comment faire


Chapellerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

Hats off to readers! Each chapeau represents the original character of those who read this blog-newsletter. Which hat are you? (I think I'm that gray one, upper right. Although, lately, I appreciate the two-tone blue one--needed sun protection!!--over there on the upper left). In today's story--meet a few of these unique personnages... and enjoy the unlikely story of their "retrouvailles"! 

Meet with Jean-Marc this month--in Brooklyn or Manhattan-- during his 2012 USA wine tour: click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting

retrouvailles nfpl

    : reunion, reunification

la retrouvaille = finding again, meeting again, getting back together

Audio File
: listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Aujourd'hui, lisons "Les Retrouvailles" une belle histoire de deux amies d'enfance qui se retrouvent en ligne, sur ce blog.... Today, let's read "Les Retrouvailles"--a beautiful story about two childhood friends who reunite online, on this blog...



This is the story of Julianna Palazzolo and Sandy Zeoli, the two friends who reconnected through "French Word-A-Day"....


Time: mid to late 1950's

Place: Northern New Jersey, not far from New York City

Dramatis personae: Sandy Y and Julie P

Things to keep in mind: both girls had unusual last names

Julie and Sandy were friends and classmates at the Thomas A. Edison school. Both liked to write short stories. Julie's were much better (Sandy thought that then and still thinks it now). We went to each other's houses all the time, went to each other's birthday parties, and were good friends.

Julie Palazzolo

Julie (pictured, left) moved away to Michigan. She and Sandy lost contact, although Sandy thought about her on and off and wondered where she was. Occasionally if she were traveling, she would check phone books for Julie's last name. Sometimes there was a name that was close, but not the same. Or, right last name, but father's first name didn't match.

Sandy Zeoli

Sandy (pictured, right) grew up and continued living in the same town. Got married, had a child, divorced, remarried, but lived in the same town.

From Michigan, Julie moved throughout the country, married and divorced twice but never had children, settling finally in the American Southwest.

One day in the summer of 2010, Sandy went to the local library and found a book called Words in a French Life. Having studied French in high school and college, she picked up the book and loved it. She saw the author had an email newsletter and signed up for it in July 2010 (Sandy checked her email file, as she has saved all the emails Kristin has sent since she signed up for it). As a bonus, she also searched and found other Foreign Language "Word-A-Day" emails, as Sandy loves learning new languages. Hoping someday to go to Greece and read and understand a little, she has taught herself some Greek and now receives a Greek Word A Day email.

But, back to our story. In late 2011 Kristin Espinasse, the American woman who fell in love with French, France, and stayed there to marry a French man and raise her children there, and who writes of her life in the "French Word A Day" email decided to take up the challenge to self-publish another collection of her letters on life in France.

Book is published. Sandy buys a copy. Reads through the various stories and then glances at the "thank you's" at the beginning of the book. One name immediately jumps off the page. There can't be 2 people called Julie P. The last name is just too unusual.

Sandy Zeoli 2


So, Sandy writes to Kristin, tells her that she thinks it might be her long lost friend, specifically mentions her (Sandy's) maiden name, and other info only Julie would know and asks if Kristin could pass on the info to Julie. A day passes and an email comes from Julie P entitled "C'est moi!"

We are now catching up on our separate lives and maybe one day soon we will be able to get together in person and share some stories.

Julie Palazzolo


Our thanks to Kristin for being the matchmaker. And, in a very modest way, to the Internet, which allows old friends to connect once again, but without the shared interest in French, etc. and Kristin, in particular, would never have happened.


Comments Corner
I would love to read your reaction to this wonderful "retrouvaille"--or maybe you have a story to share? You can leave a note in the comments box

A note about the previous two photos: I had some technical difficulties uploading these images, which were also a bit small. (By the way, that's Sandy, upper right, and Julie, right). Perhaps we'll have the lucky chance to update this post... when Sandy and Julie finally meet up again in person! Fingers crossed.


French Vocabulary

le chapeau = hat

    le chapeau de soleil = sunhat

le personnage = character (in play)

les retrouvailles = reunion

c'est moi = it's me!



"Les Retrouvailles" (homecoming). Click to enlarge this jubilant image! This photo is two years old. It was taken when Smokey returned, supercharged and satisfied, from "Camp Sully" in Vaison-La-Romaine. Witness here Smokey and Chief Grape... and their joyful reunion! Mille mercis to Mark and Ellen for taking such good care of Smokey and Braise!

 Reader Grammar Tips (gleaned from the comments box!)

I was grateful to learn a helpful French pronunciation tip... after reading the recent reader comments (about, of all things, How Not To Do Laundry like the French). Thanks, Jim, for the educational pause... during the heated debate about whether to include socks with bras. (Come to think of it, while some of us don't wash socks with bras, we might have worn them together at one point... Sorry for getting off topic again!)

"French: An Open-Syllable Language"

Jim writes:

I'd like to comment on the pronunciation given for "bâcler." You wrote it as "bak-lay." Please forgive me for my narrow focus, but the correct form is "ba-klay." Unlike English, French is an open-syllable language, where a syllable ends in a vowel whenever possible. Most Americans fail to pronounce "he is" correctly in French. A native speaker always says "ee-lay" but most Anglophones say "eel-ay" which is incorrect. I know I sound like a cranky retired French prof, but I do think the basic linguistic distinction is important.

Thanks, Jim Herlan

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Partager Paris

Dear Kristin,
Your last story took me back to a similar situation. Once upon a time, two little girls lived across the street from one another. They were inseparable. Then, they grew up a bit... and they moved on, they got married; had children, not knowing where each was (one in Canada, one in Florida) Their children grew up, somehow became friends at the age of 11 and reunited the two childhood chums by running into each other at a school meeting. We have never let go of each other since...thanks to our sons, who by the way, are the best of friends, too.


It just goes to show that sometimes you have to go round the World to re-unite with someone who lives next door! (virtually speaking of course!). My feeling is that if you share the same sensibilies with someone, the World becomes a smaller place and you are more likely to bump into each other again along the way....when I lived in L.A., I often bumped into people just after thinking about them....worked better than an address book, but then we would be drawn to the same sort of places......

Betty Gleason in Hobe Sound, FL  52° at 6:13 AM

Oh! I love, love, love reconnecting stories. They are so joyful and heartwarming. You must be thrilled to be a catalyst.
I am also the blue banded hat, then noticed there were 2 alike, perfect for my twin sister & I. There must be more in the shop for all others who need broad brims.
Jim, we love cranky retired French profs. They give such significant pronunciation tips. Merci beaucoup!

Betty Gleason

Today you can correct my grammar.



I am always amazed how closely our lives parallel thanks to my dear and best childhood friend Susan Dayton she was able to connect me with a link regarding our high school classes in the past week. My eyes are all blurry from reading about all of those wonderful years this past weekend..

Then to see you have a post that regarding the same connections always amazes me that we are so connected with similar experiences.




Annette Heath

Dear Kristin,
My daughter, Kate Heath, lives in Alexandria, VA, so I quickly sent her the info re: Jean-Marc's visit there. She is anxious to attend. When she was studying in Paris, she went to see you at the Shakespere & Co. bookstore. She said it was so crowded that she couldn't get upstairs, so she found Jean-Marc downstairs, serving wine. She spent time there, and he took my book for you to sign. I wish I could be there with her, but not this time. I am down in Norfolk, VA. Thought you would enjoy this bit of coincidence. I have requested a bottle or two of Chateau-neuf du Pape.
Amicalement, Annette Heath

Eileen deCamp, Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
I love that these two friends reconnected through your blog!
I think I am the two-toned blue hat!
Have a great day!

Bruce in northwest Connecticut

What a delightful story! Congratulations and best wishes to Julie and Sandy. And Kristin, I'll bet you never thought you'd accomplish something like this when you started this thrice-weekly slice of French life.

As for me, I guess I'm the greyish-brown snap brim near the center of the picture, next to the pink beret — not too colorful, been around the block a few times and a little worse for wear, but still hanging in there.

Jeanne in Oregon

Oh, I love this story! I hope to read a follow up in the months to come describing a tearful full of hugs reunion of these two childhood friends.

My story is of finding my baby brother who was adopted out due to a "Sophie's Choice" time in my mother's life. He was in his 30's when I found him, and I arranged a lovely reunion with our mom just two months before her passing.

Love and hugs,


PS I'm the orange cloche -- so chic! ;-)


I never realized that there were other Word-a-Day emails, but when I went to look for one for Japanese (which I have been studying for a number of years), I couldn't find one as charming as yours. It's not just the words that we want to learn; we also want to learn about the life that goes along with it.


Oh, forgot to say, the only kind of hat I can wear is a beret.

Suzanne Dunaway

I was strolling up my street in Collioure and heard a young woman speaking English. I stopped to speak with her and found she was from New Orleans but had bought a small fisherman's cottage with her husband on my street. I told her my name, and she said, in shock, "OH, Suzanne Dunaway, I worked with you on an ad campaign for Ruths Chris Steak House 15 years ago! You did all of the art!" We did the job by fax and email from L.A. to New York, and never knew one another, and now we are fast friends in Collioure and Ports Vendre, where she live in a month. Small world!!!

mhwebb in NM, USA

Great story! Thank you, Kristin, for being willing to share stories about what is happening among your readers.

Blessings, Mary in New Mexico, USA

Janice Poland

Les retrouvailles is a charming story. Several years ago, my husband and I (after 20 plus years of visiting France as tourists) spent two weeks at L'Institut de Français. There I had a classmate, a lovely young Japanese woman named Akiko, with whom I discussed food and exchanged recipes. She was then engaged to a young chef. Two years later I read a letter to the editor in Gourmet Magazine by someone named Akiko living in San Francisco, but with a different last name. Of course, I wondered, and hoped, that she might be "my" Akiko, now married; so I found two addresses in the phone book with that last name and wrote, asking those people to please forward my letter to Akiko if she was the same one. Alas, my story did not end as happily as Sandy and Julie's. I never received a response.

