Ratiboiser & Cafi: Two Fun Words from The Olive Harvest
Punaise! Our Hotel in Paris had a little bug (and not the kind you’re thinking)….

La Fringale: At what hour do the French get the munchies?

Mangiare restaurant in Paris France 8 eme
The word in the window spells "Eat" which is what my stomach cried on the train back from Paris. Don't miss today's story with some fun new words.

News: Carolyne Kauser-Abbot has written an excellent article about Jean-Marc’s wine tours. Check it out at Carolyne’s site Perfectly Provence


    : munchies
    : craving, hunger

avoir la fringale = to have the munchies, to feel peckish

by Kristi Espinasse

On the train back from Paris I had the urge to tchatche with the stranger sitting next to me. Graced with corkscrew curls and a spray of freckles across her nose, she had smiled pleasantly when she took her seat beside the window. Now, quietly settled in for our 3.5-hour voyage to Marseilles, I wanted to exclaim, "Quel soulagement d'être monté dans le train ! What a relief to be on the train!” which is what I felt after lugging my piggybacked parcels and suitcase through the metro, up into the Gare de Lyon, only to struggle through the crowd in Hall 1. But I kept quiet when a little voice said, your own reality isn’t necessarily hers.

It’s a pity when your inner dictator keeps you from connecting with others, via its own self-righteous reasoning, and so I reconsidered striking up a conversation. But as the minutes passed my opening line became passé as the train was well on its way.

By now my stomach was rumbling alongside my thoughts. I kept thinking about the doggy bag in the large paper sack at my feet. Inside were gourmet leftovers from last night’s farewell dinner with a dear friend at Café de L'Alma. “Take it home, Rouge-Bleu," Susan had encouraged. You’ll enjoy it later! And so I piggybacked that doggy bag, along with several treats from our hotel, on top of my suitcase, which also held my heavy carry-on. All that juggling during the walk from the hotel to the metro to the train had created quite an appetite--especially after missing lunch.

I was suddenly craving that homemade gnocchi with pears and grapes, in cream sauce. I even had a plastic spoon in which to eat it and my seat included a handy fold-out tray. There was just one problem….Culture: the French don’t seem to eat at odd hours, and 3 pm is an odd hour to dine.

According to whom? Who says 3 pm is an odd hour to eat last night’s plat principal? I recognized the still small voice, that championing ally that always comes through if I listen to it, and not the inner critic. But soon a little battle ensued.... as my thoughts contradicted each other, tour à tour:

Why not wait until 4 pm? 4 pm is l’heure de goûter in France—a perfectly respectable time to munch in public.

But the French eat sugary snacks for goûter hour
, that other voice pointed out.

Just then I heard the crinkling of a wrapper and turned to see the elegant woman across the aisle enjoying a candy bar. Next, Mademoiselle Freckles broke out a muffin, confirming my suspicions that the 4 pm snack hour is for sweets only.

Go ahead. Dig in! My inner ally cheered. Go against the status quo! Be wild! Be free! Be unique! Just when I had the courage to break all the imagined rules, I noticed the passenger seated 5 rows up, in the forward-facing seat. His T-shirt read, "BE NORMAL."

Be normal? But I was just about to let loose and BE WILD!

Harrumph! Now I had to build back le cran all over again, and it would've been all uphill except for one final thought: If I don't eat now I'm going to return home in a very cranky mood. And I didn't want to be irritable around my family. I knew Mom was waiting excitedly to see me, along with Jean-Marc and our newest family member, Ricci. And so, with the noblest of intentions, I broke out my spoon and dug in! No matter how many times my eyes darted around the train car, between furtive bites, I never saw one shocked expression. No one paid the slightest bit of attention. To my relief, there was not so much as a “bon appétit” something strangers are quick to tell anyone who is eating anything ever. (Maybe the French only say that during normal dining hours? There must be a separate set of rules for off hours?)

"Is it true the French tend to eat only sweet things at l'heure de gouter?" I asked my husband, on the ride home, after sharing my doggy bag dilemma.

"Yes, of course! Otherwise you'll be thrown in prison," my husband chuckled. "But Ricci and I would visit and even bring you oranges!"

Haha! It is helpful to laugh at our own quirks, and heartening when family and friends understand them so well. I hope, by sharing a few more of mine with you today you've learned some interesting French words. See you next week with another story from my short périple in Paris!

Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to my stories. Any edits are greatly appreciated. Click here to leave a message.

This sea bass and vegetables was in the second take-away carton, and it made a great lunch the day after I got home. Jean-Marc finished Susan's gnocchi for dinner. Don't you love leftovers and "doggy bags"?

