Thanksgiving Vocabulary + Périple: Jean-Marc's Journey from France to New Zealand & Bike Tour

Port Capucins La Ciotat France
Jean-Marc and Ricci at Port des Capucins. "I'm going to take her with me to New Zealand!" he teases. Read about my husband's 2024 périple in today's update.

Joyeuse Action de Grâce!
I can't guarantee that's how you say "Happy Thanksgiving" in French. But I hope you have so much to be thankful for and that your lives are brimming with blessings in any language. In addition to the blessings of my Franco-American family, friends, health, and our new dog, I'm grateful to have overcome my fear of making pumpkin pie...

La Tarte à la Citrouille
For a scrumptious tarte à la citrouille I roasted and puréed some farm-fresh potimarron, for 500 grams of pumpkin, mixed it in the blender with du lait concentré sucré (1 cup), 3/4 cup of sour cream, 2 eggs, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 muscade, a pinch of salt and baked it for 40 minutes at 200C (392F was a bit hot!) in a ready-made pastry--une pâte brisée. It turned out delicious! A refaire! Don't miss the photos at the end of this edition but, first, enjoy Jean-Marc's nouvelles, just below.

TODAY'S WORD: le périple

    : trek, expedition, journey, long haul


NEW ZEALAND PERIPLE VIA BICYCLE by Jean-Marc Espinasse

Dear Kristi's Readers,

As my New Zealand trip is getting, day after day, more realistic, I would like to thank all of you who have already offered to help me during my 3 months stay in this fabulous country.

New Zealand 2024 bike tour

Three months... Actually, in 3 months, I will be right in the middle of the bike ride I have just put together. With my long-time friend from Marseille, Bernard, we will start in Greymouth on the West Coast to end in Christchurch. After much hesitation over whether to bring our own bikes from France, we decided to buy some electric hybrid bikes in Christchurch with an extra battery and plan to ride from 40 to 80 miles per day. We will follow the West Coast South bordered by the Alps and in Haast, we will get inland, pass by Wanaka Lake where one of the best NZ wines is, so I will definitely stop there to behold the spectacular vineyard slopes and enjoy the delicious biodynamic wines of Rippon.

Rippon
Copyright-free image via Google

The first leg of our trip will eventually end up in Queenstown where we will stay for 3 days to rest after 350 miles in 6 days and to explore the beauty of this city on the Waikapu lake surrounded by magnificent mountains.

The second leg of our bike tour will start by riding through the beautiful vineyards of Gibbston Valley before heading North, inland, to reach, 3 days later, the beauties of Pukaki Lake and Mount Cook

Mt+Cook
Copyright-free image via Google

It will then be time to head back northeast to reach the Banks Peninsula where we hope to see dolphins and other beautiful landscapes before returning to Christchurch at the end of February to complete this 900-mile trip.

After a needed rest, I will say au revoir to Bernard and travel North and join the Blenheim area where my job at Whitehaven Cellars starts March 4th. I found a very nice cottage located 7 miles away from my work so I will continue to enjoy my bike for commuting back and forth for another 7 weeks.

When I am done with this exciting period, I plan to explore the North Island. I am not sure if I will use my bike or rent a camper (or both) for that, those plans are still up in the air. 

What is certain is that I am going to have a wonderful time in this country that has always fascinated me.

Any suggestions, help, or contacts during my different "périples" will always be welcome at [email protected]

Happy Thanksgiving.

Love and Peace,
Jean-Marc

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click to listen to the French and English terms
le périple = trek, journey
Joyeuse Action de Grâce = Happy Thanksgiving
la tarte à la citrouille = pumpkin pie
le potimarron = red kuri squash
le lait concentré sucré = condensed milk with sugar
la noix de muscade = nutmeg
à refaire = to do again
une cuisse de dinde = turkey leg

Kristi and Jean-Marc cooking Thanksgiving Dinner in France Joyeux action de grace
We celebrated Thanksgiving a day early to accommodate friends leaving town. Thanks, Sandra Zirah, for this photo of Jean-Marc and me cooking green beans and une cuisse de dinde over my mother-in-law's chestnut and girolle stuffing. Present at table were Sandra and Patrick, our son Max and Ana, and (vicariously) Mom (she enjoyed her plate of turkey back in her studio. She has a little cold and did not wish to share it with our travelers.).


REMERCIEMENTS 
Sincere thanks to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps me going, and I am truly grateful!

Debbie L.
Richard L.

Love reading each week. Look forward to our next trip to France. —Richard 

Pumpkin pie
So excited to have finally made pumpkin pie. In case it didn't turn out (and it did!) I also made chocolate chip cookies.

Kristi and ricci by sandra zirah
Joyeuse Action de Grâce! photo of me and Ricci by Sandra Zirah

COMMENTS
To comment on today's post, click here. Your edits are always appreciated, too! 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


Punaise! Our Hotel in Paris had a little bug (and not the kind you’re thinking)….

Paris France Arc de Triomphe
Punaise! When I heard about the bed bug epidemic in Paris, I almost canceled plans to see my best friend. I’m so glad I didn’t let those punaise reports destroy this joyful reunion.

TODAY'S WORD: Punaise!

  : Darn! Oh no! Oh dear!

Punaise also means bug or “bed bug”. The exclamation may have been born of the horror of seeing the crawly creatures, i.e. Punaises! Bed bugs! It is a very popular way to express surprise in French, in any let-down situation. Come to think of it, “Bed bugs!” makes for a colorful expression in English, too, don't you think?  

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Rouge-Bleu in Paris

Over leftovers of sea bass and exotic vegetables, a scrumptious meal I’d carted back on the train, I was remembering my visit with my best friend Susan, a.k.a. Rouge-Bleu,* in Paris.  Oh to go back! Suddenly I felt a strong desire to relive our farewell dinner at Cafe de L’Alma. Even if the music was loud (our waitress kindly turned it down) I wanted to be transported back into that seat, energized by lively conversation, with Paris as a backdrop! Moreover, I wanted to relive all of the experiences my dear friend and I had this past weekend! While I can’t do that, I can write about it now and so relive a few of the memorable moments….
  
Saturday night, after 6 years apart, my best friend from high school and I caught up with each other in The City of Light. There in a pitch dark room, we were each tucked into a twin bed overlooking a grand suite decked in flowers, chocolates, and an unopened bottle of Ruinart champagne. Beyond the suite's balcony, at the edge of this golden triangle in which our girlhood aspirations had projected us, the Eiffel Tower sparkled. 
 
Our pillows, packed exclusively with lavender flowers, were delivered earlier during le service du soir and filled our deluxe accommodations with the scent of good dreams to come. Meantime, un grand rêve unfolded all around us.

Rouge-Bleu," I whispered to my longtime friend, "can you believe we are in Paris, in this room?” Susan and I met our sophomore year as new students at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. We were two fish out of water who quickly found each other in English class. Susan was from the small town Douglas, near the Mexican border, and I was from the west side of Phoenix, where I grew up in a trailer park. We were galaxies away from our European futures, but the seed of adventure was planted when we made a vow (before we could even drive) to travel to Beverly Hills. 
 
