The hidden Provencal estate where I learned the words, "Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés"

Casa abril provencale bergerie architecture France pastoral
One week ago we were walking in the countryside around Flavia and Fabrice's historic domain, where we enjoyed a traditional French meal with some Brazilian sizzle!

Today's word: les ailes

    : wings

une aile = a wing

Click here to listen to les ailes and the following quote

Les paroles sont comme des oeufs : à peine écloses, elles ont des ailes. -Proverbe malgache
Words are like eggs: when they are hatched they have wings. -Malagazy proverb


    by Kristi Espinasse

It was a wonderful day, Jean-Marc said, remembering lunch at Flavia and Fabrice's last Sunday. If only my husband would continue that thought--and write the rest of this compte-rendu! The tricky thing, you see, about recounting your life in an online journal is knowing where to draw the privacy line--especially when writing about friends. But with my friends' blessing, I'll now share about an inspiring afternoon in the countryside near Aix.

...Entering the Franco-Brazilian couple's country home, I had the urge to take photos. Instead, I hung mes affaires on a carved hook, and tucked my smartphone (and its lens) inside my purse. After all, I didn't know Flavia and Fabrice well enough to take such photo-op liberties. Even if this was lunch at my sister's (it wasn't) I would not splash her life all over the internet--at least not without her permission.

Bref, it was thanks to my sister that this reunion with Flavia (who I'd met over 25 years ago at a wedding) came about. Flavia's son was going to Denver for an internship, so Flavia contacted me to see if I could put her in touch with my sister, Heidi, who lives in the same city....

By the time we walked into Flavia and Fabrice's library last Sunday, for the champagne apéro, I was kicking myself. Talk about a photo op! The entire length of one wall held a fitted antique bookcase and built-in fireplace with its carved mantel.  The fire below crackled as it might in an 18th-century novel (indeed, leatherbound books lined the paneled bookcase. Photos graced the shelves as well, offering a sentimental history of the family who lived here.

Fabrice and flavia gite house rental in provence near aix-en-provence
Fabrice and Flavia

After meeting at Berkeley and living for years in Sao Paulo, les jeunes mariés decided to move to France and into Fabrice's family home, which had been empty for decades. The young couple threw open the shutters, dusted off more than a few tables and chairs, and went about reviving the historic, memory-filled domain (Flavia and Fabrice were married there, years before) of 400 hectares, including family vineyards and wild thyme-scented garrigue. 

I took a seat on a long leather couch which faced several fauteuils, their carved feet reflecting the beauty of the piano in the background. 

"The piano doesn't work!" Flavia insisted, "but it is useful." Our hostess demonstrated by setting down a silver candleholder, a gift from Sylvie and Jean-Charles who had come up from Marseilles to join us for lunch. As we greeted les Marseillais, that awkward new-acquaintance feel quickly fell away and soon we were chatting passionately with the friends of our friends. Sylvie, a dentist, created an unusual concept for a French dental office: she put in a large window behind which her sterilization room is visible to clients. What a novelty in France! (My first French dental appointment was in a private home in Lille. I could smell dinner cooking in the next room while my dentist drilled my tooth...not bothering to first numb the area. Surprisingly it did not hurt, unlike a story--which can suffer when you wander off track....)

Back to Flavia and Fabrice's. It was now time for le dejeuner. By the time we followed our host, Fabrice, past a maze of rooms, past the sunny Provençale kitchen with its cast-iron cooker, to the dining room with its arched ceiling of stones, we were moving on to the meat of our conversation (as well as the meat of our Sunday meal!: wild sanglier--compliments of a local hunter. Flavia admitted her family receives a lot of "gifts" like this, and I could relate, having lived on two vineyards and having received more than a fair share of wild pig, rabbit, and even a feathery pheasant).

Back to the meat of our conversation, for me it was the moment Sylvie's husband, Jean-Charles, shared a quote that summarized the challenge I'd felt, up to here, about writing: 

In French we say, "Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés." Hearing the wise and sobering quote, I felt a familiar pinch.  Deep down I know a peaceful life is a private life.

"To live happily, live hidden" the words were immediately relatable, but it took on even more meaning when I returned home, to look it up. Turns out those are the last line in a famous fable, "Le Grillon," by Florian. Here briefly is the story:

A little cricket is lamenting his sort as he watches a magnificent butterfly go from flower to flower. Admiring the purple and gold of her showy wings, the cricket complains about his rather ordinary face and lowly existence...when next he sees a group of children chase after the butterfly. Grabbing at its wings, its head, and its body, the crowd accidentally tears the butterfly apart. The little cricket is stunned and promises never to want to live in the limelight, like the poor butterfly.

Jean-Charles, pointed out that in France, the French are careful not to be showy. They don't talk about their salaries or their possessions...or too much about their private life. They don't talk too much about themselves because... Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés! To live happily, live hidden. Or, said in another way, Great honors are great burdens.

To bring this essay full-circle, the fable helps to explain the pros and cons behind writing about the high notes or private notes of this French life. And so I said to myself on the way home from an idyllic lunch, I'm not going to write about this. I mean how would Flavia and Fabrice feel about me describing their library or their kitchen--their private home! A while later, still restless, I remembered my sister's words. "Kristi, you worry too much! You just have to trust yourself."

And there is someone else a writer has to trust, each time she writes a story: the reader. If you don't trust the reader you may as well put your stories in an old drawer. And you can put your wings there too. Lock them up forever. 

Now what would the little cricket say to that?

le compte-rendu = report
mes affaires = my things
bref = in short
un apéro = a drink before a meal, usually with hors d'oeuvres
les jeunes mariés = the young married couple
le fauteuil  = armchair
le sanglier = wild boar
Gites location apartments for rent in the provencale countryside
Thank you, Flavia and Fabrice, for providing some photos to illustrate this post, and for being such graceful and lovable hosts! 

Pictured above is "La Bergerie" - one of the rentals on Flavia and Fabrice's property (30 drive from Aix-en-Provence or Marseilles). Flavia writes, "If ever you have any friend looking for a rental in Provence I will be more than happy to send them info with pictures." For those who would like more information on this rental, leave a message in the comments and I will forward your request to Flavia :-)

Butterfly in st cyr les lecques france mediterranean sea

Whenever I read your blog I am moved emotionally. I feel the people that respond to your blog also add to the experience. 
-Kathy from Phoenix.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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How to be productive (hint: par tous les moyens!)

Global Culinary Escapades
BORDEAUX AND THE DORDOGNE small group tour Sept 17-25 - culture, cuisine & wine. Click here for itinerary.


    : by any means

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read today's quote

Click here for soundfile

Tous les moyens sont bons quand ils sont efficaces. Jean-Paul Sartre
All means are good when they are effective.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Some mornings I set out in three different directions. Should I write about this event? Or that one? Or is today "laundry day"? (a.k.a. what household business needs taking care of)? This three-pronged fork in my daily chemin is both a privilege and une peste --for when it comes to working for oneself, there are no hours. You can even take the day off. But at the end of the semaine you must have something to show for your efforts.

More likely, at the end of the morning you must have something to show for your efforts. That is ma façon de faire.  And though I can usually crank out a post (or keep on top of our family's laundry), some mornings I'm just floundering. The 11th hour (it's 10:56 now...) is about to sonner, and what do I have to show for my efforts--besides getting the dog and my husband fed? (No offense to either one of them.)


I have ZIP to show for my efforts!

Here's what I do when that happens: pace. (Walking liberates ideas). Next, I pick one thing on my three-pronged list and finis-le! Earlier, I thought about finishing "the laundry," but when it comes to productivity, writing trumps all! Which explains why my words are polished..but my home isn't (tidy, but not polished. Not by any means. Which brings us to "by any means"...) The secret to completing a project is to get to the finish line par tous les moyens

Ouf and voilà. I leave you with that nugget of wisdom. I hope it was a nugget. Or maybe it was just a dust bunny? un mouton de poussière?... Plenty of those under my couch....

P.S. Today's post on productivity wasn't even on my 3-pronged chemin. (It wasn't planned.) But tumbled out while I was trying to figure out how to repost my story of sobriety. Talk about beating around the bush!  If you'd like to read that story, "So Much for Anonymity," click here. First read to the end of this post. Merci!

Moutons sheep in lorgues france c kristi espinasse
(dust bunnies or moutons?)

par tous les moyens = by any means
le chemin = path
la peste = pest
la semaine = week
la façon de faire = way of doing something
sonner = to ring
que dalle = nada, nothing, zip
finis-le! = finish it!
ouf = whew, phew
voilà = so there you have it
un mouton de poussière = dust bunny (ball of lint on the floor)

Embryolisse cream - my daughter and I both use it! 
Zaz -- you must listen to this artist (thanks, Reader Dave). The song Eblouie par la nuit will move you like no other. Order here.
Walk in a Relaxed Manner - a book I'm reading about the Camino
Nespresso capsules (Thanks, Dad, for reordering coffee from my site, via these links. I got a little commission for your purchase!)
Hanging laundry in Nyons France (c) Kristi Espinasse

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés - to live happily, live hidden. But what does this really mean?

My desk and almond blossoms

Recently I was telling some new friends just exactly what it is I do for a living. Since October 27th, 2002, I have maintained an online personal journal in disguise as a French Word-A-Day. That is to say, in order to get people to read my essays, I've dangled a carrot outside of my writing window. That carrot is the "word of the day." And here you are, Dear Reader--receiving more than you bargained for!

It hasn't all been wine and roses. (Well, there has been plenty of wine, none of which I drank after February 2003...) But you already know that. The question is: do you know too much? I hope not. For I have done my journaling best to "Keep it light. Keep it educational. Keep it inspiring." And for those tricky times when only the truth of a situation would enable this narrative to continue, without too much confusion, I tread carefully, sharing enough information to get us all to the next chapter of this French life.

If all this sounds like adieu--far from that! Loin de là! For as long as I have carrots in my garden...I will be dangling them out of my virtual French window.



*    *    *

Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés

    : to live happily, live hidden
    : great honors are great burdens


    by Kristi Espinasse

The French have a popular saying: Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés. (To live happily, live hidden). But what do these words really mean?  And where does the famous saying come from? Discover, today, the wise fable by Florian (Jean Pierre Claris de Florian), in French and in English. You'll also be able to hear the poem, read aloud by Jean-Marc.


Un pauvre petit grillon
Caché dans l’herbe fleurie
Regardoit un papillon
Voltigeant dans la prairie
L’insecte ailé brilloit des plus vives couleurs
L’azur, le pourpre & l’or éclatoient sur ses ailes.
Jeune, beau, petit-maître, il court de fleur en fleur,
Prenant & quittant les plus belles.
Ah ! disoit le grillon, que son sort & le mien
Sont différents ! dame Nature
Pour lui fit tout, & pour moi rien.

Je n’ai point de talent, encor moins de figure ;
Nul ne prend garde à moi, l’on m’ignore ici bas !
Autant voudroit n’exister pas.
Comme il parloit, dans la prairie
Arrive une troupe d’enfants.
Aussitôt les voilà courans
Après le papillon dont ils ont tous envie :
Chapeau, mouchoirs bonnets, servent à l’attraper.
L’insecte cherche vainement à leur échapper,
Il devient bientôt leur conquête.
L’un le saisit par l’aile, un autre par le corps ;
Un troisième survient, & le prend par la tête :
Il ne falloit pas tant d’efforts
Pour déchirer la pauvre bête.
Oh ! oh ! dit le grillon, je ne suis pas fâché ;
Il en coûte trop cher pour briller dans le monde.
Combien je vais aimer ma retraite profonde !
Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés.

Click here to listen to the poem in French: Le Grillon The Cricket fable by Florian Pour vivre heureux vivons cachés 

Cricket grillon sketch
  image and text from Wikipedia



A poor young cricket, small and shy,
Passing retir'd his summer hours,
Beheld one day a butterfly,
       Flitting among the flowers.
Of ev'ry color, ev'ry hue,

The gaudy insect well might boast.
From flower to flower it gaily flew,
Alighting where it pleas'd him most.
"Alas!" the pining cricket sigh'd,
"What diff'rences us two divide!
While Nature does so much for him,
For me she nothing does at all.
I'm void of sense and coarse of limb,
With figure despicably small;
I'm heeded not, am lone and lorn,
And might as well have not been born."
But while the cricket thus complain'd,
A sudden uproar round him reign'd;
A troop of children rushing by,
Came hunting for the butterfly.
With nets, and hats, and kerchiefs too,
The gaudy insect they pursue.
He struggles hard to get away,
But falls at last a helpless prey.
One seizes on his wings of gold;
Another at his body aims;
A third upon his head lays hold;
In short, each one the insect claims,
But leaves him mangled, dead, and cold.
"Ah, ha!" the cricket said, "I see
What 'tis a brilliant thing to be.
If such the cost to those who shine,
I ought no longer to repine;
But to live happy I must be
Contented with obscurity."

Order a copy of the Fables of Florian.

Buy the song "Le Grillon" by Florian...start your 30-day free music trial

Le papillon the butterfly

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount