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Bonne et Heureuse Année: the language of a new year

Kristi and Ricci American Shepherd
With Ricci, New Year's Day 2024. I love her from her nose down to her sweet toes! In today's story, a kindness from strangers gets the new year off to a meaningful start.

TODAY'S WORD: Bonne et heureuse année

    : Good and happy year

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

”L’Abreuvoir — The Little Water Trough”

Bonne Année! Meilleurs Voeux! Surtout la bonne santé! Entering our local supérette for some fresh milk and eggs, I see the shopkeepers huddled around the caisse, bright smiles on their faces as they deliver cheery New Year's greetings. This jolly outpouring reminds me of one more blessing in the new year: all of the familiar faces of our neighborhood and all of the local commerces that we sometimes take for granted. 

We learned our colorful fishmonger has finally gone out of business and what a great loss to our quartier.
"C'est dommage," I say to Jean-Marc. "After all that work I hope the couple are following their dream to retire in Spain!”

"Do you want to open a poissonnerie?" Jean-Marc teases me.

"Mais bien sur que non... c'est juste que...."It's just that I’m sad they are gone, and I regret not visiting them more often. Poissonerie Chez Laure, we hear, will be replaced by a rôtisserie and, as much as we love roast chicken, dans les parages there are now four commerces de volailles rôties.... plus de poisson!

Tant pis! We cannot begin 2024 with regrets. Better to start the year with les bonnes intentions. So on New Year's Day, towards the end of our morning walk, I invited Jean-Marc for coffee and a croissant at Plaza Beach. Daily, we pass by this café along the seafront and wave bonjour to Matthieu, le patron, but we never stop to order anything. (We did give Matthieu some business when my sister, Heidi, was here, last summer, when our smala--including Jules--gathered there several times for l'apéro. I have happy memories with my niece and nephew, and Matthieu spoiling us with an elaborate cheese platter.) 

If one New Year's Goal is to give our locals more business, another is to let them know they are appreciated. "Bonne Année!” I said to Matthieu as we sat down with our dog. “We don't come here often enough but I wanted you to know that what you are doing is impressionant! (Indeed, from a little hole in the wall, Matthieu has created an extended terrace café. He must cross the busy boulevard dozens of times each day to reach it from his tiny local beside the surf shop. “We see you working so hard every day. Do you ever sit down?"

As awkward as the delivery might have been (did they sound patronizing?), my words were rewarded with a warm smile and a confidence: “Si je m’assois je ne pourrai pas me relever. If I sit down I won’t be able to get back up!” And like that, our barista was off to cross the busy road once again and fire up the espresso machine.

Moments later Matthieu returned with some fresh water for Ricci. Despite all the tables he was tending, he stopped to bring our dog a refreshment!

That bowl of eau fraiche, delivered as it was, unexpectedly, in an empty ice cream carton, struck a few chords inside of me. As over-sentimental as it sounds, it touched my heartstrings. It was a small detail, the little water trough, but it was meaningful.

Out over the waterfront, sunrays dazzled the surface of the sea, mirroring a hopeful feeling inside of me. Meantime, the little water trough held its own sparkle, and it skipped across the water’s surface, like one kindness pursuing another: our own and that of the receiver-turned-giver. An endless cycle of goodwill, born simply of intention.


Bonne et heureuse année dear reader, and in case I don’t tell you often enough, you mean a lot to me. Your weekly presence is that sparkle on the surface of the sea, a light that guides me and keeps me writing. 



Plaza Beach
Matthieu's tiny local. We also stopped by for ice cream, last summer, with my niece Reagan. En face, or across the way, Matthiew has a large outdoor terrace with tables and chairs facing the seafront.


Click here to listen to the vocabulary words in French and English

une bonne et heureuse année = a good and happy year
l'abreuvoir (m) = water trough, watering place
bonne santé = good health
la supérette = convenience store
la caisse = checkout, till; cash register
le commerce = business
le quartier = part of town, neighborhood
c'est dommage = it's too bad
la poissonnerie = fish shop, fishmonger
mais bien sûr que non = of course not
c'est juste que = it's just that
la rôtisserie = rotisserie
commerce de volailles rôties = roast poultry business
dans les parages = in the area, in the vicinity
plus de poisson = no more fish
tant pis = oh well
le patron (la patronne) = the owner
le local = unit, space, room
la smala = large family, brood
l'apéro (m) = pre-dinner drink
si je m’assois je ne pourrai pas me relever = if I sit down I won't be able to get back up
l'eau fraîche (f) = fresh water

Sincere appreciation to those making a donation in support of this journal--and for taking the time to send it. 

Jim S.
Lynn R.
Linda H.
Ginny R.

Marcy W.
C-Marie P.

Carmen C.
Adrienne C.

Thanks for sharing your journey. Your words and experiences enrich my life. Wishing you and yours all the best for 2024! --Carmen

I have been with you for so long you feel like a dear friend. Thank you for continuing to share with your readers. I wish you and your family a new year filled with peace, joy and adventure! Adrienne

I finished reading “Words in a French Life”, and currently reading “Blossoming in Provence”.  Some of your stories have me laughing out loud (in bed at night)!  Always look forward to your weekly email. Amicalement, Linda


SUNDAY marked 12 weeks since this 9-kilo bundle of wonder came to live chez nous. Thank you, Ricci, for enriching (and energizing) our lives! 

Jean-marc and ricci on the flat rocks la ciotat

I leave you with a short clip, below, filmed on New Year's Day. Click the arrow in the center of the image, below, and for more pictures please follow me on Instagram.

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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Sending Jean-Marc a link about traveling in New Zealand.


Happy New Year to you and your family!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Sarah!

Karen in Northport, NY

Oh, the prospect of an outdoor seaside cafe... Well below freezing here this morning, windy, missing a snowstorm by a couple of miles this weekend. I hope. Anyway, a bonne 2024. Winter is not my favorite season but I have promised myself to step outside and appreciate a soft blue snowy night if we have one, and at least one small snow man. I will forego the winter sports. My New Year's Eve carouse recovery period reminds me to heed the counsel of age. Si je > je ne pourrai pas me relever. 😁

Karen in Northport, NY

That was supposed to be " some form of tomber" with creative punctuation. I think the form is tombais. Ohhhhh, never mind. If I fell I would never get up.

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