California, it turns out, was not in the cards. And if we were here, now, in this 5-star Parisian hotel, enjoying free accommodations for two nights, it was thanks to Susan who, following university, began a career in travel and went on to found Critics Choice Vacations. Susan was currently in Paris attending DUCO France "an annual boutique travel summit held in Paris, France. A niche and destination-oriented event, highlighting the excellence of French hospitality to the world’s most important buyers."

In the past 22 years, Susan and her team have created thousands of 1st class travel experiences for clients. It was fascinating to hear about all the details Susan takes care of for her travelers—from a helicopter transfer to/from the Nice airport to a personalized shopping trip in Monte Carlo to wheelchair access during a cruise down the Rhone to medical assistance while on a safari in Africa (wait, I should add no lions were involved!). I loved quizzing Rouge-Bleu about her 24/7 job and all the adventures her clients experience all over the world.
 
Together now in Paris, we were not without our own adventures, right here in our luxury suite... Arriving back from dinner near the Arc de Triomphe, having finally gotten our keycard to open the door of our room, we were startled to find two strangers in our suite after 10 at night...While I stood shuddering discreetly in the foyer, Susan calmly addressed the unexpected guests, asking about the nature of their visit. 

As far as I could see, the men were not wearing hotel uniforms but were dressed in khaki pants and shirts--a kind of camouflage? I wondered. "We are working on a mechanical issue," one of the men explained.

Well, that sort of made sense, except for the hour. As I said, it was past 10 at night! It was true our deluxe suite had been experiencing technical difficulties. Everything within the room was operated via an electronic tablet (similar to an IPad). Even the toilet was a high-tech wonder--with its own multi-function control panel. Rouge-Bleu told me it was one of those Japanese toilets, aka a Toto. Its seatwarming function, the water jets, and the dryer (no need for TP) were all operated electronically.

Similar to an electric car, if one thing goes wrong you're up the creek. And now the hotel's engineers were here for a lighting problem Susan had reported earlier. Relieved to know these weren't robbers, I quietly chuckled to think that our 5-star room was as technically challenged as Susan and I had been, as we tried to use the high-end amenities! 
 
After the engineers left, the hotel manager came to apologize: regrettably, the technical issue could not be solved that night. We now had three options: 1) We could move to another suite 2) or stay here and sleep with all the lights on or 3) have the engineers shut off the electricity for one part of our suite so we could at least sleep in the dark.
 
Considering Susan had her office set up in one area, and our suitcases were opened and unpacked, neither of us wanted to pack up and move in the middle of the night. Given it was bedtime, it might be okay to shut off the main switch as we were only going to sleep now anyway…but then what about the electronic toilet? Would Toto flush?
 
The technicians were back once again to figure that out and, in the end, the high-tech wonder passed the test!
 
Well then, as long as Toto would flush we'd stay! After the mechanics and manager left, we tucked ourselves into the lavender-scented beds to laugh about the irony of having to use our own equipment (our own phone, as the hotel phone no longer functioned via the "smart" tablet, and our own flashlights on our phones) to navigate to the bathroom of our "luxury accommodations".
 
The good news was after all the talk of bed bugs in Paris, we didn't have any of those. But, punaise! We can't say the same for technological bugs, of which our suite had a few. 
 
I would like to end with giant thanks to my bestie, ma meilleure amie, Rouge-Bleu. It was wonderful to spend time with you in Paris and to see you at work in the city. We never did make it to Rodeo Drive. Sometimes our dreams take us beyond our very own imaginations!

*    *    *
COMMENTS
Thank you in advance for your comments and corrections. I appreciate every word! Click here to leave a message.
 
Rouge-Bleu Kristi and Susan
Rouge-Bleu and I recreating a picture we took over 15 years ago during a trip to Monaco. You may be wondering about the nickname Susan and I share, and wasn't that the same name of your former vineyard?  Yes, it was! The vineyard name was chosen back in 2006, after Jean-Marc asked me if I had any suggestions as to what to name our winery. On a whim, I blurted out "Rouge-Bleu!" He immediately liked it and went on to incorporate it for his business. We've since sold the vineyard but the name lives on with the new owners (and will always live on with the best friends pictured). 
IMG_1608
Thanks, Rouge-Bleu, for finding this old photo.
 
Fresh bouquet of flowers in Paris hotel
Susan and her team create personalized travel experiences to Europe and beyond. If you are ready to follow your dream to Paris (or anywhere in the world) contact Susan at Critics Choice Vacations

Critics choice vacations

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Listen to the French terms listed below click here.

Rouge-Bleu
= red-blue
Ruinart = the oldest champagne house in France 
service du soir = turndown service
un grand rêve = a big dream
punaise! = oh no! darn!
la punaise = bed bug
la meilleure amie = best friend

REMERCIEMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this weekly journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Lucie A.
Merle J.
Pattie M.
Mollie B.
Janice H.
The Gaucher Family

Thank you, Kristi, for your blog which I've been reading and enjoying for 20+ years! Mollie B.

Paris France Eiffel Tower Critics Choice Vacations
Photo by Rouge-Bleu, courtesy of Critics Choice Vacations

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 Fringale: At what hour do the French get the munchies?

Mangiare restaurant in Paris France 8 eme
The word in the window spells "Eat" which is what my stomach cried on the train back from Paris. Don't miss today's story with some fun new words.

News: Carolyne Kauser-Abbot has written an excellent article about Jean-Marc’s wine tours. Check it out at Carolyne’s site Perfectly Provence

TODAY’S WORD: "LA FRINGALE"

    : munchies
    : craving, hunger

avoir la fringale = to have the munchies, to feel peckish


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

On the train back from Paris I had the urge to tchatche with the stranger sitting next to me. Graced with corkscrew curls and a spray of freckles across her nose, she had smiled pleasantly when she took her seat beside the window. Now, quietly settled in for our 3.5-hour voyage to Marseilles, I wanted to exclaim, "Quel soulagement d'être monté dans le train ! What a relief to be on the train!” which is what I felt after lugging my piggybacked parcels and suitcase through the metro, up into the Gare de Lyon, only to struggle through the crowd in Hall 1. But I kept quiet when a little voice said, your own reality isn’t necessarily hers.

It’s a pity when your inner dictator keeps you from connecting with others, via its own self-righteous reasoning, and so I reconsidered striking up a conversation. But as the minutes passed my opening line became passé as the train was well on its way.

AVOIR LA FRINGALE
By now my stomach was rumbling alongside my thoughts. I kept thinking about the doggy bag in the large paper sack at my feet. Inside were gourmet leftovers from last night’s farewell dinner with a dear friend at Café de L'Alma. “Take it home, Rouge-Bleu," Susan had encouraged. You’ll enjoy it later! And so I piggybacked that doggy bag, along with several treats from our hotel, on top of my suitcase, which also held my heavy carry-on. All that juggling during the walk from the hotel to the metro to the train had created quite an appetite--especially after missing lunch.

I was suddenly craving that homemade gnocchi with pears and grapes, in cream sauce. I even had a plastic spoon in which to eat it and my seat included a handy fold-out tray. There was just one problem….Culture: the French don’t seem to eat at odd hours, and 3 pm is an odd hour to dine.