Eiffel Tower


Click to hear the pronunciation for la fringale and all the vocabulary

la fringale = hunger, the munchies
= to chat, to gab
Quel soulagement d'être monté dans le train ! = What a relief to have made it onto the train!
le plat principal = main course
le gôuter = snack
tour à tour = by turns
le cran (avoir du cran)  = gumption (to have courage)
le périple = trek, journey

Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Jane M.
Alice F.
Lucie A.
Anne U.
Trish A.
Janine C.

J'éspère te lire longtemps. Bises, Janine

Thanks for many years of entertainment and French vocabulary, Kristi. Bon travail!
Alice F.

I have enjoyed your newsletter and books for many years, you are quite an inspiration for life.
We visit La France each year, to see family, enjoy the small villages and of course Paris.
Hope to visit your delightful corner in the near future. Lucie

Le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon Paris France
The busy Gare de Lyon in Paris. Notice the white covering: behind it the historical and iconic restaurant Le Train Bleu is being renovated. 

Morts pour la France
I walked past this war memorial the day I left Paris. It reads "Aux Volontaires Americains Morts Pour La France" To The American Volunteers Who Died For France. A poignant reminder. Saturday is Armistice Day or Veterans Day. 

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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Leslie NYC

This almost read like your poisson d'avril posts!
So funny. The photo of the fish with romanesco and artichokes made me long to be in France. They really know how to cook!


Our dear Kristi ,
Oh! Ma chere, you have the most wonderful adventures topped only by the most wonderful food!!
One lovely aspect of the ancienne age is that you aren't as concerned a quelle heure it is when your tummy emphatically shouts MANGE!! Smiling old people seem to have a built in excuse!
I keep meaning to thank you for your always gifted words ,and also for the vocabulary you share with us.It is so useful and so fun!!
Thank you very especially for the Veterans Day reminder.I even more remember my dear dad and his bravery in making the first eyewitness radio broadcast from the Normandy Beach invasion. It is great comfort to know he is smiling down on us,and our appreciation for him and all the selfless military who fought for our freedoms.


Always a smile, enjoy RICI as much as I enjoy mu CharLee

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Natalia, for your thoughtful words surrounding Veterans Day. To think your dad gave the first eyewitness radio broadcast from Normandy Beach! 


Oh, to be a three hour train ride from Paris! And another three back to enchanting Provence. It would be a dream come true for many of us. Bless you for sharing with us!

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
So so excited to read that you were able to spend time with Susan…in Paris!

It is amazing how you both have kept in touch. What a special friendship…
Viva Rouge-Blue!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! I have Rouge-Bleu partly to thank for meeting you in person! Next week I will share another story with RB…. Thanks, as always, for reading 💓 

Marianne S. Rankin

There have been occasions where the sound file isn't very loud. Today, with my computer's sound cranked as high as it will go, I couldn't hear it at all.

Nevertheless - thanks for the post. I always learn something new.

Tony Horne

Perhaps there could be a new word.
I will not comment on the possible meaning -


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Marianne, for the feedback on the sound file. Jean-Marc uses the same phone each time, but we might need to speak closer to the recorder. Bon week-end.

Susan Barnabe

Kristi, it's Susan Barnabe just wanting to give you my new e-mail address.
It is [email protected].
My husband is now in care and I have sold our home. A few short days ago I moved in to a small apartment - a huge downsizing move. But I think it will be just right for me. I hope! Susan


I loved your “ Quel soulagement d'être monté dans le train ! ” could one also say…?…. “ Quel soulagement d'être monté en train !”

We travelled Gare de Lyon à Orange many times during our six years in France and learned to take a bus (#72) from the 8e because it was so much easier than the metro and didn’t have the steps to monter ou descendre.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Muriel. What a great tip to take the bus! Now with Google maps giving various itineraries, I wish I had noticed that option. Next time! And, yes, I think you could say *au train* in the sentence you referenced.

Julie Farrar

When riding trains in France, I've never noticed the passengers holding to the strict eating schedule. Often people start pulling out there sacks of food as soon as the train starts, or head of to the food car. Think of it this way -- you don't know anyone in this train car so if you do something not strictly French it won't matter because you'll never see them again. It's not like you're taking off your shoes and socks and propping your feet up on the seat in front of you. YOU'RE JUST EATING. Enjoy it.

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Julie, It is true that passengers often pull out snacks once they are settled on the train. It is kind of like being at the movie theater…especially as the scenery outside the window is so interesting. I took a OUIGO, discount train. There is no food or drink service abord, but there are always places to buy snacks in the station.

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