A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.
A "crique" or little sea inlet along the littoral, or Mediterranean coast.


crapahuter (krah-pah-ew-tay)

    : to clamber, crawl, trek, or yomp

 Also: to plough along, to trudge, to schlepp

Audio file: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave file

Pour accèder à la petite crique, on doit crapahuter sur les rochers.
To access the little sea inlet, we have to scamper over the rocks.


    by Kristin Espinasse

Extraordinaire. C'était extraordinaire! When Jean-Marc returned from his latest swim, he was shaking his head in disbelief. "You can't believe the site I just found. Ten minutes from here, there's a natural baignoire full of seaweed. I just had a bain d'algues for free. Some people pay a 1000 for this at a thalassotherapy spa!"

My husband has been trying to lure me to the sea for some time and this enthusiastic report was yet another attempt. "We'll go in the evening before the sun sets. You won't have to worry about le soleil."

I'm touched by all these swimming invitations. And yet I can't explain my resistance, or understand how a former fish turned into a fish out of water. But there's no use over-thinking things. That joy of gliding sous l'eau and floating above it is in here somewhere. Now where did I put my bathing suit

"Wait for me! I'm coming!" I shouted, when next Jean-Marc headed for the port.

Soon we were walking along a pine-scented plateau (a favorite spot for exercising our dogs). Approaching our destination, I began to wonder what escalader means to Jean-Marc. (He had assured me we could easily access the natural swimming hole--une petite escalade was all it would take to get down to it. Petite? I have learned that words and concepts appear differently in my husband's mind than they do in my own. What's small to him is big to me and vice versa, whether the subject is minutes or mountains). 

"Here we are," Jean-Marc says when we reach the end of the plateau where the land falls off to the sea, literally. I look down at a pile of boulders.... Even if we manage to scale them, what if one lands on our head? Instead of further self-questioning, I try a pep talk."You've watched too many 911 dramas on TV," I tell myself, "and all those newspaper "shock" headlines haven't helped. Don't let the media steal your joy ever again! You've got a good head on your shoulders and God gave you a gut feeling--now let these be your guide!" 

A quarter of the way down the rocky gorge, I had to call my husband on his choice of vocabulary. "I'm not sure escalader is the word...."

I had visualized an upright descent instead of this by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure. But clinging to the rocks like a crab--and advancing like one--felt like the safest bet. Like this, with my feet leading and my hands trailing just behind--my body horizontally clamped to the rocks--I scampered down to the sea.

Jean-Marc congratulated me on arrival. On a bien crapahuté! he said, finding the precise term for our descent. Next he turned towards the sea. "Well, what do you think?"

"I think you are right. You have found a special spot--un petit bijou!"

But we weren't there yet. If we wanted to swim in the sea (before enjoying the bain d'algues--easier to access) we needed to do some more clambering. This time vertical:

"Hug the rock wall," Jean-Marc said, guiding me out to Le Grand Bleu. I was grateful for the plastic shoes he bought me. My feet now gripped the rocks and were protected from sharp "underwater things" (like oursins). 

"Très bien!" Jean-Marc cheered.  "Now you've got to dive!" Jean-Marc was smiling through his diving mask, waving a bright red star fish in his hand. "So much to see out here--come on in and join me!"

Looking out to sea, I wondered how far those "sharp underwater things" continued. Not too far it seemed... I could now see the seafloor drop off once again. All it would take is a good aim. Go, go, go.... my mind chanted along with my husband's outward cheers. Allez! Allez!

Plouf! A cold sensation ran over my scalp to course over the entire surface of my body. What a feeling! I remember this now! It's all coming back--like a hot summer day in the desert. Gliding through the water at the neighborhood pool, the stifling heat left my 10-year-old body, giving way to cool imaginings. I might have been a fish out of water who'd tumbled in... or I might have been an adult on the seacoast of some fancy foreign country--or both, as I am here today.

"What are you thinking about?" Jean-Marc said, floating beside me.

"The good old days.... and the good ol' today." 


*    *    *


la baignoire = bath

le bain d'algues = seaweed bath

le thalassotherapie = spa treatment seawater as therapy  

le soleil = sun

sous l'eau = under the water

escalader = to scale (a mountain)

un petit bijou = a little gem
le grand bleu = Mediterranean sea 

très bien
= well done

un oursin = sea urchin 

plouf! = sound made when one jumps into the water

  Epices (c) Kristin Espinasse

Classic French Recipes in these Recipe-Stories:

Cake Aux Olives - This olive loaf makes a delicious hors d'oeuvre or snack -- or you can serve a few slices for lunch, alongside a salad!

Yogurt Cake is good any time of year. Now that we have zucchini à gogo in the garden, I'll be shredding it and making a gâteau au yaourt à la courgette. 

Mint and Goat Cheese Quiche - Scroll to the end of this post for the easy recipe. If you've got mint growing in your garden - this will be a delicious standby! 

