en retard

Maybe Anne got sidetracked at the neighbor's? Who could blame the animal lover for lingering before this scene? Read today's dual-language missive written by Chief Grape!

en retard (ahn reuh tahr)

     : late

Audio File: Lisen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Anne était-elle en retard ou en avance?
Was Anne late or early?

"En retard"
...a bilingual story by Jean-Marc Espinasse

(Listen to the following story: Download MP3 -- sorry no Wav version available!)


Hier, nous avons reçu les premières visites de l'année au Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Brian & Dawn, Mia & Ulli, Carol & Bill sont arrivés à l'heure grâce au plan que Kristi leur avait envoyé.
Yesterday we received the first visits of the year at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Brian & Dawn, Mia & Ulli, Carol & Bill arrived on time thanks to the map that Kristi had sent them.

Anne, qui avait prévu de venir avec son amie Karen, avait finalement prévenue que Karen était malheureusement malade mais, ceci dit, elle n'était pas là, à l'heure où nous avons commencé la dégustation.... 
Anne, who had planned to come with her ​​friend Karen, had forewarned us that Karen was sick, but unfortunately, that said, [Anne] was not here when we started the tasting ....

Elle est apparue avec toute sa gentillesse mais "en retard" alors que nous dégustions la bouteille "mystère" qui a clos la séance.
She very sweetly appeared, only a bit late... while we were busy tasting the "mystery" wine which ends each tasting.

Lorsque nous sommes allés visiter la cave, Anne était également "en retard" car elle était trop attentionnée à jouer et parler avec Smokey.
And when we went to visit the cellar, Anne was also "late" because she was so focused on playing with and talking to Smokey. 

Puis, tout le groupe est allé déjeuner à la Farigoule, un restaurant de notre village. Lorsque la serveuse est venue prendre la commande, Anne était à nouveau "en retard" car partie pour quelques instants...
Next, the whole group went to eat at La Farigoule, a restaurant in our village. When the waitress came to take our order, Anne was once again "late", for she had left for a few moments.... 

Évidemment, tous ces "retards" n'ont pas du tout été problématiques et c'était juste une coïncidence rigolote.
Clearly, all these "delays" were not all problematic and it was just a funny coincidence.

Anne a, en fait, été "en avance" avec nous tous car c'est elle qui a initié cette première journée de visites. Nous la remercions grandement pour cette initiative ainsi que tout ce sympathique groupe de visiteurs.
Anne was, in fact, "in advance" with all of us, for it is she who initiated this first day of visits. We thank her greatly for this initiative, and we thank our very kind group of visitors.

P.S. Anne, merci encore pour les fleurs, les bonbons, le déjeuner... Vous pouvez arriver "en retard" tant que vous voudrez =)
P.S. Anne, thanks again for the flowers, the candy, and the lunch... You can arrive late whenever you like! 

 (Anne explained that without her friend and co-pilot, Karen Graham, navigating just wasn't the same. This post is dedicated to Karen. We hope you will feel better soon!)


Our first wine-tasting of the season... but where is Anne?...

Note: That's Bill and Carol--first and third on the left. They are from Vancouver. You'll have to squeeze your eyes almost shut to see them in this snapshot (sorry to not have gotten a close-up)! Carol and Bill are living everyone's dream of a one-year sabbatical! Enjoy their stories at CrowsEnProvence (I especially loved their daughter's scarf-tying "Leçon du Foulard"

Ulli & Mia, English teachers from Hambourg, made it to our house for the dégustation... mais où est Anne?... 

Note: Mia is originally from Brussels, Belgium. However, when she set eyes on Ulli, she quickly jumped borders!

Kristin, flanked by Ann Arborians Brian and Dawn, who arrived shortly after Ulli & Mia. Still no signs of Anne de Pennsylvanie... Pittsburgh must be farther away than we figured.

Note: Brian and Dawn were married 40 years ago. We guess that Michigan has unique marriage laws... given that these sweethearts must have tied the knot around the same time they learned to tie their shoes.

"Looking for Anne" (Chief Grape there on the stripey left.) You-hoo, Anne, where are you? ohé... ohé... yoo-hoo, you-hoo... I say Anne is looking for Jules, whom she hoped to meet (sadly, Mom is in Mexico! Hmmm, this might explain Anne's delay....)

