Cool Raoul


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

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"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).


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Susan Carter

Eloquently written, thank you Michael. I am writing this from an apartment about 100 yards from Notre Dame in the heart of Paris and still could not tell you exactly why I love France so much. This is my 7th trip and every time I arrive I fall more in love with this country and whatever it is that I can find nowhere else. One of my dreams was to show my daughter Paris and that is what I am now doing- we will celebrate her Bastille Day birthday on the banks of the Seine. The three weeks I have spent here have gone way too quickly, as time always does, but I know that when I return home to California I will have Kristen 's stories and pictures to keep me connected to the place I love until I return ( and return I will).


Yes, to dream big, to dream with confidence, to step outside one's comfort zone--all lessons to be learned before adulthood. Thanks for a great post. Mary


"I have a dream" :
"J'ai fait un rêve" must be translated "I HAD a dream" (past tense of the verbe "faire".
MLK used the word "dream" to describe a wish, an ideal, something he wanted very much, that is why he used the present tense.
The correct way of expressing in French what MLK was saying that day is "J'AI UN REVE"


Beautiful post on a lovely blog. Why do I love France so much? Well. sitting in our little cottage in southern Normandy where we spend every summer, I think of the scenery, the people, the food, the wine and cider and the quiet and unspoiled area we have chosen. Around here it's not so much the architecture, as most of the little towns and villages suffered dreadful damage in the battles of 1944, but the sense of history, long-ago and recent is almost palpable. Is that enough? :-)


Wonderful thoughts conveyed with deep insight and skill. "I had a dream" - Despite French grammar rules I think this particular MLK phrase should be translated in context only and I agree with Vera's reasoning - MLK was harboring that dream throughout his life and he was still living that dream for which he eventually paid with his life on the way to achieving it.
Thank you for reminding us of Martin Luther King.

Shelley Longmire

I very much loved reading Michael's story and admire his passion in sharing his dream with his students by taking them to France and taking them to see Kristin and Jean-Marc. I fell in love with France over 30 years ago and my husband fell in love with it just over 3 years ago on his first trip here. We came here to do a bike tour and attend a music festival that he had talked about going to for years. I thought he was slightly crazy when he said he wanted to move here and knew he could find work in his field (geochemistry of groundwater). He picked the place he wanted to live (Fontainebleau) and upon returning home he set out to make his dream a reality. He made a connection to a fellow scientist who lives in Fontainebleau and voila! Here we are! I wasn't sure how I would feel about living here but we both love it. Living in France invites you to take the time to walk in the park, to shop in the local outdoor markets. You learn to relax and enjoy a delicious meal and of course a good glass of wine and to try eating things you never have before. You take the time to enjoy your family, your friends both old and new, and life itself. We both feel incredibly blessed to be here. If there isn't another job in the future here we will continue to find a way to return. By all means live your dream--it's never too late!


I joined “French-word-a-day” only in this June but I liked stories of Christian immediately. Dear, Christian! Thank you very much for your stories and so nice language! I open French language for myself with your blog!
I visited the south of France (Monteroux, Saint Raphael, Nice, and Cannes) in this June. It was my 1st visit in France. I fell in love at once! Why? .... It is tender and a little amer fragrance of lavender and very tasty tea of Forêt de thym! It is endless songs of the cigales that I like very much … quiet evenings with favorite book … I can continue for hours …. But I really know that my heart belongs to France now …
I liked this post of Professor Michael! And now I know exactly: “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams...”! I have a dream to come back to France again! Thank you!
With kindest regards,
Tanya from Leetonia, Riga

Geraldine Ventura

The first time we came to Provence, we met 3 wonderful peoople. They, along with the beauty of France, the food and the wine, and that great slow pace of the French country side, drew us back for 6 more visits over the past 10 years. On our visit last year, Jean Francois was dead at 58, Sylvette now has Parkinson's disease, and there is only Catherine and her wonderful boys. Yes, it was always the people who drew us to France!

Sarah LaBelle

Prof Wrenn wrote such a touching piece on the visit with his students. Thank you.