According to whom? Who says 3 pm is an odd hour to eat last night’s plat principal? I recognized the still small voice, that championing ally that always comes through if I listen to it, and not the inner critic. But soon a little battle ensued.... as my thoughts contradicted each other, tour à tour:

Why not wait until 4 pm? 4 pm is l’heure de goûter in France—a perfectly respectable time to munch in public.

But the French eat sugary snacks for goûter hour
, that other voice pointed out.

Just then I heard the crinkling of a wrapper and turned to see the elegant woman across the aisle enjoying a candy bar. Next, Mademoiselle Freckles broke out a muffin, confirming my suspicions that the 4 pm snack hour is for sweets only.

Go ahead. Dig in! My inner ally cheered. Go against the status quo! Be wild! Be free! Be unique! Just when I had the courage to break all the imagined rules, I noticed the passenger seated 5 rows up, in the forward-facing seat. His T-shirt read, "BE NORMAL."

Be normal? But I was just about to let loose and BE WILD!

Harrumph! Now I had to build back le cran all over again, and it would've been all uphill except for one final thought: If I don't eat now I'm going to return home in a very cranky mood. And I didn't want to be irritable around my family. I knew Mom was waiting excitedly to see me, along with Jean-Marc and our newest family member, Ricci. And so, with the noblest of intentions, I broke out my spoon and dug in! No matter how many times my eyes darted around the train car, between furtive bites, I never saw one shocked expression. No one paid the slightest bit of attention. To my relief, there was not so much as a “bon appétit” something strangers are quick to tell anyone who is eating anything ever. (Maybe the French only say that during normal dining hours? There must be a separate set of rules for off hours?)

"Is it true the French tend to eat only sweet things at l'heure de gouter?" I asked my husband, on the ride home, after sharing my doggy bag dilemma.

"Yes, of course! Otherwise you'll be thrown in prison," my husband chuckled. "But Ricci and I would visit and even bring you oranges!"

Haha! It is helpful to laugh at our own quirks, and heartening when family and friends understand them so well. I hope, by sharing a few more of mine with you today you've learned some interesting French words. See you next week with another story from my short périple in Paris!


COMMENTS
Thanks in advance for taking the time to respond to my stories. Any edits are greatly appreciated. Click here to leave a message.

IMG_9728_Original
This sea bass and vegetables was in the second take-away carton, and it made a great lunch the day after I got home. Jean-Marc finished Susan's gnocchi for dinner. Don't you love leftovers and "doggy bags"?

Eiffel Tower

FRENCH VOCABULARY
 

Click to hear the pronunciation for la fringale and all the vocabulary

la fringale = hunger, the munchies
tchatcher
= to chat, to gab
Quel soulagement d'être monté dans le train ! = What a relief to have made it onto the train!
le plat principal = main course
le gôuter = snack
tour à tour = by turns
le cran (avoir du cran)  = gumption (to have courage)
le périple = trek, journey

REMERCIEMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Jane M.
Alice F.
Lucie A.
Anne U.
Trish A.
Janine C.

J'éspère te lire longtemps. Bises, Janine

Thanks for many years of entertainment and French vocabulary, Kristi. Bon travail!
Alice F.

I have enjoyed your newsletter and books for many years, you are quite an inspiration for life.
We visit La France each year, to see family, enjoy the small villages and of course Paris.
Hope to visit your delightful corner in the near future. Lucie

Le Train Bleu at Gare de Lyon Paris France
The busy Gare de Lyon in Paris. Notice the white covering: behind it the historical and iconic restaurant Le Train Bleu is being renovated. 

Morts pour la France
I walked past this war memorial the day I left Paris. It reads "Aux Volontaires Americains Morts Pour La France" To The American Volunteers Who Died For France. A poignant reminder. Saturday is Armistice Day or Veterans Day. 

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


Ratiboiser & Cafi: Two Fun Words from The Olive Harvest

Le Beausset
Our story begins in Le Beausset... just over the hill from Bandol.

TODAY'S WORD: Ratiboiser

    : to chop
    : to plunder, pinch, swipe 

Ratiboiser also means "couper à ras" (to cut very short). When you return from the hairdresser's and your locks were cut too short, you could say, "Ils m'ont ratiboisé les cheveux. They completely cut my hair!"

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This weekend was full, plein, rempli, like the olives trees we picked samedi. "Ils sont cafis !" my friend Sophie remarked, arriving at the field with her bucket and olive rake. Cafi! now there's a cool slang word to add to our repertoire, dear reader! Follow along and we will gather a few more…along with a ton of olives.

Saturday's olive harvest would've been another chance for our new dog to adapt to a different environment, but we decided to leave Ricci at home with Grandma Jules. Une bonne décision as several cats showed up to the oliveraie to check out all the activity.

At Vava and Laurent's in Le Beausset, some 300 olive trees were waiting to be picked for this year's récolte d'olives. Jean-Marc and I were the first volunteers to arrive to la cueillette. We helped to spread out a net on the ground to catch the olives, then we each grabbed a hand rake to comb the olive branches, a technique that is easy on the trees and saves time. The wet ground was already soaking my sneakers and it was chilly out, making me wonder if things were going to get uncomfortable fast. With only 5 pickers, the picking was slow so we eased the pain by joking about when our friends—les renforts—would finally arrive (this happened around 11 a.m., suspiciously close to l'heure de l’apéro…). At that point the sun finally made its way over the hill and the group livened up thanks to some new helpers qui a la tchatche--who have the gift of gab.

Seated on an upturned bucket, raking the cut branches for more olives, I listened to the conversations going on around the olive grove. Topics ranged from age-gap marriage to Japanese toilets (the estate had a "Boku" bidet. The popular brand is a saucy play on the words "beau" and "cul" or "beautiful butt," which refers to the desired outcome after using the fesse-cleaning apparatus). As you can imagine, such talk leads to innuendo--something the French excel at. Even if I didn’t understand all the words lingering in the air above me, there were others up for grabs along with all those olives.

”What do you call this?” Vava's sister, Geraldine, asked, waving a peignes à olives.

"A rake," I answered.

“Rake….” Geraldine repeated, making a few associations to drill the new word into memory. “Rake…Rateau…. Ratiboiser... “

Ratiboiser—that one sounded familiar. It means “to pilfer, plunder, or “to make off with.” After we'd plundered or made off with 200 kilos of olives, it was time for lunch. Jean-Marc headed to the BBQ, to cook some merguez and chipolatas, while Vava beelined over to the kitchen. The long harvest table began to fill with food, including a plateau de charcuterie (featuring sliced salami, rillettes, and pâté. Wine was passed around and my friend Sophie surprised me with a special non-alcoholic drink in a beautiful sangria glass decorated with lots of fresh mint. What a treat! Next, we sat down to homemade eggplant lasagna, sausages, and baked chicken. One of the friends, Jean-Michel, brought along a prized magnum from his collection—a bottle of Jean-Marc’s “Zero Watt,” a wine my husband made “without electricity,” when we moved to St. Cyr-sur-Mer in 2012, to our own olive farm and future vineyard. That wine and today’s olive harvest brought back bittersweet memories, but volunteering at our friend’s harvest helps in its own way: for one, we get to use what skills we gained in the 10 years we harvested our own fields, and one of those skills is, simply, the ability to show up early and prepared.

One thing about arriving first to the olive harvest is... less guilt when leaving early and missing the grueling afternoon shift. As mentioned, we had a full agenda Saturday. It was time now to get ready for a birthday party. So after we plundered the buffet we kissed Vava and Laurent goodbye and waved au revoir et bon après-midi to our friends, the olive-picking crew.  “See you next year, bright and early!” 

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or a correction to this post, click here. I'd love to know which city you are writing in from!

Kristi and Vava olive harvest Le Beausset France
Kristi and Vava. There is one of the hand rakes used to harvest the olives.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to all the words below in French and in English

rempli = full
plein =
full
cafi
= full of
une bonne décision =
a good decision
une oliveraie
= olive grove
un peigne
= comb
la récolte d’olives
= olive harvest
la cueillette
= harvest
le renfort =
the backup crew, the reinforcement
l’heure de l’apéro
= cocktail hour
qui à la tchatche = who has the gift of gab
les fesses = butt 
ratiboiser = to pilfer, plunder
rillettes = a kind of pâté 

REMERCIEMENTS
Thank you for the most lovely comments following this blog's 21st birthday. Your words are deeply touching and will remain in my heart forever! And sincere thanks to the following readers who sent in a blog donation this past week!

Bob M.
Beth M.
Julie C.
Elaine M.
Diane B.

Allen L. 
Susan B.

Nancy S.
Walter B.
Rajeev B.
Martha S.
Valerie P.
Georgia S.
Cricket H.
Kazuko C.
Elizabeth J.
Jo-Anne Y.
Elizabeth L.
Catherine L.
Suzanne & Don
Elaine & Michael K.
Suzanne & RoseAnn

Congratulations- your insights and humor add value to each of our lives. Jo-Anne

I look forward to reading your weekly edition.  I love that you and Jean-Marc continue to explore, create & reinvent your lives & work. Elaine

My dear friend Kathy C, living in Phoenix told me about your blog when you first began. It was a pleasure visiting you at your last two homes and hope we will do it again soon. Keep up the good writing. Elaine and Michael

Congratulations, Kristin! Your blog is a source of happiness for me! Thank you! Here's to many, many more years! Catherine L.,  San Diego, CA

Bonjour Kristi! Congratulations on your 21st! I’ve been enjoying your journal since long ago I can’t remember when. Loved your book, too. Just wanted to send my Gratitude and lots of Love and Light to you! Thank you for being beautiful YOU! Kazuko

IMG_9544

Olive picking in le beausset

IMG_9568-EDIT
In this vintage Land Rover, which the brothers-in-law share, the morning's olive harvest is stacked in les caisses de récolte, ready to be pressed at the olive mill.

Kristi and Ricci graffiti
Kristi and Ricci. Sunday marks 4 weeks since we brought 3-year-old Ricci home from Aveyron. Her appetite has grown, she now barks when strangers come to her home, and she loves the beach. It's a joy to see her personality unfold. 

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


Joyeux Anniversaire! Let's blow out some candles & celebrate!

Heidi chocolate birthday cake with icing flowers and candles
A partir de ce weekend this journal begins its third decade! Here's my sister Heidi's scrumptious chocolate cake to celebrate.

TODAY'S WORD: JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE!

    : Happy birthday!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
On Saturday this language and life blog celebrates its 21st birthday. Just think...if it were American it could legally drink. If it were French it could now drive a 7.5-ton vehicle. But having been born and bred, né et élévé, in France, this journal is some sort of wine-spitting hybrid. De toute façon, as we’ve discovered over the years, there are cooler ways to mark an occasion than by inebriation or barreling down the road in a Big Rig. 

Could anybody tell me just what those are? 

Only kidding—je rigole! I would like to shower this brief update in a thousand thanks, mille mercis to you for tuning in each week and giving me a reason to show up and write, whether or not la muse is present. Heureusement, creative inspiration isn’t mandatory when addressing someone who loves and supports you. I am blessed to receive your care and enthusiasm and this is what keeps me trucking into my 22nd year. You, dear reader!

You have taught me spelling and grammar. Helped edit and publish my stories. Sent cheers in happy times and condolences in sad ones. Voted for the right wine label or book cover or city (when it was time to move on). You have been subscribed for days or years and perhaps never reached out, yet your faithful subscribership has built this journal's foundation. Quietly or not, you are there, keeping me on top, in tune, and in touch with the creative thread of my days in time to weave the story of this French life one post at a time. 

As I think about my precious, invisible pact with you, dear reader, my daughter's words come to mind. She said recently, a little jittery before beginning her internship after 7-intensive months in web design class, “I just hope I can add value to the company that has hired me.” Pareillement, it is my mission to make the time you spend reading this journal count so that you leave with a smile, lighter and brighter than when you came in. Remarquez..a glass of champagne could have the same effect, but if there’s one thing I learned 21 years ago, a good effort (in whatever challenges you) leaves you feeling just as good! Thank you for your foundation of support without which today's effort may not have seen the light of day. 
 
Bien amicalement,
Kristi

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. I would love to know how you found this blog and for how long you have been reading! 

Daughter jackie and mama kristi with chocolate birthday cake to celebrate
Both cake photos are from the archives. The cake, above, was for my son's birthday. He is now 28! My sister Heidi made the first cake for Jackie's 21st (she is now 26). This journal began when the kids were 5- and 7-years-old. The blog archives help jog my memory!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French and English words

joyeux anniversaire = happy birthday
soufflons la bougie =
let's blow out the candle
à partir de ce weekend
= beginning this weekend
né et élévé = born and bred
de toute façon
= in any case
je rigole =  I'm kidding
mille mercis = a thousand thanks
la muse = creative inspiration
heureusement = happily
pareillement = in the same way
remarquez (imperative) remarquer = come to think of it
bien amicalement = warmly

REMERCIEMENTS 
Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Peter J.
Chris K.

Carla W.
Duncan M.

Tammy S.
Suzanne D.
Laurence S.

”For NZ. . . have a nice glass or two of vino for us.” —Suzanne D.

"Kristi, thank you for your charming, honest and inspiring column which always is a pleasure to read. I've studied French since college and love hearing about your insights into French culture. Amicalement, Carla!"

VIDEO CLIP
The following video of Ricci (our new dog) was posted on Instagram. You may need to click over to the site to see it.


Le carenage wooden boat maintenance in la ciotat france
Random photo: Fishermen working together during boat maintenance season in La Ciotat. See you next week with more words and stories from France. Meantime, thank you for sharing this post with a friend!

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


From France to New Zealand: Jean-Marc's Big News!

French winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse blind tasting degustation
From the Mediterranean to Nouvelle Zéalande--Jean-Marc will be a traveling winemaker once again. After making wine in Italy (Sicily), The United States (Oregon), and around France, ce vigneron will now experience a longtime dream of blending grapes in New Zealand! We would like to thank Whitehaven Wines for this amazing opportunity! Read my husband's update, below, for more details.
 
TODAY'S WORD: LE VIGNERON (LA VIGNERONNE)
 
    : winemaker, winegrower

NEW ZEALAND HERE I COME
by Jean-Marc Espinasse

For a very long time, I have dreamt about visiting New Zealand. But family obligations, work, Covid, and the country's location (at almost 2 days' travel from France), have made this fantastic voyage quite impossible so far.
 
I have so much affinity for these two islands because they are...islands and I have always felt good being surrounded by oceans and seas. New Zealand is also a country with a strong identity, some amazing sports, like rugby or sailing, 1000 years of history, and it's a land with deep farming values, producing the famous lamb but also many other crops and, of course, wine.
 
In 2009, as I was touring the States to promote Domaine Rouge-Bleu, a very good friend of mine (Jeffrey) invited some friends over for a blind wine-tasting party. He gave me the keys to his unbelievable wine cellar with a carte blanche to pick out any bottle in order to organize a fun game. After looking around, I decided to do a horizontal blind tasting of Northern Rhone 2003. Chave, Guigal, Gangloff, Jaboulet... all the big names were here and it was an honor to be able to select them. Exploring a bit more, I saw a New Zealand section where I had heard that some Syrah (which is the grape used by Northern Rhone wines) was producing interesting results. When I saw a Syrah from Craggy Range "Le Sol" 2003, I decided to add it to the line-up, as an intruder. Guess who won the contest--and by far? This definitely contributed to my growing interest in this magical land.
 
In 2014, Kristi and I celebrated our 20th anniversary and our friends offered us a trip to New Zealand. This voyage never happened but I continued to be interested in this marvelous country and started to follow some vineyards on Instagram. Long story short, I have some very exciting news for you today… I am thrilled to announce that I have just been hired to work as an assistant winemaker in the cellars of Whitehaven Wines, Marlborough.
 
If you have any connections over there, I am searching for a room in a house or a studio—or why not a camper—to rent (in/near Blenheim), starting March 1st for 7/8 weeks. I would also appreciate any contacts you may have in New Zealand as I plan to tour both islands by bike and camping car, before and after my work contract.
 
Thank you in advance for your help. I can't wait to tell you all about my experiences on this magnificent island.

Cheers,

Jean-Marc
[email protected]

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. It is a real pleasure to read your notes and stories. Merci!

Jean-Marc and Ricci mini australian shepherd near kayaks
Jean-Marc and our newest family member, Ricci, pose in front of a local Kayak stand here in La Ciotat. 


REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks and appreciation to readers who sent in a blog donation this past week. Your support helps me continue developing this blog, which is more than a creative outlet: it is a place to learn, reflect, and exchange.   

Clare W.
Wynn C.
Laura S.
Linda H.
Lynne K.
Leona A.
Audrey R.
C-Marie P.
Nackey P.
Patricia N.
Georgia H.
Graham C.
Maureen D. 
Natalia, Rod, & The Mignons 

"Ricci is precious!! Thank you for the pictures!! God bless!!" C. P.

“If poets made more money, I'd support you more often--I love your column and feel great fondness for you and your family, and now your new dog, Ricci.” Lynne K.

Max Izzy Jules Ricci
Family portrait: Max, his grandmother Jules, Izzy, and Ricci.

Ricci and Max
Ciao from Ricci! See you next week (or, for the latest photo, follow me on Instagram)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


We have a new dog. Welcome Ricci!

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UN BERGER = SHEPHERD

After one year and three months sans chien, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of our newest family member: "Ricci". She is a 3-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd and she hails from une ferme in Aveyron. 

Ten days ago, at a party, I was chatting with Corinne about her mini Aussie. "We love those dogs," I said, "but aren’t they a bit nervous?" Corinne, visibly gaga about her Berger Américain (as they are called in France), assured me le tempérament depends on the owner. With that in mind, I began to dream about these lovely dogs once again…

By the next day, Jean-Marc was combing through ads on Le BonCoin when he came across "Penny" a 4.5-year-old BAM (Berger Américain). Before we knew it, we were headed 5 hours north to a cow and cannabis* farm, where the busy owner was phasing out her dog breeding business. She had two adult females available: Penny and her 3-year-old cousin, Ricci. 

We had come all this way to see Penny, but understood right away she was not for us. "We live on a busy street," I explained. "We can't have a barker...the neighbors would not like it." Behind the chain-linked fence, there was another dog, who was a lot calmer and she was making eyes at us. "Who is that?" I asked.  

"C'est Ricci."

“Could we please see her?” With that, the gate was opened and both dogs bolted out, running circles past the chickens, over to the barn, and back. Ricci came when the breeder called her and I took her into my lap. She was thoughtful and calm for a moment and I knew, of the two dogs, she was the better bet.

My daughter had cautioned me to only take the dog if there was un coup de coeur - a lighting-strike attraction. This sort of put the brakes on things as I was not instantly enamored. I was, in fact, full of hesitation. But I couldn't be sure, either, if I wanted to leave without Ricci. We had come so far...we could make this work...fingers crossed this wasn’t a mistake. One final thought sealed the deal: Grandma will love her no matter what.

"We don't have a leash," I said.

"She's never been on a leash," the farmer replied, adding she was very sorry there might be some fleas….

"Assis!" I said to Ricci, to get a closer look, but the little shepherd did not respond.
"She doesn't know any commands..." the farmer explained.

Because this seemed like a risky transaction, and considering the upcoming expenses (sterilization? vaccination?) I negotiated the price down as far as possible. I reasoned, privately, that if we returned home and there were no surprises with this adult dog (hip replacement surgery?--I'd heard horror stories), I could eventually send a donation to the farmer to make up for any losses on her part.

Ricci now in the passenger’s seat, on my lap, I picked off as many fleas as possible during the 6-hour ride home. Our seat was also soaked in saliva, even so, the long voyage went better than expected. The closeness helped form a kind of bond, but, after reaching her new home, Ricci was running into walls. She didn't understand door-windows, and banged right into our porte vitrée. The "dog bed" concept threw her as well. And the flush of a toilet, the vacuum, the garbage truck…just about any sudden bruit had her running for cover and making puddles around the house, in the bed, and on the couch. The former “Berger” from Aveyron may as well have been dropped off on Planet Mars.

She’s been on high alert since landing here near the beach in La Ciotat. There will be so much to learn for her and for us, but thankfully, everyone in our family is smitten by cette petite Louloutte, and ready to help.
"I'm Max! You'll be seeing a lot of me," my son said, taking her calico face into his hands and gently caressing her. And when she freaked out on the leash with me, Max's girlfriend, Ana, tried a different approach by first presenting the leash for Ricci to sniff. Gradually, Ana was able to coax her out into the garden, with Max cheering her on.

Grandma Jules is over the moon and inspired "Reece is so paintable! I’m just crazy about her!”
“Mom, her name is ‘Ricci’, that’s Ree-Chee like the perfume Nina Ricci... (but "Reece" is sweet, reminiscent of the peanut-butter cups I loved as a kid).

“I'm going to call her Chi-chi,” Jackie already decided, via video chat as we all gathered for Ricci's first night home.

Ana calls her "Ma Petite Puce," a popular term of endearment in France (but also appropriate given Ricci was teaming with fleas.). On day two Ana returned to help give Ricci a chewable medication for the fleas, the ticks, and any potential worms. And it worked immediately. 

What a whirlwind two days it has been since bringing Ricci home: loads of laundry, retraining, shopping (leash, bed, food, toys), and agitated sleeping. But we've enjoyed every minute. Speaking of time, that coup de coeur Jackie insisted on may not have been instant, but it came after a leap of faith.

Whether a coup or a leap, all that matters is that our dog is here. Bienvenue, dear Ricci. We love you already!


COMMENTS
To leave a comment about our new dog, or any sort of advice on welcoming an adult farm dog to the city, click here.
Will Ricci's startle reflex calm down? Will she continue to make puddles when scared? Advice welcome and appreciated.

IMG_9068_Original

E80AFF44-02E6-47D7-8185-E729F46A86D7


FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the French and English terms

sans chien = without dog
une ferme = farm
Le Berger Américain = Mini Australian Shepherd 
le tempérament = disposition 
la porte vitrée  = glass door
le bruit = noise
mon loulou, ma louloute = affectionate term for pooch, pup
ma petite puce = my little flea

*Le cannabigérol est un composé de la plante de chanvre. Cannabigerol is a compound found in the hemp plant.

Ricci mini australian shepherd

REMERCIEMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers considering sending in a blog donation for the first time. Your contribution will go a long way not only in backing this journal but also in encouraging me to keep writing. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Ina D.
Kim S.
Mike P.
Kristi S.
Paula P.
Jackie W.
Catherine L.
Randolph C

“Thank you for these blogs. They are very helpful.” Kim S.

 “Merci Kristi. I love your charming stories.” Catherine L.

IMG_9051_Original

In the car during the ride home from the farm in Aveyron and, finally, on an evening walk on the beach here in La Ciotat.

IMG_1526

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


"To get an eyeful" in French: An accidental trip to a “Naturiste” beach

IMG_8861_Original
Amidst fragrant parasol pine trees, see the charming blue umbrellas, lower right, in front of a highly sought-after restaurant and its terrace over the sea. Hiking down toward this turquoise paradise we had no idea it was a "no clothes" cove...  Too late, there was no turning back--not when we'd reserved a table at Chez Jo a week in advance!

To View All Photos, click here to visit the blog

TODAY’S WORD: "se rincer l'oeil" ("to rinse the eye")


    : to get an eyeful, to see too much of something

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last week we traveled back to the area of Cavalaire, for our 29th lune de miel. Our destination was a little over an hour's drive from home, and we made it there by 11 a.m. Jean-Marc kept asking me if I recognized the surroundings, but it had been 20 years since we took the kids here. "Look, there’s Fort Brégançon. Maybe Bribri and Manu will invite us for lunch?" Jean-Marc smiled toward the Presidential vacation residence (and now I can vaguely remember him saying the same when Chirac was president). 

La Plage de Cabasson (with a view of the medieval fortress out at sea) is beautiful at the end of September and its crystal clear waters were almost warm. We walked to the far end of the beach to spread out our towels and put up a large parasol. It felt so good to get into the Mediterranean and wade up and down the shoreline while Jean-Marc snorkled near the rocky outcrop. Drying off, we left our serviettes on the beach and enjoyed lunch at La Cabasse, where I toasted to Jean-Marc: so far this had been 20 sur 20--a top score for his well-planned itinerary. Bravo!

Fort bregancon
View of Fort Brégançon from the mainland, at Plage de Cabasson.

We'll skip talking about our quirky hotel but it may have been a herald for Day Two.... which was set to be the highlight of our trip. Our son Max insisted we go to La Plage du Layet to eat at the incontournable “Chez Jo”. We decided to again bring our towels and parasol for a “free” spot in the cove, and then splurge on lunch at the gourmet restaurant. But as we made our way down into the beach, any excitement about our plans quickly turned to panic when we passed a sign along the path that read "PLAGE NATURISTE"....

"A naturiste beach. Are you kidding me?"

"I had no idea," my husband swore.

"I can't believe this! The restaurant is part of une plage naturiste!"

"We can go somewhere else if you want!" Jean-Marc was as surprised as I was.

I was more annoyed than anything, and that energy made me stubborn: “No! I don't want to go somewhere else!” I wanted to be near the restaurant our son had raved about, where we had made reservations well in advance. There was no backing out now. We'd figure it out when we arrived! 

Hiking around the last bend I saw the restaurant to the right, and to the left a blur of skin...de la peau à gogo.

"Bonjour," I said to the waiter. "We have reservations for lunch. But we'd like to go to the beach first. Do you rent matelas?" We had not planned on springing for lounge chairs, but this was an emergency! Designated chairs could be our ticket to more conventional digs in this unconventional cove.

"Yes," he smiled, pointing to the rental chair area. But none of the clients were dressed there either. Not a single thread anywhere to be seen.

"We'll take those two," I quickly decided, indicating the last two chairs nearest the restaurant. I dropped my bag on the sand and exhaled. I'd already decided I was not stripping down. I'd rather feel the embarrassment of being the only suit-wearing wuss at the beach (and what a suit--it was the same one I brought to Morocco, out of respect for the culture. It covered a lot of ground)!

Forming a human shield, Jean-Marc took the chair nearest the crowd and surprised me by keeping his swim trunks on. (In solidarity? I'll never know for sure.) Next, he grabbed his snorkel mask and confidently strode out to sea, disappearing into the water.

Alone, I fussed with our towels and pretended to be completely at ease as the odd one out. My eyes darted left, then right. Groups of unabashed senior citizens stood along the shoreline, casually chatting. I wanted to get into the water, too, but not if it meant The Walk of Humiliation. My paranoid side was certain the naturists were having a good laugh at my expense. Well then, let them. Qu'ils rigolent!

I shot up and walked with dignity across the shore, and fell quickly into the water. Swimming out far enough, I turned to look back at the beach and got quite an eyeful: sitting, lounging, reading, chatting, and strolling, there was the flock of nudes. And here, dans son maillot uni noir, ONE BLACK SHEEP. 

And what is a black sheep if not a rebel? The thought was amusing enough to carry me confidently through the awkward experience--in time to bare all in a lively story for you today. So hats off (and almost everything else) to the unintended adventures Life brings us.
  

Kristi and Jean-Marc in Lavandou beach

Post Note: What a relief to see everyone put on their clothes for lunch (up until the last minute I couldn't be sure about the restaurant's dress code). After lunch, one other bathing-suited couple showed up, thank God!, and quickly put down towels near ours. Finally, a family of four arrived, and they were quick to sit near us too. 

As for any naturistes who may be reading this now...I hope you are laughing along with me. I leave you with a good address—La Plage du Layet in Cavalaire—for the next time you visit the south of France. Allez-y! 

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. Thanks in advance for your comments or corrections. I appreciate it!

Le Lavendou
Loved visiting the town of Lavandou, and the message on the door "Soyons heureux"--Be Happy. Do you think this one would make a good postcard for the La Carte Postale collection?

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the vocabulary
se rincer l'oeil =
to have an eyeful
la lune de miel = honeymoon
Bribri et Manu = Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron
le parasol = beach umbrella 
la serviette = towel
l'incontournable
= must see
la peau = skin
à gogo = galore
le matelas = lounge chair on the beach
Qu'ils rigolent = they can go ahead and laugh
le maillot uni noir = black one-piece


REMERCIEMENTS 

Thanks in advance to readers considering sending in a blog donation for the first time. Your contribution will go a long way not only in backing this journal but also in encouraging me to keep writing. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Jim B.
Vicki B.
Julie S.
Janet D.
Linda F.
Jennie J.
Linda Kay F. 

“Joyeux anniversaire de marriage! Love your mom’s comment.” Linda F.

"Merci beaucoup Kristi et Jean-Marc! I’ve been looking forward to reading this memoir for over a year and have finally made time." Jennie

Louis John Janet Kristi Jean-Marc Chateau Ferry Lacomb in Trets
Provence Wine Tour near Aix. The weather was spectacular for Jean-Marc's most recent vineyard visit to Chateau Ferry Lacomb in Trets-en-Provence. Many thanks, Louis, Janet, and John for reserving a specialized French wine tour with Jean-Marc. It was lovely to meet you! 


If you are still thinking of moving to France, click the book cover to read about an American family who moves to Nice.

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


Heartwarming in French: Ana & A Gift for the Birds

Ana and Loca
Today's story is part wedding anniversary, part birthdays, part peanuts, and part people. You have already read a little about Max's girlfriend, and today you'll learn more about Ana (and why we love her).

Are the photos in this newsletter appearing? If not, view all of them here at the blog.

TODAY'S WORD: “Qui réchauffe le cœur”

 : heartwarming, that which warms the heart

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This week marks 29 years since Jean-Marc and I walked the matrimonial carpet at La Paroisse Saint Antoine de Padoue in Marseilles, inching our way down the cathedral's central passage toward a no-going-back "Oui" or I do!

It is hard to believe almost three decades have passed since tying the knot here in France. I had to laugh, recently, overhearing my husband make a dermatological appointment for each of us, proof we are barreling toward retirement ensemble.
"Chérie," my husband says, putting his hand over the phone. "C'est pour un contrôle, oui?"
"Oui," I nod. Yes, just a checkup.

After making the dreaded yearly appointment, we rejoined our grown kids, including Ana (Max's petite amie whom we've adopted along with her two dogs) on the front porch, for a celebratory lunch. I've got my sunhat on, for prevention and to keep my rosacea at bay, and Jean-Marc has cranked out a fabric awning over our terrasse. These days even he can't tolerate le soleil

As I'm setting the table, Max calls out, "Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes!"
Worms in the peanuts? Mon Dieu! I beeline over to where the kids were enjoying an apéro, to find the jar of nuts slithering. I'm so embarrassed for Ana to see this! As for my kids, it wouldn't be the first time they've found expired food chez nous. And my son is quick to point it out! Honestly, now that it's just Jean-Marc and me at home, the food doesn't circulate as often. (I can't speak for my own Mom, who lives in a studio around the side of our house, with her own pantry and fridge.)

"Max, please toss those peanuts into the compost!" I urged, before escaping to the kitchen to recompose myself. But it was too late, all my sloppy and negligent parts had spilled out into the light of day. Gone was the cool urban housewife-writer I may have been trying to impersonate; in her place, a negligent nut (that is to say I should've been seated outside with my family, instead the lively nuts took center stage). 

Returning to the front patio, still red in the face (not from rosacea this time...) I found Max, Jackie, and Ana on the ground, beside a few small piles of peanut shells. Nearby, dans les parages, a flock of familiar doves paced back and forth in anticipation.

"What are you guys doing?" 

"We are preparing the peanuts for the birds," Ana explained, heading The Stale Peanut Initiative.

"But you don't have to bother with that..."

"Ce n'est rien," Ana assured me.

"But the worms..."

"The birds love them!" Ana pointed out. Beside her, Max sat on the gravel, using the kitchen scissors to cut up the rubbery cacahuètes--and Ana and Jackie were using their fingers to break up the peanuts. As for the slithering vermin? Même pas peur! The industrious trio was too busy feeding the hungry to worry about a few unsavory visitors.

In the end, the kidults cracked every nut (even this one, who overcame the embarrassment). Those stale legumes became fodder for the doves that have been struggling since the drought. It was heartwarming to see these young people salvaging those peanuts. They could have easily chucked them into the compost, instead, they considered the birds.  

“Look at those beautiful kids. You and Jean-Marc are truly blessed. Happy anniversary!” Jules raised her glass and sipped some champagne from the apéro, as I updated her on all the activity out in the yard. 

After our 29th anniversary lunch, a day after Mom’s 77th birthday, I brought out the chocolate cake Jean-Marc had chosen for Jackie’s birthday and we sang Joyeux Anniversaire to our daughter who recently turned 26. What a week of special days! It was a lot to keep up with. No wonder those worms slinked by unnoticed. This cool urban housewife’s been busy with more important things, like writing about all these blessings.


    COMMENTS: To comment, click here

 
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Les Tourterelles and Izzy the Beagle.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce these words:

Qui réchauffe le coeur =
heartwarming
Ensemble
= together
Chérie, Cheri = dear
pour un contrôle = for a checkup 
La petite amie = girlfriend 
la terrasse = patio
le soleil = sun
Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes! = Mom there are worms in the peanuts!
l’apéro
= before dinner drinks and munchies
chez nous = at our place
ce n’est rien = it’s nothing
la cacahuète = peanut 
même pas peur = it doesn’t scare me
la tourterelle = dove, turtledove
Joyeux anniversaire! = happy birthday! 

Mom walking Kristi down the aisle
Mom walked me down the aisle in her black tuxedo. To the right, my French mom, Christine, who hosted me during my 1989 exchange program in Lille, France.

Kristi Ingham Jean-Marc Espinasse
September 24, 1994. At the evening celebration and dinner, after our church wedding

REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to readers who recently sent in a blog donation, jumpstarting the fall season of future stories and vocabulary. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal week after week. Ça réchauffe le cœur! --Kristi

Rob B.
Ginny B.
Ellen H.
Marcy W.
Kathleen B.

"Thanks for the time you take to write your blog and share your stories." Marcy W.

"Thanks Kristi for always making France come alive and transporting me there." Ellen H.

“Bonjour, Kristin. How impressive that you remember my aspirations to learning several languages. I have recently begun an online class (live, with other students!) in Norwegian with hopes of improving my conversational abilities. Maintaining my low level of French is mostly reading your missives, for which I am truly grateful! This year I did get to use my Spanish in Mazatlan, and my Japanese in (you guessed it) Japan, and those fluencies added a great deal to the enjoyment of both trips. Even decades after my formal studies, I have somehow been lucky enough to remember a surprising amount. "Foreign" languages have really added a lot to the quality of my life, and thanks for being part of it.” Ginny B.

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse 2023
Here’s to our anniversary! I loved my Mom’s comment after she realized how long Jean-Marc and I have been married:
“29 years? That’s a record, Honey. Most people have married 3 or 4 times by then!” Sacré Mama Jules. (Jules, you are one of a kind, xoxo)

Click on the book cover, above, to discover a new, French-themed read for the week.

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


Vineyard tour & lunch Châteauneuf-du-Pape with my Little Sister

Kelley Brad and Fraternity brothers  and wives
One of the prestations Jean-Marc offers within his wine business is Provence vineyard tours. Sometimes I get to join him--especially when my sister is the customer! Read on in today’s histoire.

TODAY'S WORD: La Prestation

    : a service, offering, performance

Translation of opening sentence into French:
L'une des prestations que Jean-Marc propose dans le cadre de son entreprise autour du vin est la visite de vignobles.

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

C’est la rentrée and Jean-Marc’s vineyard tours are off to a promising start this fall season thanks to an unexpected client: ma soeurette. (Not to be confused with ma soeur aînée, Heidi in Denver.)

My little sister Kelley, her husband, Brad, his 5 fraternity brothers, and their wives are here visiting from Seattle, renting connected villas in Roussillon. Because the group shares an appreciation of fine wines, mon beau-frère et petite soeur asked Jean-Marc to show them some typical southern French wine estates.

Mais avec plaisir!

Last Friday in Châteauneuf-du-Pape the skies were a rich Provencal blue and the air refreshing after the recent canicule. Fields of leafy green vines flanked the narrow chemin leading up to the partly-standing chateau. Cruising towards this historic landmark, we were suddenly engulfed in a familiar scene: tractors, buckets, secateurs, and vendangeurs…. This visceral environment we were now experiencing was none other than our old stomping grounds—et c’est le cas de le dire.

Excited to be back during harvest time, I lowered my window to inhale the scent of crushed grapes as Jean-Marc sped toward the chateau ruins, where our tour was about to begin. 

Entering the Southern Rhone village from the north side, Uncle Jean-Claude's caveau, came into view and it was like passing through a movie set. This part of town was untouched, as one had left it decades ago…. From the passenger seat I recognized the patina of old stone buildings which filed by in a blur of nostalgie. What a privilege it was to have spent so much time here during harvest--even if, back then, the overriding feeling was when are we going to stop picking grapes for the day? And stop sniffing for "la pourriture" or Noble Rot?

IMG_8640_Original
Here we were back, now, as tourists, having swapped our grape-stained t-shirts and caps for linen and straw hats. Pulling into the chateau parking lot I spotted my sister Kelley! A giant hug soon bridged our one-year separation. My brother-in-law, Brad, joined us, followed by his fraternity brothers and their wives. After a warm introduction, Jean-Marc stood in front of the massive ruins of the old castle for a brief history about Châteauneuf-du-Pape terroir and an overview of our imminent excursion…and just like that we were off to the grape fields, in a curious convoy of three rental cars and one all-terrain vehicle

On the way, we passed through Châteauneuf-du-Pape again, via le centre ville. How it had changed! I saw high-tech cellars, modern cafes, and chic boutiques. No time to shop we were headed for Le Bois de Boursin, to see Syrah vines planted among large galets roulés. Carefully stepping out of our vehicles, I noticed all the ladies made it across the large, smooth stones in their sandals, which meant the next two fields would only be easier to navigate (for the girls anyway... as for the rental cars we’d see about that….).

Pulling into the next lieu-dit, "Grand Pierre" (to witness Grenache in sandy soil) wasn’t a problem. But when it came time for all four cars to back out of the narrow path at the top of the field, that took skill (one thing the fraternity brothers were actively demonstrating. But were they ready for the final challenge?).

On our way out of Le Grand Devès (having viewed Mourvèdre planted among limestone) Jean-Marc and I, in our 4x4 Jimny, headed the convoy. Suddenly the dirt path turned into a deeply-creviced, rocky, inhospitable terrain. “Jean-Marc,” I said between clenched teeth, “I don't think this is a road…at least not for rental cars!” Glancing into the rearview mirror, I could see the rest of our group through the dust, bobbing up and down when miraculously those cars morphed into hot rods! I guess they were determined to finally taste the world-renown wines they’d been hearing about for the past hour. 

IMG_8646_Original

A BARREL TASTING AND MICHELIN-STAR LUNCH
At the recently-acquired Château Maucoil, owner Bernard DuSeigneur offered our dusty group a warm welcome, followed by a barrel tasting in the cellars. He then escorted us back to the chateau’s terrace, to a long table set with fine linens and adorned with greenery from the gardens—a beautiful backdrop for the 5-course meal to come. We were amazed this vineyard owner, along with three helpers and one lively chef, would be serving us throughout this mouthwatering déjeuner sur la terrace.

I could go into detail about every bite—the soupe au pistou that rivaled my belle-mere’s, the delicate cod on a bed of fennel and seaweed, the roasted guinea hen cooked in the estate's wine, the artful cheese plate and its zucchini-ribbons—but the chef merits the extended commentaire. Animated, flirtatious, and full of saucy anecdotes, Jean-Claude Altmayer was what my belle-mère would call sacré—as in sacré Jean-Claude. I’ve never entirely understood the meaning of that word, but never mind. Here we were immersed in one sacré experience, among family and new friends including the vineyard owner himself.

We raised our glasses, toasting to a return to this magnificent table in three years' time….I hope everyone will rent four-wheel drives then. Who knows where Jean-Marc will take us next?

*       *       *

Table at Chateau Maucoil

Bernard DuSeigneur Kelley  Kristi vineyard lunch
Bernard DuSeigneur serving his wine from Chateau Maucoil on this lovely terrace with a view.

Kristi and Kelley
A smiley ouistiti for our father, Kip from Kristi and Kelley.

COMMENTS
To comment on today's story, click here. Would love to know the town you are writing in from!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
The definitions, below, are in context, and the words may have multiple meanings.

Language pronunciation: Click here to listen to the French and English terms

la prestation = service
l’histoire = story
c’est la rentrée = it’s back to work
la soeurette = younger sister
la soeur aînée = older sister
le beau-frère
= brother-in-law
la canicule = heatwave
le chemin = road
le vendangeur
= harvester
c'est le cas de le dire = you can say that again
le caveau = cellar
le terroir = soil, land
le centre ville =
town center
le galet roulé =
pebble
le lieu-dit
= location, site, locale
sacré = 1. quite the character (person)
sacré (repas)= 2. On hell of a (meal)
Ouistiti! = Cheese! ("smile for the photo")

Jean-Marc Espinasse barrel tasting chateau maucoil
Would you like to join Jean-Marc on a Provence Wine Tour? Click here or simply hit return and send a note if reading this via email.


REMERCIEMENTS

Wholehearted thanks to readers who sent in a blog donation following last week's post. Your support means a lot, and I am truly grateful! Amicalement, Kristi


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"To thank you for sharing your life, your courage, and because I can pretend I'm in France every time your blog comes out. Amicalment." Carol T.

IMG_1426
Harvesting grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape when the kids were little.

Jackie in chateauneuf-du-pape
Happy birthday to Jackie who turned 26 on Monday! Here she is some 20 years earlier in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. To comment on this post, click here if reading 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