Following Jean-Marc's wine tour... lunch with Elizabeth’s family and friends at a hidden beach in Cassis. Left to right: Katie, Olivia, Victor, Kristi, Lily, Elizabeth, and Jean-Marc.
For today's story, I asked Chatgpt to summarize the English text in one French word. Here's the response I got: "A word in French that summarizes your story could be "Éclat" which means "Radiance" or "Sparkle." It represents the vibrant and joyful atmosphere depicted in the narrative." Thanks, Chatgpt! And for anyone reading, find out where the joy and sparkle come from when you read the rest of this post.
TODAY'S WORD: un éclat
: radiance, sparkle
un éclat de rire = a burst of laughter
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sometime in the last week, les cigales woke up from their 5-year siesta and now they are screeching their lungs out. While that is a funny image, I guess it isn't entirely correct. That ear-piercing trille may be produced in some other energetic way, leaving me wondering where cicadas get all their peps in summer's heatwave.
I, too, am feeling unusually peppy this sweltering afternoon as I skip over to Mom's to share a recent adventure. As I reach the side of our villa and approach the sliding glass door to Chez Jules, a few black and white birds fly off. The royal blue patch on their backs is now a blur as the magpies disappear into the giant parasol pines above. I shake my head in appreciation. Mom is getting very close to taming those pies now that she's won over les tourterelles, les pigeons, les hérissons and a few stray cats. The trail of crumbled croquettes (appealing to birds, cats, and hedgehogs alike) leads right up to her baie vitrée. Sliding open the door, I enter the studio. Bookshelves flank the entry with each and every treasure Jules has rescued from the neighborhood “street library” in the 5 years since moving here from Mexico.
My mom is finishing her dinner. A copy of Battlefield of the Mind is propped open on the kitchen island (more books line the shelves below) and I see Mom's been busy with her green marker, underlining important passages. It seems Joyce Meyer is off Mom's liste noire for the moment. (Pastors walk a fine line with Mama Jules.)
"Whatcha got in there?" I say, smiling towards the frying pan. Looks like it's saumon et patates today, and it always hits the spot. Comfort food, Mom might say. Jules's fan is whirring from the kitchen counter. To think just last week the little space heater was propped up on that same comptoir. And now, le ventilateur. It's broken (and only goes up to the second speed) but it's fine, Mom assures me. Not one year ago that same fan was carefully placed on the floor, all for dear old Smokey's comfort. I can still see his golden locks fluttering in the "breeze," and my throat gets a lump as I recall the memory.
"So what's new?" Mom asks and I tell her all about our lively lunch in Cassis with Elizabeth, Victor, and the girls. It all happened after Elizabeth responded to an announcement in my newsletter for one of Jean-Marc's wine tours...et voilà after several hours together in Cassis, I was feeling that kind of refreshment that comes from being in soulful company. Elizabeth's daughter, Olivia, and her friends, Lily and Katie just graduated from Georgetown. What a feeling that must be to have secured jobs after earning their degrees. And now to be toasting above the Mediterranean Sea. Tchin-tchin!
In a paillote above a hidden beach in Cassis, we shared deep-fried fleurs de courgettes, les accras, and crevettes and chatted about France, Charlotte N.C. and everything in between. That's when I realized I was the last person on earth to learn about Lorde--the girls' favorite singer.
I had been telling the girls about my job as a blogger--sharing about my readership (including Elizabeth, whose been a faithful lectrice since 2006) as well as a disheartening trend: this past 5 years, with the expanse of social media, blog subscribership has plunged. "These days people enjoy short snippets from Instagram or Facebook, and "reels" or videos that are no longer than 10 seconds," I explained.
That's when Lily told me about Lorde, the famous young singer who went off social media and began a weekly newsletter. All the girls agreed they enjoyed reading the longer format. It gave me such hope to know young people are signing on to newsletters and taking the time to read them. Algorithms be gone!
I returned home from that meetup feeling refreshed. "It's good to see you this happy," Mom said, as Lili the cat curled up between us." It was the second or third time Mom said it and, for a moment I felt a little defensive, as in, what do you usually see me as? Grumpy?
This was no time to take things personally. "We all like to see each other happy," I replied. And with that, Mom and I began counting our blessings. Our conversation ended in les éclats de rire as I repeated a positive affirmation Mom first shared back when I was a teenager. Now, at 55 (and a little touchy from hormonal changes...) it still resonates:
I'm on top, in touch, and in tune with myself
I like who I am and I'm glad to be me!
I may have made up that last line. But I like it and it's the message I'm leaving you with today, dear reader. Be free... on top, in touch, and in tune. I realize, now, that this is what I had experienced at lunch: a thoughtful group of people who were in tune with themselves and the world around them. And this was a blessing!
I leave you with another blessing, below, my wise Mom, and wish you all a happy weekend.
Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the French and English terms
un éclat = radiance, sparkle, glow
la cigale = cicada (funny, « cigale » can also mean « spendthrift »)
le trille = trill
le peps = pep
la villa = house
la pie = magpie
la tourterelle = dove
le hérisson = hedgehog
la croquette = dry food, kibble
la baie vitrée = arcadia window, sliding glass door
le saumon = salmon
la patate = potato (in informal French)
le comptoir = counter
et voilà = and just like that
tchin-tchin! = cheers!
la paillote = wooden structure, hut (usually near a beach)
la fleur de courgette = zucchini flower
les accras = Caribbean fish fritters
la crevette = shrimp
un lecteur, une lectrice = reader
les éclats de rire = laughter
la bénédiction = blessing
Sincere thanks to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation or purchased our online memoir. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in publishing it week after week. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi
And special thanks to Elizabeth and Victor for reserving a wine tour with Jean-Marc, and for your thoughtful note:
"All of us found both you and Jean-Marc to be just such a joy to be with... You are such a warm couple and both so good at your work and we love how you support each other. I love that both your jobs involve sharing your joie de vie and love for France and connecting with others."
Enjoying a wine-tasting at Chateau de Pibarnon in Bandol with Eric de St. Victor.
If anyone reading would like to reserve a wine tour with Jean-Marc, click here for more information
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety