Jamais Deux Sans Trois: Road Rage, A Flat Tire (Bad Things Come in Threes)

Jules passenger looking over the vineyard in St Cyr sur Mer
"Precious Cargo." Jules, at Mas des Brun vineyard in St Cyr-sur-Mer (That's Jean-Marc in the pink shirt, behind his tractor)

TODAY'S WORD: Jamais Deux Sans Trois

    : bad things come in threes

Are you an expat in France (or anywhere outside the US) and need to file your taxes?
Good news: you have an automatic extension through June 17. I am using Expatfile again this year to complete mine quickly and easily, and highly recommend it. Click here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last week may have been the most challenging since my husband left for New Zealand. On Sunday, owing to an old and faulty serrure on our front door, I found myself locked out of the house upon returning from church. I hurried around the corner to Mom’s, put all the groceries I’d just bought into her frigo, and ran back to carefully work the key lest it break inside the lock. Forty-five minutes later, the sluggish lock relented. Quel miracle! Another answered prayer, along with the relief of stepping into a cool house! Despite the initial victory, the week was full of trials, each day punctuated by some disaster or another, whether that was Ricci busting a stitch (she nibbled the area) following her operation or the bathroom sink leaking again. And can you believe it all ended with un pneu crevé?

I was lying in bed at week’s end, agonizing about the car when my daughter came into the room. It was 11 at night and she’d just finished a long shift at a bar in Cassis. “Don’t worry about the flat tire, Mom. I'll take care of it.” The next day Ms. Fix-It bought one of those aerosol tire inflators–le dépanne-crevaison for 15 bucks (everyone should have one in their bagnole!), filled the tire with air, and drove to a nearby garage to have both back tires changed. Next, she phoned Max’s girlfriend, Ana, to ask her to drive Grandma and me to the next appointment in Gardanne. (Having unknowingly pierced the tire on the way home from Thursday’s rendez-vous, Jules and I were lucky the tire didn’t burst, sending us skidding across the autoroute!) 

Autoroute south of france
Who wouldn't be skittish when 18 lanes merge after this toll?! Better hurry over to the right, exit Toulon!

"Mom, you are out of practice. Let Ana drive you this time!” As bad as the week was, it was a lesson in asking for help, something that is hard for so many of us. Why is that so? 

Meantime, there was at least one funny moment (and a few misunderstandings) among all the little fiascos last week. The first malentendu happened when Mom showed up at the house, ready for our ride to the clinic. After Mom had carefully washed from head to toe with iodine for her clinic visit, I was surprised to see her wearing the mink hat she had found at the charity shop a few years ago.

“Mom, you’ll need to take off that hat,” I said, remembering that only sterile clothes could be worn after the special antiseptic shower.
“Well, I didn’t know my hat was controversial!” came Mom’s response.

“Oh, Mom!” I sighed, growing increasingly agitated.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that I understood Mom’s words. It was a simple misunderstanding between us (she thought I was judging her fur hat, while my only concern was the iodine bath!). I wish, instead of getting mad, I had simply asked Mom, “What do you mean by that?”

Onto misunderstanding number two and three…

Back in Marseille, arriving for Mom’s eye appointment, I was slowing down in time to look for a parking spot when the guy behind me began blaring his horn. It's been a while since I've experienced la fureur routière, or road rage, given I don't drive often. I cannot share with you here the string of four-letter words he hurled at me, this after an already nerve-racking drive to Marseille. Finally, I pulled aside, letting Monsieur Gros Mot pass. That is when I noticed another patient returning to his car. Quelle chance!

Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez?” I asked the man who was paused at the wall beside his car, his back toward me. He didn’t seem to hear me so I got out of my vehicle and began to approach when I recognized his curbed posture. Oh! Le monsieur fait pipi… 

Discreetly as possible I returned to the car and, for his dignity and my own, peeled off out of sight to the lower parking lot where, lo and behold, I ran into Monsieur Gros Mot again. I studied my pire ennemi: a thin man wearing a cap. He had found a parking spot and was now darting into the clinic, late, late for a very important date! I made a mental note to have a word with him in the salle d’attente. It might be a very awkward moment but after chauffeuring my precious cargo to her doctor's appointment, only to be raged at, my adrenaline was just ripe enough to give Gros Mot a piece of my mind.

Meantime, Mom pointed out a parking spot under the shade of a mulberry tree, and with great relief our 45-minute trajet ended. We made it to Jules' appointment on time.

The doctor, wearing a surgical cap and glasses, seemed pressed, nevertheless, he was thorough. He hesitated before leading us past a full waiting room, to an office where he had another machine. There he took the time to examine Mom’s eyes until he concluded, “I cannot give your mom the eye injection today. She has inflammation in both eyes. C'est l'uvéite.” 

The eye doctor dictated a note to a colleague before giving me the address of a specialist in Gardanne. All I could think at that moment was, how am I going to drive there, given the morning’s stressful voyage? (Thankfully Jackie and Ana would solve this problem for me later that day.)

On the way home, hesitating at a fork in the road before the freeway entrance I hit a curb and the car lurched. Ouf! That was close! I made it onto the freeway and even passed a few semi-trucks. It wasn’t until later that evening that I saw the flat tire and realized our good fortune after Mom and I didn’t have our tire blow up!

There was a lot to be thankful for including the experienced eye doctor who had taken his time with Mom. 60-something with a wiry build and longish salt and pepper hair, it suddenly dawned on me: the doctor looked just like Monsieur Gros Mot back at the parking lot….

No! He couldn’t be! I thought, of the potential ironic twist in our morning adventure. Then again both men were pressed and in a hurry... Could it be that Gros Mot was the eye doctor who was late for the afternoon shift? The thought of a villain-turned-virtuous amused me to no end. Well, speaking of endings, Tout est bien qui finit bien! All’s well that ends well. We had a caring doctor (no matter who he might have been before he walked into that office). It all goes to show it is never too late to put your best foot forward, de faire de son mieux :-) 

Update: Ana drove us to the appointment at the specialist’s in Gardanne, where Mom received some bad news. It is a severe case of bilateral uveitis and she’ll need to go the the hospital in Marseilles for more tests and possibly some antibiotics to treat an infection. Please keep Jules in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to our angel driver Ana, who offered to drive us to Marseilles for an afternoon of testing, this Tuesday, for Mom.

To leave a comment or a helpful correction, click here.



Click here to listen to the French pronunciation

jamais deux sans trois = bad things come in threes
la serrure = lock
le frigo = fridge
quel miracle! = what a miracle!
le pneu crevé = flat tire
le dépanne crevaison = aerosol tire repair and inflator
la bagnole = car (in informal French)
l'autoroute (f) = freeway
le rendez-vous = appointment
le malentendu = misunderstanding
la fureur routière = road rage
quelle chance!
= what luck!
Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez? = Excuse me, Sir. Are you leaving?
faire pipi = to go pee
Monsieur Gros Mot = Mr. FoulMouth
le pire ennemi = worst enemy
la salle d'attente = waiting room 
le trajet = trip, journey
l'uvéite = uveitis, inflammation of the uvea
ouf! = whew!
Tout est bien qui finit bien! = All’s well that ends well
faire de son mieux = to put your best foot forward 


Mille mercis to the following readers for sending in a blog donation this past week. This is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!

Lori R.
Erin K.
Donna B.
C-Marie P.
Patricia N.

I love your work! --Lori

Thank you for the fun adventures, Kristi!! And good health to Ricci and blessings to Jacqui!! --C-Marie

Ana and Max
My son Max and his girlfriend, Ana. Picture taken in a Photomaton, or photo booth. Did you catch a typo in this post? Thanks for letting me know in the comments.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Le Ravin: Jean-Marc's car accident in the French Alps

Today's Word: le ravin

    : ravine, a deep or seemingly bottomless chasm...

Audio File: Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the last sentence in his story, below.

A BILINGUAL STORY  by Jean-Marc Espinasse

(English version follows, below)

Puisque que la météo avait prévu de la neige dans les Alpes, je me suis décidé à partir tout seul ce weekend pour faire de la randonnée en profitant de cette première neige fraîche de l'année. J'avais déjà utilisé notre petit Jimny 4X4 pour venir dans les Alpes alors qu'il neigeait et j'avais pu vérifier que cette voiture avait une bonne tenue de route dans ces conditions là.

Mais ce soir, la neige était très glissante et vers minuit à presque 1 km de mon arrivée finale un petit animal a traversé la route. À vrai dire je ne sais pas si j'ai mis un coup de frein ou si j'ai mis un coup de volant pour l'éviter, ce qui est sûr c'est que la voiture est partie en travers et qu'elle est entrée dans le ravin. Vous pouvez imaginer l'effroi et l'horreur que j'ai vécu, ne sachant pas, pendant cette chute, si ce ravin était pentu, s'il était long, s'il y avait des arbres , une rivière... bref je me suis véritablement vu mourir. Cette descente infernale dans ce ravin n'a duré peut-être que deux ou trois secondes mais pour moi elle a duré une éternité.

La voiture est miraculeusement restée sur ses quatre pneus puis elle a stoppé net. Heureusement j'avais ma ceinture de sécurité et j'ai été franchement étonné de savoir que j'étais en vie, sans aucune blessures. J'ai réussi à ouvrir la portière malgré la neige je me suis rendue compte de la chance que j'ai eue puisque la voiture n'as pas fait de tonneaux dans ce ravin très pentu. Il m'a fallu 30 minutes pour grimper, à l'aide des branches de buissons, les 15 m de dénivelé enneigés et rejoindre la route où un ami était venu à mon secours.

Après une très mauvaise nuit de sommeil je me suis réveillé sans courbatures et j'ai trouve les personnes qui m'ont aidé à remonter la voiture sur la route. Il a fallu un tracteur agricole avec un treuil, un porte-char pour amener le tracteur sur le lieu le travail et enfin un camion avec plateau pour pouvoir mettre la voiture accidentée dessus et l'amener chez le garagiste. Trois officiers de police sont également venus pour couper la route pendant cette opération délicate. Après avoir attaché la voiture aux câbles, le très puissant treuil du tracteur a réussi à la remonter au bord de la route sans aucun souci. Quel a alors été mon étonnement de voir que la voiture n'était pratiquement pas accidentée et que le moteur a démarré au quart de tour.

Le soir de cet accident, il y avait un tirage du loto historiquement élevé. Je n'ai pas joué à ce jeu mais j'ai quand même eu l'impression d'avoir gagné le gros lot. Je n'ai eu aucune blessures, la voiture n'a pas eu besoin d'être réparée et j'ai finalement pu profiter de cette neige fraîche, à l'origine de mon accident mais qui a également amorti et évité le pire dans ma course folle au sein de ce ravin.


Since the weather forecast had called for snow in the Alps, I decided to go alone this weekend to hike, taking advantage of this first fresh snow of the year. I had already used our little Jimny 4X4 to come to the Alps while it was snowing and I had been able to verify that this car had good handling in these conditions.

But tonight the snow was very slippery and around midnight, almost 1 km from my final arrival, a small animal crossed the road. To tell the truth, I don't know if I put on the brakes or if I used the steering wheel to avoid it, what is certain is that the car took off sideways and so entered into the abyss. You can imagine the dread and horror I experienced, not knowing, during the fall, if this ravine was steep, if it was long, if there were trees, a river ... in short I truly saw myself dying. This hellish descent into the abyss only lasted maybe two or three seconds, but for me it lasted forever.

The car miraculously stayed (upright) on its four tires and then came to a stop. Luckily I had my seat belt on and I was frankly amazed to know that I was alive with no injuries. I managed to open the door despite the snow and realized how lucky I was since the car did not roll over in this very steep ravine. It took me 30 minutes to climb out, using the branches of the bushes, the 15 m of snow-covered vertical drop, and reach the road where a friend had come to my aid.

After a very bad night's sleep, I woke up with no body aches and found some people who helped me get the car back on the road. It took an agricultural tractor with a winch (a hoist), and a tank loader, to bring the tractor to the area and finally a truck with a platform to be able to put the damaged car on it and take it to the garage. Three police officers also came to cordon off the road during this delicate operation. After having attached the car to the cables, the very powerful winch of the tractor managed to raise it to the side of the road without any problem. I was astonished to see that the car was hardly damaged and that the engine started at a quarter-turn (of the key).

On the night of this accident, there was a historically high lottery drawing. I didn't play this game but still felt like I had won the jackpot. I had no injuries, the car did not need to be repaired and I was finally able to take advantage of this fresh snow, which was the cause of my accident but which also cushioned and prevented the worst in this mad race into the abyss.

 Jean-Marc cross-country
Jean-Marc enjoying the snow.


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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Today is Armistice Day. Share about a Veteran.

War monunent allied forces fallen soldiers Normandy beach france moment of silence
By tradition, in France, two minutes of silence are respected at 11 am, the 11th day of the 11th month: it is at this time that the armistice was implemented. Listen to this sentence in French, just below.


    : also known as Le Jour du Souvenir, and Veterans Day, November 11th is an official day to remember those who sacrificed their lives in WWI and other wars

Armistice soundfile: Hear Jean-Marc read the following sentence

En France, il est traditionnellement respecté deux minutes de silence à 11 h, le 11e jour du 11e mois : c'est à ce moment que l'armistice a été rendu effectif. -Wikipedia

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The following story may seem an unusual rememembrance, on Veterans Day, until you read to the end.

In the winter of 2001, I left work at the vineyard each night to drive myself to driving school, careful to take the back roads and to park several blocks from the Auto-École Rivière. Though I had driven for ten years in the States, and another six in France, I had failed to exchange my Arizona driver's license for a French one, having had two years to do so. Time and again, Jean-Marc assured me that I had the right to drive in France (convinced that my AAA International Driving Permit was enough, never mind the expiration date), until one day he realized that his wife was driving without insurance (!!!); that is, should she get into an accident, the insurance contract would be void ($$$) without her having a French permis de conduire.

Having spent weeknights at driving school, attending class with would-be motorists half my age, and having finally passed l'épreuve théorique, or written exam, in the town of Fréjus, I would soon be navigating the streets of Draguignan... with a stone-faced inspecteur seated beside me.

On exam day, I shared the test vehicle with a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old who had just been ordered to pull over and get out. "Out! You are a danger to yourself and to others!" the inspecteur shouted. Seated in the back of the car, waiting my turn, I tried to understand just what my unfortunate classmate had done wrong, but was jolted out of my pensées when the inspector resumed his tirade.

"FAILED!" the inspecteur barked. He shouted a few more insults before the French kid got into the back of the car, at which point I was ordered into the driver's seat: "A vous, madame!"

"Allez-y!" the inspecteur commanded, checking his watch. I said a prayer to Saint Christopher, patron saint of safe travel (not knowing who the saint was for driver's-exam scoring), put on the left-turn signal, and drove out of the quiet neighborhood into the chaotic streets of Draguignan at rush hour.

"You don't need to be so obvious!" the inspector snapped when I threw my chin left after turn-signaling. Moments ago I'd signaled a right turn and thrown my chin over my right shoulder for good measure. We had been warned in driving school to exaggerate our gestures during testing to show the inspecteur that we were aware of those dangerous "angles morts" or blind spots. "Et les vitesses!" the inspector grumbled after I'd ground the gears once again. "Oh, but aren't cars automatic in America?!" he snickered.

Though I had been stick-shifting for sixteen years, seated next to the inspecteur I felt like I was operating a vehicle for the first time. Having completed the twenty-minute parcours through the center of Draguignan, where the unpredictable French pedestrian is king and capable of jumping from sidewalk to street center in the blink of an eye, I followed the inspecteur's instructions, pulling up in front of the American cemetery, which seemed like a bad omen to me. The inspecteur sat silently, filling out paperwork, before announcing it was time to check my vision. He ordered me to read the sign across the street. Squinting my eyes, I began:

"World War II Rhone American Cemetery and Memor...".

Before I had even finished reading, the inspector scribbled something across the page, tore off the sheet, and mumbled "Félicitations."

Ornery as he was, I had the urge to throw my arms around the inspecteur and plant a kiss beside his angry brow; only, the commandant was no longer facing me, but looking out over the quiet green fields dotted white with courage, lost in another place and time.

*     *     *

Books about the war in France...by our readers! If your French war-related book isn't mentioned, remind me and I'm happy to add it to the list

La Réunion: Finding Gilbert by Diane Covington-Carter

Alan's Letters, by Nancy Rial

Your name is Renée: Ruth Kapp Hartz's story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-Occupied France

French Vocabulary

Auto-École Rivière = Riviera Driving School
le permis (m) de conduire = driver's license
l'inspecteur (l'inspectrice) = inspector
la pensée = thought
A vous, madame = Your turn, Madam
Et les vitesses! = And the gears!
le parcours = driving route
les félicitations (fpl) = congratulations
le commandant = captain

Golden retriever and poppies veterans day armistice remembrance
It is soon to be 11 a.m. and Smokey and I are on our way down to the beach, to join others in a few moments of silence. Feel free to share something about Le Jour du Souvenir or Veterans Day, in the comments below.

Max and Jean-Marc
Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland. 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last ​US ​bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
​seeing them.

Houston, ​TX ​: December 13th at 7 PM

- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence, 13616 Memorial Drive, Houston Texas 77079. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 
Portland, ​OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird wine Shop ~Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM
Portland ​OR ​: December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
- Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego, OR 97035. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
For any questions, please Email Jean-Marc at [email protected]

Poppies in remembrance
Nous n'oublierons jamais. We will not forget. 


Back, now, from the beach. Smokey and I were seated on a bench, waiting for the 11th hour when a man walked into this very scene. A newsboy cap on his head, scraggly hair sticking out, and a fuzzy salt and pepper beard, he stood beside that tree and began to stare out to sea. His face was puffy and his eyes were glazed. I thought, He, too, must be observing Remembrance Day.

I had the urge to say something to him. Instead, I looked around to see if others had paused, as it was now exactly 11 a.m. There was a woman in the sea doing aerobics. A couple jogging by with their dog. A kid on a skateboard whirled by, right between the sad looking man and I. The man's seaward gaze broke. No, he, like the others, is thinking of something else, I thought.

