Soyons fous! A Mother-Daughter Trip to La Côte d’Azur

Villefranche-sur-Mer, where Jackie and I spent three days last week.


  let's be crazy" or "let's be wild". 

Soyons fous is a playful and light-hearted expression that encapsulates the idea of taking risks, having fun, and embracing the unexpected. It's a reminder that life is short and should be lived with enthusiasm and a willingness to explore new horizons.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Pour la cinquième fois, ever since our first trip together to Paris when she was 16, Jackie and I had the pleasure of experiencing a mother-daughter getaway. On Monday, my girl at the wheel of our Suzuki Jimny, we headed East along the A8 motorway, direction La Côte d’Azur. What should have been a 2-hour drive turned into 4 given “le traf” as we jokingly called it, though le trafic didn’t seem so long in Jackie’s company.

The moment I put my daughter in charge of this mini vacation, Jackie decided on a 3-day stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I had given my 25-year-old a budget and a green light to select our hébergement but she surprised me by making lunch and dinner reservations, too—including an evening in Monaco! It was time to let go of my purse strings and practice the French art of leisure and enjoyment, and there was something to celebrate as well:

“You have made it to midterm, Chouchou! Look how far you have come. I’m so proud of you!”

Six months ago Jackie made the decision to leave bartending and study UI (or User Interface Design). Her swift vocational changes (from Fashion design to bartending to web design may have given me whiplash, but each seemingly unrelated étape is bringing her closer to her field, or to a field of possibilities. Already, this 10-month intensive computer design course in Lyon has given her a host of useful and technical skills, from website creation and coding to logo design.

As we drive East towards the Riviera at a snail’s pace, I notice all the logos along the autoroute, and Jackie and I tchatche about everything from design to user experience (something we’ll soon be laughing about when we “experience” our hotel room…).

Our stay at Hôtel le Versailles began with a birdbath (for me) at the sink after our room’s shower was too complicated to operate, in spite of the hotel’s laminated diagram (a clue we weren’t the only befuddled bathers). Next, it was the light switches, les interupteurs, which didn’t correspond to the lamps and the plugs which were few and far between. None of the switches on the hairdryer worked, making me think it was the fault of the plugs again when really it was a matter of locating the push-button on the back. Mais bien sûr…but then why not eliminate (as most hotels do) all the other buttons for clarity? The electric blind couldn’t be raised…until we finally located the switch (yards away from the window, above my nightstand. No wonder my reading lamp didn’t work). Because the hotel was historic, and the staff, kind, we overlooked all these design flops and, instead, had a good laugh with each new discovery.

That first night we dined beneath the stars at Les Garçons, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The braised beef over mashed potatoes was delicious and filling, so when the waiter presented the dessert menu there was some hesitation until, with a devilish smile he exclaimed “Soyons fous!” Go ahead. Be wild and crazy! Have some dessert.

From then on, soyons fous became the catchphrase of our escapade

Soyons fous! And so we threw caution to the wind, ordering the Menu du Château in Eze…
Soyons fous! And splurged on paninis at The Jasmin Grill & Lounge in Beaulieu-sur-Mer...
Soyons fous! And drove to Monaco for reservations at Sexy Tacos--this, after Jackie won at the Casino (that's a whole nother story)!

Gripping the passenger door as my daughter navigated our mère-fille adventure, I tried not to worry about accidents or the money being spent. And when we cruised past the morgue and a lonely cemetery, ça y est, I knew this carefree time with my youngest was as priceless as life itself.

As if reading my mind, Jackie said, “If I die before you j'aimerais être incinérée.” The unexpected comment, coming from a healthy young woman, was halting. This many days later I am all choked up remembering the conversation in which, for a moment, we stopped to think about death and a life without each other.

“Oh, Jackie. It is hard to talk about la mort (pronouncing it now, I’m struck by how similar it sounds to l’amour, or love). Taking a deep breath, I copied my youngest’s wishes. “I would like to be cremated too.”

There!  We'd said it!  “It is all such a mystery, Sweetie. All I want when we are gone…is to find each other on the other side…two heart-shaped bubbles floating through space!”

In the meantime here we are in the heart-shaped present moment. With a reminder to seize the day. Soyons fous!  My wallet is empty but this mini-vacation with my daughter was worth every penny. And after a cathartic conversation in our car my spirit is bouncing again, comme une bulle d’amour bridging the gap between now and The Ever After. I am a little less fearful of the unknown. After all, “There is no fear in love.”*

*1 John 4:18   

To read the comments or to leave one, click here. Include your town or city and a weather report (my Dad, if he's reading, will appreciate it and so will I!). Click here to comment.



Click here to listen to the soundfile of all the French

soyons fous!
= Be wild! Be crazy!
pour la cinquième fois = for the fifth time
la Côté d’Azur = “The Blue Coastline,” The French Riviera
le trafic  = traffic
l’hébergement = accommodation, lodgings
Les Garçons = The Waiters, The Guys
une escapade = getaway
le chouchou/ la chouchoute = the favorite 
une étape = a step (in a process)
tchatche (tchatcher) = to chat 
l’interrupteur = light switch
mais bien sûr = but of course
le panini = grilled sandwich 
ça y est! = that’s it!
la mort = death
l’amour = love
une bulle d’amour = a bubble of love


I want to extend a big thank you to the readers listed below who have recently sent in blog donations. Your contributions go a long way in not only backing this journal but also in inspiring me to maintain my writing momentum during the summer break. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Mary T.
Sally B.
Betty R.
Linda G.

David C.
Heather H.

Suzanne D.
Bernadette G.

Natalia,Rod and Mignons

“Que cet petit pourboire vous encouragerez de continuer.” David C.

"Thank you for your always wonderful posts!! Your words never fail to touch our hearts! Blessings always Calins et bises!" Natalia,Rod and Mignons

"I enjoyed The Lost Gardens. Both you and Jean-Marc chronicled your Life Journey with such candor and honesty. Your descriptive writing styles kept me reading and cheering you on." Bernadette G.


At Les Garçons

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

La Grande Randonnée: Jean-Marc's GR 20 trek in Corsica: Part II bilingual story + full audio recording

Did you know that "GR" of  “GR20” is an acronym for “Grande Randonnée” or “long hike”? Today, Jean-Marc recounts his recent adventure along this mythical footpath, one of the most difficult treks in Europe—located on the beautiful island of Corsica.   

In books: Granite Island: A Portrait of Corsica.

TODAY'S WORD: la randonnée

    : hike, trek, ramble, walk

OUR GR 20 TREK IN CORSICA by Jean-Marc Espinasse

After a day by train on the famous Corsican Micheline, a ride by cab and a short walk, we arrived at our refuge in Asco. Nicolas and I leave the next day at dawn for our first stage of the trek. Except for the first half hour which is relatively flat, this hike comes with very strong positive and negative changes in altitude. We pass our first and only névé to cross the Col de La Pointe des Eboulis after 5 hours of effort. There follows a short traverse on a ridge from where we can already see our refuge at the bottom of the valley. But if the ascent gives our hearts and breaths a workout, the descent is much harder for the muscles and the refuge that we had seen a few hours ago is still far to reach. It is thus after 10 hours of walking over stones, without trees and in full sun that we reach our first destination. Just before that, bathing in a small natural spring water bath was a well deserved reward.

The next day, our legs were very heavy for a segment with 1,000 meters of positive altitude difference. Before that, we crossed a beautiful Alpine forest with a few streams allowing us to refresh ourselves. After four hours of walking, the final climb of 900 meters was very difficult but the fresh air, the idea of the traditional Corsican omelette and a cold beer at the finish line motivated us to reach the highest refuge of the GR 20, at almost 2000 meters.

The following day was the longest segment. We started very early and walked more than 26 kms through different mountain landscapes, forests and green plains, passing by beautiful wild horses, still taking advantage of lakes and rivers to refresh ourselves during our breaks. On arrival at the Manganu refuge, we asked the keeper for information because our initial itinerary for the next day was to double a segment in order to reach Vizzavone in the evening and take the train to Ajaccio. Antoine told us that it would be very complicated because the next two segments are "Alpine" and therefore very steep. Other hikers coming in the opposite direction (the GR 20 is done in both directions) also advised us not to try this adventure, especially since we were tired after three days of intense walking and little sleep. Finally, we learned that there was a possibility to leave the GR 20 to join another path leading to a lake accessible by car and from where it is quite easy to hitchhike to Corte, which we managed to do in 10 hours and which allowed us to take the train to Ajaccio.

These four days of walking were physically demanding, especially since we were both, for very different reasons, very badly prepared. They also allowed me to think without too much anxiety about my personal situation, which was certainly very different from that of a year earlier when everything seemed to be smiling.

Last year, I had already done half of our first stage 2022 and, on my way back to Asco, my starting point, I got injured a few minutes from the finish, spoiling the end of my stay. This year, when I passed by the place where I was injured, I told myself that this accident was in fact the first of a very bad personal phase that has led me to face a difficult psychological situation today.

So, as I passed by this place, one year to the day after my accident and at the very beginning of our 2022 hike, I also made a wish that this would signify the end of this bad cycle and that better days are now to come.

(Translated with


Audio File: click here to listen to Jean-Marc read his story aloud

Après une journée en train par la fameuse micheline Corse, en taxi et une petite marche, nous arrivons à notre refuge de Asco. Nicolas et moi partons le lendemain à l'aube pour notre première étape. A part la première demie heure relativement plate, cette randonnée est avec de très forts dénivelés positifs comme négatifs. Nous passons notre premier et seul névé pour franchir le col de la pointe des éboulis après 5 heures d'efforts. Il s'ensuit une courte traversée sur une crête d'où nous apercevons déjà notre refuge en bas de la vallée. Mais si la montée fait travailler le cœur et le souffle, la descente est bien plus dure pour les muscles et le refuge que nous avions vu il y a quelques heures est encore loin à atteindre. C'est donc après 10 heures de marche dans les pierres, sans arbre et en plein soleil que nous atteignons notre première destination. Juste avant cela, se baigner dans une petite baignoire naturelle d'eau de source fut une récompense bien méritée.

Le lendemain, les jambes étaient très lourdes pour une étape de 1 000 mètres de dénivelé positif. Avant cela, nous avons traversé une belle forêt Alpine avec quelques cours d'eau nous permettant de nous rafraîchir. Après quatre heures de marche, la montée finale de 900 mètres de dénivelé fut très difficile mais le bon air frais, l'idée de la traditionnelle omelette Corse et une Bière bien fraîche à l'arrivée nous a motivé pour rejoindre le plus haut refuge du GR 20, à presque 2 000 mètres d'altitude.

Le jour suivant fut la plus longue étape. Nous sommes partis très tôt et avons parcouru plus de 26 kms à travers différents paysages de montagne, forêts et plaines verdoyantes, passant à proximité de magnifiques chevaux sauvages, profitant encore des lacs et rivières pour nous rafraîchir lors de nos pauses. A l'arrivée au refuge de Manganu, nous avons demandé des informations au gardien car notre itinéraire initial du lendemain était de doubler une étape afin de rejoindre Vizzavone le soir et prendre le train pour Ajaccio. Antoine nous a dit que cela serait très compliqué car les deux prochaines étapes sont "Alpines" et donc très cascadées. D'autres randonneurs venant en sens inverse (le GR 20 se fait dans les deux sens) nous ont également conseillé de ne pas tenter cette aventure, d'autant que nous étions fatigués par trois jours de marche intense et peu de sommeil. Finalement, nous avons appris qu'il y avait une possibilité de sortir du GR 20 pour rejoindre un autre sentier amenant à un lac accessible en voiture et d'où il est assez facile de faire du stop pour aller à Corte, ce que nous avons réussi à faire en 10 H et qui nous a permis d'y prendre le train pour Ajaccio.

Ces quatre jours de marche ont été éprouvant physiquement, d'autant que nous étions tous les deux, pour des raisons bien différentes, très mal préparés. Ils m'ont aussi permis de penser sans trop d'anxiété à ma situation personnelle, qui était certainement bien différente de celle d'un an plus tôt où tout me semblait sourire.

L'année dernière, j'avais déjà fait la moitié de notre première étape 2022 et, en revenant à Asco, mon point de départ, je me suis blessé à quelques minutes de l'arrivée, gâchant ainsi la fin de mon séjour. Cette année, lorsque je suis passé devant l'endroit où je m'étais blessé, je me suis dit que cet accident était en fait le premier d'une très mauvaise phase personnelle qui m'amène aujourd'hui à affronter une situation psychologique difficile.

Alors, en passant devant ce lieu, un an jour pour jour après mon accident et au tout début de notre randonnée 2022, j'ai aussi fait le vœux que cela signifie la fin de ce mauvais cycle et que les jours meilleurs sont maintenant à venir.


Cows in Corsica on GR20 hike
Besides wild horses, JM and Nico encountered cows, goats, and wild pigs along the GR 20...

In Books: The Corsican Brothers by Alexandre Dumas

Trekking the GR20 Corsica: The High Level Route: This guidebook describes the classic GR20 trek, a north-to-south traverse of the rugged mountains of Corsica, renowned as Europe's toughest GR long-distance route.

Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking GR 20 in Corsica
All rocks and no trees for shade: Jean-Marc and Nicolas hiking the GR 20 footpath in Corsica

Jean-Marc resting in a cool creek along the GR 20 in Corsica France
Mediterranean Plunge. Jean-Marc cooling down in a creek along the GR 20 trail. Read another post from Corsica, France's "Island of Beauty" where we went for ou 23rd anniversary (this week we celebrate our 28th, Waouh!). Pictured below: a blossoming caper plant and view off the coast of Corsica.
Caprier caper plant on corsica 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

Le Défi: An upcoming challenge for Jean-Marc + full story recorded in French

GR 20 trail in Corsica France
One of the many "points d'eau" Jean-Marc talks about in his update, below. The English version follows and the entire story is available on sound file, below.

Today's French Word: "le défi"

    : challenge, dare

Sound File: Click below to listen to Jean-Marc read his story.  Note:  Jean-Marc repeats a few of the sentences in this long recording (where an error was made).

Click here for the audio File


Dans deux semaines, je vais parcourir une des plus belles randonnées d'Europe : Le fameux GR20. Ce magnifique sentier traverse la Corse en diagonale, partant au Nord Ouest de cette "l'île de beauté" (Calenzana) pour arriver au Sud Est, à Conca.

La plupart de cet itinéraire est en haute montagne avec une incroyable diversité de flore composée de chênes, châtaignier et le maquis Corse, de faune et même au mois de Juin, il est fréquent de traverser des névés surtout dans la partie Nord du parcours. Je pars randonner avec mon meilleur ami, Nicolas, avec qui j'ai lié mon amitié pour la vie suite à un voyage inoubliable en mobylette à travers la Corse, alors que nous avions tout juste 15 et 16 ans.

L'année dernière, pour notre première partie du chemin, nous avons marché 5 étapes, chacune dure environ 8 heures et malgré la difficulté des importants dénivelés positifs et négatifs (qui font encore plus mal aux jambes), la beauté des paysages, les nombreux points d'eau pour se rafraîchir et l'excitation de marcher sur ce sentier mythique permettent d'oublier la souffrance.

Nous partons aux aurores pour éviter la chaleur et arrivons à chaque nouveau camp en milieu d'après midi pour déguster une omelette, une Pietra (bière Corse) avant une petite sieste, un dîner au coucher du soleil et quelques heures à essayer de dormir dans la même tente.

Il y a un an, j'étais en pleine forme physique et mentale. L'idée de ce périple, dont nous avions trop souvent repoussé l'organisation, me faisait frissoner de bonheur. Je garde un souvenir impérissable de cette semaine passée en pleine nature où j'ai gravi le plus haut sommet de Corse : Le Monte Cinto.

Aujourd'hui, les temps ont bien changé. Je traverse une période mentale très sombre et je ne suis sûrement pas assez prêt pour affronter physiquement ces épreuves sportives. Mais je ne louperai pour rien au monde ce magnifique défi car si je sais bien que je vais souffrir, je me dis aussi que si j'arrive à parcourir ces 5 étapes, je serai plus fort pour affronter tous les sommets psychologiques personnels qui m'attendent à mon retour.

Merci pour vos encouragements,

Translated with

In two weeks, I'm going to hike one of the most beautiful trails in Europe: The famous GR20. This magnificent track crosses Corsica diagonally, starting in the North West of this "island of beauty" (Calenzana) to arrive in the South East, in Conca.

Most of this itinerary is in the high mountains with an incredible diversity of flora composed of oaks, chestnut trees and the Corsican maquis, of fauna and even in June, it is frequent to cross snowy slopes especially in the northern part of the route. I will be hiking with my best friend, Nicolas, with whom I made a lifelong friendship after an unforgettable trip on a moped through Corsica when we were just 15 and 16 years old.

Last year, for our first part of the trail, we walked 5 stages, each one lasts about 8 hours and despite the difficulty of the important positive and negative changes in altitude (which make the legs even more painful), the beauty of the landscapes, the numerous water points to refresh ourselves and the excitement of walking on this mythical trail allow us to forget the suffering.

We leave at dawn to avoid the heat and arrive at each new camp in the middle of the afternoon to enjoy an omelette, a Pietra (Corsican beer) before a little nap, a dinner at sunset and a few hours trying to sleep in the same tent.

A year ago, I was in great shape physically and mentally. The idea of this trip, which we had postponed too often, made me shiver with happiness. I keep an imperishable memory of this week spent in the middle of nature where I climbed the highest summit of Corsica: Monte Cinto.

Today, times have changed. I'm going through a very dark mental period and I'm certainly not ready enough to face physically these sporting events. But I will not miss for anything in the world this magnificent challenge because if I know well that I will suffer, I also say to myself that if I manage to cover these 5 stages, I will be stronger to face all the personal psychological summits which await me at my return.

Thank you for your encouragement,

Book: Trekking the Corsica GR20: Two-Way Trekking Guide: Real IGN Maps 1:25,000

Jean-Marc in Corsica
Jean-Marc at the top of Monte Cinto, June 2021

Jean-Marc and Nicolas

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

Lunch in Arles, "Séjour" in Camargue, wild horses and a cool rancher's hut

Flamingo bird park in camargue
Les flamants roses--pink flamingos in the Camargue. More photos from our weekend in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer on my Instagram (please follow for upcoming entries), and all our recommended addresses are at the end of this post.

Today's Word: un hébergement

    : accommodation, lodgings

French Audio/Listening:
 Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to access the MP3 file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

One perk of getting older and traveling sans les gosses is better accommodations! When I think back to some of the doozies my husband has rented--a flea-ridden room in Madrid, a stinky suite in Barcelonnette, or a bunk (yes, just a bunk--shared with strangers) in Queyras --I can't believe how far we've come. The key to this betterment (besides having more flouze than we did as newlyweds) is an agreement Jean-Marc and I came to years ago: he will do the trip planning as long as I do not complain about accommodations or scheduling.

Fair enough, wouldn't you say? Especially if you are like me: not a details person. I would rather do anything than work out so many particulars of a family vacation: what transportation we will take, where we will séjour and eat and sightsee. My husband enjoys organizing trips so why not let him handle our itinerary? I'll take care of the snacks (never travel without un en-cas, my sister Heidi taught me that), the cleaning, and how about the retelling? As Anaïs Nin said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." So let us briefly relive the past weekend and thank you Jean-Marc for so many great picks...from restaurants to local attractions--tu as tellement bien choisi!

Our dépaysement began with a meal in Arles. A freezing Mistral wind accompanied us up and down the corridors of old Arles as we searched for the restaurant Jean-Marc had reserved, but I did not complain--and was rewarded by a gallant proposition: "Would you like my coat?" Jean-Marc offered. His gesture was enough to warm me through and through. No coat needed, and before long we were tucking into Le Gibolin, its warm and velvety vapors escaping the kitchen, thawing us instantly. 

After a lunch of roasted butternut squash stuffed with pasta and veggies (Jean-Marc loved his main dish), we were on our way to the flattest part of Provence, made up of pools of water: La Camargue! Pulling up to an iron gate behind which two independent cabins with their grass rooftops were set back from the waterfront, I looked over at my driver. Jean-Marc, you really outdid yourself when you found this authentic rancher's cabin! Newly renovated, the white-washed walls, the wooden touches throughout, the seafoam green tiles in the bathroom...this little abode was so thoughtfully decorated and it instantly transported us into its cozy luxury. 

Cabane de gardian
Ours was the hut on the right.... and this side of the water is another narrow strip of land where wildlife filed by....

From the one-room cabane de gardian with its mezzanine (and échelle leading up to the bed--this steep setup is not for everyone, but Jean-Marc insists my  80-year-old father could climb up and down that (unattached!) ladder during the night), we could look out a low-lying window with a panoramic view of the glorious marsh. Note: low-lying because of the low-lying roofline above the window, typical of these Camargue ranch cabins which sport a thatched rooftop measuring well over half of the building's height.

The view reflected in the window
A selfie from the yard looking into the hut. That's a fake heron on my right, but there were many real and exquisite birds--and more....

What a view! Our little cabin was 20 feet from the marsh, or étang (is there a difference?), where pink flamingos, an industrious and very cute castor, and--surprise surprise!--a local jument grazed. That docile horse, which graced our view of the horizon all weekend, was the icing on this Camargue cake. 

La jument. The mare.

