France's Equivalent of Craigslist + Cool expression for negotiating the price
A Funny Nickname for “Dog” in French

Renverser: Treasure at the bottom of Tante G’s Well

A basket of "boules" beside the door of this old stone cabanon. On most family get-togethers, a game of pétanque follows the meal. 


  : to knock over, to spill

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

“Down The Hatch: A Vintage Bottle of Champagne + A Deep Well = A Lost Treasure”

On Friday we left the seaside and drove 45 minutes north to the countryside of Fuveau, where Jean-Marc’s aunt lives in a cozy stone house beside an ancient puits. As most of our extended family was away en vacances, this was a small potluck gathering with its delicious “chacun apporte quelque chose” menu. Collecting a few tartes tomates from our car, Jean-Marc was especially happy to be arriving at "La Clapouille" as memories of his childhood—weekend visits in which his grandmother, aunts, and father gathered—gave this place a remarkably soulful feel.   

We added our French tomato pies and some American chocolate chip cookies to the buffet of fromages, charcuteries, and conserves (Aunt Marie-Françoise’s confit d'oignons was delicious over sliced baguette), and sat in a half-circle to catch up on each other's lives. Beyond, the sun began to set behind the rolling collines where rabbits and wild pigs still roam.

Setting down a plateful of petits-fours, I watched Jean-Marc wander over to the old stone well. He was followed by Geneviève’s son, Pierre. I knew exactly what the cousins were up to, “The Sunken Bottle” being among my first memories of La Clapouille (that, and getting disgracefully drunk when meeting Jean-Marc's family for the first time...).

The Sunken Bottle had nothing to do with my inebriated state (that’s another story). As for la bouteille, some 50 years ago, when this serene property was no more than a well and a cabanon, Aunt Geneviève (who owned the rural parcel), family, and friends would drive here from Marseilles to picnic and spend the day exploring. There was the river, below, and the lively étang where a teenage Jean-Marc, his siblings, and cousins delighted in fishing for les écrevisses.

Before several more villas cropped up, the scent of wild thyme, rosemary, and sarriette in the garrigue was intoxicating, and the aunts and their mother enjoyed gathering the herbes sauvages. Afterwards, they made their own flavorful mixes for seasoning. If lucky, each family would return to the city with little gifted bottles of handpicked herbes de Provence, for use on everything from ratatouille to French fries. That is how I received my first fiole (I still remember the little glass bottle) of this precious concoction.

On one such weekend picnic, someone put a bottle of champagne in a bucket and lowered it into the old well for chilling. But when later the family tried to retrieve it, the bucket was renversé and the bottle tumbled down the chute with a splash, to settle at the bottom of the well.

Since that time the picnics have continued and Geneviève built a lovely home across from the well and moved to Fuveau (where she opened a droguerie). She also began some projects on the land, including a terrasse ombragée, which was created by joining the well to the small cabanon via a tiled roof and a patio. It is there, on that terrace, that we sat watching the latest treasure hunters hatch a plan to rescue the vintage bottle of champagne.

As our son Max joined the cousins to toss a weighted rope down the shaft, another aunt, Marie-Claire (“Michou”) told about the time Max’s grandfather Gérard braved the “descent inside the well”, only he clambered back up before touching the surface of the water (some 5 meters down). Each generation (our Max now being the third) has pursued the pétillant “prize” but so far all efforts have been in vain. (And even if my son is nearing 30, I have expressly forbidden him to climb into the seemingly bottomless pit). 

Though it is amusing to watch my French family huddle around that well, figuring out how to reach the sunken treasure, it’s also a little sad to think they might soon succeed. Quel dommage! For the stranded bouteille is part of the soul that is La Clapouille, the palpable âme Jean-Marc senses each time he returns--it is wholesome, or the whole sum, of every happy and carefree moment spent with his late father and aunts. He has transferred this joyous réverénce to our son, who practiced his first giddy baby steps on the ground above the sunken champagne.

