il parait + video interview on French TV

winemaking Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Out of the rubble a wine is born!  Jean-Marc gave more than heart and soul when he made his first wine: he gave his blood, his tears, and an alarming number of kilos. I talk about this, and more, in an interview about the organic winemaker on a French TV. 

il paraît (eel-pah-ray)

    : it seems, it appears

synonyms: on dit (they say) or  le bruit court (rumor has it)

Example from today's video:

"Alors, son vin?" So how's the wine?
"Il paraît que c'est bon!" I hear it's good! (or Rumor has it it's pretty good!)

Click on the screen below to enjoy the following 

Portrait de Jean-Marc Espinasse pour l'émission... par BrokenArmsCompany
I am sorry not to have a transcript, in English, of this interview. I hope many of you can understand what is being said. I know I had a hard time... which led the interviewer to rephrase a question or two.

Jean-Marc Espinasse (c) Kristin Espinasse

The man who can passionately follow his vision--yet keep his eyes soft enough to see what lives and loves around him--his family, his friends--that is beauty.

Jean-Marc taking time out of whirlwind winemaking - to dance the tango with his mother-in-law, Jules.

Mom was so moved by his gesture that she captured the image forever. "Tango 62" Can you guess what 62 means?

You have captured all our hearts, may yours be bursting today, Jean-Marc, as you celebrate your 46th year. Joyeux Anniversaire!

Jean-Marc with the Arlesiennes (c) Kristin Espinasse
Have fun--but not too much fun!... Untangle yourself from those Arlesiennes and hurry home!

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mailbox in French + mailbox photos!

French mailbox (c) Kristin Espinasse boite aux lettres

One of the dumbest things about moving to France is leaving your sister behind. Today, mine celebrates a birthday and I won't be there to take her picture as she blows out her candles. But with any luck she'll have received the funny post card I sent which brings me to the theme of today's missive: mailboxes!

Mas la Monaque: rent this beautiful French home

Mas la Monaque - Rent this beautifully restored 17-century farmhouse. Click on the picture for photos & info.

la boîte à lettres (bwat-ah-letr)

    : mailbox, letter box

also boîte aux lettres

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Today is my sister's anniversaire de naissance and I'm looking for a way to surprise her. I went through my photo archives, searching for a picture of Heidi, when another idea came to mind: put today's letter in theme with all those beloved mailboxes that I have captured over the years.

For the care packages and heartwarming letters found inside, the mailbox is the perfect symbol of thoughtfulness, which is just one of my sister's many qualities—for more, read on....

fleur de lis and butterfly bush (c) Kristin Espinasse
When I moved to France I was lazy about keeping up with the holidays we loved to celebrate as kids. I didn't realize how meaningful some of them were to me until a package would arrive in the mail bursting with colorful heart candy and "Be My Valentine" cards—the ones we used to swap as kids after Mom bought them at Bashas or Walgreens or at Metrocenter mall. 

For Easter, Heidi would send packages full of jellybeans, the bright colors and original flavors (peanut butter!) sent me right back to my American childhood, where my sister and I built forts and tree houses and castles in the sky... or at least imagined them from the top of the old shed where we ate our jellybeans while gazing at the clouds above us, dreaming about our enchanted futures.

beehive mailbox (c) Kristin Espinasse boite à lettres fait d'une ruche
(Jean-Marc made our beehive mailbox when he tended bees back at our vineyard)

When I finally made it to college (on probation) I began to have doubts as graduation approached. What could I do with a degree in French besides go on to grad school? Yes! I would go on to grad school, then to super grad school. A masters then a Ph.D!

On learning about my plans, my down-to-earth sister had a memorable pep talk with me: You can't make a career out of school! 

Without Heidi's encouragement, I might still be writing my thesis instead of this "thrice-weekly" column from France, where I moved instead of into a graduate dorm (at Thunderbird School of Global Management... Not that I would have ever passed the entrance exam!)

boulanger mailbox and "plus de pain" (c) Kristin Espinasse boite à lettres chez le boulanger
Look at the French handwriting on the "no more bread today sign" in the baker's window. The pretty cursive reminds me of Heidi's neat penmanship, which is as unchanging she is. (You know what they say about lovely people: don't ever change!)

I once had the surreal experience of judging my own penmanship. When I say surreal, this is because I was in the unusual position of objectively seeing the writing. It happened one day when I noticed a card on my mom's nightstand and, reaching over to read it, I was struck by the untamed handwriting. The cursive leaned forward or backward--sometimes the letters were straight up and down. No two "e" were the same. The Y's had curly tails on one line, on the next they were uncurled.

