gens du voyage

Photo taken in the nearby town of Suze-la-Rousse
That's my mom, center stage, ever curious about what lies just around the corner. She's a gypsy at heart. Read on, in today's story column.

gens du voyage (zhan-doo-voy-ahzh) noun, masculine, plural

    : people of the voyage, gypsies

French synonyms:  Romas, Gitans, Tsiganes, Manouches, Romanichels, Bohémiens, Sintis

1. Practice Makes Perfect: Advanced French Grammar
2. Learn French in your car : comprehensive grammar and vocabulary for beginners and advanced students
3. Bilingual storybook (Little Red Riding Hood) with  side-by-side text  in French and English. the accompanying CD helps with French pronunciation

A Day in a French Life...
Kristin Espinasse

Mom's gypsy blood is boiling this morning. It all began with that donkey (our neighbor's) that she threatened to swipe... and saunter off with. We talked her out of it. For now, she is bartering, poking, nudging--trying to get me to take her to the art-supplies store. So I said, "Mom, I'll take you anywhere you want to go... if you'll write today's post. This conversation began at 7:58 this morning and, at 8:29, the following missive arrived in my inbox. Enjoy it!

(Mom would like to add one disclaimer: "Please forgive all spelling and punctuation errors and keep in mind that I consumed copious amounts of Jean-Claude's Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Domaine Rouge-Bleu around the picnic table yesterday.

*   *   *

My Darling Kristi, I just realized this morning that I have never told you about my first mentor, the exciting French Circus Madam...


I met her when I was at the most impressionable age of ten.  One day as I wandered up and down the manicured banks of the lower Colorado River in Southern Arizona (our family was wintering in a beautiful resort (trailer-park) located below Lake Havasu), I noticed a garden of enchantment at the end of the path I was following.  The closer I approached, the more I felt the intensity of great expectation pounding in the center of my chest, as I focused in on what filled my entire vision. 
Nestled at the very end of the path, surrounded by a real picket fence (this is 1956!) was the first glimpse of what would shape my future -- color all of my dreams -- and ultimately lead to yesterday's lunch with my true French family here in Provence in 2009.
Tango 62' : a close-up of my Mom's painting of her 62nd birthday dance. The setting was a scene in a children's fairy tale. Little mining carts pilfered from historic Arizona copper mines of the past were placed behind the fence, each one filed to the brim with happy, riotous flowers which shouted in all of their glory and FREEDOM the joy of living the life of a gypsy.  In the center of this happiness lie the first Gypsy trailer I had ever seen -- little wooden steps snugly placed between the boarder of plants that surrounded the little wooden trailer. To me it seemed as though the house floated upon a giant green cloud speckled with flowers. The trim around the door and the entire rooftop seemed to be wooden shingles of some interesting type of carving, each shingle a piece of art. I seem to remember bells hanging from the door and a smokestack coming from the rooftop.  The coup de grâce of course was the faded WWII grayish-green jeep parked beside this masterpiece.
I imagine, the little girl I was, that I approached this gate skipping to the sound of the birds singing in the giant trees that lined the glorious Colorado River, knowing deep in my heart I had discovered a gift that would change my life.  As I peered over the magic gate, the door to the trailer opened, and down the stairs floated the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  She was tall and statuesque, copper hair her crown, skin bronzed by the Arizona sun.  This was the first time I recognized elegance -- God gave me the perfect initiation into the wonder of style and carriage as my eyes devoured every little detail of this wondrous creation of His. be continued on Wednesday....


*   *   *
DSC_0069 If you enjoyed Jules's story, thank you for letting her know! Leave my Mom a note in the comments box. While you're there, tell us whether or not you, too, are a gypsy at heart. Ever wanted to "plant" a gypsy caravan in your own back yard? Or saunter off with the Sintis? Let's be nomads today, and note down more of our "travelling fancies" in the comments box, for all to see, enjoy--and be inspired by!

PS: Regarding Mom's painting, in today's story, don't forget to read the story of her Tango with Jean-Marc.

Related books:
Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey
The Gypsies: In a rare publishing event, Jan Yoors' The Gypsies became an instant classic upon its original publication.


A vélo in Orange (a nearby town). Missing a little French in your weekend? Become a contributing member of French Word-A-Day... and receive the weekend photo (and sometime film...) edition, Cinéma Vérité, as a gift.

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


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George Nardell

Hi Kristi and Hi Jules !

Great story as always today - thanks again for the sheer pleasure you give all your readers.

As regards the sound file Kristi, why can't we hear YOUR voice from time to time ??!!

In fact why can't we hear Jules's voice too ?!

From your long-time fan, George

Beverly TABOR

Bonjour Kristi,
I have been one of your followers for some time now, and am continuing to enjoy your writings each day. Please tell your mom, it is plain to see where you have received your talent. You both are a joy to read and it gives me inspiration envisioning your days..I am heading to your region soon to get away from the Paris "bruit", and maybe I will run into you and your mom in one of your friendly villages you frequent.
PS your wine is one of my favorites.
Beverly TABOR

Christine Dashper

I'm loving this story Jules. Your joie de vie shines through as always. Looking forward to the next installment...

If I could be a nomad for a while I would like to drive around Australia without a time limit. Ahh one day!

Thanks as always to you and Kristin for the fun to bring to my days.



George: I should have attempted to record the sound file (after all, there were no scary French "r's" -- I'm so bad at those!-- in the word of the day. Another reason that I don't often record the words: I don't want to corrupt anybody's French pronunciation!

Beverly: Thank you! And re your trip to our area: please email me so that we might arrange a cellar visit here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu!


Jules, thanks for sharing this delightful story of discovery. I remember seeing once a picture of another gypsy home (or similar to what you are describing), the one Roald Dahl had on his property in England where he wrote his beloved children's books.

Very nice painting of the dancers and oui! oui! vive l'Argentine tango. I began ballroom dance lessons three years ago and the tango is my favorite, especially the Argentine.

Kristi, brave and fearless one, parlez a nous...we would love to hear you speak les mots de jour to us, too. Or Jules, or peut-etre, a duet?! (Take some of the pressure off!)


Oh Jules! Have you painted your gypsy lady? I can see her wagon and fenced flowering garden in my mind but she's not so clear. I eagerly await the next installment of your encounter.

Debbie Chavers

I LOVE the painting and the story!


Jules, how wonderful that you passed on your way with words AND your beauty to your daughter...lucky girl!
As a Third Culture Kid, a.k.a. Global Nomad, I can relate to your gypsy wanderlust. Never so happy as when I'm discovering a new place!


Wonderful imagery, always enjoyable reading.
Thank you so much. I believe you live the best of both worlds, time spent in AZ and France.

My children cannot wait to soon follow in their father's footsteps to ASU, and live so close to the rest of our family. Good times ahead, no doubt.

I will keep a sharp eye out for your wine in my travels. Best, Jan

Susan Dodds

more, please, more.......


Good Morning!

I enjoyed Jules post. I passed through Lake Havasu in 1974 as a 18 year old gypsy while living in my car, a 1950 bright green Chevy. I recall hearing "The Sultans of Swing" by Dire Straits in a restaurant and staying in a campground there in terrific heat. (Maybe the same one... there was a quaint little camp store) We slept under the picnic table. The colors were so beautiful, especially the river and surrounding cliffs. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Sue

Charles McGrath

Jules my darling you are the rare bird indeed with ever the story telling flair and sense of adventure....


Yes a thousand times...


Jules continues to inspire me to be more of a gypsy - thank you! And I love the tango with Jean Marc story!
Have a wonderful French day!

Betty Bailey

We can see where Kristin gets her writing talent. Lover your story, Jules. Awaiting more.......

Kate Noyes

That painted such a beautiful picture in my mind. I was brought back to that age right away, the thrill of discovery is a different experience at 10, so much more fantastical. So delightful! Really looking forward to the rest!


Dear Kristi and Mom,

I am fairly new to your site and simply loving it. Mom, what a picture you paint in my tired city eyes. I paint the scenes with a mental brush as I read the lines. Look forward to the rest, and bon lundi a vous deux!



Living in Colorado Springs and being at the foot of Pikes Peak I feel so blessed to be "a gypsy at heart". I can take off whenever I want and in 20 minutes I'm surrounded by absolute natural beauty. We did a lot of camping when I was little - my mom, dad, me and our poodle. When I'd ask my dad if we were almost "there", his answer was "it's just around the next bend". Now that I'm a "femme d'une certaine age" I realize what a great metaphor that phrase is for my life. I'm always looking for what's around the next bend. Thank you for sharing your memories with me.


I was just reading last night about the French gens du voyage and came across news of a fete in May celebrating the gypsies... "St. Maries de la Mer is especially famous for its oldest tradition which consists of being the meeting place for the gypsy people. Their rich folklore and music attract many visitors all throughout the year."
A friend and I will be in France in May, so may drop by your "cave" for a visit -- perhaps Jules will still be there?
Enjoyed the story today - can't wait to hear the end, Jules. Also, the painting and the link to the story of your anniversaire last year. You and I share a birthday -- September 24 - my trip in May is the celebration of my 60th!

Sandy Maberly

Jules, It wouldn't surprise me if you had many more fantastic stories tucked away under that straw hat of yours! I enjoyed your gypsy immensely and look forward to the rest of the story........


Hi ~ Luv your site ....Story is very intriguing, will make sure to pop in for more ~ tyvm

Jo Ellen Brainin-Rodriguez

La fruit ne tombe pas loin de l'arbre!
Looking forward to the next instalment, Jules!
Jo Ellen

Carol Folino

Missing you both on FB-can't wait until Wed. for rest of story.From the shores of Cape Cod,Carol


The start of a "colorful" story! I'll look forward to reading more.

By the way, where was the photo taken? Looks like Tarascon?


Good afternoon to all,
I love the painting with the hat. Both of you have wonderful talents and thank you for sharing them. I so enjoyed the story from last September. I missed it because I exercising my gypsy blood.
What a lovely husband you have! In addition to making wine he should give pointers to husbands on just the right thing to say. All mothers and especially those of us over 60 could use a little "center of attention" time.
I enjoy visiting with you on this blog. Maybe I will start on of my own.


Intriguing! I love it and can't wait to read more!

"Rob" York

Bonjour, Kristi and Jules: How wonderful your word of the day and the beginning of a (i know to be) great story. I absolutely love the shared stories of you two. You make me smile and sometimes laugh. My own daughter and I are now temp. gens du voyage-recently retired and moved from Maryland to temp. qtrs in AZ and NM. For monthe, we are housesitting and houseguests of friends to see where i want to settle down. It is alittle unsettling but now is fun and have met many wonderful people. Merci! for letting me know there are other gens du voyages!!!!! Robyn


Hi Jules, I can't wait for the rest of the story- and think you more than deserve a trip to the art store!!

Bre Charles

Jules have you ever written a book about your life or just stories. I love how you weave a tail like fine fabric.

Joyce Hoover

I,too enjoy spending time with you, Jules and your wonderful family. Thank you for the most pleasant visits. Sincerely, Joyce

Jean Treacy

Your wonderful story of wandering into the hidden gypsy garden created a vivid, colorful vision as I read your contribution. I think it would make a fantastic children's book--think of all of those whimsical drawings . . . Maybe you should try it!


Your Mom (and you) is a "Jules" in the crown of life! Merci Beaucoup for the spirit that is within both of you.



I receive your posts via email which is a nice surprise when I open my email. Today's essay by your mother was enchanting, such beautiful language! As was the lovely picture that captured the essensce of her curious spirit. Thank you! I can't wait to read the rest of the story!


Jules, you write so eloquently. I can hardly wait for the next installment!


What a beautiful story. Jules is a true artist and I understand even better now why Kristi has so much talent.
And the Tango painting is one of my favorite.
With Love from your Son


Dearest Jules,

What a beautiful, magical story! You are truly gifted. Thank you for sharing.


P.S. Your painting reminds me a great deal of Diego Rivera's style!

Jennifer in OR

Jules, magnifique!!

Wow, first of all, you have an amazing memory, truly a gift. Your language is color. I can't wait to hear more of this enchanting gypsy you encountered...

Fred Ingham

What an intriguing portrait, beautifully painted. Thank you, Jules!


Kristin, thanks for the comment. I have thoroughly enjoying your blog now for a couple of months. Thanks for reading mine!

I don't think I knew that you published a book. It sounds interesting. I'm excited to check it out this summer, while daydreaming of the summer I spent last year in Provence and Côte d'Azur. :)

Martha McGrath

Jules, Beautiful story, so far. I can't wait to hear the rest.


C Medrano

Very beautiful... you write with so much color... (as mentioned above from another reader) we see where Kristin has rec'vd her gift so therefore Kristin, maybe... your daughter and/or son... in the future!


I agree. Why can't we hear your voice, Kristin! You are an inspiration to those of us who would love to learn the language & experience France!
Thoroughly enjoyed Jules' story. She paints a lovely picture with her words, I can feel the scene & emotions.


Aren't we all travellers, somewhere along our journey through life? A lot has to do with our frame of mind, with our way to escape from our worries, responsibilities and daily burdens, with our renewed enthusiasm to explore and keep making one more step, and one more. Some of us are more of the gypsy type than others and Kristin must be the best person to tell us that her Mum, with her wonderful traveller's mentality of discovery, is a Gypsy ´at heart´.

Dazzling tango picture Jules. Bravo!

I loved reading your story. You hypnotised my attention and I let myself follow your steps along the path leading me to a garden of enchantment... and to the most attractive wooden gypsy trailer surrounded by flowers planted in little mining carts. Not sure I can visualise the little carts – but the multitude of vibrant flowers described with intense joy opened a triumphal way to the vision of that extraordinary gypsy lady whose beauty and style impressed you so much.

What did the gypsy lady say to you? What happened then that changed your life? Why did the glimpse of that “paradise” and of that exciting gypsy lady (French Circus Madame, says the title ...) lead you to whatever happened on Sunday with your French family in Provence???
Did you meet “des gitans”, perhaps ?

Looking forward to the dénouement of your wonderful story.
By the way, I hope that, by now, you have been taken to the Art supply store... and are busy following your inspiration for the creation of your new artistic project.


Dear Jules! What an intoxicatingly beautiful story you have shared! Such a vivid picture you have painted in my mind. Not one to wish away a day, but I am SO looking forward to it’s continuing on Wednesday. So glad you swiped Kristi away for the day! Grateful she took this opportunity to be flexible. I wish you both a wonderful day. Abundant Blessings, Stacy

Merrie Dail

Jules: Wonderful! There is great wealth all around us, yes?

Kristin: Lately playing catch-up:

are like stepping stones
or baby steps achieved
connecting us to the past
and creating a road to the future

through the eyes of
my 3 year old grandson
summoning the courage to
use the electric toothbrush -
with motor turned on - then
laughing as only a small child can
(because it tickles his mouth)
becomes my parkinsons
husband's acceptance that
the electric toothbrush is too
difficult to navigate today. Poised
between them I share
bubble gum toothpaste then
absent-mindedly return my brush
to its charger. if it is
with the heart that one sees
most clearly, there can be
great accomplishment in the mundane.


Dear Jules! Such an awsome picture of a perfect day! This makes my longing to move on from where I am right now even more intense. Somehow, 6 years in one location is waaaaaaay too long...


Beautiful! My husband has always said I am a gypsy at heart, so your story calls to me in a very deep way. I can see the tidy wooden cart through your child eyes and am admiring the bells glistening in the sun. Thank you for sharing.




I love the beginning of your story and look forward to more -tho I'm a little late getting to it.


Wow, I just read 4/20's story, Jules. I can see where Kristin gets her gift!

mary paulson

Jules, your words are jumping off the page! I can almost see this beautiful creation you are telling us about. Love your style of expression with words. Let us hear more of those tucked away tales.Can hardly wait til Wednesday!

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