Voir La Vie en Rose: Mom’s Secret to Facing Challenges

Mom always said to take a new road each day, which is how I discovered this secret square in La Ciotat. Growing up, Jules also taught me to see things that are not as though they are. More in today’s missive “La Vie en Rose”.

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

Jean-Marc returns home soon, in time to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him to reserve a date at [email protected]


: to see the positive side of things

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The weather report was wrong. Fortunately, it wasn't pouring down rain, but there were other traveling ennuis when we drove Mom to the hospital for her eye condition. Coming out of Marseille's Prado Carénage tunnel, my daughter blared her horn. “Mais ils conduisent comme des fous!" she gasped, as the car to our right cut over, causing us to swerve.  “You would have never been able to drive here, Mom!”

“Don’t say that, Jackie! It’s discouraging. I'm sure I could’ve driven. I memorized the map all week," I remarked, from the copilot seat. Currently, we were arriving at "that building with the arched windows" and it was just as Google depicted it.  "Turn left at the BMW dealership Jackie!" There it was, exactly as the online photo in Google Maps indicated. 

“You’re a great driver, Jackie!” Jules cheered from the back. You'd never know from her words that Mom was uneasy. By focusing on the positive, she was now a voyager on an exciting ride, instead of petrified. Listening to our passenger, I’m reminded of a title Mom kept on the bookshelf when my sister and I were growing up. Florence Scovel Schinn’s Your Word is Your Wand was eventually replaced by The Holy Bible which we call "The Living Word." I find the French translation fascinating: The Word, which is considered alive and active appears as "Le Verbe" in certain editions. "In the beginning was The Word...Au commencement était le Verbe..." (Jean 1:1)

Words and vision have always been important to Mom. One of the first lessons Mom taught my sister and me was to see things that are not as though they are. Though it was hard for me to see all the D’s on my report card as A’s, or to view my crooked teeth as straight, Mom’s scripture-based wisdom proved itself in the end--with the help of long hours of study and braces. (Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera!)

But back to our narrative in which Mom’s faith-filled eyes are, ironically, suffering from inflammation…

The doctor's assistant had already warned me that the European Hospital was in a bad part of Marseille (I guess BMW thinks as positively as Mom...). Outside our car windows, I saw boarded-up businesses and an automobile repair shop covered in graffiti, a lone pair of jeans dangling on a clothesline above. But from Mom's perspective, you’d think we were in a charming French village and not the gritty city. "I love it here. I've always loved Marseille!

"Mom, hold on to my arm!" I urged after Jackie pulled in front of L'Hôpital Européen to drop us off. “What a beautiful hospital!” Jules enthused. Looking around, I saw patients walking with mobile IV drip bags, others in wheelchairs, and some with canes. All looked pale, but to Mom, they were nearly sunkissed.

Mom winked at the giant security guard at the entrance. Meanwhile, I saw the agent de protection differently and began to envision a band of thugs hurrying past us on their way to ER following another règlement de compte.

“Did you see those handsome men pushing the wheelchairs?” Mom said, pointing to the aides-soignants. “When I check in next month I’ll have them race me down the halls and across the street for a glass of wine at that darling café!" To Mom, even the nearby commerces (including les pompes funèbres, or funeral parlor) appeared otherly. 

Having cleared security, now on our way to the first appointment in section C1 of the hospital, Mom’s enthusiasm ramped up, perhaps along with her anxiety. “This place looks like a resort!” This sunny outlook was beginning to affect me and I could now begin to see the clean, modern lines of the great hall which reminded me of a shopping mall. In fact, we were very close to the popular Les Terrasses du Port shopping center, where Jackie had gone after dropping us off. Why not see this place as a little extension of that? Therefore, Mom and I were only in one of the “department stores.” 

In the hospital’s ophthalmology unit, I pulled a number from the ticket dispenser, ushered Mom to a seat, and began rifling through my bag for administrative forms, for Mom's American passport, her prescriptions, all the while translating any instructions to Mom, in English or to the healthcare workers, in French. While Mom found each étape amusing, I sweated them all. The receptionist called our number and fell instantly under Mom’s charm, and I sighed a breath of relief (Ouf! Mom’s insurance card, set to expire in 4 days, had passed inspection). 

We were in the second waiting room when Mom’s doctor appeared with a bottle of eye drops to dilate her eyes. “Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît," the doctor said, to which Mom removed her well-worn Panama hat—but not without a little reluctance. Her trademark chapeau is a little like her shield. I held my breath, wondering, would all of her positivity disappear now?

When next I looked over, Mom was smiling demurely. I could see she was smitten by the doctor! It was at this point that I knew Mom would get through this current trial. If there’s one thing in the world that trumps positive thinking, it’s love! 

And I knew, by the grace from above, I’d get through it too, no matter how many times I stumble as a caregiver.

Standing outside on the gritty curb, waiting for Jackie to pick us up, Mom was filled with gratitude, even as the Mistral threatened to carry off her hat. As she held on tight to her Panama and to me, she beamed. "I'm so proud of you," she said. "I'll bet these doctors are impressed with how organized you were!"

Well, I wouldn’t go that far! But then... Il faut voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient


To leave a comment or to offer a correction, click here. Thanks in advance! 

La Vie en Rose t-shirt Sainte Ceciile les Vignes
In theme with today's word "voir la vie en rose", here's a picture from the archives. Jean-Marc, resting at Mas des Brun. His t-shirt is a play on words: "La Vie en Rosé" from Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes.


Today’s sound file may be difficult to hear, but you’ll enjoy the birds in the background. Jean-Marc recorded it for me in New Zealand, and sent it along with this note:

Found some internet to send you this 
It's beautiful and very wild here 
Will be with you in a week now ❤️

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary

voir la vie en rose = to see life through rose-tinted glasses
l'ennui = problem, aggravating factor
Mais ils conduisent comme des fous! = But they drive like crazy people!
le Verbe (Parole de Dieu) = The Word (Word of God)
L'Hôpital Européen = The European Hospital
Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera! = God helps those who help themselves
le règlement de compte = settling of scores
l'agent de protection = security guard
l'aide-soignant, aide-soignante = orderly, porter, nurse's aide
le commerce = business
les pompes funèbres = funeral parlor
une étape = one step (or part) of a process or journey
ouf! = phew!
Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît = take off your hat, please
Voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient = See things that are not as though they are

Sincere thanks to readers for sending in a donation in support of my French word journal. Your support makes a difference!

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Kristi, your posts are a joy! Merci! --Linda A.

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Your posts add joy to my day, especially when they concern serepdipitous encounters like the one with Jean-Pierre in Ceyreste. They're all part of a bigger plan. Bisous bcp. --Augusta 

Kristi Jules Jackie car ride

My daughter Jackie, right, is driving (the photo is flipped around) Our expressions tell a story: The nerve-racking ride home from the hospital and a treat at the end: Jackie stopped at McDonald’s drive-thru to get her grandmother a sundae.  

Happy birthday to Ana. As Grandma Jules says, We're so lucky to have you! (Pictured with Max and Loca.)

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
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

The worst thing about summer in the south of France + do you know these slang words?

Golden retriever Smokey in the garden
An almost 13-year-old Smokey, keeping cool in the garden. It's a good thing he can't hear so well these days, as the streets just beyond those hedges are loud at the start of summer. Read on in today's bruyante update.


  1. jam-packed, full (of people)
  2. loaded (with money)

blindé de monde = crowded, full of people 

In books: Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, from Menton to Saint-Tropez

 Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE, by Kristi Espinasse

Over lunch on our terrasse, we were discussing the busy summer season here in the south of France when my family used some colorful words and expressions to describe la foule passant....

C’est la folie!” my belle-sœur said, of the crowded beaches in Marseilles. So packed you have to move your beach bag to make room for a stranger to set down their towel. Forty-five minutes east, in La Ciotat, “C’est le bordel!” Max seconded, pouring some chilled rosé into his father’s glass. “C’est blindé!” Jean-Marc agreed—the seafront is teeming with people.

Blindé, bordel, folie...Quietly eating my salade de pois chiches, I began mental-noting all this juicy argot in time to share it with you in the following piece about le bruit. So plug a couple of boule Quies into your ears and read along--it's going to get loud!

Litter, crowds, and pee (or “la miction publique”) are some désagréments of the tourist season in our seaside town. But what pains us the most isn’t the smell, the swell, or la poubelle... it’s the noise--the ear-shattering clattering. By June, our normally peaceful garden is now a cacophony of screaming toddlers, quarreling lovers, and screeching teenagers. And while these strangers are not actually in our yard, their reverberations are...

...a woman is clapping her shoes together, shaking free le sable, clack! clack! clack!...a shirtless man at the parking meter is shouting to a friend 5 cars away, "C’est quoi le numéro d'immatriculation?" What’s the license number on your car? 
"C'est E....T....6...3...5....Q...L" the other yells back. Often my daughter and I are just beyond the hedges, our lawn chairs in the crossfire of so much shouting. If it weren't so amusing it would be maddening

I sometimes want to call out from the other side of the oleanders: Est-ce que vous vous rendez compte qu'il y a des gens qui vivent ici? Do you realize that people live here? Instead, I run for cover. But escaping into the house doesn’t bring the quiet I am hoping for, as none of our upstairs windows have le double-vitrage, or double glazing—worse, they vibrate with each slam of the car door. I'm amazed at how many times a family of 4 can slam the doors. I lie in bed counting... un, deux, trois, huit?! Wait, someone's coming back for a forgotten towel, neuf, dix! Even if I had earplugs to block out the sound my nerve-drums hear it all.

If the daytime decibels weren't loud enough, nighttime is booming with le bruit...et la bagarre! Someone’s set off another pétard. A gaggle of teenagers are now running down the street, shrieking with glee. A block in the opposite direction and a fight's broken out. Hours later, people are heading home, but not before a few revelers make a pit stop at our hedges, trickle, trickle, trickle. And then, finally, the quiet of the early morning hours.

Then the garbage trucks arrive at 6 in all their thunderous glory. Finally I give up, get out of bed and head out to say good morning to Smokey and to my mom, who's reading in her butterfly chair.

"Did you hear those firecrackers? What a noisy night!" I say.
"Oh, I don't mind. We're in the South of France!"
I'm with Mom: it's all about perspective, and attitude is one way to drown out the claquements. (The screeching cicadas and our water fountain are good buffers, too). As for la foule passante, it helps to remember "this too shall pass"—but not before I mental-note more words, expressions, and juicy slang to share with you in the future. Therein lies the gift of going with the flow and tuning in to the passing crowd. 

One of the boardwalks in our town, La Ciotat, above a tiny fishing port and its colorful “pointus,” or wooden boats.

Summer Reading: The Paris Library: A Novel by Janet Skeslien Charles


blindé de monde = packed full of people
la terrasse
= patio, balcony
la foule passante = the passing crowd
C’est blindé = it’s packed
C’est la folie = it’s crazy
la belle-sœur = sister-in-law
C’est le bordel = it’s a mess!
le pois chiche = chickpea
= slang
la bagarre = fight, brawl
le bruit = noise
le pétard = firecracker
boule Quies = ear plugs (named after a popular brand, quies signifies calm, tranquility)
la miction = urinating
= public
le désagrément = annoyance, unpleasantness
la poubelle
= garbage can
le sable = sand
le claquement = slam, slamming
le numéro d'immatriculation = license plat number

Our front yard
One-half of our front garden. The other half is looking like the desert this sizzling time of year.

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.

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2.Paypal or credit card
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

bonne rentree (et bon courage!)

Sunflower tournesol golden retriever smokey
Smokey wishes you all une bonne rentrée. And, naner naner!, after enjoying his breakfast baguette, Smo-smo gets to linger beneath the lazy sunflower whilst Jackie hurries for the bus. How to say "to rub it in" in French?

TODAY'S PHRASE: "bonne rentrée" (f) (boehn-rahn-tray)

    : Happy back-to-school!, Enjoy the new school year!

Audio File & Example Sentence: Download MP3 or Wave file

Saw the following greeting on my friend Zahia's Facebook page. She's been busy wishing her nieces, Meissa and Inès, Bonne rentrée or "Welcome back (to school)."

Zahia writes:

Coucou! Toutes les bonnes choses ont une fin, hélas, je te souhaite de passer une trés bonne rentrée! Hi there! All good things have an end, alas, I wish you happy back-to-school!

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

Merci Beaucoup! 

This morning, and for the first time since summer began, I woke up in a pitch-dark room. Gone was the comforting view of the forest and with it the daily wake-up ritual of searching for my favorite tree (the old umbrella pine at the top of the hill. When I focus on the curve of that arbre I see the outline of a giant heart. Any anxieties that woke up with me disappear beneath the promise of that tree).

This morning no light, no forest, no heart. The buzz of Jean-Marc's réveil jolted our family into a new reality: la rentrée! Back-to-school for our daughter (the remaining fledgling in our nest) means a new schedule for everyone. No more sleeping in 'till seven. No more pep talks with Mr. Pin Parasol. Funny how...with the pursuit of a dream, whether writing or winemaking...each day feels like the first day of class and, waking to the uncertainty of the next 24 hours, we are like small children approaching the giant gates of the schoolyard. Shaking in our boots our socks fall to our ankles as we stumble forth, into the unknown. Another day.

Recently even a big-hearted pine tree could not coax me out of bed. You know the old ditty: Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my mama said....

Yes, but just what did Mama say to do on days like this? To find out the answer I called my Mama and here is what she said: "Focus on others, not yourself!" The message was delivered firmly but with love.

Facing a new work day, I sucked up and wrote about another's pain, sharing my mother-in-law's situation instead of my own. Next, my thoughts traveled over to you, dear reader, and how you are surely experiencing "days like this." I wondered, Did you, too, dial up my Mom, who gave you the same answer: "Focus on another!" Because that would explain the outpouring of support following the previous post. I did not expect so much sympathy over a seemingly unsentimental subject: email. You must have read between the lines of the story -- when suddenly a heart came into focus

I'm looking out my bedroom window now and the big-hearted tree is finally coming into view. Ouf! It's back! And with it a new day. But I didn't want this day to end before sending you a sincere remerciement. Thank you so much for looking past your own pain and focusing on another's. Your empathy is deeply touching!

This post was supposed to be about back-to-school and the French penchant for wishing everyone bonne rentrée, or happy first day of classes. But we haven't gone too far off theme: "Happy return," after all, is the universal topic, the bonne rentrée everyone's talking about. Yes, many happy returns! May each day be a new day--with new hope and new courage for all. Whatever is hurting you, let it gently blend into this friendly forest and reappear as the giant heart of compassion: the balm to heal all wounds. Bon courage.



Bonne rentrée = Welcome back to school!
un arbre
 = tree
le réveil = alarm clock
le pin parasol = umbrella pine, stone pine
ouf! = phew!
un remerciement = thanks
bon courage! = good luck!
amicalement = yours, best wishes 


  Gloves gants arrangement

Things that make me happy? Decorating my potting stand with vineyard gloves and clothespins. Just looking at this scene brings a smile. Any you? What makes you happy? 

To comment on this post, click here.

 Pomegranate tree grenadier and golden retriever
Breizh, Smokey's mom napping beneath the pomegranate tree... this makes me happy.


"Bonne rentrée" is a commonly used French expression that translates to "good back-to-school" or "happy return." It is typically used in France and other French-speaking countries to wish someone well as they return to school or work after a break, such as summer vacation or a holiday.

This phrase is often heard in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year in September, and it reflects the sentiment of encouragement and positivity for the upcoming academic or work-related challenges. It's a way for people to express their hope that the return to daily routines and responsibilities will be successful and enjoyable.

"Bonne rentrée" can be used in various contexts:

1. **Informal Conversations**: Parents may use it to wish their children a good start to the school year. Friends and colleagues may also exchange this expression to offer encouragement and support as they resume their regular activities after a break.

2. **In the Workplace**: Colleagues might use it to greet each other as they return to work after a holiday or vacation. It helps create a positive and welcoming atmosphere.

3. **School Environment**: Teachers may use it to welcome students on the first day of school, and students might say it to each other to express good wishes for the academic year ahead.

4. **In Social Media**: It's not uncommon to see "Bonne rentrée" posted on social media platforms by individuals, schools, or organizations as a way of marking the return to regular schedules.

Overall, "Bonne rentrée" is a simple yet meaningful expression in French culture that reflects the emphasis on education and work-life balance. It's a way to encourage and motivate individuals as they transition back into their daily routines, and it serves as a reminder that new beginnings can be filled with opportunities and positivity.

Students in la ciotat
An old class photo with students from La Ciotat, 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