Trouvé! Found! So she didn't make a loop down to Mexique! Anne arrived and stole this seat, right next to Mr. Grape Chief. 

*Zee End*

Join us for a wine tasting! The next meet-ups are on April 6th, 10th, 17th, 24th and 26th -- at 4 pm. Leave a message in the comments box if you can make it to one of our April meet-ups!(I'll post May meet-ups soon!)

Comments Corner
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Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend. 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


The garden hose, The Tongue, and many other things to try and hide (or tuck back inside...) before tomorrow's guests arrive! Meantime, the wallflowers—les giroflées (f)—look welcoming. Well, that's a start!

Never miss a French word or photo! Receive an alert via your YahooAOLGoogle Homepage/ReaderBloglines, or Email each time this blog is updated! 

programmer (pro-grah-may)

    : to schedule, to plan; to program

programmer à l'avance = to schedule in advance

Example Sentence: (sorry, no time for a sound file. Our resident Francophone is busy patching up holes. Read on, in today's story)

Une visite chez nous, c'est possible--et c'est à programmer. A visit to our place is possible--and is something to schedule.

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

This Ain't 'A Good Year'--or Chateau Chic, for that matter!

It didn't hit me right away, you know, les conséquences. For the moment I was operating by inspiration, and Inspiration cheered: "Vas-y! Invite everyone!"

So I did. On Friday I posted an announcement, an open invitation to readers... to visit us at our family vineyard!

It wasn't an open invite in the modern sense of the term:

open invitation (noun): something that seems to give people a reason or excuse for doing something wrong or illegal

Oh gosh, no—not that kind of invitation....

Nor was the "open invitation" meant in the traditional sense:

open invitation (noun): an invitation to do something at any time

NO, NO, NO--NOT "at any time"! Yikes, what a cirque à trois pistes that would be! My mind began to play out the following scenario: a knock on the front door at any old time of day... a jovial group of francophiles standing on our front porch... "Is this where the wine tasting is at?"

Oh no! Not here... or not now anyway! That is, not without an appointment and not until things are more or less in order....

Order? I look outside to judge the current state of our chez nous: the picnic table is broken, a mismash patash of chairs strewn round it. La piscine, the one which visitors must walk past to get to our front door, it is shot too (finally emptied of its murky waters... it is now the dilapidated pool liner that stands out)! Jean-Marc has been busy patching up all the holes, with some sort of mysterious pool glue. Well, it's a step up from the duct tape that he usually uses!

I looked past the piscine to all the flower pots which are scattered across the front porch (in desperate need of sweeping, only no time now! Hopefully Max can balayer, when he comes home from school tonight...). The flower pots are empty (the lauriers a rotten brown from this year's freeze)... and several are cracked or chipped.

Oh yes, bienvenue chez nous! Step right up and take a ticket. What would you like to see next? In ring number three there's a lop-sided trampoline... just past the clothesline, which needs re-wiring—lest the pants we hang there continue to play footsie with the grass just below. Tickle, tickle, tickle!

Ignoring the pants and the pots, I notice that the garden is coming to life... only, in the form of weeds which are busy filling in all those cracks along our front patio! I begin tugging out the mauvaises herbes... only the weeds tug right back at me! Perhaps I should begin somewhere else? Mais... par où commencer?

Where to begin? Not with the lawn! I look over to the bumpy pelouse where great patches of barren earth reveal the occasional trou: Smokey's and Braise's latest digs! I think about our guests, who might like to walk out to the edge of the "lawn", where a lovely picture might be taken. Again, my mind's eye draws up an alarming scene... ending in twisted ankles... or sticky shoes.

Sticky shoes! Forget the cracks in the wall, the holes, and the flowerless pots—I need a super scooper! 

Then there's the driveway, which would be fine (Max pruned the entire row of lavender. Good job, Max!) except for my car, which looks as though a dust-devil had passed through it. No time to wash the car... perhaps our guests will think it isn't mine? I can always pretend it's Jean-Marc's! ...then again the only other car in the driveway is as dusty as mine.

"Don't worry about a couple of holes in the garden or the cracks or the dust," Jean-Marc says. This isn't a corporate vineyard!" He is right, it's just Jean-Marc and I here, looking after things. The kids help when they can and the dogs do their best to undo the rest!

