A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.
A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.


crapahuter (krah-pah-ew-tay)

    : to clamber, crawl, trek, or yomp

 Also: to plough along, to trudge, to schlepp

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Pour accèder à la petite crique, on doit crapahuter sur les rochers.
To access the little sea inlet, we have to scamper over the rocks.


    by Kristin Espinasse

Extraordinaire. C'était extraordinaire! When Jean-Marc returned from his latest swim, he was shaking his head in disbelief. "You can't believe the site I just found. Ten minutes from here, there's a natural baignoire full of seaweed. I just had a bain d'algues for free. Some people pay a 1000 for this at a thalassotherapy spa!"

My husband has been trying to lure me to the sea for some time and this enthusiastic report was yet another attempt. "We'll go in the evening before the sun sets. You won't have to worry about le soleil."

I'm touched by all these swimming invitations. And yet I can't explain my resistance, or understand how a former fish turned into a fish out of water. But there's no use over-thinking things. That joy of gliding sous l'eau and floating above it is in here somewhere. Now where did I put my bathing suit

"Wait for me! I'm coming!" I shouted, when next Jean-Marc headed for the port.

Soon we were walking along a pine-scented plateau (a favorite spot for exercising our dogs). Approaching our destination, I began to wonder what escalader means to Jean-Marc. (He had assured me we could easily access the natural swimming hole--une petite escalade was all it would take to get down to it. Petite? I have learned that words and concepts appear differently in my husband's mind than they do in my own. What's small to him is big to me and vice versa, whether the subject is minutes or mountains). 

"Here we are," Jean-Marc says when we reach the end of the plateau where the land falls off to the sea, literally. I look down at a pile of boulders.... Even if we manage to scale them, what if one lands on our head? Instead of further self-questioning, I try a pep talk."You've watched too many 911 dramas on TV," I tell myself, "and all those newspaper "shock" headlines haven't helped. Don't let the media steal your joy ever again! You've got a good head on your shoulders and God gave you a gut feeling--now let these be your guide!" 

A quarter of the way down the rocky gorge, I had to call my husband on his choice of vocabulary. "I'm not sure escalader is the word...."

I had visualized an upright descent instead of this by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure. But clinging to the rocks like a crab--and advancing like one--felt like the safest bet. Like this, with my feet leading and my hands trailing just behind--my body horizontally clamped to the rocks--I scampered down to the sea.

Jean-Marc congratulated me on arrival. On a bien crapahuté! he said, finding the precise term for our descent. Next he turned towards the sea. "Well, what do you think?"

"I think you are right. You have found a special spot--un petit bijou!"

But we weren't there yet. If we wanted to swim in the sea (before enjoying the bain d'algues--easier to access) we needed to do some more clambering. This time vertical:

"Hug the rock wall," Jean-Marc said, guiding me out to Le Grand Bleu. I was grateful for the plastic shoes he bought me. My feet now gripped the rocks and were protected from sharp "underwater things" (like oursins). 

"Très bien!" Jean-Marc cheered.  "Now you've got to dive!" Jean-Marc was smiling through his diving mask, waving a bright red star fish in his hand. "So much to see out here--come on in and join me!"

Looking out to sea, I wondered how far those "sharp underwater things" continued. Not too far it seemed... I could now see the seafloor drop off once again. All it would take is a good aim. Go, go, go.... my mind chanted along with my husband's outward cheers. Allez! Allez!

Plouf! A cold sensation ran over my scalp to course over the entire surface of my body. What a feeling! I remember this now! It's all coming back--like a hot summer day in the desert. Gliding through the water at the neighborhood pool, the stifling heat left my 10-year-old body, giving way to cool imaginings. I might have been a fish out of water who'd tumbled in... or I might have been an adult on the seacoast of some fancy foreign country--or both, as I am here today.

"What are you thinking about?" Jean-Marc said, floating beside me.

"The good old days.... and the good ol' today." 


*    *    *


la baignoire = bath

le bain d'algues = seaweed bath

le thalassotherapie = spa treatment seawater as therapy  

le soleil = sun

sous l'eau = under the water

escalader = to scale (a mountain)

un petit bijou = a little gem
le grand bleu = Mediterranean sea 

très bien
= well done

un oursin = sea urchin 

plouf! = sound made when one jumps into the water

  Epices (c) Kristin Espinasse

Classic French Recipes in these Recipe-Stories:

Cake Aux Olives - This olive loaf makes a delicious hors d'oeuvre or snack -- or you can serve a few slices for lunch, alongside a salad!