Another moment later, a woman appeared a few meters away and the man turned and walked toward her. That's when the tears broke. He wiped his eyes on the back of each shirt sleeve. He had spent his moment of silence alone, as planned, and returned now to his companion.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Say ride share or car share in French: covoiturage

Ride or walk
What's your favorite way to get around France? Walk or ride? If you said "ride," then today's covoiturage tip is for you! 

le covoiturage (ko-vwah-tewr-ahzh)

    : rideshare, carshare, carsharing, carpool

Audio File and Example SentenceDownload MP3 or Wav file

BlablaCar est un service de covoiturage economique, ecologique et convivial. BlaBlaCar is a carpool service that's economical, ecological and convivial.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Fill 'er up with passengers!

Certain members of my family are enjoying a new and inexpensive and efficient way to travel around France: le covoiturage!

This all began a few weeks back, when Jean-Marc traveled to the west coast to see about more grapevines (he just can't help himself!). Chief Grape was going to take the train, but that would limit him sur place (how to get to those hilltop vineyards?). That's when he discovered BlaBlaCar.  

"The Paris-based BlaBlaCar helps match up drivers and passengers for long trips across Europe while avoiding the regulatory issues that have tripped up Uber." -csmonitor.com

While BlaBlaCar might not help a passenger get from sea-level to the top of those hilly vineyards (the service is more for city-to-city travel), as a driver my husband could enjoy those benefits and more for his séjour in Collioure (the coastal town where he'd be lodging, not far from appellation Banyuls)! 

Faster than you can say VROOM!, Jean-Marc was loading his car with his beloved bike and a bevy of complete strangers! Finding the passagers was easy: all my husband had to do was type in his departure and arrival coordinates. BlaBlaCar then begins its interrogation: "would you be willing to pick up someone in Cassis? And in Marseilles? And in Montpellier?... All cities cited are right on the driven path, so a driver needn't go out of his way.

"The key competitive advantage of the company is that it’s much cheaper to share a ride than to take a train or a plane. The average 200 miles ride costs $25 on average." -Techcrunch.com article on BlaBlaCar

You never know what kind of car you'll travel in, when you sign up for covoiturage. But if you happen to get our car (a family van) it will be a little cozier than the one above--if not as charming!

This morning Jean-Marc headed for the Alps, where he'll be roughing it for next three days (I'm staying behind, to meet a few writing deadlines--or, to say it another way: I don't do well camping all night and biking all day with large groups of people!).

My husband left an hour earlier than scheduled after the BlaBlarCar app informed him last night of a new potential passenger--just up the road in La Ciotat. 

"You're going to get up at 4 a.m. instead of 5, just so you can have one more passenger? Is it really worth it?" I asked, amazed.

But I don't need to hear the answer, I can already understand the satisfaction of filling one's car to the brim with paying travelers! (I'm remembering back to that solo and pricy aller-retour I made to airport in Nice last month, to pick up my daughter. Instead of paying $60 in gas and toll fees, I could have cashed in on a car full of passengers and enjoyed some company along the way!)

"There's even a social aspect to it: The app's name derives from just users rate themselves on how chatty they want to be in the car, from “Bla” to “BlaBlaBla." (Christian Science Monitor article on BlaBlaCar)

Speaking of my daughter, she is the latest fan of covoiturage. Recently Jackie opted for rideshare instead of taking the train from St. Cyr to Aix-en-Provence--saving herself 10 euros (15 euros one way to Aix, only 5 euros when you share the ride). She and her best friend were chauffered by a young law student from Sanary sur Mer. (Jean-Marc and I checked out his profile on BlaBlaCar's website and verified passenger feedback. We could also note his phone number, which is more than we could do had the girls secretly hitchhiked--as so many French kids do!)

When I called my Mom in Mexico, telling her about the new and inexpensive way to travel across France, she begged for a return visit. "I want to go to Aix... and Marseilles... and why not Paris!" Meantime she encouraged me to hop on the bandwagon. "Get out and see the world!" she cheered.

Now to get over my hang-up of sharing confined spaces. Maybe after that I'll go camping with my husband ... who'll then have to sacrifice one of his paid seats, just for me :-)

*    *    *
Post note: I wish BlaBlaCar had an affiliate program. I might have hit the jackpot after today's glowing review! Instead, the company encourages citizens to spread the word for free; in return we are making the world a little greener. How's that for compensation?

Ken kobre jean-marc espinasse

Kristi Ken Betsy Jean-Marc

What a chance to watch Ken Kobré (center) film Jean-Marc for Ken's documentary on rosé, "The Color of Wine." That's Betsy, Ken's charming wife and assistant, cradling a bottle of Domaine Rouge-Bleu. And there's Jean-Marc--can you see him in the window?

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Unlucky in French

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wave file

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.


"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.

Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

*    *    *

New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

en panne

Flax flowers

Never stop receiving these words and photos (this one, with flax flowers, taken in the back yard)

Today's word reminds me we need a Plan B! Recently I've learned that French Word-A-Day is not delivering to all subscribers. Rather than panic (changing mail carriers), I'll continue sending out these posts via Feedburner. But before we lose each other, please take a moment to connect with me here, via Twitter where I may update you au cas où, or in the event....  

panne (pan)

    : breakdown, failure

tomber en panne = break down (car)
une panne d'éléctricité = power failure
une panne sèche = out of gas
avoir une panne d'oreiller = ("a pillow breakdown") to oversleep

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence (and today's word and the phrase tomber en panneDownload MP3 or Wav file

Que faire en cas de panne ? 6 consignes pour préserver votre vie et celle de vos passagers si vous devez vous arrêtez sur la bande d'arrêt d'urgence. What to do in case your car breaks down? 6 instructions to save your life and those of your passengers if you have to stop on the emergency lane. --Autoroutes.fr

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Wearing her Panama hat and her Mexican poncho, Jules inhaled the fresh pine air and wiggled her toes, seemingly oblivious to the exhaust fumes trailing up from the road below. Not two days after she arrived in France, Mom was barefoot on the shoulder of the highway! She may have been shoeless and stranded after my car broke down, but she was smiling bright.

I sat down beside Mom, beneath a shady umbrella pine, and we waited as cars whizzed by. "Here, hold this." I handed over my purse as a makeshift écritoire. Fishing out some old receipts, I scribbled "EN PANNE" across the flimsy paper. Next I colored in the ballpoint letters and tucked the notes on my car's front and back windows, sous les essuie-glaces.

"Lucky for us Max was home and is now coming to the rescue," I chirped, mirroring Mom's  attitude. She was in such a good mood--even after loosing a shoe (her sandal broke back at the pépinière, as we tromped up and down rows of apricot and cherry trees, eventually coming to our senses and choosing a specimen that would fit in my small Citroën).

Mom and the Papyrus 

Shooting the breeze as we waited, I thanked Mom for the tall, leafy papyrus, which was recovered from the passenger seat and now stranded beside us, here on the bande d'arrêt d'urgence. "I've got another pair of sandals for you!" I added, remembering my collection--all gifts from mon beau-père John, who sends them along with Mom each time she comes to visit from her home in Mexico.

When my son arrived, I argued when he got into my car and tried to start it. "I wouldn't do that if I were you! There is a really strange odor... What if the car explodes?!

Max brushed me off and got into my car and--amazingly--drove off! I watched as the car lurched forward and back, all the way up the road. 

"What is he doing?!" 

"He is taking care of things," Mom announced. "He's 19 years old. His friends' cars must break down all the time, Honey. He knows what he is doing."

Five minutes later Max was running back to us, sans voiture. "I found a parking space opposite the mechanic's."

"He's just saved you a hundred dollar tow fee," Max's grandmother pointed out. "Smart kid!"

Normally, when my son's street smarts kick in, I remind him he gets his brains from me (nevermind I was last in my class to graduate). But this time it was normal to give credit to the bright-eyed grand-mère who stood clasping her hands in admiration.

Looking at my son (who finishes high school this week) I had to admit, "You get those brains from Grandma Jules!"

Max won't be graduating last in his class, because he's madly studying for the baccalauréat. Wish him luck! He'll need to pass this high school exam to make it into a university.

To respond to this story, click here


 Son Max, his grand-mère Jules, and the papyrus she gave us. The sign above the tip of Mom's hat is serendipidous. It reads Merci. Thanks Max!

My beautiful maman. Plates full of salad and jam jars filled will water, we're enjoying every moment together, Mom and I! Those are Jean-Marc's muddy docksiders in the background--beside another bouquet of his vineyard wildflowers.


tomber en carafe = slang for to break down on the side of the road
une écritoire = writing tablet
en panne = broken down
un essuie-glace = windshield wiper
la pépinière = plant nursery
bande d'arrêt d'urgence = emergency lane
le beau-père = stepfather, father-in-law

Jean-marc and vines

In other happenings, Jean-Marc scored when a wine nursery gave him a couple dozen orphans! These Tibouren vines are an ancient variety primary grown in Provence. See the babies, above, with their waxy red "hats". The shoots will soon break through the wax and leaves will appear. Presto, a grape is born!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Flic: A near-collision with the cops!

1-Eileen DeCamp
Thank you, Eileen DeCamp, for your photo vignette of Jean-Marc's wine & my First French Essais! Eileen titled her picture, "Two of my favorite things!!!" With any chance, Eileen's photo, taken on Seabrook Island, SC, will work better than my publicity stunt, filmed here near Bandol!

le flic (fleek)


Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and example sentence
Download Flic or Wav

A Toulon, j'ai été poursuivie par un flic.
In Toulon, I was pursued by a cop.

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

Now that my daughter is in drivers' school, we, the chauffeurs and members of her family, are under constant surveillance.

"T'as pas le droit de doubler," Jackie points out, as I speed around the tiny car that was ahead of me. It's one of those voitures sans permis, or "no permit needed" cars--owing to an engine so small it couldn't hurt a fly, or a flying saucer (i.e. faster-moving vehicles that usually require permits). 

Voiture sans permis

Normally my kids get a kick when Mom overtakes one of these "washing-machines," as they are the only other cars that travel as slowly as Mom does.

But back to Mom's misdemeanor... My daughter is right, that was a continuous white line (signaling "no passing!") and not a broken white line that allows drivers to "pass with care."

Yikes! What was I thinking? I must not have been thinking.

Gosh! I've really got to put on my thinking cap, especially now as we are entering the city of Toulon. Suddenly the autoroute forks--and forks again--until we find ourselves about to be swallowed up by an underground passage!

Mon Dieu! They've finally opened the tunnel! After more than a decade in the planning and a false start (the tunnel opened a few years ago, but quickly shut down because of a fault in engineering...). Since, it has become a favorite target for my husband's sarcasm. Each time we pass by the barricaded, would-be shortcut my husband snickers:

"Fine undergrounds we pay for in France! Maybe one day we can actually use them!"

Apparently this was the day. Only, crossing Toulon sous terre was not on our itinerary (the mid-town mall was)!

Seeing the signs to centre ville, I edged two lanes over, trying to avoid the city's underbelly. No sooner had I changed lanes, than a loud grumbling startled me. A glance in my foggy rear-view mirror revealed another car, inches away! 

As the driver blared his horn, the hairs on the back of my neck shot up and my heart raced. But the beads of sweat that had appeared on my brow were instantly dried as my arm flew up and began waving excitedly, along with my tongue, en franglais:

"Mais ça va pas? Gosh! Haven't you ever gotten lost, Mister!"

On second thought, that probably wasn't even a mister, but some just-got-his-license whippersnapper--one who was bent on correcting MOM!

This realization sent my arm waving wildly again. Road rage is a bad thing, but a wee waving of the finger (or arm) at the little big shot ought to teach him a lesson!

Only, a second glance in my rear-view mirror revealed a surprising detail. This was no little big shot. This was a cop!


"What's the matter, Mom?" my daughter's words were warm with concern.

"That's a flic! I just went ballistic on a flic!"


"Jackie! I can't translate right now. That's a policeman behind me!" 

Our voices grew silent as I studied the rear-view mirror. "Please God, please. Please. Please God..." I did a quick mental inventory of my purse, realizing both my driver's license and certificat d'immatriculation were back at home!