MLK's speech, I Have A Dream, is translated as je reve and je fais un reve in the French wikipedia site. Using Je reve builds the oratory more in the rhythm that King used in that very strong section of that powerful speech. Or so I thought when I read it.

I wonder, is there a definitive translation?

Marianne Rankin

I am so pleased to read what Mr. Wrenn has written. He is obviously an outstanding teacher. In years to come, his students may remember some French, but they will always remember being taught by Mr. Wrenn, who has gone many extra miles to make the French experience special.

How could I not love France, where I was born? My father, a diplomat, was assigned to Paris as his first (and best) post. We left when I was a year old, so I hadn't learned much French or English by then, but because of ma naissance in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, always wanted to learn French. I visited for 3 days as a tourist at age 12, and finally, at 23, was able to spend 5 weeks in France, 3 with a French family, who were just wonderful people. All over the country, I met great folks. And France is unique in so many respects, including the 250+ kinds of cheese and the many outstanding wines. French culture is so rich. I went on to major in French in college, and since then, have striven to keep up with the language and culture, for which FWAD is so helpful.

I don't expect ever to emigrate, but if I had to live somewhere other than the USA, France would be my choice. I would feel right at home.

Ma from Brasil

Merci beaucoup,Michael and Kristin.Très joli post.
France is in my heart and soul.Love can't be explained.
Best regards for both.
Bisous du Brèsil.=)

Ma from Brasil

Just came up Johnny Hallyday 's song:
Le ciel nous fait rêver
Et l'on oublie
Dans les nuages
Tous les soucis du monde

Gros mercis!

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Thank you, Michael Wrenn, for sharing your vision of France with us and asking the difficult question. I was first dragged kicking and screaming to France when my husband had work here. Why would I want to come to a place that didn't like Americans and where they speak such a pretentious-sounding language? But after a good night's sleep and waking up to swans in the canal outside my Metz hotel window I was hooked.

Every day I am in this country is not perfect. I think Americans could give the French a lesson or two about public bathrooms. However, what I love when we're over here is how they work on the art of living -- from the pace of life, to red geraniums in windows, to how the napkins are folded at the most distant rustic restaurant. When I'm home, I also count the days until I get back to France. While waiting I try to find ways to put a little of that French way into my U.S. days.

Johnette LaBorde

J'avais un reve..

(thats what probably I would say ) but most likely that is not gramatically correct

Bill in St. Paul

Michael Wrenn, I think, said it all on why we read Kristin's blog. We first came to France in 1973 BC (before children) and did a 15 day tight loop through Europe seeing a new city almost every day, but it was France that intrigued us the most. We have been to several regions in France (Loire Valley, Dordogne, Alsace, Provence, Pau) and have yet to find an area that we would not go back to. There are many other regions we want to see and explore so it's always difficult to decide where we go next time - some place we've been or some place we haven't been. France is just a very interesting and diverse country for its size. However, I agree with Julie F that Franc could learn from the US about public bathrooms.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

Prof. Wrenn: Great writing! Those students were very fortunate.

Like most of your readers, I have a dream to visit to France again. I spent almost a year assigned to NATO in Fontainebleu while serving in the Army shortly after WWII. I was able to spend lots of time in Paris.

I have a dream question. Do you dream in color? Most people haven’t thought about it. Most people dream in black and white. I occasionally dream in color and it’s a pleasant surprise.

À bientôt

Suzanne Dunaway

Cauchemare...nightmare, also.

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

The sentiments expressed in Michael's post today touched me deeply and were so apropos to my own feelings this morning. At 5:45 am I sat on my deck drinking a cup of coffee having watered all of the plants in advance of today's heat and was daydreaming about France. Why France? It may be that the early morning air reminded me of vacation mornings in Provence, waking early to capture the sunrise over Mont Ventoux or shop at the local boulangerie. It may have been last night's conversation about our upcoming trip to Burgundy reading about the marche and the cathedral in Dijon, the Hospice in Beaune, the promise of mornings waking up in Pommard.

Whatever the reasons, my early morning daydreams were not far from Michael's question. Why do I love France? I do love the people ... the wonderful woman at the boucherie on rue Ste. Dominque in Paris from whom I buy rotisserie chickens when staying there, the villagers in Sablet who called out from their windows, "Bonjour" as we walked up the beehive road to our gite Le Maison des Pellerins, the lovely woman who sells children's clothing at the marche in Vaison, the Espinasse's with their warm welcomes, trois bisous, and wonderful wines. It could be the fragrence of just baked baguettes on the streets of Paris, the smell of lavender and spices at the shops in St. Remy de Provence, the odor of dried grass in the September vineyards. It could be the taste of warm figs just picked from a courtyard in Vaison, or the salty Nyons olives, or the sweetness of a Cavaillon melon.

It may be that everything I learned from my high School French teacher came together the first time I arrived in France. Everything she taught me made sense ... even the language. And it is also because I bring a little bit of France back home with me in my heart, on my walls, on my bookshelves, in my pantry and of course in photos.

Merci, Michael and all of the wonderful language teachers who open the world to their students. And merci to Kristi who is indeed un tresor d'or.

Tom from Detroit

Not being a native French speaker, I'm not sure if the verb "rêver" has other connotations in addition to what one's subconscious does in one's sleep. However, I believe MLK Jr. was using the English word "dream" to describe a future hope, a grand ideal. So, the word I would use in French to capture that idea of "dream" would be "espoir" (as in "J'ai un espoire...") or the verb "esperer" (as in "J'espere un jour..." After saying this, the words "espoir" and "esperer" sound so commonplace and "unhopeful" that they don't seem to do MLK's phrase justice. Surely there is a francophone out there who could "wax poetic" with that ideal, isn't there?
To be sure, this legend was a master at framing the English language in ways that captured people's attention and imagination and moved our culture to more fully experience "freedom and justice for all". (Just my opinion!!)


Despite Jean-Marc’s French background, I would strongly disagree with his translation and common French usage of “I have a dream.” The strength of MLK’s quote is that is a dream he spoke of in the present tense. He is not speaking of something he dreamed yesterday or yesterday night – He is speaking of a dream that he has now and for the future. It is especially poignant as he was assassinated as he was working so hard to fulfil that dream. To say he had a dream implies only the past tense. I bet it is just a figure of speech and he never actually dreamed what he spoke of. So “had” just does not work here. “J’ai une rêve” is the ONLY way to understand MLK’s message.

Audrey Wilson

It is so difficult to express why one fell in love with France. Michael says it so well .
We had spent many caravan holidays in the South of France, returning each summer . As we left the ferry we used to say "Ah! we've come home "
Well retirement arrived & we came on holiday. The question was Spain or France? I have little or no Spanish but do like the real Spain, but do have more french . That holiday we started to look at properties in this, our favourite area ( the Pyrénées Oriéntales, close to the Spanish border ) and found a barn. Not restored!Full of peach boxes ,old shoes,farm implements etc
To the consternation of our families we bought it & the following year moved down,selling up in the U.K
Eighteen months later after living in the caravan we had our home, where we have now lived for 17 years.
Why are we so happy here ? The pace of life, the climate, the friendlyness of the local people ,the beautiful scenery & the clear roads !!
Learn to live with french bureaucracy ( I could write a whole comment on that!) and what more do you need ?!

Marcia Douglas

I fell in love with France when I was a little girl. My grandparents told me stories about my French ancestors (Papineau). My great grandmother was French Canadian and her great grandfather came from France. When I was able to finally learn French in school, I eagerly signed up. I still have not made the journey, but I still dream and am planning on visiting France next year. Kristen's blog makes France come alive for me!

Cindy McDonald

Why do I love ma belle France? To paraphrase Shakespeare, " She is stuff that dreams are made on..."


Should have said "'the' stuff that dreams are made on..." pardon moi.

Eileen deCamp

Thanks Professor Wrenn for your touching story. Dreams do come true!
Merci beaucoup,

Sue J.

Lovely, Professor Wrenn.
I'm still working out the pull of France. What exactly is that quoi (in je ne sais quoi)? It is undeniable, that much I do know.

Candy in SW KS (but soon to be back in CO!)

Beautifully said, Michael! How interesting that my most recent blog was of a similar nature - why I dream of living in France someday. If any of you have the time I would love for you to read it. You can find it at Merci, Kristin, once again, for bringing so many of us francophiles together to be able to share our love, experiences and dreams. Somehow putting on paper (or at least writing it down!) makes it more real. BTW, loving watching le Tour de France. This week they are riding through my favorite area - the southwest, ancient Aquitaine! Vive le Tour!!

Phyllis Adatto

Je ne sais pas pourquoi. Un amour profond ne peut être défini.

Hope my translation is OK!


What a lovely post. So « perspicace », too. Michael has reminded me of my « rêve » -- to teach French. We need people like him to keep the study of this incredible language and culture alive. Bravo for your passion, Michael, and merci for the post!

Janine Cortell

What a beautiful love letter to France.
I, too, used to take my students to France every other year with the hope that they would learn to love France as much as I do.My family and I were forced to leave France in 1941 because we were Jewish. I was born in Neuilly sur Seine at the Hopital Americain and I grew up in New York City but always wondered what my life would have been like if I had stayed in France. When I started middle school I had a great desire to go back to my origins, to learn about my country and its culture.
At the age of 13 I decided to become a French teacher and here I am at 72 and still teaching French out of my home!
I was very influenced by my own wonderful high school French teacher Mme. O'Rourke to devote my career to teaching this beautiful French language. And, I, too, have fulfilled my dream of doing just that. I go back to FRance as often as I can and each time I return to the U.S. I realize that I actually have two homelands.

Bruce T. Paddock

M. le professeur -

Thank you for summing up so wonderfully the feelings so many of us share about France and about Kristin and FWaD.

I was particularly struck by your words to your students. I'd never thought about Kristin and Jean-Marc in that way, but of course you're right. And that got me thinking about the two great unrealized dreams in my life, one of which is to live full-time—at least for a while—in France.

Watching the Tour de France each morning this past week, at least once a day I've turned to my wife and whined, "I want to live in a village in France." But whining accomplishes nothing; one has to work to make one's dreams come true.

Maybe this will be the year.

Chris Colyer

Thank you Kristin and Michael for writing such beautiful things about France. I returned from Paris the middle of June(I also take students)and I wish to go back immediately. The French word a days keep me in touch.
Merci mille fois! Chris


I live in Germany, so close to France that we food shop there frequently. AND we often take a day trip to Paris.....from Strassbourg it is only 2.5 hours in the TGV. Get there early morning and home before midnight.....Wonderful....I feel so privileged to be able to do that.

Judy Feldman

What a beautiful story, Michael. I, too, have been a francophile for a long time. It started when I was an exchange student with the Experiment in International Living and stayed with a family in Dijon for the summer. I just spoke with my French "sister" yesterday - we have been close friends for 45 years! Kristin's blog is such a joy and the best way to keep in touch with my second home. My husband & I will be going to France this Sept. and I'm so excited to be seeing Kristin and meet her family. A bientot, Kristin!


If I were to try to convey in French what Dr.King was expressing, I think I would use the phrase "Je tiens un reve..." He was holding on to his dream, steadfastly, like a powerful steed that could deliver us all into a brighter future. He knew he could not be with us, and yet he always is.

Frances Anamosa

Thank you for your beautiful words and for sharing your thoughts with us. I, too, am an ardent Francophile, and I often ask myself, "Why France? Why do you want to go there again, perhaps retire there, continue your study of the language?" The people, the culture, all of it has somehow entranced me, even with all of its maddening moments. Each time that I read Krisin's postings, my day, my spirit, my attitude is lightened and lifted as I am transported to France for a few moments. I live in Napa, too, so I am a long way away, but I can imagine those mountains, the landscape, the sounds through her writings and thus I am reminded of my visits to Provence and to France. Thank you to Kristin, her family, and to you Professor Wrenn.


I loved your guest post. I followed my heart to France 20 years ago (via the Midwest, then Hawaii). It's been an up and down adventure. But I consider France my home now and posts like yours remind me to be grateful for this Provencal life I live.

Mike Armstrong

This was a terrific post, so engaging on many levels. Thanks to Michael and Kristin. Douce France, cher pays de mon enfance.. (well not mine, but Jean Marc's and Charles Trenet's!)
I think the first Wikipedia translation is closest to the sense of MLKs speech. J'ai un reve is a literal translation and conveys the present tense that he used, but je reve does the same thing with some immediacy- I dream...of a time when people will be judged on their character more than on the color of their skin. But I think Ellen has really captured his sense as well with je tiens un reve.


It was not love at first sight for France, the ancestral home on my father's side, and me. Texas is too far from anything French except for the brief historic references to LaSalle and his shipwreck on the Texas coast centuries ago. And, of course, the vision of the French flag, one of the six flags that have waved over the Lone Star state.
Mexico and Texas, home to my mother's Mexican-Comanche ancestors are closer and more familiar.
Then, twelve years ago my husband's company sent us to live in Paris. A gorgeous apartment in the 8th. Fat expense account. We lived the Parisian life to the fullest and then began exploring the provinces. We found long lost cousins of my father's. We traveled to 89 departments. There is not one inch of France, one area, one direction that I favor over all others. All call to me. With Mexico in turmoil, I am eternally grateful to have my father's homeland as my second spiritual home. We no longer travel at any company's expense so our lodgings and restaurant choices have downgraded a few stars, but there is not a minute of any day that I do not long for France.

Pat Cargill

I think Cindy McDonald says it for me, paraphrasing Shakespeare: France being "the stuff that dreams are made on." Unlike Shakespeare's conclusion that it is all unreal...ah, I did make it real and have enjoyed two trips to belle France, once w/a small group, touring Provence; and a few years later, returning to Aix-en-Provence to spend 3 l/2 weeks with Monique Faillard (an artist I met on the tour) at la bastide de la traverse just outside the old city.

The Faillards were generous, warm-hearted and offered many opportunities to experience their city and the surrounding country. Of course, I would love to return--and hopefully will do so. Prof. Wrenn's lovely story inspires me to do just that! He has given his students an opportunity of a lifetime and truly shown them that dreams CAN and DO come true. One has to make them happen. Kristen and Jean-Marc also inspire me and this blog keeps my love of France alive. Many thanks to all.

Andre Ruellan

I believe Ellen has the most appropriate translation of "I have a Dream". "Je tien un reve" has the feeling that MLK was expressing in his speach. The official French translation is certainly not correct as it is in the past tense and MLK was saying that he is currently holding on to his dream.
My parents were first generation Brits of French parents. My first trip to (and memories of) France were in 1938. Unfortunately my parents did not speak French at home and French language school courses in those days were almost useless.
In the seventies I took my wife and 4 kids to Paris and "dumped" them into the French culture (4 seperate French schools). 5 years later when we returned to North America, the children were bilingual and my wife and I still struggle with la belle langue.
France is a wonderful country but don't go there to work in business. It is extremely frustrating. Just enjoy the the casual life and the culture.


I did indeed enjoy Michael's blog about being a francophile. I can certainly relate to his feelings about liking anything French. For me it began when I saw the movie A Very Long Engagement which was filmed in Brittany. The scenery was mesmerizing! So I went to France for the first time last year, enjoyed every minute of the trip, and miss France very much. I think "beauty" is one of the words that encompasses a fondness for France, things both tangible and intangible. I can't wait to return.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin. Stellar piece by Michael Wrenn ... I noted the photo of Jean-Marc kissing you and caught myself thinking (in a comparative analysis to Michael's writing) the photo conveyed as many eloquent words and conjured up as many visions as the beautifully written "piece". A picture truly does speak a thousand words, and that particular photo speaks volumes about the multitude of reasons to love France ... Mahalo Kristin, Michael, and Jean-Marc for the wonderful post and for keeping the dream alive ... romance and intellect ... ah, what a place .... Bill

Carol McFarland, Arcata, CA

Prof. Wrenn expresses his experience beautifully, and I share those sentiments. I, too, brought a class of students to France many years ago....and I've never recovered! Every time I return, the romance resumes.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Thank you Michael! It was such a pleasure to read this touching story about your visit, your passion for France and appreciation of Kristi’s blog. I absolutely love the words you chose to sum up your visit on the way down the lavender and rosemary lined drive! What fortunate students to be a part of this experience.


Why do we love France? The grace, the beauty, the vision, the style, the courtesy.....and above all, the people,the enchanting French.
Thank you Kristin for providing regular solace to those of us who haven't yet found the courage to follow our passion for France as you did.

Brenda Brown

Michael Wrenn says it best. My art teacher got me over there the first time and I've never been the same since. But what do I miss about France? I'm not sure. I just know I'm going back, 6 visits were not enough. I don't speak French but love to listen to it being spoken, love the feel of Paris, the sea in Antibes, the meals are to die for. The history, castles, cathedrals, art galleries, trains, and fabulous shops. The people in the smaller towns are easy to know. Paris is a city like New York, busy busy and each in a class by itself, both must sees. France and it's people are wonderful. I still dream about having an apartment in Paris to visit. I will be going back soon!

Jacqueline Gill

My love for things French began in second grade when the Board of Education decided that some of us little children should learn French as an enrichment(way back in the 1950's!!). I do not remember my teacher; only that she taught with great love and enthusiasm. In a short time I was singing dozens of songs in French; had little idea what those words meant but loved the sounds of those words. Sad to say, I did not major in French in college and have never been to France yet, but I dream of going one day soon....


Loved singing "Frère Jacques" in a round as a very young girl and I simply love the sounds of the spoken French language. Many thanks to my grade school music teacher, who taught all of his students the meaning of this particular song and introduced me to the idea of foreign languages. I have never been to France (but have plans to visit). Also, I truly enjoy reading FRENCH-WORD-A-DAY, and still love hearing spoken French and listening to children sing this memorable song.

Linda Hollander

I discovered Paris via "the Autobiography of Alice Tokla, and such was the strength of the attachment, I remember the day I picekd it up which was in April 1961. I was fifteen, and Gertrude Stein became an enduring passion, both personally and professionally.I didn't get to Paris until 1972 and by that time, I was conviced that Hemignway and Stein would meet me at the airport, accordians would be playing, Piaf would be singing and Proust would be standing there with madeleines! Didn't happen and I was thrown into severe language isolation and deep culture shock. But I had a seven page, single-spaced, typed Parisian itinerary, so each day my husband and I would be off exploring. It was wonderful.

I have been to Paris and other parts of France many times since then, but the reason why I continue my love affair with Paris is the pavement. I can feel her history in my feet. I walk and walk, most often I am lost and I love every footstep, I particularly love the ones that lead to Berthillon, but that's another story. I think it doesn't matter why one loves France...there are as many reasons as there are people who live and visit. France is Circe...she entices us, she mesmerizes us and it is only by sheer force of will that we escape her spell to return to our "real" world. So lucky, those of us who succumb to her charms!

I can't wait to go back!

Lisa A., CA

Hi Kim,

I found the Youtube of "Frere Jacques" :)
I too remember singing this in day camp as a child...what fun that was!! Enjoy!

What a joy it was today to read what everybody wrote! I agree with all the lovely things that were said about France and the reasons to turn again and again.

The first time I went to France I was 21. I've been in love with France and it's people ever since. Hopefully, I will be going again next year...I miss the relaxed pace of Provence and the beauty of Paris.

Also, I totally agree with the statements made about the public bathrooms...hahaha that always puzzled me.


I feel in love with France on my first visit when I was thirty and I try to go back once or twice a year, but sometimes I miss a year. France is a contrast of old and new (Notre Dame and the Pompidou Center), small quaint villages and large vibrant cities, cities surrounded by farms, yellow sunflowers and lavender and so much more. I love the lazy small hillside villages of Provence and the effervescence of the seaside villages. I love Paris any time of the year.
How can you not love a country that has 100+ cheeses and so much good wine and of course all of the great food.

Marianne Rankin

Herm, I have always dreamed in color.

Suzanne, you brought back memories by mentioning the Hospice in Beaune, which everyone should see.

Janine, I was also born in the Hopital Americain in Neuilly.

It occurred to me that a possible translation for King's "I have a dream" might be "Je garde un reve."

When I briefly taught high-school French, I found that one doesn't teach just the language. Some history, culture, and attitudes are inevitably included - and Mr. Wrenn has done an outstanding job conveyeing them to his students.

Amber...Peoria, IL

Beautiful post, eloquently stated! I, myself, have had the pleasure of meeting Kristin and Jean-Marc and it is easy to be smitten with them because they are genuine and not afraid to let people into their lives. You touched on the love affair that we all have with this country and it's people. Professor, I love that you tied this all back to a lesson with your students. Bravo!(By the way, 18 years later, I am still stay in touch with my High School French teacher and although I did not get to go to France with her on a high school trip, I DID get to go with her after I graduated college. Thanks for inspiring these young people!)

Interestingly enough, I am reading the book
"Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong, Why we love France, but not the French" by Jean Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow. Good, bad, right or wrong, it's an interesting analysis. Has anyone else read it?

Bonne Journee a tous!


The feel of the history in the pavement and the cobblestones, and buildings have a quality that seems to get inside your bones and forever keeps calling you back "home."


What a beautiful story, merci M.Wrenn et Mme Espinasse. I am so grateful (and a bit jealous) to hear about such a lovely afternoon under the mulberry tree.
M.Wrenn, I would love to know how you arranged your trip with your students. Did you use a company? Did you go on your own? I would like to arrange a trip for me own students but I am unsure how to create one that will be meaningful for them.
- Jessica

Andre Ruellan

More on French bathrooms:
Some years back, my wife and I took a bus tour all over France stopping at a different small hotel each night. The hilarious conversation at dinner each evening was always the bathrooms. We all know blue means cold and red means hot, that is everyone except the French plumbers. How do you turn on the water? Both taps anticockwise or both clockwise? Or the left one clockwise and the right anticlockwise, or the reverse? Do you really have to step into the bidet to access the shower? How do you flush the toilet? There has to be a lever or something. Know I know why the French sometimes call it "le water". They still believe it to be England,s revenge on the Frech.
Where is the shower head? Up above you, in front of your nose or at your navel level? What is that button in the floor? Try it if you want a cold sqirt up your you-know what. We know why there is always a drain in the bathroom floor, no shower curtain. It sure was lucky most of us showered BEFORE we had all that wine with dinner otherwise many of our international companions would have been either still wet or awfully smelly on the bus the next day.
Ah for French perfume.
Andre Ruellan

Christina Kennedy, St. Helena, CA

What an extraordinary experience you so generously provided to our kids! This is the kind of mind broadening that all of us parents hoped for when we accepted Mr. Wrenn's offer and challenge to send our students to France. Thank you for hosting our travelers and providing a vehicle for Mr. Wrenn to share another example of his delightful writing with us. Bon chance to you all and perhaps I will be so lucky as to visit some day as well :)

Jacqui McCargar

I love France because it IS France and is like nowhere else, there is a different scent in the air, the people are friendly and helpful, it is sooooo different from California! I live in the Sonoma wine country and although the climate and terrain are very similar to Provence that is all. I have visited 9 times since 2004 and would love to figure a way to move there.
Hello Kristi and Jean-Marc! ope to see you for harvest 2012...I think my knee is ok with it, lol!


Have difficult time with subjonctif tense but I like------j'aie un reve.

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