Yogurt Cake is good any time of year. Now that we have zucchini à gogo in the garden, I'll be shredding it and making a gâteau au yaourt à la courgette. 

Mint and Goat Cheese Quiche - Scroll to the end of this post for the easy recipe. If you've got mint growing in your garden - this will be a delicious standby! 

For the three other recipes I mentionned last time (Tomato Tart, No Grudge Fudge, and Love-ly Fruit Salad), go here and scroll down the page.  


Blossoming in ProvenceRecent review of Blossoming in Provence (thanks, Jack!):

 Her use of French words and their meaning is a very helpful way for the reader to improve his of her knowledge on French. It is, incidentally the sort of book that one can read many times and still find it a pleasure.  --Jack

Order a copy here for yourself or a friend.


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 help 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!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

calanque & bilingual post, by Jean-Marc

Today's post is in French and English - and you can listen to it, too!

une calanque (kah-lahnk)

    : an inlet from the sea, a cove

Capture plein écran 11102012 102109
To give you an idea of what a calanque can look like... via Google images. Ever visited a calanque? Which one? Comments welcome here.

 Audio file: listen to today's word, as well as the following story... (see links, just below)

A Day in Chief Grape's New Life...

a wine-maker  takes a break from a pressing work schedule... to chill out by the sea

  =>Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc read his storyDownload mp3 or wave file

Hier, nous avons accueilli mon meilleur ami Frederic, parrain de Maxime, et dont je suis le parrain de son fils Matthieu. Dans la matinée et malgré des nuages, je suis allé pêcher quelques oursins pour l'apéritif. Ensuite j'ai fait un barbecue pour cuisiner des côtes de porc marinées avec quelques petits oignons ramassés de notre jardin et que Kristi avait coupé en morceaux. Ensuite, nous nous sommes régalés de toutes les salades du potager,  jeunes pousses que Kristi avait cueillies le matin même.

Yesterday, we welcomed my best friend Frederic, godfather of Maxime, and to whom I am godfather of his son, Matthieu. In the morning and despite the clouds, I went to hunt a few sea urchins for hors d'oeuvres. After, I started a barbecue to cook the marinated pork chops with a few small onions that Kristi had cut into pieces. Next, we enjoyed all of the garden salads, young leaves that Kristi had picked that same morning.
Après ce délicieux repas et puisque le ciel s'était dégagé, nous avons décidé d'aller à la plage. Kristi et moi avions des sandales mais comme Maxime a décidé de nous amener dans une calanque isolée, avec une plage pleine de gros cailloux, il a fallu être adroit pour ne pas se tordre la cheville. Enfin arrivés, les garçons ont sauté du haut d'un rocher à 5 m de l'eau (et 12 m pour Maxime), dans une mer relativement mouvementée.

After this delicious meal, and because the sky had cleared, we decided to go to the beach. Kristi and I had on sandals but, as Maxime decided to take us to a remote cove, with a beach full of big rocks, we needed to be adept in order not to sprain our ankles. Once there, the boys jumped from high up on a rock, 5 meters above the water (and 12 meters for Maxime), into a sea that was relatively turbulent.


Au retour, Matthieu qui va avoir 10 ans la semaine prochaine, m'a demandé si je pouvais lui faire goûter mon vin. J'étais enchanté de cette demande venant de mon filleul et comme son Papa a acquiescé,  je lui ai servi quelques millilitres de notre cuvée Dentelle.  J'étais fier de voir qu'il semblait aimer ce vin qui représente tant pour moi.

On the way back, Matthieu, who will be 10 years old next week, asked me if I would offer him a taste of my wine. I was delighted by this request coming from my godson and as his father consented, I served him a few millimeters of our Dentelle vintage. I was proud to see that he seemed to like the wine which represents so much to me.
La journée était déjà malheureusement finie et il était temps pour nos amis de rentrer. Moi, j'étais simplement heureux d'avoir passé une journée avec ma famille et mes bons amis.

The day was already, sadly, over and it was time for our friends to go back home. As for me, I was simply happy to have spent a day with my family and my good friends.



Random Archive Stories

Exquis means exquisite. Meet another friendly and caring villager in this story, which takes place in Valréas. Click here.

Aléa means risk, hazard, chance. One of these words describes our unique repurposed beehive mailbox... Story and pictures here. Missing that mailbox...

Do you have any story archive favorites? Please share them here, in the comments box


La nostalgie: Jackie was 9, and Max, 11... Six years ago on the Island of Groix.



 Remember this picture? Taken at a nearby calanque, the day we discovered the mas that would become our new home!

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 help 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!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.