La Fringale: At what hour do the French get the munchies?
Thanksgiving Vocabulary + Périple: Jean-Marc's Journey from France to New Zealand & Bike Tour

Punaise! Our Hotel in Paris had a little bug (and not the kind you’re thinking)….

Paris France Arc de Triomphe
Punaise! When I heard about the bed bug epidemic in Paris, I almost canceled plans to see my best friend. I’m so glad I didn’t let those punaise reports destroy this joyful reunion.

TODAY'S WORD: Punaise!

  : Darn! Oh no! Oh dear!

Punaise also means bug or “bed bug”. The exclamation may have been born of the horror of seeing the crawly creatures, i.e. Punaises! Bed bugs! It is a very popular way to express surprise in French, in any let-down situation. Come to think of it, “Bed bugs!” makes for a colorful expression in English, too, don't you think?  

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Rouge-Bleu in Paris

Over leftovers of sea bass and exotic vegetables, a scrumptious meal I’d carted back on the train, I was remembering my visit with my best friend Susan, a.k.a. Rouge-Bleu,* in Paris.  Oh to go back! Suddenly I felt a strong desire to relive our farewell dinner at Cafe de L’Alma. Even if the music was loud (our waitress kindly turned it down) I wanted to be transported back into that seat, energized by lively conversation, with Paris as a backdrop! Moreover, I wanted to relive all of the experiences my dear friend and I had this past weekend! While I can’t do that, I can write about it now and so relive a few of the memorable moments….
Saturday night, after 6 years apart, my best friend from high school and I caught up with each other in The City of Light. There in a pitch dark room, we were each tucked into a twin bed overlooking a grand suite decked in flowers, chocolates, and an unopened bottle of Ruinart champagne. Beyond the suite's balcony, at the edge of this golden triangle in which our girlhood aspirations had projected us, the Eiffel Tower sparkled. 
Our pillows, packed exclusively with lavender flowers, were delivered earlier during le service du soir and filled our deluxe accommodations with the scent of good dreams to come. Meantime, un grand rêve unfolded all around us.

Rouge-Bleu," I whispered to my longtime friend, "can you believe we are in Paris, in this room?” Susan and I met our sophomore year as new students at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were two fish out of water who quickly found each other in English class. Susan was from the small town Douglas, near the Mexican border, and I was from the west side of Phoenix, where I grew up in a trailer park. We were galaxies away from our European futures, but the seed of adventure was planted when we made a vow (before we could even drive) to travel to Beverly Hills. 
California, it turns out, was not in the cards. And if we were here, now, in this 5-star Parisian hotel, enjoying free accommodations for two nights, it was thanks to Susan who, following university, began a career in travel and went on to found Critics Choice Vacations. Susan was currently in Paris attending DUCO France "an annual boutique travel summit held in Paris, France. A niche and destination-oriented event, highlighting the excellence of French hospitality to the world’s most important buyers."

In the past 22 years, Susan and her team have created thousands of 1st class travel experiences for clients. It was fascinating to hear about all the details Susan takes care of for her travelers—from a helicopter transfer to/from the Nice airport to a personalized shopping trip in Monte Carlo to wheelchair access during a cruise down the Rhone to medical assistance while on a safari in Africa (wait, I should add no lions were involved!). I loved quizzing Rouge-Bleu about her 24/7 job and all the adventures her clients experience all over the world.
Together now in Paris, we were not without our own adventures, right here in our luxury suite... Arriving back from dinner near the Arc de Triomphe, having finally gotten our keycard to open the door of our room, we were startled to find two strangers in our suite after 10 at night...While I stood shuddering discreetly in the foyer, Susan calmly addressed the unexpected guests, asking about the nature of their visit. 

As far as I could see, the men were not wearing hotel uniforms but were dressed in khaki pants and shirts--a kind of camouflage? I wondered. "We are working on a mechanical issue," one of the men explained.