Our romantic weekend included two nights dining in (Jean-marc brought a selection of cheeses and a steak from his wineshop-épicerie, and we bought pastries from the local baker in Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer where we strolled along the seafront each afternoon. 

"This is the best hébergement you have ever found!" I praised my husband, and praise, I am learning, goes a long way! I wish I knew this as a young bride, wish I'd counted the goods instead of the bads. Thankfully, we've made it this far along our marital journey and no looking back except to count our lucky stars!

"Could you live here?" I asked as Jean-Marc drove us the 1.5 hours home the last day, past fields of wheat-colored reeds and cattle feeding. "No, it's too flat for me," Jean-Marc admitted. He's headed back to the Alps this weekend, for his mountain fix and I (une casanière at heart) am happy to be home, though ready to follow my husband when wanderlust hits him next. Bye for now and please share your experiences/recommendations for the Camargue, as we will surely go back...with our grown kids, nos gosses--and Grandma Jules and dear sweet Smokey, too! Papa, get that flouze ready! 

Cabane de gardian camargues
The cabane next to ours (I believe the owner lives there, but she was away).


Le Gibolin restaurant in Arles--delicious!

Parc Ornithologique Pont de Gau--where you'll see more pink flamingos than you ever thought possible! (Do not miss my Instagram page, where you'll hear the unusual sounds they make)

La Cabane du Pêcheur--Jean-Marc absolutely loved this lively restaurant with three unique seating areas (we chose the indoor "antiques" tent, where statues and various treasures surrounded us). You could also eat at the lively bar: loud music and a saloon-type atmosphere or sit outside by the marsh where the bbq is full of fish: sole, loup, rouget...

Domaine de Méjanes--our last day we visited a park bought and created by Paul Ricard (of the famous pastis), where you can take a charming train around the property to see wild horses, more flamingos and the breathtaking landscape of la Camargue. Not to be missed.

And here's the AirBnB listing for the Cabane de Gardian where we stayed two nights.

sans les gosses = without kids
le flouze = cash, dough
le séjour = stay
un en-cas = a snack
tu as tellement bien choisi = you did such a good job choosing
le dépaysement = change of scenery
le castor = beaver
un hébergement = accomodation
la cabane de gardian = rancher's hut
la mezzanine = wooden loft
une échelle = ladder 
une jument = mare (horse)
un étang = pond, pool of water
casanier, casanière = home-loving, homebody
Papa = Dad

LES ARCHIVES: Do you have time for another story?
The story Pêle-Mêle features a memorable hotel room in Barcelonnette where we lodged when our kids were little.

La jument the mare horse in Camargue
Do you see la jument

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

Ragout: Simple recipe for Provencal stew + kitesurfing in Giens peninsula, near Hyérès

Ragout provencal stew fava beans feve

For those reading our autobiography, The Lost Gardens, see the update at the end of this post. If you have purchased our book-in-progress and lost your passwords to access the chapters, leave a message in the box at the end of this post. 

The beauty of an online book-in-progress is all that can be included in it! I've just added the first photo album to our memoir, and will continue to enhance the story with images. To purchase The Lost Gardens, click here and scroll to the end of the page to purchase.

Today's Word: le ragoût

    : stew

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE, by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday I was making a delicious ragoût with the fresh fèves from our garden...when my son invited me to the beach to watch him kite-surf. 

After a busy week, I wanted nothing more than to eat this delicious Provencal stew and then take a nice long Sunday siesta. But I know that stealing away with my son won't be as easy as the years march on, and so, You're on! I said, and we headed back to the Giens peninsula, near Hyérès.

After renting gear, we found the popular kite-surfer beach and hurried to the shore to unravel some important strings. The sandy beach was dotted with colorful cerf-volants and all the kite-surfers wore wetsuits. 

Max kitesurf giens beach plage

Even if the sand was being whipped up into my eyes and the sun was burning down (igniting my fears after a frightful experience) I felt so alive beneath the colorful, kited sky, listening to the joyful voices of those wind-harvesters: Mec! Tu peux m'aider? Man, can you help me? Max said, asking a stranger to help send off his orange and white kite. 

I watched my 23-year-old inch back into the sea, slip his feet onto his kite board, and disappear into the sparkling horizon, his kite flying high with the others. I might have dreamed such a beautiful scene, had I stayed home and rested. But this--this salty scent in my nose, this wind in my hair, these vibrant colors above and the gentle tones below of sand, grass, and charming picket fences--this was real.   

A creature of habit, a creature of comfort--these are tags I need to send off, like a kite. I am first and foremost a creature: I was created to go with the flow of life. And oh, the places Life takes us, when we let go and grow.

*   *   *        

Grass picket fence giens beach kitesurf hyeres

le ragoût = stew
la fève = broad bean, fava bean
le cerf-volant = kite
le mec = guy
tu peux m'aider? = can you help me?

A warm stew to pack for the beach on a windy day!

-Fry some lardons (sliced, fatty bacon), 2 onions, 5 diced potatoes, and garlic
- add the fava beans and cover with water (I like to add a can of tomato sauce).
Add some bay leaves, salt, pepper and thyme. Simmer an hour.

Serve with a side of plain couscous (cooks in one minute!) or bulgur and some hard-boiled eggs. We had a nice Compté cheese. Max deemed the meal 'the perfect thing to eat before surfing!' :-)

One day as I rushed to fill platters with charcuterie, hard-boiled eggs and cheese, one of the harvesters meekly asked could she have that can of kidney beans in the cupboard? That is when I learned that part of the harvest crew we had hired were vegan. What did vegan even mean in 2007?

Fast forward, now, to 2012. Sunk down into my driver's seat, I clutched the paper pharmacy sack and wondered, would it all unfold like the last time, when a gigantic surge of energy was both the gift and curse behind my husband's vision? Gazing at our new (old) house (another home in need of renovation) I took a deep breath, stepped out of the car, and headed over to the front porch....

(For those who have purchased our book, read all of chapter two, here.)

To purchase The Lost Gardens, a book-in-progress, click here and scroll to the end of the post.

Reader feedback from Chapter Two:

Dynamite!!!! I more impressed than usual. Your writing seems to have one upped your sharing and it's a good balance back and forth. I'm eager to "follow along" but encourage you to take your time. After all you are living it! --John Hawke

Field of phacelia
A field of phacelia flowers, a soil amendment planted by Jean-Marc the year before he planted his dream vineyard. Thank you so much for buying our book-in-progress. Your support has helped us to begin our book and to keep going, chapter by chapter. Mille mercis!

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

Que nenni! A fun, useful new expression + a must-see beach along the French mediterranean!

Mediterranean garden and stairs to the Rayol-Canadel beach
Stone stairs leading down to the beach in Rayol-Candadel-sur-Mer

Que nenni? If you think today's expression has anything to do with the following travelogue...que nenni! (Not at all!) It's just an expression that jumped off the page as I sat reading an article on sardines, recently, chez le coiffeur. Speaking of fish, we ate a lot of this when Dad and Marsha visited. We also discovered magnificent places--de beaux endroits--I had never been to before--all a short distance from La Ciotat....


    : not at all

 Thanks, Jean-Marc, for your regular recordings, like the following

(Click here to listen to the French expression "que nenni")

Décidément, cette presqu’île me réservera sans cesse des surprises. Je pensais la connaître par cœur, et pourtant… C’est par faute de l’avoir parcourue, par la mer ou par le sentier du littoral. Mais que nenni, j’y découvre toujours quelque chose.

Decidedly, this peninsula will never stop surprising me. I thought I knew it by heart, and yet ... It's not by fault of having traveled it, by the sea or by the coastal path. Not at all. I always discover something.


    by Kristi Espinasse

"Bad-wah," my belle-mère, Marsha, giggled, as we sipped l'eau gazeuse at a restaurant overlooking the sea at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

Bad-wah? Funny! I never saw it that way before. Eyeing the bottle of popular French fizzy water, I wondered did anyone else notice a small marketing flaw for Badoit? (Pronounced "bad-wah" as you may have guessed).

Good thing it's "good wah", a favorite of ours, as were the Mediterranean waters below us. We had swum all day in the little cove, one reminiscent of a beach in Italy. 
Rayol-candadel-sur-mer palm trees stairs to the sea
De -- pronounced deuh ou der?
A hillside of beautiful stone stairs leads down to the sandy beach. You can see the last section of the escalier above, in the picture of Jean-Marc and my dad. As Marsha and I trailed behind, my belle-mère practiced her French, which sounded good...until it came to "de"....

"Der" she said, as per the pronunciation guidebook she had in her beach tote.

I've seen the pronunciation for "de" written that way, and I know anglophones who pronounce it comme ça, but for me... the French word "de" sounds like "deuh". But who am I to give lessons (I still can't pronounce dessus or dessous--or even truffe--some of The Most Difficult Words in French to Pronounce). Still, I stand by my pronunciation of de (it's deuh!). But let's not waste this travelogue on a debate (let's duke it out in the comments box, instead :-)
Les galets agates along the beach at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer

The sand at Le Rayol-Canadel beach sparkled and was covered with "agates,"as my belle-mère called them. Holding a palm-full of the amber or black or white stones, Marsha talked about the chance we had to find these pebbled beaches in France.

As we lie there on the sand, chatting, a couple in their 80's made their way toward us, lugging a kayake! Marsha and I looked up, to the mansion above us and realized we'd parked our foutas right before their private entrance!

To our surprise, the man and woman humbly excused themselves and encouraged us to stay put. As they tugged on the two-seater kayak, lifting it three feet, up to its storage spot, we were mesmerized. Gazing up at their white locks and athletic builds, Marsha and I must have had the same thought: I want to be paddling across the sea--in my bikini with my sweetie--when I'm an octogenarian!

Meantime, my dad, all of 76 years young, was swimming like a kid in the gulf. "I love this salty sea--I'm floating!" he smiled, as we joined him for a swim. I never thought about the buoying effect of l'eau de mer, and it felt great to finally let go and allow the sea to partly carry me. 

Farther out, beyond the Gulf of St. Tropez, we could see les Iles d'Or (Porquerolles, Port Cros, and Le Levant), as well as the famous mauve hue, which announced the beginning of the sunset. As my dad and Marsha marveled at their chance to be in this magnificent place, their gratitude caused me to polish my own lenses, and see our part of the world...indeed life..."anew."

There is so much to look forward my 80s, my sweetie, bikinis, and nouveaux défis (those bikinis?). And, most importantly, this growing sense of appreciation I have at 50. 

Aioli at rayol-canadel sur mer france 
At L'Escale restaurant, Dad loved this "aïoli with a twist" (sweet potatoes and beets replaced a few classic ingredients)

Jean-Marc returning from beach at rayol-canadel sur mer
Jean-Marc returning from the beach

que nenni = not at all 
chez le coiffeur = at the hairdresser's
les beaux endroits = beautiful places
la belle-mère = stepmother (also means mother-in-law)
l'eau gazeuse = sparkling water
l'escalier = stairs
le foutas = popular towel on Mediterranean beaches (photo below)
le défi = challenge
l'escale = port of call, stopover, refueling stop
Chatting with my belle-mere in rayol-canadel sur mer
Me and my belle-mère. Readers of this journal associate belle-mère with another woman dear to my heart. Her story, 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

A trend in France this summer + photos of Ramatuelle

Kristi and jean-marc espinasse
At beach restaurants like this one--and over at the old port in St. Tropez--everyone is asking for un rosé piscine. When June already feels like August, the "glass of rosé on ice" really hits the spot. But if you're like me, you might prefer "de l'eau gazeuse." To each his own, à chacun son goût! (If you are new to this blog, here is a picture of Jean-Marc and me. My husband does the sound files for this journal and I write the stories and photograph. Enjoy!)

"rosé piscine" (roh-zay pee-seen)

    : rosé wine served over ice cubes

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

Pour faire ce qu'on appelle "un rosé piscine," versez le vin sur des glaçons, le tout dans un grand verre.
To make what we call a "pool rosé," pour the wine over the ice cubes, all this in a big glass.


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

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

Decisions decisions! What with the unbelievable encounter Mom and I made last week--and Friday and Saturday's escape to the beach--there are plenty of things to share with you. But something tells me to just let everything percolate, to instead share photos and enjoy this change of pace.

The following snapshots were taken in Ramatuelle, where, ambling alone amidst the winding village paths, I heard sighing....  The quiet and the beauty this village will take your breath away too!  


If you've ever felt out of place, take courage from this wayward branch. What beauty it adds to the picture!


Before I moved to France I would see this color blue in films depicting French life. Blue on the walls, blue on the shutters... and then blue in the Mediterranean Sea over which Jean-Marc married me. (Coming up, now, on our 20th anniversary...)


A white picket fence in America and a volet blanc in France.... 


There are a few imperfections in this photo, but a dreamy something overrides them.


Cool and quiet here in summertime--and a word from our sponsor before we continue...

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. Photos here.

Documenting the color of leaves in June

Ramatuelle, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
All I need is this garden shed-turned-nest. And you? Perfect fpr listening to the birds, and hearing the village come to life with its clanking coffee cups and bonjour messieurs-dames, goodmorning folks.

Ramatuelle, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
So much to do in Ramatuelle, but if you run out of ideas... have a look at the chalkboard outside the Office de Tourisme. Even it is as pretty as a picture.

To comment on today's post, click here.

Share today's post with a friend and help spread the French word. Merci beaucoup.



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

Serre Chevalier + How to say "flat rate" when searching for $ deals in France

cadran solaire sun dial alps time clock painting on wall
Ambition is the downfall of man. (L'Ambition est la perte de l'homme). A message on a lazy sundial in Serre Chevalier. 

un forfait (for-fay)

    : flat rate, package deal, 

un forfait week-end = weekend package (price)
un forfait mensuel = monthly subscription
un forfait boisson = drinks included
un forfait de ski = ski pass

Audio File and Example Sentence
Download MP3 or WAV

Jean-Marc a trouvé un forfait hotel pour les vacances d'hiver.
Jean-Marc found a hotel package for winter vacation.

A Day in a FRENCH Life... by Kristin Espinasse
"Kissed by a Stranger--or A Bise in Le Bez"

Jean-Marc drove us to the mountains for our kids' spring break. I guess I need to quit saying "kids"--as our son Max will soon turn 19! All the more reason to profiter or take advantage of these family getaways!

"Does Jeanne ski?" I say, turning to the back seat, where the kids are settling in for the 3+ hour drive home. Jeanne is Max's petite amie and I'm wondering if we should bring her along next year--and so stretch these family vacations as far as they'll reach! But there I go trotting off to the future again....

a home in the French Alps snow shutters

I put a stop to the "eventualities" by looking out the car window and focusing, instead, on the four good days we have spent in Serre Chevalier--where Jean-Marc found another package deal, or forfait: 4 nights, petit déj compris! But dinner was not included in the deal, so we were delighted to be invited to our good friend Fred's!

I hoped our son's godfather (Fred), who normally insists that we stay with him in his family's chalet, would not be offended that we picked a hotel this time. As we dined with him and his family that first night--enjoying 4-cheese fondue in the cozy living room, I searched our friends' faces for disappointment, and listened, waiting for the inevitable question: Mais pourquoi vous n'êtes pas restés chez nous?

But when I saw how relaxed our friends were--and how they never questioned our hotel reservations--I began to wonder if we shouldn't get our feelings hurt instead. Kidding aside, it was probably a nice break for both families to have their own chez soi. I feel for people who own a home in a vacation mecca and who are regularly visited by travelers. How can they ever enjoy their own pied-à-terre or home away from home when they are busy sorting out sheets and towels and meals?

But just because we aren't sleeping under the same roof doesn't mean we can't enjoy each other's company by day. While helping Fred's mom, Marianne, put away the dishes, she asked if I would like to join her le lendemain for a hike in Névache. I panicked, thinking about hours and hours outside in the unforgiving sun. It's not worth going under the knife again... But rather than try to explain things, I rattled off something about needing to spend the morning finding a summer school fashion program for Jackie. (And when the latter heard this, she perked right up, solidifying my plans!)

The next day I had to follow through with my promise. While I did plan on doing a little research, I did not want to spend our 4-day break behind a computer screen. So by noon, I was ready to take a small stroll through the village of Le Bez, where our hotel is located.

stone chapel in Le Bez Serre Chevalier French Alps

Le Bez is a tiny hameau nestled into the base of the mountain. As I walked up the slippery hill, the place began to look familiar to me... Oh yes, there was that cadran solaire I had photographed the last time we were here... and beyond, I saw a sign to the sentier botanique. Oh to be back in springtime--enjoying all the wildflowers and papillons along the path!

Chalet homes in Le Bez Serre Chevalier French Alps

Like a butterfly, I weaved back and forth along the snowy path, enjoying the charming buildings as though they were filled with nectar. I pulled out my smartphone and begin snapping photos. So much for promising to bring my real camera (which is less and less practical the more I use my camera phone! I'll live to regret this when the day comes to print the pictures; meantime I'll believe recent studies about how lower quality pictures no longer seem to faze viewers--who are content, instead, with content. Indeed, it is the subject of the photo that moves us--rather than its sharpness).

A tiny chapel doesn't budge as les oeufs, or eggs, travel up the mountain.

As I left the fountain and headed up a small snow-capped path, I ran into a local and was greeted by a very warm bonjour...

"You are not from here?" The gray-haired mountain man said. "Alors, je vous fais la bise!"

With that, the one-man welcome committee reached over and planted the most friendly kiss I had ever received on my cheek.

        shadows and a little warning "careful of snow sliding from rooftop"

That was funny. Last time I checked the French were a lot more reserved than that. Any cultural know-how I'd gleaned up to now told me that complete strangers did not kiss--not unless they were with a person who knew the kisser.

Ah well, I reasoned, surely the local knew my friend Fred! Still, something told me that if my friend were here he might not have recognized Mr. Kissy Face. But his fist would have! 

                                            *    *    *


Back at Fred's, for dinner, a small fire broke out on our table as we sat enjoying fondue that first night, every French woman seated declared "This is why I have an electric fondue maker at home and not a traditional one!

Fondue is a great way to entertain and not a lot of work, either. An added amusement is the games the French play while eating fondue. "If your piece of bread falls into the melted pot of cheese," Fred's dad, Michel, tells me, "then you have to remove an item of clothing." I was careful to keep that bread on my tiny fork, but my lovely neighbor was not as lucky.... 

Ouf. In the end, everyone kept their clothes on. But imagine if Mr. Kissy Face had shown up? He might've invented another fondue game: Every time your bread falls into the pot... c'est un bisou! We call that spin the bottle where I come from (in French that's le jeu de la bouteille :-)

French Vocabulary

la petite amie = girlfriend
le petit déj (déjeuner) = breakfast
Mais pourquoi vous n'êtes pas restés chez nous? = but why didn't you stay with us?
chez soi = at home
le hameau = hamlet
le lendemain = the following day
le cadran solaire = sundial
le sentier botanique = botanical path
le papillon = butterfly
bonjour = hello
alors = so then
je vous fais la bise! = I'll give you a (welcome) kiss!
un bisou = a kiss
le jeu de la bouteille = spin the bottle



Next Meet-up: April 8, 2014 in Paris

Join me in the Marais for a musing on foreign accents! I'll be speaking at Adrian Leed's "Après-Midi"-- following in the footsteps of artists who have spoken there before me. Click here to add your name to the Facebook "attendance" page. (If you can't make it, please hit the "maybe" button on the Facebook page and I will bring you with me in my thoughts :-)

(James Navé will give a talk in March; also check out his upcoming class "The Poetics of Writing: Imaginative Storm Paris Workshop") 


For you menu readers: blettes, courge, and chou (chard, squash, and cabbage).

Just look at this wooden water way coming from the 18th century fountain. Felt good to run my hands along the side, appreciating the artisan's efforts.

Apple tree
The old apples are still hanging on, waiting to be pushed forth by blossoms.

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

How to say zipper + recycle or repair your shoes! + Comps-sur-Artuby

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
A cobbled path leading to church in the village of Comps-sur-Arturby. More photos at the end of this edition.

Today we are talking about repairing or recycling clothing. Please join the discussion, sharing your experience and ideas for staying stylishly up-to-date--while minding ecology and the economy.

Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  


une fermeture éclair (fair-meh-tyur-ay-kler)

    : zipper


Audio file: The following example sentence comes from the planet-friendly French site
Listen to Jean-Marc read the words below:  Download MP3 or Wav file

Des semelles usées, un talon cassé, une fermeture éclair de sac coincée... Avant de les remplacer, vous pouvez confier vos chaussures et accessoires à un cordonnier. En plus, vous soutiendrez une filière au savoir-faire de plus en plus rare en raison d'un manque de clientèle.

Worn out soles, a broken heel, a purse zipper that's stuck... before replacing them, you can entrust your shoes and accessories to a cobbler. What's more, you'll be supporting a trade that is more and more rare owing to a lack of clientele. 

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

Last week the winds picked up here in Bandol, sweeping out the warmth of summertime. Though our seaside environment benefits from an extended season--or un été indien--my feet don't seem to know the difference: mid September now and j'ai froid aux pieds!

Time to put away the flip-flops.... Rummaging through the floor of my closet, looking for close-toed shoes, I discovered a few possibilities for fall: a pair of pseudo Mary Janes (not sure about the style), Converse hi-tops (hand-me-downs from Jackie, the interior lining is as holey as Swiss cheese), a pair of high-heeled dress boots--so cheap the talons are two different sizes (no wonder the markdown), a pair of black boots from the 90s--and a pair of black ballerinas from the same decade (I now wear the latter as slippers--so will have to rule these out as a possibility. Once sportswear turns into loungewear it's hard to sport the items in public again. Know what I mean?).

I stared thoughtfully at the eclectic pile. Tucking my flip flops into a shoe box--it seemed a little sorting might reveal some new possibilities. I spotted my loafers. Yes! Slipping them on I had a look in the mirror and realized, once and for all, I will never have that look of relaxed elegance: my ankles stood out beneath my pant legs, and the brown leather shoes were dull. Maybe a good polish would take care of that? 

Studying the motley crew of shoes, I now saw a workable set of possibilities for autumn. What's more, I remembered a pair of brown leather boots (those ought to take care of these ankles!) that would round out the collection.

In the cellar, I sorted through a box of shoes, finding the boots at the bottom. Pulling them from the tangle of chaussures, I was disappointed to see they'd been sorely twisted--their new shape resembling a curled crevette! I slipped them on, hoping to straighten out the toes, but when I tugged at the worn zipper it finally broke.

More than a broken zipper, I noticed how worn out the soles were. There was no use procrastinating, it was time to buy a new pair of bottes. But the last time I went shopping in the area, I found the shops unwelcoming and the prices even more alienating. I was only having a bad day, it wasn't the fault of the commerçants. But seeing all the merchandise, I wondered: how can anyone afford to dress these days?  My mind still lives in 70s prices--maybe that is why everything seems so expensive these days. I am fortunate to be able to replace my shoes, but I feel terrible for those who don't have the same privilege.

Studying the worn boots, it seemed I could squeeze another season out of them--I needed only to visit the cordonnier! An added incentive of visiting the local cobbler was the satisfaction of not adding to the dreaded pile--the universal garbage dump, or the landfills, that gets harder and harder to breakdown as time goes by. I can't bear to throw out another pair of shoes when I picture heaps of discarded chaussures all across the land--choking landfills with leather, plastic, and shoe glue. I wish I'd always thought this way, but I am a late-bloomer when it comes to recycling. It's only in the last 5 years that our household has installed boxes for glass, metal, plastic, clothing, batteries, and "small electric units" (our grocery store collects coffee machine, electric toothbrushes, and the like). Before that, we made an effort here and there, but were discouraged by the lack of follow-up (our village's recycling system, at the time, was hit or miss).

Boots in hand, I entered our town's cobbler shop and soon realized why people are not so motivated to extend the life of their belongings: because it can be costly to do so! There in the tiny shop, as I waited for the cobbler to finish mending a pair of sandals, I noticed the finished items on the counter, waiting to be picked up. A pair of high-heeled sandals had a receipt tied to them: 26 euros for the repair work! I began to calculate: at $35 dollars one could almost replace the dainty pair of dress shoes.

Ah, but les bonnes affaires coûtent cher! I remembered an old saying I once learned from a very wealthy French woman: Good deals cost a lot! she said, as I accompanied her shopping in Cannes. It's true, and I've witnessed the principle here at home where my husband delights in showing me his latest 19 euro steal. I zip my lip, knowing that in one more season I'll be sweeping those falling-to-pieces shoes into the dustpan, along with rest of the pile up on the doorstep. Some deal!

Back at the cobblers, I set my boots on the counter for the cordonnier to inspect. 

"I'll need a new fermeture éclair...and it looks like the soles are shot...anything you can do about the leather?"

I watch as the shoe repairer notes down some double-digit chiffres: 16.... 12.95...  The amount increases when I decide to go ahead and have the second zipper reinforced, just in case.

When the cobbler hands me the bill I'm lost for words, so he speaks for me: Est-ce que ça ira? Will this work?

I guessed it would have to... After all, what was the alternative? I could buy a new pair of boots--for twice the price (given the you-get-what-you-pay-for wisdom, mentioned above) or I could prendre soin, or care for my own boots. The price to do so was alarming, but in the end I was paying less than I would otherwise.

I hoped to be making the right decision, and in the time it took me to reply to the old cobbler, my eyes scanned his tiny shop. In addition to shoes there were several bags waiting for repair (this is where old Mr. Sacks, Jean-Marc's beloved sacoche, was mended). I remembered, now, Jean-Marc mentioning the ancient cobbler "You've got to meet this character!" Jean-Marc had said. I wondered now, just how many years had the cobbler been here? Were they even training cobblers these days? Wasn't it a dying trade?

As I stood there, hesitant, a few more locals walked in, dusty and worn shoes in hand. The cobbler greeted them by name and I gathered he had a few supportive clients. One more couldn't hurt. 

 *    *    *

Cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse, French-word-a-day

To comment on today's story, click here. I would love to read about your experiences with caring for your own things, and your thoughts on sustainability, supporting local business, or whatever you feel like sharing. 

Extra credit.... Teachers, please share the French Word-A-Day blog with your students, to help increase their vocabulary. 


 j'ai froid aux pieds = my feet are cold
un talon = heel
la chaussure = shoe
la crevette = shrimp, prawn
la botte = boot
le commerçant = shopkeeper
le cordonnier = cobbler
le chiffre = amount, sum
la fermeture éclair = zipper
prendre soin = to care for, to take care of 

In Ways to Improve Your French: Listen to music!

ZazzZaz's album. Debut album from one of France's greatest recent success stories. Seemingly out of nowhere, newcomer Isabelle Geffroy (AKA Zaz) ended up topping the charts in France for over two months with this debut album, an engaging blend of Jazz, Soul and French Pop. With singles like 'Je Veux', even non-French speaking listeners will be enchanted by Zaz's voice. Order it here.

Join me on today's virtual tour of the village of Comps-sur-Artuby. These photos were taken in 2001.... The pictures are very small, but you can still get an idea of the breathtaking environment.

If you missed the recent photos tours, check them out:

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

What has this old post office become? Some people in France live in converted chapels, others in ancient bread ovens (large architectural structures as big as a baker's), so the idea of moving into a post office shouldn't be so surprising.

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,

I believe this building is called un hangar, or shed. 


Max (c) Kristin Espinasse,
A then 6-year-old Max...


Les nuages, or clouds in Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Les nuages, or clouds, in the distance


Comps-sur-Artuby, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
November in Comps-sur-Artuby...


Comps-sur-Artuby (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Art studio "The Little Scops Owl"

Pronounce it perfectlyPronounce it Perfectly in French. 

* extensive pronunciation exercises including supplementary help based on poetry, proverbs, familiar sayings, historical quotations and humor

* A guide to French pronunciation expressed in the phonetic symbols of the International Phonetic Association (IPA) 

Order it here.

cordonnerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

I hope you enjoyed today's story from the shoe repair shop, or cordonnerie. To comment on today's post, or to send in a correction, please use the comments box 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

Pictures from Grignan + an emergency visit to the vet--and the French word "epillet"

Jackie (c) Kristin Espinasse

 Sweet 16! Today, September 18th, is Jackie's birthday and we've had chocolate cake for breakfast and look forward to Chinese food for dinner. (Meantime she's begun another day at fashion school. But after our dog's recent drama, and Jackie's hands-on response, I think she'd make a great veterinarian! Read on, in today's French infused story column....

un épillet (ay-pee-leh)

    : foxtail or grass seed

Ever found an épillet on your dog? Comment here

 Bescherelle conjugation guide.   Capture plein écran 16052011 092531"This is without a doubt the definitive guide to conjugation of French verbs... an indispensible reference and not overwhelming for beginning students." Order it here.--M. Savoir (Amazon reviewer)


Foxtail (c) Curtis Clark
Audio File and Example Sentence: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or wav file

Lorsqu'un chien se met brusquement à se secouer les oreilles au printemps ou en été, penche la tête, refuse qu'on le touche… il y a probablement un épillet là-dessous !