"Mom, there's nothing to worry about."

"Please God, no. Please no."

"Mom, that policeman is not going to pull you over!"

The quiet assurance in my daughter's voice caught my attention. I quit babbling in time to listen to Jackie, who enlightened me:

"He is the one that's breaking the law, not you!"

"Ah bon?"

"Blaring your horn at another driver can cause a serious accident," Jackie explained. "It stresses the driver, who might then panic, or even pass out!"

"You did nothing wrong," Jackie continued, confident in what she had just learned in drivers school. "You were only changing lanes!"

As my daughter spoke, I glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw the cop turn onto another road, and disappear.... My 16-year-old was right! Well that ought to teach the flic, the whippersnapper, not to give Mom a heart-attack next time she lawfully changes lanes!

To leave a comment or to read one, click here.

French Vocabulary

T'as pas le droit de doubler = you don't have the right to pass
la voiture sans permis = no-license car, license-free automobile
une autoroute = motorway, highway, freeway (US)
sous terre = under ground
centre ville = town center
mais ça va pas?! = What's the matter with you?!
mon Dieu = my God
certificat d'immatriculation = formerly "la carte grise" or car registration document
ah, bon? = oh, really?


Photos from a French Life... The red iron bed once held my daughter, then my Mom as she recovered from her first mastectomy. Then my brother-in-law slept there, months and months, healing from a broken heart. After, the bed moved poolside, but any lounging there was shortlived when my husband decided to set his 500 liter wine barrels there to rest on the springs (a good night's sleep for his wine?). 

A little bent out of shape now, here is the iron bed's current life--in the permaculture garden behind the house. That peeping Tom, in the right-hand corner, is really a flowering fava bean. Spend more time in a garden. There's so much going on in a veggie patch! 

Book Update for First French 'Essais'!
The first week of publication book sales were nearing 800 copies! A promising start for a self-publisher... But things quickly slowed down by day 5. Maybe a publicity stunt was needed afterall? 

On day 8 (Thursday) I posted a video of a first attempt to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew! Plenty have tried this feat with a shoe, but with a paperback?...

Using my new book, I drove out that cork in under 20 whacks! Alot of people shared the video... but did book sales go up with viewcounts?

Hard to say, because something very strange happened instead... Readers began receiving notes from Amazon: shipping for First French Essais would be delayed one week. That was odd, given the book is printed on demand!

Next, I received a note from Amazon's publishing company. Here is what the senior publishing consultant said:

I've been aware of the success you've experienced with your title and I wanted to reach out to you personally to say, congratulations! We are thrilled for you and want you to know that we are here to support you in any way we can.

It is exciting to receive this kind of offer, and my mind is reeling with possibilities. Meantime, can a publishing company help me sell more books? Stay tuned.... 

Enter The Battered Book Giveaway! Winner gets the book used in the video! Find out why this battered book is meaningful to me: listen to my message near end of the video!

To Enter:

  1. Share the video
  2. Tell me (here, in this box) where you've shared it (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, with a French class, or via email).

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

rouler de nuit

ile de Groix (c) Kristin Espinasse
L'île de Groix, where we vacationed in 2006. We are heading back to Brittany, to a different island, on Friday.... Note: French Word-A-Day will be on break through August 3rd. 

rouler de nuit (roo-lay-deuh-nwee)

    : to drive through the night

 Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc's French: Download MP3 file or hear this Wave file

Pour rouler tranquille et au frais, roulez de nuit! To drive easy and in cool (temperatures), drive through the night!

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

Yesterday Jean-Marc made a last-minute reservation for a home rental on the Île de Ré. We were unsure whether we would go on vacation this year, due to a certain stand-by situation that has us on a roller coaster of emotion.

Briefly, we will be getting off that roller coaster and getting into our family van for the 9-hour drive west, to the coast of Bretagne. To avoid vacation traffic, or what the French call le chassé-croisé of July-August vacationers, we have decided, once again, to rouler de nuit.

The idea of driving through the night makes me nervous, but for Jean-Marc it is not an issue: my husband enjoys the cool night air, the open road, the backseat peace (sleeping kids), and the music he listens to as he drives (I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot of Manu Chao this year, after Jean-Marc returns from the concert in Nimes tonight).

This year, instead of fretting, I might focus on being a better co-pilot. One thing I can do is listen to my husband when he tells me to go ahead and get some sleep. This time, I'll try not to feel so guilty and, especially, I'll try not to startle every 15 minutes, when I wake up after dozing off....

"Are you OK? ARE YOU OK? You're sure you are OK?" I can't help but quiz the driver each time I spring awake. Jean-Marc responds by assuring me he is wide awake and I should rest easy, only, deep down I know that he is only human, capable of nodding off.... T'es sûr que ça va???

Experience reveals him to be an alert and precautious driver. He's driven us from France all the way to Croatia. He's driven from Sainte Cécile to Sicily. Those long hauls make this drive to Brittany a trip around the block. And should he tire, Jean-Marc knows when to pull off the road and sleep for an hour or two, or to ask me to take the wheel for a spell.

A spell! Yikes, that's just it! I worry about the continuum of the road and how it can coax a driver into a trance-like state. To avoid this trap, some drivers roll down the windows, chew gum, or spritz their faces with a spray bottle. Jean-Marc's precautions include a good nap the afternoon or evening of departure and a good supply of caffeinated soft drinks—along with the other astuces already mentioned.

How about you? What do you do to keep alert while behind the wheel? Thanks for sharing your tips here, in the comments box. We'll see you in two weeks... at which point we hope to have some good news to share with you!

P.S. After two skin cancer surgeries this year, driving in the dark is also a good precaution! Now to figure out what to do on this sunny vacation—when my family is at the beach the day long. How about an early morning swim or a late night dip? And this might be a good time to return to knitting, after giving up? Please share some sun-skirting ideas and activities here in the comments box. Many thanks in advance--and I hope you are remembering to wear sun block, too!

 I leave you with our itinerary...

View Larger Map

French Vocabulary

la Bretagne = Brittany

le chassé-croisé = comings and goings

rouler de nuit = drive through the night

t'es sûr que ça va = you're sure everything's OK?

une astuce = trick, tip, helpful idea


Father and daughter in 2006. 