Well, that sort of made sense, except for the hour. As I said, it was past 10 at night! It was true our deluxe suite had been experiencing technical difficulties. Everything within the room was operated via an electronic tablet (similar to an IPad). Even the toilet was a high-tech wonder--with its own multi-function control panel. Rouge-Bleu told me it was one of those Japanese toilets, aka a Toto. Its seatwarming function, the water jets, and the dryer (no need for TP) were all operated electronically.

Similar to an electric car, if one thing goes wrong you're up the creek. And now the hotel's engineers were here for a lighting problem Susan had reported earlier. Relieved to know these weren't robbers, I quietly chuckled to think that our 5-star room was as technically challenged as Susan and I had been, as we tried to use the high-end amenities! 
After the engineers left, the hotel manager came to apologize: regrettably, the technical issue could not be solved that night. We now had three options: 1) We could move to another suite 2) or stay here and sleep with all the lights on or 3) have the engineers shut off the electricity for one part of our suite so we could at least sleep in the dark.
Considering Susan had her office set up in one area, and our suitcases were opened and unpacked, neither of us wanted to pack up and move in the middle of the night. Given it was bedtime, it might be okay to shut off the main switch as we were only going to sleep now anyway…but then what about the electronic toilet? Would Toto flush?
The technicians were back once again to figure that out and, in the end, the high-tech wonder passed the test!
Well then, as long as Toto would flush we'd stay! After the mechanics and manager left, we tucked ourselves into the lavender-scented beds to laugh about the irony of having to use our own equipment (our own phone, as the hotel phone no longer functioned via the "smart" tablet, and our own flashlights on our phones) to navigate to the bathroom of our "luxury accommodations".
The good news was after all the talk of bed bugs in Paris, we didn't have any of those. But, punaise! We can't say the same for technological bugs, of which our suite had a few. 
I would like to end with giant thanks to my bestie, ma meilleure amie, Rouge-Bleu. It was wonderful to spend time with you in Paris and to see you at work in the city. We never did make it to Rodeo Drive. Sometimes our dreams take us beyond our very own imaginations!

*    *    *
Thank you in advance for your comments and corrections. I appreciate every word! Click here to leave a message.
Rouge-Bleu Kristi and Susan
Rouge-Bleu and I recreating a picture we took over 15 years ago during a trip to Monaco. You may be wondering about the nickname Susan and I share, and wasn't that the same name of your former vineyard?  Yes, it was! The vineyard name was chosen back in 2006, after Jean-Marc asked me if I had any suggestions as to what to name our winery. On a whim, I blurted out "Rouge-Bleu!" He immediately liked it and went on to incorporate it for his business. We've since sold the vineyard but the name lives on with the new owners (and will always live on with the best friends pictured). 
Thanks, Rouge-Bleu, for finding this old photo.
Fresh bouquet of flowers in Paris hotel
Susan and her team create personalized travel experiences to Europe and beyond. If you are ready to follow your dream to Paris (or anywhere in the world) contact Susan at Critics Choice Vacations

Critics choice vacations


Listen to the French terms listed below click here.

= red-blue
Ruinart = the oldest champagne house in France 
service du soir = turndown service
un grand rêve = a big dream
punaise! = oh no! darn!
la punaise = bed bug
la meilleure amie = best friend

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The Gaucher Family

Thank you, Kristi, for your blog which I've been reading and enjoying for 20+ years! Mollie B.

Paris France Eiffel Tower Critics Choice Vacations
Photo by Rouge-Bleu, courtesy of Critics Choice Vacations

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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.

Jill Ferrie

Best friends of many years are golden. Sounds like a wonderful gift to be together in Paris.

Debbie Lesser

What a fun post, Kristi! I'm so happy for you, getting to spend time with your best friend in the most beautiful city in the world!


Sounds like a lovely stay in Paris to catch up with your best friend. I don't want to detract from the lovely message you are sending, but it should be ma meilleure amie.




Envy your hotel room despite the bugs. The dark is pitch (the color--black--of pitch) not pitched! And surely it's mon amie but ma meilleure amie. Best, Bill


What a great get together with an old and very special friend. Thanks for sharing. That room sounds wonderful - sure they have fixed the technical bugs.


What a lovely reunion with your friend, Kristi! As for les punaises, they seem to be wreaking havoc worldwide. Yikes!


What a wonderful treat to be together again -and in a beautiful place. You both look like you had tons of fun!! I’m happy for you!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Bill! Off to fix those. Much appreciated.

Elizabeth Lincoln

How wonderful to be together with your lifelong best friend in the beautiful city of Paris! Sounds like a magnificent adventure- may you have many more together!

Paul Bowers

Kristi, the title of your post should be "you're" instead of "your." A very common mistake!

Paul Bowers

That was fast--it's already fixed!!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Paul. I caught it when a copy of the newsletter appeared in my inbox. Punaise! It is always that way….after I hit “send” I see the error. Your note is much appreciated as I might have missed the mistake.


Our dear Kristi,
Your post today was ( once again! As always!) absolutely wonderful and just wrapped itself around my heart! BFF! You two are darling! What could be happier than a reunion in Paris???!! Punaises or not, magical from beginning to end!!
Though I am incredibly blessed with dear and loyal friends,Sally and I have been " sisters of our hearts" since we were five!( almost 72 years now!!) And still talk each day! Truly a gift!
What a small world! School in Scottsdale!! Me too!!
Oh my gosh,
chere Kristi, you totally made my day!!
Thank you!!
Arms around you tight.
Natalia xo

Janine Cortell

You mean MA Meilleure amie(feminine)
Sounds like you had a ball.


Old friends are like family and they are to be treasured! My family and friends go to great lengths to connect in person and it’s always a celebration of the life and love we share.

Chris Allin

A friendship like this is a true blessing…Rouge-Bleu forever! ♥️ 💙


Hah, I was in Paris this weekend finishing my week long France fix. Only this time I took a quick trip to Bergerac to meet with a realtor. We are leaving Taos, NM to make the big move! Now, will MY best friend, Paulette, make it to France to visit since she has not made it to Taos in 6 years! What a lovely reunion you had with your friend. I will make sure I stay clear of high tech hotels!

Lauren Golden

1) Would could move to another suite --I think you meant We could - right?
Delightful reunion!

Karen in Northport, NY

Sounds like a wonderful visit. Loved the malfunctioning hotel room. I'm trying to envision a toilet with a control panel. My friend just bought a new car - very techy - and it took a couple of weeks study to get it out of the driveway. 🤣 And they didn't think to rev up a generator on the balcony???...

Dana Ivey

Could you, would you share the name of the 5-star hotel where you have lavender-stuffed pillows?

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chris! Love the red and blue hearts!

Kristin Espinasse

How exciting, Norma! All the best with your move to France, and I hope Paulette will visit you.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for catching that one, Lauren! On my way to fix it. Bon week-end.

Kristin Espinasse

Chère Natalia, I loved reading about Sally, your sister of the heart, and your daily telephone call. And what a coincidence that you went to school in Scottsdale. I knew you had an Arizona connection, but I got confused when I learned you were living in Nevada! Bonjour à Sally and take care.

Karin Jacobson

I'm a new subscriber of several weeks and I already look forward to receiving your epistle! In a quick peruse of the comments I didn't see anyone who caught the error in your headline, but perhaps I missed it. "Your" needs to be "you're." Thanks for being open and I look forward to reading!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, Karin. Paul caught the error but I am glad to have this chance to meet you and know that you are reading the posts. I appreciate your positive words. Merci encore et bienvenue!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Dana, Sure, I’ll send it to you.

Kristin Espinasse

Haha! No generator on the balcony. As for the Toto: the control panel, as long and wide as a standard ruler, was on the wall, a little higher up than the toilet. 

Karen Cafarella

How exciting you got to spend time with your best friend. A high tech room would be a challenge for sure.


"... and Toto, too"?

Stacy Lund

Dear Kristi,

I’m delighted to hear of your weekend adventure with your best friend in Paris! The ease and trust that long time friendships foster is a gift like no other. It is interesting to look back and see where our dreams take us. You and Susan are beautiful examples of this. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.

Much love sent your way!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, my dear Stacy. So true was you say about the ease and trust that is the gift of long term friendships—including our own! 💕

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