But you are welcome, chez nous, dear reader, family, and friends. Just be sure to call or email first (give us fair warning)... and maybe watch your step—especially if you plan to join us on the trampoline! After a few glasses of wine, we may be able to talk you into that....

Comments Corner

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French Vocabulary

une conséquence = consequence

vas-y = go ahead

le cirque à trois pistes = three-ring circus

chez nous = our place

la piscine = pool

balayer = to sweep

le laurier-rose = oleander

bienvenue chez nous = welcome to our life

la mauvaise herbe = weed

mais, par ou commencer? = but where to begin



For his birthday, I made him a cake (it tasted much better than it looks...), and offered him another puzzle (no kittens, this time). It was nothing like the gifts he gave me for one of my birthdays, but the intention was the same.

Couldn't find a birthday candle...


Thanks for your suggestions on which photo software to use. I'm still having fun with Picasa. They offer many tricky ways to hide imperfections... the downside is that, with all the smoke and mirrors, people may not recognize you in real life! The tools I used for this picture are "Années 60" + "Polaroid". Here's hoping tomorrow's guests recognize us.... Better stick to the previous photo! 


  Photo (1)

 I used Picasa's "Cinémascope" for this snapshot of Katie Dyer and Chief Grape. Whoops! It kinda chopped off the Chief's locks. Photo by Fran Rorie taken during Jean-Marc's USA wine tour. Sadly, Katie's dogs (golden retrievers) couldn't attend the meet-up. Here are their names:

Nigel (Advent Meteor Flag of England, CGC, TDI)
Smudge (Advent Conflagration, CGC, TDI), Diva Golden Rethieva
Aslan (Advent Lion, Rich & Wardrobe, CGC, TDI), the Loon Ranger
Windsor (Int CH Lazyriver Repeat Performance, CGC, TDI)
Lizzie (Advent City Lights, CGC) the Lady Elizabeth
And, Katie notes:
"waiting for us... Gordon (Sunshine Hill Gordon, CGC, TDIA) 9/15/1995 - 4/9/2007"
Katie ends all her emails this way: A couch is a terrible thing to waste; have a bunch of Golden Retrievers


A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

étourdie + Win a French antique!

Kristin Espinasse. Photo by Alison Johnston Lohrey

To win the mysterious French antique, on offer in today's story, simply say hello, here in the comments box + let us know where you are writing in from. After randomly choosing a number, I will announce a winner on Friday. More about the giveaway, in today's story column.

Photo by Alison Johnston Lohry (Note to self: next time you post a photo of your person, choose any other post title... besides "Scatterbrained"! P.S. do you see a scar on my forehead? Ta da! This photo was taken four months after the first operation and a week before the second operation, the one mentioned in the previous post.)

 étourdi(e) ay-toor-dee

    : scatty, scatterbrained; flighty


Audio File: listen to our daughter, Jackie, pronouce today's word and example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Il est bien étourdi; mais, entre nous, son coeur est bon. 
He is quite featherbrained; but, between you and me, he has a good heart. —Voltaire, Complete Works of Voltaire 

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


I am having a fickle of a time deciding what to write about today. It isn't a matter of writer's block, or la page blanche, the difficulty here is l'embarras du choix! So many possibilities! Which path to choose when it is just too tempting to amble down each windy road and lose oneself in that whimsical place affectionately known as "Just Around The Corner"?

Enough dreaming, it's time to choose a topic! Let's see...

I might tell you about our daughter's renewed passion for  jumping (BMX bikes, this time—and not horses!). Jackie's hobby has me aching to line our concrete terrasse with mattresses! I watch, from the kitchen window, as our 14-year-old builds a new jump, adding yet another vineyard stone beneath the wobbly ramp (a repurposed wooden shutter) after each adrenaline-rich stunt.... 

Then again, I might write about some of  the readers who come to visit. But then there have been so many.... To write about one would be to leave out the others. Quel dilemme! Perhaps I could backtrack... beginning with a photo from the most recent visit? (See the end of this post.)

Encore une fois, I had thought to write a story about a thank-you gift, the one I am trying to think up  for the surgeon's assistante that I see this afternoon (stitches come out today!). What to give someone whom I know nothing about, but whose gentle confidence has touched me? Du vin? Des fleurs? 