Smokey says, Why can't I come with you? I promise not to ask "how long till we get there?" and I won't fight with the other kids in the back seat. Please, take me on vacation with you!" (Smokey, you and Mama Braise are headed to Uncle Jacques, in Avignon. He's going to spoil you rotten--fun, games, forbidden food--so no complaining!)

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

ceder le passage

Bull dog by the sea (c) Kristin Espinasse
Name this photo! Click here to add a picture title or a thought bubble. (Photo taken near St Cyr-sur-Mer).

céder le passage à quelqu’un

: to yield (when driving)

A Day in a French Life… by Kristin Espinasse

I woke up this morning with the nagging doubt that the kids might not make it to school today—worse, that we might be stranded on the side of the road, our thumbs awkwardly stuck out as we begged an early morning ride.

I should have filled the tank yesterday! And now, our car was almost out of gas. The nearest station is in Camaret, but that would mean backtracking. I could drive to Tulette, but was the pump open this early?

Just as I began calculating the distance from Sainte Cecile to Pierrelatte, Max offered  a solution. “There’s one near my collège. I’ll drive us there.”

Well, why not ? He has completed his cours de conduite, and the drive would count towards the 1000 hours kilometers of road time he would need to accumulate in order to get his license (but not before the age of 18).

Max, Jackie, and I buckle up and are soon on our way to Bollène, driving past fields of grapevines and little yawning villages, window shutters opening as we speed by. The morning sun feels good on our faces and the drive is relaxing, after all. As passenger, I feel pretty secure driving with our 17-year-old, who has completed an excellent driver’s training and knows the rules of the road by heart. He is probably a better driver than I am, but experience has merits of its own, namely precaution, which in my book trumps skill.

As we drive, I offer an ongoing commentary. “Always anticipate an obstacle—a little kid that bolts from a side street… or a dog… or a grand-mère or…”

Max interrupts. ”Mom, je sais!”

“I’m sure you know, Max. In fact, I think you are a very good driver and I feel safe riding with you. But it isn’t you I am worried about so much as the other driver out there. You must be alert! Practice defensive driving!”

Here Max shares the story about his driving instructor who had an accident in the very spot over which we are now driving. It was a head-on collision. He was driving with a new student.

“Did she survive?”

“Yes, the car just spun off the road… ”

The next few kilometers are passed in thoughtful silence. When Max picks up speed, I perk up.

“You need to slow down!” I remind him again. Only, for each reminder, Max has an argument.

“But Mom, the car is registering kilometers-per-hour, not MPH.”

It is too early for me to calculate (or divide?) kilometers to miles and so know whether Max is going too fast or too slow for my comfort zone. I cut to the point. “Well, it feels fast to me—so slow down!”

Nearing the village of Rochegude I have to look over at the odometer again.

“Max, what is the speed limit here?” 


“Then why are you going 84?”

“Mom! Old cars show a higher speed. We are really only going 80.”

“This is not an old car. Slow down!”

As we approach the gas station, it occurs to me that I won’t have to do the messy chore this time!

“Your driving instructors have taught you to fill the tank, haven’t they?”

“Yes,  but I can’t do it this morning. It will make my hands reek and I’ve got to go to school afterwards!”

I shake my head. He sure has an excuse for everything from faulty odometers to smelly gas pumps—and it all seems to work in his favor!

After I fill the tank, Max fires up the engine attracting the attention of the student in the next car’s passenger seat. Subtle Max, you are subtle! Careful, now, not to kill the engine as you did on the way in! You won't look so cool putt-putting out of here, just as you putt-putted your way in!

At the industrial roundabout in Bollène Max slows, observing the yield sign.

I watch as cars speed around the busy circle, or camembert. Although a little nervous, I trust that Max will take his time. Only, when a lumber truck passes carrying a forest of giant logs, I notice Max does not stop!

I watch as the semi-truck’s wheels spin past our car, which is presently entering the roundabout , right on the heels of the giant truck!

Our car slips in so close behind the semi that I fear we will be sucked in beneath the truck’s back tires. Looking up from the passenger seat, I now see a tower of lumber above us. The ends of the neatly cut trunks are so near our faces I can count the many circles that represent the tree’s age. Will we live as long?


In the school parking lot I am lecturing Max, who, as expected, has an argument for every point I make. And when he doesn’t have a point, he simply replies, “Quit screaming!”

Finally, I make an ultimatum:

“Max, you are NOT going to explain things away and have the last word each time! Now, listen closely. I am going to say it one more time and this time you will not interrupt me—do so and you will lose driving rights for two weeks!"

I finally get the chance to make my point without being cut off. “What you did was dangerous and there is no justifying it!”

I wait, lest one more peep come out of the reckless driver. When not one peep is made, I am satisfied and have to turn my face away, lest the smirk upon it degrade its authority.

Despite the grave situation that was now past us, it feels so good to have the last word. Cathartic, even! I can now see the allure “le dernier mot” has for my ever righteous kids!

But that self-righteous feeling soon gives way to simple humility and gratitude. Thank God none of us had the very last word this time!

French Vocabulary

le collège = junior high school

le cours de conduite = driver education

la grand-mère = grandmother

je sais = I know

le camembert = the popular round cheese is also a synonym for roundabout

le dernier mot = the last word




Max likes to lift things, just look at those arms!


Smokey likes to eat things. Just look at that tongue!


No matter what you like to do, it's nice to stop to rest and to look in a new direction. To comment on a photo, click here.


Click Millionaires
Very excited to be featured in Scott Fox's "Click Millionaires"! I'd do well to read the book to find out how to become one!  Meantime, I will continue to thank those lucky stars for allowing this creative freedom to work from home -- or from anywhere in the world. How many millionaires can boast such a quirk--or, rather, perk? ...So much for creative freedom!

Click Millionaires: Work Less, Live More with an Internet Business You Love Check out Scott's book!



              Click to enlarge this photo, taken in Villedieu (near Nyons).