In spring or summer, when a dogs begins abruptly to shake its ears, lower its head, and refuse to be touched... there is probably a foxtail there beneath!

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

On Monday I picked up Jackie from the bus stop and enjoyed a lively conversation with our soon-to-be 16-year-old. Driving home, we talked about motivation, about keeping on top of things, and how all this helps in pursuing one's dreams. It was refreshing to see how receptive Jackie was, vs. our sometimes draining dialogues which make me feel like such a nag, and leave my testy daughter feeling guilty, too.

Despite the renewed mother-daughter complicity, our life is good outlook was challenged sooner than expected. Arriving home, Jackie agreed to feed the dogs and help bring in the laundry on the line and fold it. Instead of grumbling, she approached her daily 15 minute chore (part of a new routine this school year!) willingly. 

"That's my girl!" I cheered, "and thanks--I really appreciate it!" Even Braise, our golder retriever, was in a good mood, and we laughed as she jumped and danced while waiting for her croquette dinner to be served.

Then suddenly Braise fell to the ground and began yelping in pain. We watched as she mowed her head across the gravel, her cries growing more insistent. When we got her to stand up, she couldn't walk a straight line, but advanced crookedly across the yard--all the while lowering her left ear. And when she suddenly began shaking her head, as dogs do their bodies, after a bath--we realized something was amiss.  

Hordeum murinum, or foxtail (c) Curtis Clark
My heart sank with the realization that this could be it--the dreaded "death torpedo" pet owners fear: those nasty grass seeds, or foxtails, that catch in a dog's coat and travel up and into the ear or eye or nose. I heard all kinds of horror stories--that once inside, they travel to the brain or the lungs, killing the animal! 

Jackie was posed and calm as she held Braise close and instructed me to have a look inside our dog's ear.

"OK, OK! Here we go....." the least I could do was to mirror my daughter's composure; just as important, we didn't want to be a ball of nerves in front of our suffering dog.

Indeed, animals are so sensitive--and intelligent. In contrast to the wild cries and head shaking pain, Braise remained as still as a monument, modeling a quiet bravery that hinted at the delicateness of the situation.

"It must be excruciating, the pain!" Jackie remarked, as I peered into Braise's ear, pulling and prodding to get a closer look. But all I saw was dirt--the kind I should have been regularly cleaning out. Now guilty feelings intermingled with all the worry.

As the moments passed, without another complaint from our dog, we nurtured a growing hope that maybe whatever had "gotten" her had somehow disappeared.

"Maybe it was only the beginning of an ear infection?" I said to Jackie.

"Peut-être," Jackie hoped, and we held our breaths as we slowly released Braise from our grip.

Our brave patient took a few uncertain steps, as though she herself were nursing the same espoir. Only she didn't make it far before she fell over, beside the withering lavender bush.

Seeing Braise disoriented like that, we were sick to our stomachs with worry. We watched helplessly as Braise plowed her head across the gravel, her muffled cries rising in her dusty wake.

Something was horribly wrong.

"Jean-Marc!" I shouted up to the second floor, where Jean-Marc was working in his office. A moment later four of us were careening down the road, to the veterinarians. Jean-Marc had asked Jackie to stay behind, but our daughter insisted Braise needed her comfort and assurance.

Quelle chance! The vet was still working at 7pm, and she welcomed us into her office.

Jackie and I tried to heave Braise onto the steel examination table, when Jean-Marc waved us aside and picked up our clinic-phobic dog. "Allez, hop, up you go!" I could see Braise's hair falling in a sheer layer across the steel surface beneath her--so terrified is she of doctor's offices.

When the vet warned that our dog must remain completely still, Jean-Marc steadied her in a head lock and I hugged her body tight. Jackie murmured assurances: Bravo! C'est bien, Braise! T'inquiète pas, mon chien! C'est bientôt fini! 

We all watched as the vet directed the special tweezers into Braise's oreille. She too was impressed by Braise's bravery. "Most dogs would go crazy about now." 

"She wants us to help her," I said, remembering back to the scene at home. Braise would have let me stick forceps in her ears, so desperate was she; her quiet obedience was such a contrast to her throbbing pain, making her message loud and clear: do what you need to do to fix this! Her composure was remarkable. It was as though she had gone to another place in her brain--doggy nirvana--where she was waiting out the traumatic moment. 

"Voilà!" The vet pulled out the so-called torpedo of death, and cleared up one or two idées fausses, or rumorsin the process. "It is rare that this would kill a dog, she said, offering the bit of broken foxtail for our viewing. "But they can be dangerous. It's not just the ears they menace, they are often found in between the fingers and toes... " (This helpful tip was followed by a demonstration, in which the vet collected a dozen more broken foxtails from between Braise's paws!)

"The danger here," she said, is when they pierce the skin and travel through the body... sometimes puncturing the lungs!"

The vet encouraged us to cut back the grasses on our property and to check our dogs every day. It would be extra work, given we have two large and furry golden retrievers, but I could just add that to the kids chore list. And of course, I would do my part, too. Living here in the countryside, it would take a family effort to keep back those lurking torpedos... but the good news was, we now had a wonderful new veterinarian, just around the corner.

To comment on today's post, and share your own experiences and insights into today's word or story, click here. Thanks for sharing today's post with an animal lover.

 "Torpedoes of death" -- it's a chilling term, but I learned so much from Carla Jackson's article on Hordeum murinum or "Hare Barley" and how it menaces man's best friend. 


Rollerskating in Fréjus (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Rollerskating with Braise in Fréjus, in 2007. (Jackie was 10-years-old)


   French shopping bagI 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.

More Photos from France

If you can't make it to France just now... we've got you covered: enjoy these virtual tours of some of my favorite villages in Provence and beyond. 

Grignan, France (Drome) (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Matchy matchy. A blue door coordinates with a whimsical bag...

Grignan, France (Drome) (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Roses and "grignandises" -- or sweets and temptations from Grignan.

Grignan, France (Drome) (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Always room for another pot of flowers...

Grignan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Time to put Grignan on your bucket list.

Grignan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse,
Roof tops, or toits, and a blue horizon.

Grignan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse, visit
Don't steal the café sugar. You never know who's a tattletale. Story here.

Grignan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse, visit
The village of Grignan is known for its famous resident (Madame de Sevigny) and for its roses--but don't tell that to the valerian flowers, which shout their presence from the very rooftops.
Window and stork in Grignan, France (c) Kristin Espinasse, visit
 Another Grignan resident.

Grignan, France (Drome) (c) Kristin Espinasse,
I will add more photos to this collection. Please click here and see when the next postcards from Grignan are posted. 

To comment on this edition, click here.

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