Eagle (c) Kristin Espinasse

When vines talk... the "Eagle" (left) is being told by the "Shusher" (right, finger on "mouth") to be quiet, "It's not the end of winter yet... nature is still sleepy." And you, do you believe that vines are more than wood stalks? The characters in today's story do... and they make wine according to the moon!

le caissier (kay-syeh)

    : cashier, teller

feminine: la caissière (kay-syehr)


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

When your husband asks whether you would like to volunteer for Friday night's professionals-only dégustation, smile and reply "tout ce que tu veux, cheri"... never mind that you aren't active in the local wine scene, that you won't recognize names or faces, that this dernier détail could lead to embarrassment.

Capture plein écran 07032011 083603 Request, quand même, not to be in charge of the caisse.

Arrive at the mind-blowing Domaine Viret. Ascend the massive stone stairs to the mind-blowing cave. You have never seen anything like it! If this is a biodynamic's cellar, then the Egyptian-inspired reaching-towards-the-galaxy "wine cathedral" must be a tribute to la Voie lactée!

Be amazed by the floor-to-sky vats, the ancient amphorae, and the 20 walkin'-to-their-own-(and-to nature's)-beat winemakers who are busy setting up shop.

Search for the woman who has been helping your husband with PR... Check her out: assess any threat as she strides up and listens to your husband's introduction: "Voici ma femme".  

Wonder whether to kiss or to shake. Notice how the other woman is studying you: were you what she expected? Older? Younger? Bolder? Weaker? Chopped liver?

Study Other Woman, who is wearing that secret magic glittery powder that all beautiful French women wear. Regret the pharmacy "flour" that now feels like dough on your own face. Wish that you'd worn a skirt, as she has done, and black-heeled boots, as she has done... and earrings and a pretty barrette in your thick brown hair! 

Feel like chopped liver for two-seconds flat, in time to pull the full length of body skyward. Nod like a princess when you feel like une grenouille.

Spend next half-hour worrying whether Other Woman likes you or not, sees you as competent or not, would rather you be here or not....

Then get over yourself! After all, you are here to help!

(From this point on refer to Other Woman as "Colleague". Much better. Plus, hope that if she's reading she's not offended by your carefree reporting...)

Follow Other Woman, or "Colleague"... over to cellar entrance, where a small table is set up. Notice cagnotte. Cagnotte!!! Be eternally grateful when Colleague says she'll handle the money.

Nod head enthusiastically when given the easy-peasy-French-cheesy task of distributing the wine glasses. One per paying customer. You can handle that.   

Listen to lowdown: five euros for guests who've reserved (whose names are inscribed on The List); ten euros for those who have not reserved. Wonder why you are listening to The Lowdown, after all, you are only in charge of easy-cheesy glasses-distribution... n'est-ce pas???

Watch Colleague in action: "Sorry, sir, but you have not reserved. That will be ten euros."
Observe as Colleague uses her charm to save a sale "but it is only ten euros for the tasting and the dinner! C'est quand même pas mal, non?!"

Back up Colleague, chirping "Quelle bonne affaire!" ("Affaire"? Attention to word choice, which comes back to haunt you!)

Watch Colleague as customer hands over a 20-euro note. "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" "Do you have anything smaller, Sir?"

Be impressed when Colleague gets customer to hand over two fives. Smart woman. Realize we'll need all the fivers/change we can get.

Stare, stunned, when Colleague leaves you to man the stand, with a breezy "I'm off to try some wine..." Regret that you are not a wine-trier, then quickly get over it...

Jump into action!: greet customers, request fives/change, defend the ten-euros entrance fee to those concerned...

Watch, amazed, as the line piles up, with everyone suddenly being related to the winemakers. "Sorry, yes, perhaps, but the entrance fee is still ten euros!... or five, depending!).

Feel mortified when you attempt to charge the owner's wife the 10-euros fee....

Swear you will never again assume that a cashier has shortchanged you... when three times in the evening you accidentally cheat a customer! (Listen like a thug to the reprimand and the tsk-tsk of "Madame, je vous ai donné un billet de vingt!") 

Wonder where in the Milky Way did your Colleague stray? On second thought, be glad for the chance to man the stand. You've learned a lot: for one thing, you are not the pushover you thought you were. Just look at how you plucked up those line-cutters who tried to steal behind you in time to swipe a glass and sneak into the tasting room! Boy, are their butts going to be sore!!!

Learn to decipher journalists (remember what Colleague taught: journalists are not used to paying. Let them by -- just remind them about a write up... hoping one of them will eventually write an article...

Be the One of Them to eventually write the damned article.


Le Coin Commentaires
Join us here, in our community corner. Respond to today's story, offer a correction, or ask each other questions about French or France! Click here to enter the discussion or simply to learn from it.


French Vocabulary - Click one of the following links to listen to this vocabulary list: MP3 file or Wav file

-> la dégustation = tasting

-> le dernier détail = last detail

-> quand même = even so, nevertheless, all the same, really

-> la caisse (money context) = the till, cash register

-> la Voie lactée = the Milky way

-> une barrette = a hair clip

-> la grenouille = frog

-> la cagnotte = the kitty (in a different context -> the jackpot)

-> une bonne affaire = a real bargain!

-> de la monnaie = some change

-> un billet (money context) = a bank note

-> un billet de vingt = a twenty Euro note

-> ..... "n'est-ce pas"? .... isn't it so?
used at the end of a sentence as an expression of affirmation after a statement - equivalent of 'tag question' in English.

-> "Tout ce que tu veux, chéri"... = 'whatever you want, darling'...

-> "C'est quand même pas mal, non?!" = It's not bad really, is it?!

-> "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" = 'Do you have anything smaller, Sir?'

Chief Grape.

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angela billows

Very funny! I hope to taste the chief grapes wines soon as well.

angela billows

How rude. Of course I meant to write Chief Grape!


Chere Kristin, I have some magic glitter that I will give you/send to you....and then YOU will be the lady with the magic powder (and NOT the flour kind!). It's shimmering spray for body and hair called "Very Sexy" by Victoria's Secret and it sprays very, very fine glitter. OOoohhlala! You can use it in your hair, on your arms, your clothes - anywhere where you would like a touch of subtle magical glitter. My gift to my "shimmering" friend, xo Robin

Alastair Grant

No Kristin - you don't need glitter.

Alastair Grant

Hi Kristin
Thanks to Jules for the encouragement - I reposted my short story on FAQ - written in French using only words which are understood in English. The topic may be old now - I have been slow in responding. I don't know how you keep it up Kristin! Running this site must be VERY time consuming and your diary is obviously full.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Angela! I'm so enjoying your food-writing, by the way. Check out Angela's blog "Provence Calling"

Robin, thanks in advance, my equally shimmering friend!

Alastair, good to know your French story is posted. Here is a direct link for those who would like to read it and to comment or offer edits (P.S.: Alastair, Newforest has a surprise on the way... look for it in your inbox :-) Here is the story:

Bill in St. Paul

Great story, Kristin, I agree with Alastair, you don't need any glitter. I just hope that when we're back in Provence in May that we can find some wine tastings like yours. I regret that we won't be in St. paul for Jean-Marc's tasting and winemaker's dinner as we will be in Massachusetts visiting our granddaughters (and their parents) - some things are more important than tasting good wines.

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- I loved your story. Thank you for making those of us whose brains/feelings go through similar mental gymastics not so alone and maybe even normal. : ) I smiled all the way through. And I am impressed with your skills de caissière. Félicitations!

Robyn France

Kristin--u were no doubt way more gorgeous than the colleague--sparkle powder considered. And you can always bat your baby blues at Chief Grapes and say, Ca va chéri with the secret smile-- you have the power girl so don't forget it.


How intimidating. But you handled her... and in French too. I've met a couple of those types in Paris but lacked the language skills!

Marianne Rankin

Only about 33 hours until I'm at Chief Grape's wine-tasting and dinner in Washington, D.C.!

I worked as a cashier in a bookstore for a number of years, and it's very hard not to make an occasional mistake with the money. As I took each bill, I would say "Out of ____ (value of bill, such as $20)", then state the total of the purchase ($17.68), then count upward from there until I reached - usually - the value of the bill given. If I didn't, I redid it.

Kristin, you did well. I have to leave for an appointment, but will note that La Voie Lactee is the Milky Way in French.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

Excellent article! The descriptor that came to mind as I read your story was “comfort zone”. We all have boundaries at which we become uncomfortable, but it feels so good when we successfully expand those limits! You should feel very good!

Alastair – Thanks for sharing your story. That had to be quite a challenge to write!

À bientôt

Diane Dainis

Kristin,you do not need glitter, you sparkle quite nicely on your own. You made my morning start off with a smile.
Have a wonderful week.
DianeD MA

Rick Chasteen

Nice piece, today, Kristn.

Candy in SW KS

Chere "glittery" amie! I do hope that when I move back to CO, Jean-Marc will consider finding a spot along the Rocky Mountains to sell his wine! That would be most formidable as there are no places in that part of the country to buy his lovely wines. Quel dommage! We must fix that, n'est-ce pas? You know, I bet J-M never even noticed the "colleague"! I know that he only has eyes for you, la belle de sa vie! Hugs from me on this lovely almost Spring morning :)


Hi Kristin

That was a particularly amusing piece today. Had me smiling several times!

Anne Anderson

Wow, Kristi! Underneath that sweet, composed and hospitable exterior, you let us in to see a really feisty broad. No, not a frog -- but another piece of the compleat woman, albeit one who sometimes struggles with the green monster....

Erin, from Canada

Kristin, you are stunnung and beautiful! I'm sure the sparkly woman thought so too- even if she won't admit it!

Thanks for a great article.


I am so excited that your husband will be in Houston this month. My husband and I are planning to attend his wine tasting. I am so happy that I discovered your blog. I so enjoy the family stories and the wine stories. And, I bet "colleague" doesn't have a cool blog like you do! LOL Have a great day.

Erin, from Canada

Stunning! You are stunning- and I can't spell! Sorry for the typo!

Linda Wanless

Kristin, you are talented and beautiful. You do not need to feel second-rate to any other woman! Shoulders back, chin up and charge on! I so enjoy your recounting of each life encounter. Keep it up .

Cathy from California

You really made me laugh. Just love your "mind" conversations.
I have had the same feelings at an event in attempting to help out without really knowing what to do. I have volunteered and then been left alone at a task for which I knew very little.
So, you did great with the money and the people. Gee,I have a hard time with US dollars let alone leaving me to handle Euros.
Great experience for you and for us to learn about.

Thomas Andres, Tuolumne County, CA, USA

This wonderful piece sparkled with "secret magic glittery powder" of an outstanding writer and a very fine, warm and modest--not to mention highly attractive--human being.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I loved this post so much! I would have been panicking once "colleague" wandered off. I could imagine the scene as you were describing it! So funny! It's interesting how we size up the competition, isn't it? We all do it.
Nice photo of Jean-Marc! You're "sparkly" without the glitter powder!
I want to know how long it took for you to find the angle of the the eagle and the "shusher" photo. I spotted the eagle right away!
Really enjoyed this today! Thanks!

Kit Wilson

Thanks for this fun deconstruction of shyness-under-the-surface! May your sheer social gumption and natural glitter be mine next time I'm faced with a challenge akin to this one -- hooray for your glorious grit, Kristin, and for sharing the story as only YOUR eloquence can convey it. So fine!


Kristin--Your bravery is applauded. The other woman doesn't stand a chance against you. (She would be so boring and predictable)

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

A wonderful stream of consciousness tale. I'm surprised that after so many years in France you can still feel intimidated by those oh-so-chic French females (I remember stories in your early book comparing yourself to them). But I definitely understand because I feel like une grenouille when standing next to them, too. But you have all the glitter you need in your smile and your words.


Wonderful story! A great combination of humour, suspense & internal monologue.
It will make me wonder what's going on in the mind of the next cassiere I meet for sure.


I can't spell either-but this time I got the accent in...

Sandy Maberly

You go girl! I think I'd have smacked Mark if he'd left me with a job like that! Don't you just hate the way some people take advantage of "volunteers".....but of course, you sailed through with flying colors. I've been checking loads on the flights to HOU but looks like we'll have to give it a miss....Spring break in OK and the flights are all full. We could be sitting in the boarding area for weeks! Dommage.....Mark says the 10 hr drive one-way is not going to happen. How spoiled we get when it comes to travel :-)



Did you ever think that maybe SHE was intimidated by YOU (the natural beauty) and therefore she put on airs to try to make herself feel better? As stated above, you do not need glitter, you glow without it. Isn't the ole saying " all that glitters is not gold?"

Love the vine picture and of course Chief Grape.

Joie Blair

I am still laughing! And I think that those who use glitter, need glitter for they are the ones that are insecure.

Jules Greer

Kristi - You are so funny, it's so nice to watch you open up and share your sense of humor via your inner thought process...

NOW - if only you would really let go like you do during our telephone conversations everyone would be rolling on the floor.

You are the greatest - how about the rest of the story?


Kristin, I must ask a question about the T-shirt Chief Grape is wearing. It's "advertising" Mourvèdre, a variety that we have down here in the Languedoc-Roussillon in only a few places - but where we have it the wines are most truly sublime. My neighbor Pierre, of Domaine Pierre Fil, in Mailhac, makes some of the best wines in our region, his top wine being Dolium, which I believe is 100% Mourvèdre. And he uses it in all his other blends. I have run across this grape in blends from Spain, but I can't help but ask where your hubby got the shirt and whether he has direct experience/connection to more wines from this variety here in France? Is it grown a lot in the Rhone? Perhaps if we could see the bottom of the shirt all would be explained.


Hello everyone!
Kristin, "la caissière"? Of course, this function can also fit our 'Chief Blog', who learned in no time at all how to be an efficient Chief "Cagnotte"!

Simply follow the very calculated steps of her inner thoughts and her analytical approach! Yes, "avec un certain sourire au coin des lèvres" you are delighted to see her, taking over and man the stand on her own, handle, with 'glittering' confidence, Euros, glasses of wine and guests.

Now, be honest and admit that, after all, "c'est quand même pas mal, non?!" (go on and steal the very expression she put in someone else's mouth but could easily be attributed to her)

PS -> greatly appreciating the (damned good) journalistic report that confirms another facet of Kristin's talent with words!


Hello Kristin,
It looks as if you didn't have time to add the French Vocab List.
Here it is:

-> la dégustation = tasting

-> le dernier détail = last detail

-> quand même = even so, nevertheless, all the same, really

-> la caisse (money context) = the till, cash register

-> la Voie lactée = the Milky way

-> une barrette = a hair clip

-> la grenouille = frog

-> la cagnotte = the kitty (in a different context -> the jackpot)

-> une bonne affaire = a real bargain!

-> de la monnaie = some change

-> un billet (money context) = a bank note

-> un billet de vingt = a twenty Euro note

-> ..... "n'est-ce pas"? .... isn't it so?
used at the end of a sentence as an expression of affirmation after a statement - equivalent of 'tag question' in English.

-> "Tout ce que tu veux, chéri"... = 'whatever you want, darling'...

-> "C'est quand même pas mal, non?!" = It's not bad really, is it?!

-> "Vous avez de la monnaie, Monsieur?" = 'Do you have anything smaller, Sir?'


From New York,
I would like to wish everyone Happy International Women's Day(March 8)! It's obviously complicated to be a woman, and a woman among women, but what if we laughed and celebrated all together? What a blessing to have these minds, bodies, hearts, laughter!


J'aime ton style. Tres bien ecrit.
Or...I love the approach to this write up. You described it perfectly from your point of view.

Kristin Espinasse

How to say thanks for such encouraging and feedback? Perhaps one way is to continue to share a part of the world with those of you who have difficulty accessing it, via the stories.

Re difficulty accessing things... I struggle to reach that free-spirited side of writing -- before censoring out the "iffy" side.

Will see if this year we can make any more strides... on the writing side :-)

Thank you Newforest for the excellent vocab list

Eileen, you asked about how long it took to get that "eagle/shusher" angle. I saw the "eagle" first... it wasn't until I reframed the photo (for this edition) that the "shusher" appeared (as is often the case!)

Hi David, the Mourvedre T-shirt was a gift from our American friends Jeffrey & Carolyn, who thought Chief Grape would appreciate it. Here's a photo of the full text on the T-shirt: http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/.a/6a00d834515cae69e2014e869887f8970d-popup

Merci encore for the encouraging feedback... and merci, especially, to my "Colleague": thank you for having a sense of humor. If you like, I can provide a nice fat Americn cream pie... and stand willing to receive it (with closed eyes!)

Jim in St. Paul

Another great story! You have such a wonderful ability to capture all those voices floating around in your head and convey them in a humorous way that we can all relate to. I also enjoy your photography—here you take a very simple scene, apply your imagination, and violà, a very different image appears with just the right dialogue.
Glad you survived la dégustation. It probably helps Chief Grape prepare for his visit to the states this week and next. I feel privileged to meet Jean-Marc again this Friday here in St. Paul for the wine tasting and the wine dinner. When I have met him here before, I have been impressed with how at ease and friendly he is talking about his vineyard and his great wines, even with relative novices (me). He will be reminded that it’s not spring yet—we’ve had about 80 inches of snow, including a few today, so far this winter. Other stops on his tour have had more. We do try to keep shoveled and plowed out!
Off to work…

Young Paciello

Kristin, I laughed silly at the "caissier" stint. About 5 years ago, while my husband and I were on sabbatical (from being the pastor of a church), I needed some extra mad money and worked for 6 months at a local McDonalds where I was the "caissiere". I can relate to your experience! Except you also had to shoo those who tried to get behind you to sneak the glass!

Jennifer in OR

Fun story, I can imagine exactly what it was like, as I'm a woman just like you! Also, loved the "eagle" and the "shusher." Uncanny, perfect shot, but it takes the right eye to see what's there in front of you.


Great story, Kristin! You really captured all the mixed feelings--and the frenzy at these types of events.

Catherine Stock

Never thought that someone as lovely as you would be concerned about another woman...

Jewelie Dee

What is this magic glitter powder? I must have some tout de suite!

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