Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (c) Kristin Espinasse,
 Shelter on a rainy day. Read on, in today's story.

vadrouiller (vah-drouih-ay)

    to roam, wander, trail along

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J'ai vadrouillé toute la journée à Paris, en attendant mon train. 
To roam. I roamed all day in Paris, waiting for my train.

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

I have waited out the rain for two hours in a family run café along Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg. Family run, if you consider the conical condition of the waitress (a pointy pouch predicates a boy, the French told me, when I was in the same condition as she. Three months later, Max was born, as if by symmetry). 

Shouldn't she be resting instead of dashing to-and-fro, drying the raindrops that land in perpendicular plop-plop!-plops! on chairs which line the shoulder of the trottoir?

From my perch, beneath a glass awning, one step up from the flooding sidewalk, raindrops land on the tables, not far from my feet. I have been watching the locals, the vagabonds, the globe-trotters, and the tourists duck into door frames, eke out asylum under awnings, jump puddles, and dash for metro, just opposite, kitty-corner.

I study the darkened square en face. One side is lined with taxis. Out of the question. I will not take a taxi, the price of which represents one night in a youth hostel (single room: 40 euros, no bath, no toilet). I should know: I have been doing homework for my next périple through Paris. (Apropos youth hostels: one doesn't have to be a youth to be hostel, or to lodge in one.)

I stare at the hostile heavens. It is my turn. I must go, must quit entertaining thoughts of how to get the waitress to sit my bags. How she might be bribed—up to 10 euros (yes, it would be worth every centime to be freed of this weight)—to store the bag until my train leaves (at the end of the day...). But visibly, this won't work. I can tell by the way the produce arrives—lettuce, potatoes, céleri-rave, tomatoes—via a delivery truck. (The driver is drinking a complimentary café-au-lait at the bar). I watch the legumes being lowered, via an ascenseur that  just appeared, out of the floor, from beneath a large tile—next to where the driver is sipping his complimentary crème.  I stare as the lettuce bottoms out into the belly of the bar, disappearing into the basement below, where an invisible chef will labor in cramped quarters for the lunch crowd that arrives at noon.

Every nook and cranny of Paris is filled, by lettuce, a cook, by raindrops.... There is no place for my bag, not here anyway. Not in the 7th arrondissement. But what about the 12th? I will need to take the metro to the Gare de Lyon and search for a baggage sitter.... It is called une consigne isn't it? They do exist, don't they? I have another look at Paris Insider's Guide a free booklet that Clydette gave me. It is chock full of information, everything but where to store one's bags during that precarious  "in transit" time: neither here nor there, loaded down with a suitcase filled with books and sportswear... I might be ready for a marathon, but for the books. So many books!

I should call Robin, or Christine or Meredith or Janet or Penelope or Laurel... or Ann... they want to help. Why not let them? I have my doubts. Self-doubts. 

Ann! I could go to the American Library. Hang out all day... 

Loiterer! Espèce de vadrouilleuse! I look up and notice the pregnant waitress, who is quietly considering  me from behind the comptoir. It is time to press on. Liberate this perch for another self-conscious, soaking, stranger.  

I pay for the tartine and the two crèmes.... Leave a tip for a college fund, never mind that the university is free. Maybe the unborn child will study aux états-unis? Next, I wait in the corner café until a light at the end of the crosswalk turns green at which point I travel, perpendicularly, like the rain, jaywalking across the intersection. Beyond, I see the cannons of the Invalides. The eyes at the end of their barrels are watching me.

Le Coin Commentaires
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Paris Metro (c) Kristin Espinasse at
 Smokey says: if you aren't going to show photos of me (because you are behind...), at least tell them that you saw a few golden retrievers in the metro, and how it scared you when they got so close to the danger line on the platform -- but not as much as it scared you when their non-seeing master followed close beside. Can we have a round of applause, now, for seeing-eyed dogs who deliver their charges safely over the worlds danger zones?

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I was constantly amazed how people with various physical handicaps maneuvered in the city of Paris. One day onn the Metro an "old lady" was talking to herself (no hidden cell phone or ipod to make her sane?!) and at each metro stop she would sort of scream out. No one paid any attention and then at one stop she abruptly got up, picked up her white tipped cane that was under her seat and carefully got off the train! I was amazed - she was BLIND and still found her way around the city alone. Some of us are more brave than others! I tried to stop feeling sorry for myself, not being able to speak French - at least I could see Paris!

Kathy Yvenat

Dear Kristen, I Really look forward for your French word a day. The pictures are so nice. You have a way of showing the real French way of life. I'm sure many people who read your stories would like to come over to have this experience,but let's warn them that once they come over for a few days they'll want to come back!
A bientot

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Thank you for the images of Paris during a summer rain. I think the most difficult thing about travel is dealing with one's luggage. At least you made the most of the moment by observing Parisian life in that beautiful part of the City. I hope you were able to find a place to set your bags and walk unburdened.

Karen Leveille

Kristin: I have been reading your posts for nearly 8 years. There is a lot more I could add about the vicarious pleasure I take in reading about your life, my own trips to France, plans foiled, and assumptions about the future disproved. But this what prompts me to write today: your writing has changed over time, and this post in particular is beautifully written... bravo!


Such beautiful lighting in the picture - Notre Dame de Paris? Also, when I am in the situation of having time after checking out of my hotel or if I arrive somewhere too early to check in, I always ask my hotel to store my bags for me. Hotel staff have always been willing, even in the least fancy hotels in Paris, and I have stayed in some pretty no-frills places, to say the least! And thanks for the reading tip. I'd like to read it in French (Bonjour Minuit), but Amazon's French edition is trop cher for me. Canadian Amazon ( is a good source for books in French, but even there, c'est cher.

Suzanne Dunaway

Kristin, for 10 euros and the college fund(to the waitress-don't get me wrong; I was one once and always tip! but on a rainy day....) you can go a long way in a taxi in Paris!! Also a tip for buying books, which I'm sure you know: Livres en englalis, etc. d'occasion for centimes!!! I pay so little for used books that I'm shocked at prices in bookstores, but some you simply have to buy and that's it. Anyway, just a thought.

Catherine Burnett

I agree with Karen, that your writing just gets better and better with each passing year, Kristen. Thank you from Virginia for your beautiful insight.

So glad that you saw golden retrievers during your visit. Being away from home can be lonely, but seeing goldens makes it a little bit better. And seeing a working golden? Priceless!

My Bijou is about to begin the second phase of her life as a service animal with Canine Companions for Independence ( in Long Island, NY (aka doggie grad school). When I think about the doors she will literally and figuratively open for someone if she graduates, it makes the heartache of "giving her up" a little less painful.



I remember my first visit to Paris in 1978. It was pouring rain and I had a huge old suitcase with one of those pull straps, a bag over my shoulder ( I travelled with way more than I needed) and an umbrella and when I departed the Metro at Cité, I had to find my friends apartment. I looked like a drowned rat as I asked the police for directions in French. The police did not understand my pronunciation of the street so I had to find the address and show it to them. I finally found my friend's apartment and carried my bags up 2 flights of stairs. I did not know about concierges at that point.
This incident did not turn me off from Paris or France. I fell in love and try to visit at least once a year.
I hope that you were able to do some fun things while you were there working on your wirting, although I really like how you write. You make the written word very visual, personal, endearing and exciting. It all comes to life.

Devra Long

I agree with Kathleen that your writing is so personal and endearing; I feel like I was with you in the cafe and the rain feels so good! It is very hot and dry in Madison, Alabama right now!


Kristen, I have especially enjoyed this post. I fell in love with Paris on my first visit in 1996 after decades of thinking people were crazy for falling in love with a city. Now I understand and have succumbed to its many charms. You have reminded me of them. Can you post more pictures? I would especially love to see that glass canopy if you have one.