"Whoever wrote this is a little flaky!" I remember thinking, dubious about Mom's latest admirer... when next my eyes fell on the signature. It was my own.

(I'm against handwriting analysis, as you can sympathize. Though I do believe my sister's handwriting--flowing, elegant, structured--happens to hint at her personality.)

hidden mailbox (c) Kristin Espinasse boite à lettres caché

Continuing on with the bits and pieces about our sistership, I will never forget our New York trip, around 2006. I was excited to meet with my first editor, at Simon and Schuster! My sister and a group of ladies met up with me to celebrate. I wanted to blog about our girls getaway, but I worried about privacy. Heidi is a private person, I told myself. She will not want me to post her photo or talk about her.

So I made up my mind to post about other parts of that NYC trip... and to this day my sister teases me: "Remember that time you went to NYC all by yourself? she snickers, referring to the fact that I did not post one photo of our girls group (and there were some FUN pics to be sure!)

Her light-hearted comment made me realize how I tend to assume that people are one way... when really they might be completely different! I thought I knew my sister through and through; instead, I continue to learn about her each time we spend time together.

municipal mailbox (c) Kristin Espinasse boîte à lettres municipale

 What else did I want to tell you about my sister (no, that's not her there on the right), now that I  know I can dish out the goods? Just kidding, Heidi! Your secret's safe with me. Not that you have many. If you did would you tell me? Of course you would! I'm your sister! (a blabbermouth no more. That was then. This is maintenant!) 

...That brings me to French. Heidi spoke it first. (She took writing first, too.) That makes me a copycat, which is a little sister's birthright!

Sack of potatoes mailbox (c) Kristin Espinasse boite à lettres sac de patates
If mailboxes were people this one would be me. I think Heidi would agree. I may live in France and my life may seem glamorous but inside I'm still that potato-bellied little kid. I ate all the Dolly Madison's. I ate all the bologney sandwiches. I ate all the Pop Rocks. You did all the dishes after preparing the sandwiches and letting me have the last Hostess Cupcake. You still make sure everyone's got something to eat. 

mailbox in tree (c) Kristin Espinasse boîte à lettres dans un arbre
Second-to-last mailbox photo... time to bring this birthday tribute to a close...

Here is one of your biggest fans. Jean-Marc is always asking, "Have you talked to Heidi? How is Heidi? What's new with Heidi?" It's true. We all are fascinated by your life. That makes you a rock star (and we, the groupies). 

... I was going to say "guppies" instead of groupies and I'm smiling now, thinking again about the good old days when I would catch guppies and you were the groupie (Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin). Remember when Mom burned your Stairway to Heaven album? Afraid we'd receive subliminal messages!

Sacré Mom. She did the best she could. Looking at you, I'd say she did an amazing job.

With lots of love, and wishes for a Happy Birthday. I love you, Heidi!


 To comment on this story, click here. (Feel free to wish Heidi a happy birthday. The more wishes, the merrier!)  

French Vocab
un anniversaire de naissance = birthday
sacré = sacred, almighty ("sacré Mom" in this story is used in this sense: "You gotta appreciate our mom!" or "what a character Mom is!" 

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Marseilles mailboxes (c) Kristin Espinasse boites à lettres marseillaises

Mailboxes in Marseilles. Did you enjoy this mailboxes edition? To comment, click here.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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cheveux blancs

Our son, Maxime, examines some weight-lifting equipment on his birthday. Notice the patch, just above his ear (read on, in today's story...). Never miss a word of photo: get French Word-A-Day delivered by email, here

les cheveux blancs (lay sheh veuh blahn)

    : white hair


le cheveu gris = gray hair
les cheveux poivre et sel = salt-and-pepper hair

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words: Download MP3 or Wav file

A seize ans, notre fils, Maxime, a déjà quelques cheveux blancs!
At sixteen, our son, Max, already has a few gray hairs! 

Check out Easy French Reader: A fun and easy new way to quickly acquire or enhance basic reading skills. Click here to order.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Sage at Sixteen

Well, Mr. Max, you turned 16 yesterday! And, mon pauvre fils, we spent the landmark occasion doing errands, or les courses, but you did not complain.