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Trajet: Drivers, travelling in Morocco, and the road to Marrakesh

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse
In contrast to the chaos in today's story, we'll begin with a peaceful glimpse of Morocco. Read on, now, for another 'picture'! (Photo taken two years ago, on a family trip.)

le trajet (trah jay)

    : trip, journey

In books: French Demystified...simple enough for a beginner but challenging enough for a more advanced student. Order your copy here.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

Le trajet à Marrakesh était un veritable parcours du combattant!
The ride to Marrakesh was a real obstacle course!


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

The Motorway to Marrakesh

When Jean-Marc was asked to be témoin, or best man, in the marriage of a childhood friend, he could not refuse the honor--never mind the delicate timing (during our busy wine harvest!) or the not-so-convenient location: Afrique

No sooner had our plane arrived in Morocco's "Red City" than I began to suspect that the town's colorful synonym had something to do with blood, for the ride from the airport to the hotel was nothing short of a death march.

I stared out the shuttle window at fellow travelers along a chaotic chemin (was it a highway or an expressway?). It couldn't be an autoroute... or why would 5 lanes of traffic include both man and animal? By 'man', I mean homo pedestrian, and, by animal... well, there were camels and donkeys and dogs... and monkeys walking along the expressway, too!

There on the outskirts of the airport, we were one great procession, weaving, wobbling, crawling (were those toddlers teetering on the curb of the express way? Mon Dieu!) ...zipping, shrieking, and honking our way forward, toward the setting sun.

As the sky darkened, the fragile human and animal pèlerinage began to fade into the background, where streetlights ...when alight... cast a faint lumière on the surreal atmosphere.

Our bus lurched forward, yanked to and fro by the whim of its heavy-handed operator, who seemed faintly amused by his passengers' terror.

Between gasps, puffs, and more sharp intakes of air, I evacuated my fear, to the amusement of those more experienced passengers. The man in the front seat, on hearing me, began a game with the driver, so that each time a member of pedestrian traffic was spared, he shouted: râté! ("damn, missed that one!"). His macabre sense of humor only goaded the driver, who homed in a little closer, each time, to the living, breathing "obstacles".

From my unsecured seat (no ceintures, or seat belts!) facing the menacing windshield, I watched as entire families were transported on a single moped: father (in a protective helmet) at the helm of the rickety scooter, followed by baby, then wife. (The babies--for this wasn't the first family aboard a moped!--were sandwiched in between the driver and the veiled mother--neither of which wore safety headgear!) 

Criss-crossing the swaying flow of traffic, were the elderly and the disabled... who seemed to have wandered onto the highway from a hospital bed somewhere.... I watched a blind man (he would have had to have been aveugle to have ventured into this death trap) navigate across the traffic lanes, with the help of his cane! 

Arriving at a roundabout the traffic lanes narrowed and I heard scraping... I turned to see the metal bite of a donkey rubbing against our bus's window as the fellow travelers (our bus and the donkey) squeezed together when the lanes merged, or bottle-necked.  

Wait! No! But! Ahhhh! Gosh! Eek! Oh!.... I gasped.

"Raté!" the sadistic copilot shouted, in mock disappointment, and I saw that the donkey's hooves were spared from the bus tires. But I could take no more. I closed my eyes and thought about my childhood in Arizona, where drivers stayed to the very center of the wide traffic lanes. If a driver needed to change lanes, he first made his intentions known by deploying what, in America, we call a "turn signal" or "blinker" (a bright light that flashes a clear-as-day warning to surrounding motorists). As for fellow motorists ("motor" being key), in America we classify as "traffic" the collective presence of vehicles (mobile machines with four--or sometimes two--wheels and an engine) on a given road. And people are not normally considered vehicles, indeed, walking anywhere near a motorway meant that you would be committing a crime punishable by law (JAYWALKING!).

Speaking of crime, where were the traffic police? Who were the powers that be that were supposed to be watching over this swaying, scraping, uncontained menagerie? What about safety?

I leaned forward to inquire about traffic statistics, specifically incidents of death: "Just how many accidents mortels happen each year?" I asked the driver.

"No accidents!" he insisted. 

"No accidents?" Just then I watched another near-miss, when a scooter slipped sideways between a donkey-drawn carriage and a truck... were those feathers flying out of the truck bed? Was that a squawk? And what about the poor souls hidden from view--the casualties who were on their way to becoming casualties (or the chickens on their way to the slaughterhouse?) Didn't they count, too?!

"No accidents!" the driver insisted, and I noticed his conviction, which was backed up by his own testimony. Looking out over the streaming sea of innocents, some old, some young, some furry, some bent, he announced.

"God is protecting us."



Well, I couldn't argue with that. Whispering "amen", I stared, with awe, out the window, at the fragile-yet-confident travelers, who advanced toward the hazy horizon, beyond which the mysterious universe traveled on and on.  


French Vocabulary

le témoin = best man, witness

Afrique = Africa

le chemin = road

l'autoroute (f) = motorway, expressway

le pèlerinage = pilgrimmage

râté! = missed (target)

la ceinture = seat belt

aveugle = blind

accident mortel = deadly accident

Exercises in French Phonics is... " a great book for learning French pronunciation" Order your copy here

Sara midda's South of France: a sketchbook Sara Midda's South of France is a place of ripening lemons and worn espadrilles, ochre walls and olive groves, and everything born of the sun. It lies between the Mediterranean and the Maritime Alps, and most of all in the artist's eye and passion. Read the glowing reviews, click here.

In film:  Paris Je T'aime Paris I love You.

Eiffel Tower Cookie Cutter -  handcrafted by artisans to last for generations. Order here.


auto ecole drivers school in France lamp post shutter hanging laundry
The shop sign reads "drivers school". Do you have a minute to read another story... about learning to drive in France? I'll never forget the smug feeling of driving to my driving school class... only to feel humbled, when I had to sit beside the 17-year-old students (at 38, I had been driving for almost 20 years! Yet... it was necessary to pass the French driver's exam. Read the story "Conduire" here


THANKS, to those of you who wrote in, in response to my story about the search for a good "skin doctor"! I am moved by your caring words, as former patients and as friends and family of those who have had an experience with skin carcinoma. Thanks also to the doctors who took the time to write in with encouragement and helpful information. Update: this picture was taken 6 months after my surgery. More about that scar on my forehead, here.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety