St. Maxime--perfect for venturing over to St. Tropez to the iconic Club 55 on Pampelonne beach. I barely remember that particular escapade, over 20 years ago (rosé wine and champagne are partly to blame), but today my head is clearer and on Sunday, with 8 members of our smala piled into two tiny economy cars, we made that pilgrimage back to St. Tropez for Father's Day.

After an hour on the sandy beach and a swim in the sea, we ambled up the wooden ramp to the outdoor resto de plage. The tables were dressed in white linen and there were thick cushions on the banquettes where we gathered for an ideal view of the well-heeled clientele. It was amusing to rub elbows with the elite or those who seemed to be…

Jean-Marc ordered a modest bottle of white, and I thanked God nobody suggested the champagne. In fact, every time anyone ordered something—fries, more ratatouille, or another bottle of sparkling water, my inner calculator sweated out a new total. (My sister and I were splitting this bill…)

But it was time to let go, lâcher prise and enjoy the experience and, from the look on their faces, this was a moment my family will recall forever. We raised our glasses of wine (sparkling water for me...) in hommage to Doug. The food was served and my sister was just finishing a discreet prayer when there was a sudden commotion. All eyes were now glued to the entrance. That is when my 21-year-old nephew, Payne, whispered, "It's Roger Federer!"

To say my tennis-crazed husband began to hyperventilate would be an exaggeration. But one thing was clear: Jean-Marc was genuinely star-struck--complètement ébloui! He grabbed his phone, excited to capture this incredible event: the appearance of his idol, the legendary tennis giant, Swiss-born Federer!

"Jean-Marc, you can't!" I began. "Put your phone away!" But when the rest of my family displayed a laisser-faire attitude, I took that as a reminder that some things--especially our live-life-to-the-fullest spouses--are out of our control.   

To my surprise, Jean-Marc put down his phone but he couldn't help but gawk when Federer et compagnie sat just two tables away. The words QUELLE CHANCE were written all over my husband's face and, faster than you can say SAPERLIPOPETTE, Jean-Marc flew out of his chair and he was gone....

By the time we caught sight of him, it was too late, he was sneaking around the periphery of the restaurant. What in tarnation was he up to?!

"Is he going to see Federer?" my niece, Reagan, questioned. 

Our table erupted in laughter (and, for some of us, gasps) as we watched Jean-Marc weave around the crowded restaurant only to disappear. "Maybe he is borrowing a staff uniform and he's going to pretend to be a waiter?" my son Max guessed.

"Or a sommelier?" I chuckled, finally letting go of any control. Let him be. After all, c'est La Fête des Pères!

When my husband returned from his mysterious périple, I did not ask him any questions. Instead, I looked around the table at all of my family, one by one, smile after smile, and relished this moment together.  Turning to my husband, I shared this growing sourire. "This is your best Father's Day ever, n'est-ce pas?" His eyes twinkled it was.

I like to think some of that twinkling was reflecting down from the stars above, stars invisible to the daylight. Just because we cannot see things does not mean they are not there, lost loved ones included. To my brother-in-law, Doug, this one is for you--Payne, Reagan, and Heidi, too.


To leave a comment, click here. Extra credit if you tell me what town you are writing in from :-)

Family at Cafe Senequier
My family at Le Café Senequier in St. Tropez: Ana, Payne, Jackie, Heidi, Reagan, Max, me, and Jean-Marc

My 21-year-old nephew, Payne, in St. Tropez
My 19-year-old niece, Réré (Reagan), and daughter Jackie, now 25

Ana  reagan  jackiee  kristi at club 55 st tropez
Ana (Max's girlfriend), Reagan, Jackie, and me. Notice the funny sign (translation at the end of this post)

Heidi at the Senequier
My sister, Heidi, at Le Café Sénéquier in St. Tropez


Listen to the vocabulary in French and in English, click here

le matelas = mattress
la paillote = beach hut
ébloui(e) = star struck, dazzled
le pèlerinage = pilgrimage
une escapade = adventure
la smala = family, brood
le resto (or restau) de plage = beach restaurant
la banquette = seat, booth seat
la ratatouille = ratatouille (listen to the difference, click on the soundfile)
lâcher prise = to give up, to let go
quelle chance = what luck!
saperlipopette! = good heavens!
la fête des pères = Father's Day
et compagnie = and friends
le périple = expedition, journey
le sourire = smile


Thanks, Susie, for asking about Jules. Our mom is fine and she says this photo is for you. Here's Jules with her grandchildren, Reagan and Payne.

To the following readers who this past week sent in a blog donation your contribution towards publishing this blog is the key to its longevity! I am sincerely grateful for your support. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

”Thank you for starting my day with a smile!” —Michael P.
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Kristin Espinasse St Tropez Club 55
Relaxing on Le Banc des Menteurs - "The Liars Bench"

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Oh no, you also have a Tennis crazy husband ;-) !!

Mine has only recently joined this club... so now Tennis is the topic of everything, including now the prospect of having a "Tennis holiday"! The idea of spending my holidays chasing a yellow ball in the heat is not my idea of pure pleasure...

Silvan would not be so bothered if he saw Federer or not (he's Swiss... Roger obviously, but I also mean my husband) and well, in my experience, Swiss people do not care about celebrity culture at all (even when it concerns their own)! Having said that, we have started to call him Silvan Federer in this household because the obsession with this Sport has become rather intense...

Enjoy your time with your family :-) I remember visiting St Tropez years ago. It would be very fun to return yet I imagine I would still prefer the quieter, hidden gems of France...

Fay Butler

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA:

I travel vicariously through your writing. ;o)

fay plauche' butler

Geraldine Ventura

I know how you all felt seeing this great tennis star! Many years ago in Paris while having dinner , we glanced at our right and two tables away was the then tennis star Alex Aggassi. We always remember and joke about when “we had dinner with Alex!”

Suzanne Dunaway

But Kristie, what was he doing sneaking around? Did he get a photograph or what? What a lovely day and what wonderful photographs of a memorable time with your family and I love your hat. Where did you get that?


Wait.....did I miss something? What WAS Jean-Marc doing scurrying around the restaurant?
I've always enjoyed your writing and little peeks into a French life as an expat. I recently moved to Arles from California!


If you are teetotal, as you claimed in a prior blog, how are the "rosé wine and champagne partly to blame"?

Kristin Espinasse

That claim is correct. I quit drinking over 20 years ago. In the opening of my story today, I talk about a visit to St. Tropez years ago, when my nephew was a baby. He is now 21, as mentioned later in the post. 


Salut Kristi,
J'ai beaucoup apprécié ton reportage au sujet de la visite de ta famille à St. Tropez car je l'ai visité souvent quand j'étais jeune fille. Mes grandparents anglais habitaient entre Grimaud et La Gard FReinet dans les Maures, alors on allait souvent dîner à St. Tropez ou allions à la plage Pampelonne.
Une fois à la plage on a mangé du maïze grillé un plat peu typique en France, mais c'était délicieux.
Je suggère une visite au Musée de l'Annociade qui montre de l'art fait par les artistes modernes quand ils étaient à St. Tropez.
Merci pour une discussion qui m'a fait ne souvenir des bons moments...Et ma tante anglaise adore Federer

Hi Kristi, I very much appreciated your reporting of your family's visit to St, Tropez as I went there often as a young girl. My English grandparents lived between Grimaud and La Garde Freinet in the Maures region, so we often went to dinner at ST. Tropez or to Pampelone beach. Once at the beach we ate grilled corn, not a typical French specialty but delicious. I suggest a visit to the Annociade museum which shows art by modern artists who worked in St. Tropez. Thank you for a discussion which helped me remember good moments. Oh and my English aunt adores Federer !

Cynthia Lewis

Your last two posts have taught me several new words, but "smala" is my favorite! I won't soon forget it. Now I wish I had a French penpal in order to use some of these words :)

I, too, was worried about Jules and was delighted to see the wonderful photo of her with some of her grandchildren ... everyone looking radiant and beautiful in every photo. Mille mercis and best wishes from Salisbury, MD, USA

Debra Lesser

Thanks for the terrific post, Kristi! I loved hearing about your family reunion. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to go so many years between visits with your sister and her kids, so it's heartening to see you all so happy together. Bien à vous!


I'm with Fay. Vicarious travel and life in France, though I never looked as attractive in a swimsuit as you and your family. Thanks for the (if only vicarious) escape from Kankakee, IL to St. Tropez.

Marti Hinman

Dear Kristi,
As always, it is a pleasure to read your post. This one brought back beautiful memories of 55, I had similar feelings
when a French friend who lives in the area took us there for lunch! my internal calculator went bananas too, but the experience was worth it.
Every time I read your post I learn new bocabulary, today Saperlipopette( never heard it before) & smala.
Merci beaucoup et bon été🎉🎉💙🇫🇷❤️


From Angels Camp, CA - I recently attended a luau in Hawaii where the NBA superstar Giannis graciously posed with my star struck granddaughters. But if I ever saw Roger Federer anywhere, I would certainly hyperventilate and pass out like some Beatlemaniac teenager of bygone days. Dreamboat, gentleman and awesome athlete, he has always been a class act. You certainly have a beautiful family, Kristi, and I'm glad you can make time to be together despite the challenges of distance and busyness. Blessings, Janet


What a fun day you all had - Tennis!! Fathers Day!! Family!! thanks for sharing.


Our dear Kristi,
The love and devotion that you and your beautiful family have for each other wraps itself around my heart. Doug would be both touched( and honored) to know his memory is so cherished by his dearest ones. Indeed, it gives all of us hope that ,someday, we too will be this fondly remembered .
Quite a goal to achieve.
Thank you as always for such inspiration and your gifted words.
Blessings to all of you
Natalia xo
( written from home in Lss Vegas, Nv)

Kristin Espinasse

This was so funny! Thanks, Janet. I read your words about Federer out loud to Jean-Marc and he agreed! 

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, chère Natalia. Your words are always so uplifting and appreciated. I am glad you mentioned your city because I keep picturing you in Arizona. Very sorry for the confusion! All the best to you, Rod, and the Mignons.

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Margot, Really enjoyed your note in French and English. And thanks for the museum recommendation. I would love to visit there. I remember seeing signs, years ago, for a Bonnard expo (perhaps in the same place?)

Kristin Espinasse

Jennifer and Suzanne,
I still don’t know where he went for those 5 minutes. I would rather it remain a mystery :-)
Suzanne, Jackie got me the hat in Marseilles.
Jennifer, I hope you are enjoying Arles. All best wishes as you settle into this new chapter.


Dear Kristi,

Thank you for including us along on your family's special day of togetherness and remembrance. Your story buoyed my heart. I felt like I was there with you. As I've lost most of my family in the last four years, I know how precious such moments are. It was wonderful to see Jules, too!

You look radiantly happy and more beautiful than ever in the photo of you on the bench. May we let go and be in the present as to enjoy our loved ones and the carefree days of summer!


Karla Ober

Great post, Kristie !
I'm a long time follower, and owner of your books!
Former Californian now living my dream in Strasbourg, France!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Karla! It is great to learn you have moved to Strasbourg! What a beautiful city.

R L Jackson

You and yours ARE the beautiful people. Wonderful story. Thank you, Robbie Lane Jackson,
writing from Emerald Isle, NC, Southern Outer Banks

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, my dear Stacy. You have been such a faithful friend for decades. There are no words to express the loss you have experienced. I am thankful for our friendship and that we can always be in touch, and close like family 💕


SO FUNNY!! Lots of smiles and chuckling here…
Definitely a very happy and memorable Fête des Pères!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Charlotte!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

What a fun, uplifting story! So happy that Jean-Marc had such an exciting experience on Father’s Day seeing Roger Federer. (Reminded me of my Paris celebrity sightings decades ago…among many, Alain Delon (sigh) and my favorite singer Adamo).

It is so wonderful to see your family together, especially with Jules. Your family story made me smile, seeming to be one of love, commitment and joy…
until the poignant twist at the end for Doug…which made me teary eyed while smiling…

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! Your notes are great reminders to keep sharing about family. I would like to, but at the same time I am mindful of everyone’s  comfort level in my sharing about them (even if they have given me their A-OKs). How exciting to see Alain Delon. I am off to look up Adamo… Wishing you and George a great weekend.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

You always seem to find a great balance between disclosure and privacy. We can never learn too much about France! But you maintain the integrity of your family with just enough disclosure to help us understand what life is like for them, especially in France, without letting it be intrusive. I have always admired that.
There is definite risk in publicly offering one’s story, thoughts or opinions in today’s world. I sense that you are managing that very well. Keep it up, as long as it feels right…

Kristin Espinasse

Many thanks, Chris 💕


Dearest Kristi ~ a lovely post. I think love goes on and full well expect Doug was close by reveling in the moment. A beautiful way to celebrate fathers day and J-M all ga-ga over Federer is priceless. Wondering if he "snuck" a pic or two from a discreet spot!
Happy summer to you and yours, xox,
Patty in hot & sunny ROA

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Patty. I love your message that love goes on ❤️

Pamela Burton

Salut Kristi, I have finally been able to read some of your blog posts. But hey, seems we have some things in common. Similar to you, I studied abroad at L'Institute de Tourraine, and would have stayed in France forever, save for the will of my parents, who wished me home. My husband for 34 years has grown to love France and we have been lucky to work and visit often. Your post on the visit to Club Cinquante-cinq resonated as we have been fortunate to go to this most exotic Beach Club several times. While there, I always feel wrapped in the glamour of the moment, as there are usually a few stars of some media. We now live in the Phoenix area, north of Scottsdale. Hopefully, we can come back to France again soon, and a visit to your corner would be nice and of course, a wine tour, with Jean-Marc.

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