Having picked you up from collège, we headed over to Orange, for your appointment chez l'orthodontiste. From time to time, as I drove, I would look over at you, Max, as you sat there in the passenger's seat, earplugs in, listening to your favorite song, Mocking Bird. A cloud of calmness settled over you and I had to ask, a few times, "Est-ce que ça va?" You assured me it was.

Now and then, my eyes fixed on that patch, over your left ear. I'll never forget when, earlier this week as you sat in the coiffeuse's chair, the hairdresser shut off the electric shaver and announced, Votre fils a des cheveux blancs!

Unbelieving, I got up out of my chair and went to see the very same: a patch, no bigger than the tip of an eraser, of white hair! 

You were pretty cool about that, too, taking the information in stride, just as you are taking this afternoon of errands with the same calm and collectedness.

When we pull into the grocery store drive-through, to collect our commande, you ask whether it's too late to buy a can of sirop de menthe....

But when I try to amend our order, the machine balks. After several attempts to add the sirop de menthe to our virtual cart, I dissolve into a mist of exasperation. My forefinger punches the menu screen until I finally give up.

That is when, Mon Fils, you quietly exit the car, come around to my side of the vehicle, and say in a soft voice: "I'm going to try to figure it out, Mom."


You may have received a few cadeaux on your birthday, but I wonder whether you are aware of the gift of peace and serenity that you have clearly shown me, this week? Your newly-won patience was again evident in the car ride, at the grocer's and, later, at the sports-goods store, where we would try out a gamme of weight-lifting equipment, only to leave the shop empty-handed when all of those "promotions" added up, costing your mother a lot of confusion. I needed time to figure things out--to decide just which set of barbells, which bench press, which curl bar... would be best for a growing boy. When I broke the news to you, I braced myself for your disappointment. Instead, you responded with a tender smile, and that serene gleam in your eye. "T'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre."

Last night at the dinner table, after blowing out your birthday candles, you told Grandma Jules and me that you have had a very long life, that it feels as though you had been around forever - and not a mere 16 years.

As I listen to your wondrous thoughts, my eyes return to that patch of gray, just above your ear. Though I don't understand the metaphysics of time and space, of one thing I am certain: in my hopes, in my prayers, in my wishes and in my far-flung dreams... forever, my dear son, you have been with me.


Smokey and Braise (c) Kristin Espinasse
Smokey (left) and Momma Braise illustrate that tender, mysterious, and sacred Mother-Son bond. (Photo taken in 2009, when Smokey was a wee whippersnapper.)

Le Coin Commentaires

Corrections, comments, or stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. 

  French shopping bag I Heart Paris Shopper: made of recycled material. 1-Percent of the sale of this bag will support the conservation work of the nature conservancy. Order the I Heart Paris bag here.

French Vocabulary

 sage = wise

mon pauvre fils = my poor son

Orange = a city in the Vaucluse

est-ce que ça va = is everything OK?

la coiffeuse = hairdresser

Votre fils a des cheveux blancs! = Your son has some white hair!

le cadeau = present

la commande = order

le sirop de menthe = mint syrup

mon fils = my son

la gamme = the (product) range

(ne) t'inquiète pas, Maman. Je peux attendre = don't worry, Mom. I can wait

le cadeau = gift, present

And how about a Reverse dictionary for some of the English terms?:

now and then = de temps en temps

a patch (of white hair) = une tache

to take something in stride = accepter quelque chose sans sourciller

empty-handed = les mains vides

une bougie = candle

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We had to round up some candles... (1 = 10... +1 x 6!) (left to right: Kristin, Jackie, Max)

Max, I love your smile, I love your engaging sense of humor, I love that twinkle in your eye, that faith that says "I will try". I think you are cool (I think you're a geek), I think you are intense, I think you are very, so very sweet. Enigmatic, charismatic, diplomatic... are just a few words to describe you, Mr. Moose (from "Maximousse", not his name, but a term of endearment all the same). The two photos, above, are by Jean-Marc. The one below Jackie took.

Kristin and Jean-Marc (c) Jackie Espinasse
Max, you have brought so much joy to our lives. Your mom and dad thank you (and your sister, too, though she won't admit her appreciation just yet!).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Joyeux Anniversaire, Chief Grape!

Jean-Marc Espinasse
"Vintage 1967"

Joyeux Anniversaire, Chief Grape! To leave a birthday wish for Jean-Marc, click here.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ Give $10    
♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice

To purchase our book-in-progress, click here.