For the three other recipes I mentionned last time (Tomato Tart, No Grudge Fudge, and Love-ly Fruit Salad), go here and scroll down the page.  


Blossoming in ProvenceRecent review of Blossoming in Provence (thanks, Jack!):

 Her use of French words and their meaning is a very helpful way for the reader to improve his of her knowledge on French. It is, incidentally the sort of book that one can read many times and still find it a pleasure.  --Jack

Order a copy here for yourself or a friend.


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.


Just a goofy tale at the beach (in Bandol!) for you today... and a little rush, which happens while trying to write on a deadline! Thanks for overlooking some of the "missing things" in this edition, not the least of which my husband's pants!!! 

impudeur (im-poo-der)

    : immodesty

(Sound file and example sentence will return on Wednesday. Sorry!)

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

Lying face down on the beach, on top of my raincoat, I am wearing jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses, a hat, and a thick layer of sunscreen for protection. The woman down the way may be sporting a bikini, but that is no reason, I decide, for me to feel awkward or self-conscious. Après tout, it is mid April and most of the people on the beach are fully dressed, enjoying a midday picnic.

Because I can no longer tolerate the sun, I decide to enjoy the pebbly view in front of me, beneath my shadow. In addition to the smooth cailloux, the beach is host to a zillion other fascinating sea remnants including little "brushy" bits (one could make a darling broom for a doll), beer caps (not so darling), pearly-bottomed shells, dried seaweed, tiny crab claws, sea glass, and driftwood, or bois flotté

My eyes lock on a small piece of bleached bois, one that is smooth and shapely. A collection of the wooden sticks would look neat in a tall glass vase, wouldn't it? I begin hunting for another baton de bois, using the first one as a model. It turns out that this particular size (smaller than a french fry, with a nob here or there) is rare... and it becomes a challenge to locate another. I give up, returning two sticks to the ground.

Next, I see a beautiful green pebble with spots! The color seems rare... I begin hunting for another, to test the theory. It takes some searching, but soon my efforts pay off and there, in the palm of my hand is a modest collection of 7 jade-colored pebbles ranging in size from "split-pea" to "no bigger than a dried navy bean". I picture that tall glass vase, only this time it is filled with the precious pebbles. It will take many trips to the beach to fill it!

As I stare admiringly into my green palm, a moral dilemma presents itself. I begin to wonder: what if everyone on the beach has the same inkling... to gather bits of pretty things? Suddenly, in my mind's eye, there are no more shapely sticks of driftwood, no more verre de mer, or jade-colored cailloux...

Would my 7-pebbled pillage disrupt this natural setting?  

Before I can feel any more criminal—or any more suspicious (no wonder I couldn't find any more of those lovely sticks—someone else beat me to it!) my husband appears, putting an end to the current philosophical conundrum.... and in so doing, introducing another one

How, I wonder, did Jean-Marc manage to change into his bathing suit? Last I knew he was fully dressed (his swim trunks were in the sack beside me).... Because we were sitting on coats (no towels to use for the "wrap-and-switch", in which one can manage to pull on one's swimsuit whilst wearing a "modesty towel" around the waist), there was no explanation.

The mystery quickly solves itself when, oblivious to the crowd, my husband begins to change out of his swim trunks en plein air!  (Actually, he is doing this seated, as if altitude has anything to do with discretion!)

"Jean-Marc! You can't do that here! Oh-my-gosh. Oh-my-gosh!"

"Oh my gauche? or oh my droit?" my husband laughs. I almost miss his joke, so busy am I dying of embarrassment. 

I don't dare look left or right, for fear that all eyes are on us! When there is nothing left to do but laisser faire, I squeeze my own eyes shut and endure the "cultural" moment. Yes, that is all it is after all, isn't it? A matter of culture

Regarding the feared or imagined gawkers (was the beach crowd watching?), The Paris Metro Rule swiftly came to mind. The Paris Metro Rule that states Thou shalt not stare at a fellow passenger!

Granted, these were not passengers, but beach bums... who were hopefully more rule-abiding than you or I when riding the subway—hopefully they weren't peeking!


Le Coin Commentaires
Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box. You might also share your observations of those "immodest French moments"... or answer the question: how many treasure can one take home from the beach (are 7 pebbles too many? Your thoughts here, in the comments box.


French Vocabulary 

après tout = after all

le caillou = stone, pebble

le bois flotté = driftwood

le bâton de bois = stick of wood

le verre de mer = sea glass

en plein air = outside (in nature)

le gauche = left

le droit = right

laisser faire = to let be


Chief Grape. The only one to swim in the sea yesterday... at a calanque in Bandol. 

Forward this edition to a friend who might enjoy these photos and stories....

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 19th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

Mille mercis for purchasing our memoir, THE LOST GARDENS click here.