I enjoyed reading this post. You might like to change a couple of typos. 'eek out asylum.' Should be 'seek.' 'canons of the Invalides.' 'canons' would mean clergymen, whereas 'cannons' means guns. 'any way', change to 'anyway.' Keep up the good work!

Jules Greer

Darling Kristi,

I didn't want this post to end - you have taken great pearls from your class in Paris.



Lee Isbell

I know just the neighborhood where you did your cafe-sitting. We stayed near there in May. Was it by any chance le Recruitement, where some of us had dinner our first night in town? We used La Tour-Maubourg metro until we decided Ecole Militaire was closer to the hotel. Fun neighborhood.

I agree with Leslie's suggestion about leaving your bags at your hotel. Our group of 16 left our main suitcases behind in our hotel while we took a 3-night side trip. The bags disappeared beneath the tiles on an elevator that popped up in the lobby!

Julie Dufaj

Your astute descriptions of Paris are a joy! In the weeks before my husband and I realized our longtime dream to visit France, I read some horrible books in the vein of warning one of all the disappointing aspects of Paris. Thus, we boarded the plane almost regretfully. To our joy, every "fact" turned out to be false. The most ironic discovery was that the waiters, supposed to be horribly rude, were among the best people we met!
We expected dog excrement all over the sidewalks, people rudely smoking in our faces, drivers risking death at 130 mph speeds; and we braced for ridicule of our religious faith. Au contraire, in every case. What we found was a country that felt more like our heart's home than the US because there is such a wonderful lack of "consumerism." Family and living life to the full seem to be the priorities of the French.
Oh, okay, one car-full of teenagers did give us "the finger" for no perceivable reason. But that only told me that teenagers everywhere are pretty much the same! And I do know that French community can be impenetrable for US expatriates. But I think I have a longer list for the US of things to watch out for!

Julie F

Such great and useful words today, Kristin. Vadrouiller . . . périple . . . reminds me of "flâneur." I tried to be a flâneur in Dijon today, but my problem was the opposite. Too much sun. I'm still working on the act of packing light, but I, too, travel with too many books.

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Mom and friends, thanks for the encouraging feedback! And thank you, Nick, for the corrections. I hope to keep eek out (eek out a living?), but Ill change it if I have too... :-)

I meant to write about two other episodes, but settled on the cafe scene. It is so much cozier to stick to a small slice of life. Thank you for your wonderful comments!

Julie, how Id love to be visiting Dijon with you! Have fun. I hope to go there next... 

gail bingenheimer

roam: errer, parcourir, vagabonder, voyager sans but, trainer dans, voguer, bourlinguer


Paris is wonderful even in the rain. One more typo: I think you want "predicts" instead of "predicates."


The last time I was at Gare de Lyon, I found baggage storage located on the level below the main station at the entrance to the metro.

Jennifer in OR

Kristin, awesome writing, your attention to detail and scene and character were superb! Wish I were in Paris :-)

Mary in St. Louis

I have an awful feeling that all my site-denied tries at paring down will end up posted! If so, K, are you able to delete the excess, svp?
Should = "Eke";"Eek" is at a mouse, but then, I've had jobs I wanted to eek out of, too. Like Kathleen, I made 1st solo visit to Paris in '78 & schlepped bags upstairs to friend's apt. That was so long ago (& pre-9/11) that en voyage I could leave duffel in lockers in the gares! I, too, overpack & overbuy books ( or no, j'adore la FNAC et les librairies du Boul'Mich'!) So,I feel Kristin's pain of impaired freedom to vadrouiller.Great word! Applies to my prose! Love how you find so many words that are unfamiliar! Makes your site great, despite putting a wee nick in my francophone pride.] For those traveling farther than Kristin: I brave la Poste to ship home(rather than having shops do it, so's to enjoy the books longer.) From a colleague-- go against mother's advice("You might be in an accident")& pack one's oldest undies(tip clearly not for honeymooners!). As he travels, he pitches it for more room (must raise chambermaid eyebrows, tho!) For those who blush at this, know that alas if one IS in an accident, EMTs don't care WHAT you're wearing; they'll likely cut it all off you:-o

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