I should also update you with the good news: Max, 16, passed part of his driver's exam!: oui, il a réussi le code! This brings him to the "hands-on" part of the exam: the actual driving with an instructor! (such a relief to turn over the co-pilot seat—still wet from my sweaty, gripping hands—to a trained teacher!)

As for writing topics, I also thought this might be a good time to bring up the subject of email... please forgive me if you have sent in a note and if I haven't gotten back to you! I am trying, but no matter how many activities I cut out, in order to devote time to answering email, I still can't manage to keep up with incoming messages. I feel terrible about this... please know that I read and appreciate every single word you send, whether via email or via the comments box. Thank you so much! 

There were about four or five or fifteen other lovely things, in addition to your treasured notes, that I wanted to talk to you about today, but time is up! So I will get to the fun part of this scatterbrained offering, this anti-essay that ran away to that curious "Just around the corner" place...

The G I V E A W A Y !

 In thanks for reading this French word journal, I want to offer you the chance to win a little treasure! The trésor is currently a secret, but here's a hint: anyone would love it: young or "wizened", man or woman. If you like French antiques, you'll love this historic memento, one from my collection... one I adore and would love to offer you!

You might frame the antique... or wear it (making an eccentric necklace or an avant-garde pin?); you could put it in a glass box or make a whimsical collage.... You could carry it around in your pocket as a lucky charm or use it to mark a page in a book (never mind the bulk!). It could make a cool paper weight... though you might have to tie an extra something to it.

To win this antique simply leave a greeting here, in the comments box, along with your city. Example:  "Hola from Jules in Puerto Vallarta!" 

 I will post the winner's name on Friday. No matter where you live in the world, you may enter the giveaway, by leaving a comment here. (Sorry, but no comments via email).

French Vocabulary 
(section under construction... please check back!) 

 la page blanche = "the white page" or "le blocage de l'écrivain" (writer's block)

l'embarras du choix = a great variety of choices, an embarrassing number of choices

la terrasse = a paved area (sidewalk) or patio

quel dilemme = what a dilemma

encore une fois = then again

assistant(e) = assistant

du vin = some wine

des fleurs = some flowers

oui, il a réussi le code = yes, he passed the driver's exam

le trésor = treasure


Alison Johnston2

I had a good tchatche, or chat, with artist, fiddler, and writer, Alison, who lives part of the year in the postcard pretty village of Sauve. Photo taken by Jackie Espinasse.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Dog Days in Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse

How many, like this little gal, dream of riding a scooter through France? Photo of "Ephie" (effy) taken last week in Colmar. Never miss a word or photo, receive word-a-day via email or by RSS updates (for Yahoo, AOL, Google and more).

un rêve (rev)

    : a dream

Trenet One way I learned French was by listening to the classics (check out songs by Charles Trenet). Share with us, here, your Best tips on learning French!

Example Sentence & Sound File:

J'ai fait un rêve. I had a dream. --Martin Luther King

*note: Jean-Marc tells me that "had", and not "have" is the popular French translation (at least it is the one that he is most familiar with), though MLK's exact words were I have a dream. How would you translate the famous quote? Your thoughts are welcome, here, in the comments box!

un mauvais rêve = a bad dream, nightmare
fais de beaux rêves! = sweet dreams!

Reverse Dictionary (notice how rêve is missing from these translations...)
Life is but a dream = la vie n'est qu'un songe
to be in a dream = être dans les nuages, dans la lune
everything went like a dream =  tout est allé comme sur des roulettes


"La Douce France" by Michael Wrenn

For those of us dyed-in-the-wool francophiles, it is a difficult question. Why do we like France so much?   The answer is more likely to come, not in sentence answers, but rather in paragraphs.  Many will start by telling about a French teacher long ago in high school who either inspired or tortured them, then there was a photo in a textbook or magazine, or a film that awakened something inside that beckoned us, not unlike the sirens of antiquity, to come to France.

But why France?, so many ask.   The French can be so difficult, so finicky, so hard to understand.   And yet, that becomes part of the challenge: not only to conquer this beautiful but beguiling language, but to understand and know the country and its people.   In the end, France dominates our hearts, our dreams, even our very souls.

Some of us came to France and immediately fell in love. After hearing more of Kristin Espinasse’s story, I find that we both share in that we came to France to study and were at first charmed, but had to go home and return again before we realized that la Douce France is where our hearts longed to be.

Kristin and many others like her have built their lives here.  They pursue their dreams, and have beautiful families.  Others, like me, have to be content with frequent trips, but I consider myself lucky to have a career where everyday I can teach young people about a land and a language that I love so much that I have devoted my entire career to its study.  It is my vocation and my avocation.  There is a special pleasure that comes when I am able to bring my students to France and share my love with them, and when I see that they, too, begin to love this special place, then I am a happy man....

Even with frequent trips to France, when I am back home in California I long and ache with all my heart to be in l’Hexagone. Especially in those darkening days of autumn and winter, when a trip to France seems like a lifetime away in far-off June, I find myself missing France.  It is in those times when Kristin Espinasse has become for me a tresor d’or.  Through her blog, she sends me a beautiful gift, three times a week, which allows me, for just a few minutes, to come back to my beloved France.  And as a petit bonus, she helps this old professeur as she manages nearly every time to find some word or expression that is either new to me or long-forgotten, despite all my education and work.

Not only does Kristin share her world with us, a world where languages and cultures intersect, but she opens her life to us and brings us in, sharing with her devoted readers her joys, fears, hopes, and dreams.  And by extension we share in the dreams of her beloved husband Jean-Marc, mother Jules, the children, the extended family and her friends.  Through her writing, we are drawn in, and we become part of this special world that she and Jean-Marc have created.  In viewing the comments from readers, it is immediately apparent that I am not alone in feeling this sense of a virtual family, all thanks to the efforts of this amazing writer.

As a reader for many years, I had longed to meet in person someone with whom I felt I shared so much.   When the offer came to come to Ste. Cecile, and to bring along my dear students, well there was no question, we were going.

That is how we found ourselves on a warm 4th of July afternoon, sitting under a mulberry tree, just feet from the vineyard as a few sprinkles fell and offered a little relief from the muggy temperature.  Jean-Marc showed us his old vines, and spoke to us about his winemaking; the students got to taste the fruit of his labor.  Kristin shared about the writing process while the youngsters intently listened to her anecdotes and observations of life in France.  Smokey and Braise vied for attention and calins from the students while the cigales sang and reminded us that we were surely in the South of France, not the Napa Valley.


Here, two people were not only opening up their lovely home with its view of the graceful vineyard, le Mont Ventoux and les Dentelles de Montmirail, but sharing their very lives with those who just happened to be there on that particular day.

As our autocar pulled away and we headed down the driveway that was lined with the rosemary and lavender that Kristin had pruned, I had a few words to share with my students to sum up our visit.  I said to them, “You have just met two people who followed their dreams.  If you like what you saw, perhaps it is time for you to start to think big, to dream, and begin doing the work that will make that dream come true.  Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams...”

As you can tell from Kristin’s and my words, this was indeed a very special visit.  Even with both of us writing our hearts out, we can’t quite seem to capture the magic that was felt on that warm afternoon under the mulberry tree.  Perhaps the answer is in something that was said many years ago by one of my former students when I asked him why he enjoyed his trip.  I don’t really know, he responded, but there is just something special about France.

Michael Wrenn, Professeur de lettres
Saint Helena, California

Kristin, Michael, and California students--the ones our teenagers (away at horse and basketball camp!) were so upset to have missed!


Le Coin Commentaires
Did you enjoy Michael Wrenn's account of his visit? Can you help to answer Michael's question: Why do we like France so much? Just what is it about "la Douce France" that has us longing to return to l'Héxagon? Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, in the comments box.

French Vocabulary

la Douce France
 = sweet (beloved) France; a common moniker made even more popular by a Charles Trenet song

l’Hexagone = a euphamism for France, based on the shape of its borders

un petit bonus = a little extra, an added bonus

un tresor d’or = a golden treasure

un professeur = a teacher, professor

les calins (m) = caresses, displays of affection or pets (of affection), in the case of animals

les cigales (f) = cicadas, a locust-like insect found in the South of France, known for its chirping sounds

un autocar = a tour bus

Thank you for visiting our sponsor!

HOTELS IN FRANCE. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

Reach a France-friendly audience with your product or service. For ad rates contact kristin.espinasse AT gmail.com



             Thank you, Nicholas Howell, for these pictures!


MY HABIT is Amazon's new private fashion sale site offering up to 60% off hand-picked styles from designer & boutique brands, featuring apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories. New sale events start every day and typically run for 72 hours. Click here to discover MY HABIT.

Words in a French Life: Lessons in Language and Love
"King of Spain": please don't miss the Gallic love story of how I met my husband... and mistook him for un roi. Read the introductory chapter to my book "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language", click here. (The photo, above, was taken (by Jules) on Mother's Day, several weeks before our 17 year anniversary).


Capture plein écran 11072011 093235
Has anyone read this book? I am wondering whether or not to order it!: The Summer of Katya: A Novel

In the golden summer of 1914, Jean-Marc Montjean, recently graduated from medical school, comes to the small French village of Salies to assist the village physician. His first assignment is to treat the brother of a beautiful woman named Katya Treville. As he and her family become friendly, he realizes they are haunted by an old, dark secret . . . but he can’t help falling deeply in love with Katya. Read customer reviews, here.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"Winter Provisions"

s'égarer (ay gar ay) verb

    : to lose one's way

French Verb Conjugation:
je m'égare, tu t'égares, il s'égare, nous nous égarons, vous vous égarez, ils s'égarent pp= égaré


ne nous égarons pas!
= let's stick to the point!

s'égarer du droit chemin = to stray from the straight and narrow

s'égarer dans des détails = to lose oneself in details

...More expressions in the Robert Collins Dictionnaire



 Audio File & Example Sentence: Download Wav or Download MP3

Nos invitées se sont égarées sur le chemin qui amène au Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Our guests lost their way along the road that leads to Domaine Rouge-Bleu.

The Road to Domaine Rouge-Bleu

by Suzanne Dennis... with Margaret et Portia
Late in the afternoon … late in September … our last full day in Provence … we set out to find Domaine Rouge-Bleu.  We included my mother Portia, my sister Margaret, and me.  We had dinner reservations in Gigondas … but first … a long-anticipated visit with Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse. After years of following Kristin’s blog, reading her book, and watching Jean-Marc’s progress with their vineyard and wines, we were looking forward to finally meeting the Espinasse family and to tasting their wines.

Staying in the lovely Maison des Pelerins in Sablet not far from Ste. Cecile les Vignes, and remembering Kristin’s offer to just call when we were in Provence to arrange a visit, I realized we had arrived at the height of la vendange!   Each morning when we opened our windows, we could see the grape gathering in the vineyards below Sablet.  As we drove through the countryside, we saw the grapes ready to be picked and also the bounty of the harvest piled into orange carts traveling from vineyard to cave.  What was a delight for us I knew was incredibly hard work for Kristin and Jean-Marc. This was confirmed when reading Kristin’s posts and seeing her photos.  La vendange AND puppies … surely the Espinasses did not need to have us descend upon them.  Mais, non! 

Kristin invited us to come and emailed a map that, without a printer, I had to replicate by hand.  I didn’t copy it exactly leaving off a lot of side roads.  Because of my shorthand, we became lost. We turned around at a collège, stopped at a pizzeria, and I inquired at un marché.

Because I only understood some of what the helpful residents of Ste. Cecile les Vignes told me in rapid French, we winged it and began to search!


(photo: Margaret)
I thought I was leading my sister (who was driving) and my mom on a wild goose chase.  We drove down a dirt road into “no man’s land” amidst vineyards but thankfully turned around before offending anyone or being chased off. I turned to my sister suggesting, “It’s ok; let’s just go to Gigondas. I will email Kristin and apologize.”  (Our cell phone had lost power so we couldn’t phone from the road).  Margaret looked sternly at me and said, “This is the one thing you have wanted to do since arriving in Provence so we will find Domaine Rouge-Bleu.”  I had been calling out the names on Kristin’s map along the way and at the point when I was ready to abandon our search, Mom said, “There’s the sign!”  And indeed it was.  Mom had spied the pancarte and we knew we had found the right road.



In minutes we arrived at our destination.   Jean-Marc greeted us with a warm “Bienvenue” and escorted us to a table under the tree, where we joined a couple from Los Angeles, and Kristin, who was holding one of the puppies (Sugar).


(left to right: Margaret, Sugar, Angela and Bob Fowler, Portia, Jean-Marc, Suzanne)

Over the course of an hour, as the sun began to set and a light Mistral stirred the leaves, we tasted wines, gazed out at the lovely countryside agreeing with Kristin that it looks a lot like Tuscany.  We had set out from Sablet to find the Espinasses, we lost our way and had to search, and finally discovered warm and welcoming people, lovely wines, and the most splendid way to spend our last evening in Provence.  And of course we brought a little bit of Provence back home with us … the wines of Domaine Rouge-Bleu!


Suzanne Dennis grew up in Monrovia, CA, but now lives in Monroe Township, NJ, just east of Princeton. She is a senior administrator at Brooklyn Law School in Brooklyn Heights (oldest neighborhood in NYC). Suzanne and Margaret's mother, Portia, were born in Duluth, MN, and grew up in Nashwauk, MN and So. CA.  She was a Navy WAVE in WWII stationed on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where she met her husband, an ensign in the Navy.  She now lives in Durham, NC, and is writing her memoirs.

Margaret Dennis was born and raised in Southern California. She moved to Durham, NC, in 1997 to take a position at Duke University. On the side, she sells antiques in Hillsborough, NC. Yes, her luggage was filled with "finds" from brocantes and puces in Paris and Provence!

Each September, Suzanne, Margaret, and their mother, Portia, travel together, they having been to Canada, Oxfordshire and Devonshire, Paris, Venice and Provence.

Thank you for leaving a message for these ladies in the comments box. (And please wish Margaret, who is recovering from a cold) "bon rétablissement"! Don't we all wish we had a sibling like Margaret, one who reminds us of our chemin... just when we are about to make a U-turn... and give up on our goal.

This just in... Angela and Bob's response:

Hi Suzanne ~ Yes, we are here! We, too, got lost that afternoon trying to find Domaine Rouge-Bleu. Fortunately, while driving home after picking up her children at school, Kristin spotted us parked at the side of a country road (trying to interpret that infamous map!) and led us the rest of the way, getting there just a few minutes before your arrival. But the frustration was well worth it -- such a warm, friendly welcome by Kristin and Jean-Marc -- and such great wine (and adorable little puppy!) It's not often that tourists have an opportunity to experience even a little slice of real life in France. Our bottles of Rouge-Bleu didn't make it past our next stop, near Lyon, visiting the family of a high school girl who stayed with us two summers ago to work on her English. (Fortunately, we have a source at a wine store a half-hour drive from our home -- how lucky can one be!) As we told Kristin, we thought it might be a faux pas to give a gift of wine from one region to those in another (they live in the heart of the Beaujolais), but they said absolutely not -- they loved it. We enjoyed meeting you, your sister and mother -- and Bob especially enjoyed chatting and sipping wine with Portia! We thank you and Kristin for posting this little story as a reminder of our visit. And we wish you, Margaret and Portia many more years of such wonderful family vacations. Angela and Bob Fowler Monterey Park, California

French Vocabulary

la vendange (f) = harvest; la cave (f) = cellar; mais non = not at all; le collège = junior high school; le marché = market; la pancarte (f) = (road) sign;
la bienvenue (f) = welcome 



And here's a puppy healing update for Becky: Smokey is full of flageolets (or beans, if you like). He is one jumping, burglar barking, puppy machine (by this, I do not mean "maker of puppies", no! I mean he just keeps on going -- as a paper shredder (so long Arizona Highways, goodbye William Blake), a stuffing sucker (au revoir couch cushion), or a  meuble muncher (that little antique bassinet... the one in which we store books and magazines? It now sports a few new "etchings"). I guess you could say Smokey's got all of his energy back and then some. As for his wounds, they continue to heal. Some things take time.

"Réserve de Chasse" (and Vines on Fire) just outside the town center of Sainte Cécile.

English Grammar for Students of French: The Study Guide for Those Learning French

Clean Provence. Eau De Parfum Spray

Sweatshirt "Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur"

Sea Salt by La Baleine -- a classic on every French table



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