So I will keep my fingers crossed behind my back that no one outsmarts the well or the bottle, and that future generations will continue to gather around the chute, in creative pursuit.

I leave you with a short video clip of the cousins. You can hear our Max sharing his ideas for retrieving that bottle. Can you understand what he is saying? Enjoy and "see you" in a week!



Thanks in advance for your comments which are the icing on the cake of this edition! I love to read your words and learn so much from you (including spelling and grammar--so don't hesitate to send in a correction). Extra credit if you tell us where you are writing in from. And a gold star if you mention the weather conditions :-) Click here to comment.



Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me read the French and English below

les boules = boules (game of pétanque)
le cabanon = stone hut
renverser = to spill, knock over 
le puits = well
en vacances = on vacation
chacun apporte quelque chose = each person brings something
la clapouille = from “clapier” or rabbit hutch
le fromage = cheese
la charcuterie = charcuterie, cold meats
le confit d’oignon = onion confit
la colline = hill
les petits-fours = finger foods
la bouteille = bottle
l’étang = pond
l’écrevisse = crawfish
la sarriette = savory
l’herbe sauvage = wild herb
les herbes de Provence = herbs of Provence
la fiole = vial
la droguerie = hardware store
la terrasse ombragée = the shady patio
quel dommage = what a pity
pétillant = sparkling

Little daisies and window with shutter
Love these little daisies at Aunt Geneviève's house.

Un grand merci to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation. Your contributions not only support this journal, but they also motivate me to keep on keeping on writing through summertime. Thank you! --Kristi

Sally R.
Holly RS
Sheryl W.

"Thanks for the wonderful blog, Kristi, always a joy to read. . . All the best, Holly"

“Thank you for many years of “French Word”…sharing your life in France and keeping me in touch with my French, having retired from teaching 23 years ago!” —Sally R.

Game of boules in fuveau
I am bookending this edition with some boules--la pétanque being a favorite game for family and friends. Read about another family reunion in Fuveau, with photos, here
Game of boules (off to the right). Can you see the orange measuring tape dispenser? Handy for measuring across the jack (little yellow ball) to the boule.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Nancy Stilwagen

I am unable to find the video clip you mentioned...

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Nancy,
Try viewing it here at Instagram (then look for the picture of the guys at the well and click on it):


Well - it is 8am and it is 80 degrees and going up to 106 today. Welcome to San Antonio, Texas summer. This heat wave is setting records. Not usually like this but change is the only thing we can rely on - someone said but I am paraphrasing. Sounds like a lovely family day. Enjoy and thank you for sharing.

Carmen Clarke

Love this post! This is what summer should be like for every family!


Madison Georgia
Coucou! Love your posts!

Cerelle Bolon

Merci, Kristin. I always enjoy reading your posts. I understood it all today, and even could smell the wonderful scent of the herbes you mentioned. I remember picking some of those along our way south of Les Baux. It is always a delight to relive our wonderul adventures in France and I thank you for your memories, too. As you know, I am here in Phoenix in our same house that we moved into in 1965 as newlyweds. I am now 85 and am thankful for all these wonderul memories, and for being able to still live in our home which Bill made so nice for us. The monsoon is late this year and we are having hot days and now some clouds, so perhaps we will have the rains before too long. My dear little poodles, Cozette and Clicquot are fine companions, too. Best to you, dear friend!


Hoping with you for the pursuit (now tradition) to continue for generations - what a fun story!


It was a heartwarming story today, Kristin. But my favorite sentence is when you tell of expressly forbidding Max from climbing into the seemingly bottomless pit ~ even though he is nearing 30. My response is, once a mama, always a mama!

Stacy Lund

Happy Summertime, dear Kristi! This is such a charming story! It takes me back to summers spent at my Grandparent's home on Bainbridge Island, where my Great-grandparents also had their summer home next door. Thank you for sharing!


Our dear Kristi,
Thank you for another wonderfully written--and especially heartwarming--post today!You absolutely transported us away to a charming and beautiful place filled with love,memories,and joie de vivre.I so admire your complete honesty about being drunk(!) Heaven only knows that in my younger days (way back when) I joined you in similar(though in my case definitely not particularly admirable) shenanigans!(gone but not forgotten by me!)
Must also tell you that I also so enjoy your beautiful pictures and always useful vocabulary!!!!
Blessings to you and your family
Arms around you all
Natalia xo( Heavenly rain showers today in Las Vegas.Thankfully the heat spell has broken and we're forecasted to be in upper 90's and low 100's.I jokingly refer to this as sweater weather!!)


Hi Kristi,
Sounds like a fun family get-together!
I hope the bottle isn't broken down there!
Is Max thinking about sending a camera down there, like a GoPro?
Have a great week!

Ann Borman

Bonjour, Kristi!

I loved seeing the photos and reading the sweet story of your family gathering at Auntie Geneviève's. I was in Provence last August in the sweltering heat, and I was able to smell the wild herbs in the hills. I always keep a ready supply of Herbes de Provence on hand in my kitchen!

I'm writing to you from Minnesota where we are having a perfect, 75 degree summer day. Our garden is lush with roses, phlox, and hollyhocks and brimming with produce (especially the heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant). It's Ratatouille season!

bien amicalement,


Sarah LaBelle

I like that window and the colorful flowers at Aunt Geneviève’s home. The window is set in stone, with a colorful shade if the sun is too much or for privacy, and the white wooden shutter against the Mistral, I imagine. Well composed view, typical of your photos.

Such a good summer gathering of the clan.


Loved this post! Enjoyed the ritual of collecting herbs. I must get out there…or to an outdoor market for some fresh ones.

I, too, am in Minnesota. Dog sitting a 15 year old shih zhu.
He lost his lifelong companion dog, Toffee, a month ago.
He is very sad. Not himself. So I am spoiling him a little. The weather is good, but some kind of haze (smoke from Canada?)
Most every day. I hope next year to travel to the south of France.
Always good wishes to you and your beautiful family. Stay well.

Judi Miller

I loved your sharing of the wonderful times with J-M's family! - what a treasure to have such a family!!
I think I found a mistake : "I knew exactly what the cousins were up two, " I think "two" should be 'to.' Also, not sure, but I think ...Francoise... should be possessive; (...Aunt Marie-Françoise's confit d'oignons.....)

It's hot here in Lake Balboa, CA, but at the same time, not too bad due to the low level clouds. Oh, to be in France and enjoying a large family gathering. It sounds just heavenly!

BTW I'm selling my house and moving to MS to be with my daughter & her family!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Judi, for the helpful correction. Off to fix things now. So happy to read about your move! Many happy moments ahead with your daughter and grandson and family!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
So rich and precious is your life to have had familial connection with wonderful people from two cultures for multiple decades.
A real gift, which you, Jean-Marc, Max and Jackie all share. How blessed you all are…

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris. It is so true what you say, and we are feeling especially blessed as the years pass.  Wishing you and your family—and this wonderful virtual family of readers—a happy rest of summer. Take care.

Karen in Northport, NY

Enjoying my morning coffee and laughing at myself. I added to my already lengthy to-do list: how to get a bottle out of a well. You truly do have a gift, Ms Kris. I feel like I know a whole group of people I really don't know. The warm just flows through.
Anyway, so how deep is the well water??? They got artifacts out of the Titanic. We have the technnology.
Really decent summer weather here so far this year. 80s F during the day, getting under 70 most nights. Enough rain. Tstorms fly through from time to time. Getting some dry days to break up the humid ones. Watching the tropics with fingers crossed. Skipping an ocean swim this year, we got bitey sharks out there. 🦈

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)