Thank you, Kristin, for your Word A Day posts. They are always helpful and enjoyable.
And thanks to Jim for his pronunciation tips.
Janice, Bethesda, MD.

Lynn at Southern Fried French

Great story, love it!
Now on to pronunciation: Jim, sorry, i've been trying it, but I can't make bak-lay and ba-klay sound different, or ee-lay/eel-ay unless I change the emphasis on the syllables. Unless I say it very slowly of course, but the French NEVER do that! Need some clarification here, merci.

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely story you've been a part of! I love how the internet has re-established 3 important connections for me, too. The best is that (a very long story, so no details!) the man I dated (and fell in love with) when I lived in Paris and I are finally reconnected! He is Lebanese and the war in the 70's caused us to lose contact. For a long time I thought he was dead. All these years later, we are able to meet for lunch or coffee when I'm back in Paris!

That looks like a cream and black straw hat on the middle rack, bottom right--that would be me!

Debra Saturday

such a lovely post...reunions. They always take you back in time.

as to the hat.... today I am the black band wit h (looks like) straw hat. Second rack from left...on the bottom right. It looks good for a sunny day and light in hot weather :)

the Chief Grape and puppy reunion photo is adorable....everyone was happy.

Sadly, I will not be near any of the cities where your wine will be highlighted. :( I wish I were though.

Be well, and thank you for you:)

Karen from Phoenix

Reconnecting with old friends is the best!

I am the pink beret only because my favorite color is pink.


Joy Bryden

I too loved this story! It made me wonder once again what ever happened to my dear little girlfriend Sally Ann Vaughn, who was my best friend so many years ago. Sally if you read this, Cest Moi! your faithful donkey, Merchandise--as you had named me way back when.
of course I was Joy Tynell then. Thanks Kristin, and I have marked my calendar for Chief Grape's visit to Portland!

David Navarre

The story of les retrouvailles made me wonder if my office was especially dusty this morning, as I got all misty-eyed.

On my first trip to France, I took along a chapeau, but left it on the plane. It was replaced (a new one shipped from the US at our request) and THAT one got left behind in Paris two years later. Fortunately, there was un retrouvailles with that chapeau when we had the hotel send someone to the restuarant at which it was left and ship it back to the US for us! C'est un Kangol Herringbone 504 et je l'aime!


Somewhere I read, "Coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous." What a lovely story and such heartwarming thoughts that they have re-connected after all these years.


Well, I would call this one "kismet." How lovely that Julie and Sandy have found each other once again. All due to Kristin and her wonderful blog, of course. Happy for the reunited friends and for the warm feeling this news must bring to Kristin as well.
Oh, almost forgot, the hat...I'm going for the straw with blue trim. Having just had some pre-cancerous thingies removed, I need to stay undercover.

Amy Kortuem - Mankato, Minnesota

Wonderful! See how important your job is? What a beautiful difference you make in the lives of all of us who visit you? Wow. Good you!

Susan from Sonoma Valley

Loved the Sandy-&-Julie retrouvaille story. Sweet how many similar stories it has prompted. I haven't 'commented' before but have been a French Word a Day "hatibue'" for years and find every single one charming, if not inspiring. Thank you, Kristin. Wish Chief Grape were coming to San Francisco; tant pis. And what a wonderful pronunciation tip from Jim Herlan! We struggle to make ourselves understood, or at least not embarrass ourselves too much, in any foreign language. (It really does make sense, Lynn; keep trying.) Good one!

Edie Kilgour

Love the reunion story. I reunited with a high school friend at our 50th h.s reunion 2 years ago. She and her husband live in Australia and we visited her there. This fall we will all meet again in Paris for a month long vacation in France and Italy. Of course, we will visit Domaine Rouge-Bleu!
Edie in Brunswick, Maine

Suzi Hodgson, Lima Mt

I love your Mom and was so tickled to catch up with her. I hunted down your Aunt Rita,we caught up for hours. The lord blessed me then because, the very next day I received an email from your mom.She found me. It is a small world of miracles, here on the net.

Mim   (Richmond, VA)

Love the friends story, and all that people have shared in their comments here. I think there are many of us with childhood friend's we'd like to meet up with again. I'll live vicariously as I don't think I'll ever connect with mine. By the way, I'm the straw hat with the black edge and band, for sure.


What a sweet "retrouvailles" story! And how nice that it occurred through you, Kristin.

I'm the light, broad-brimmed hat at the bottom of the second row from the right. A very wise woman in a hatshop some years ago told me that women with big heads (c'est moi) need big hats. I finally understood why I never looked good in those cute little numbers my friends could wear!

Sharon - Montague, Michigan

I loved the reunion story. It's amazing how time and distance doesn't change love of any kind. My chapeau: left hat rack, second to the left of the wide blue trimmed hat, barely visible and in the shadow. The part that I can see of it looks like it's a real character - wide brimmed and well used.

AND JIM....thanks for the guidance on the open-syllable language reference
I'm studying French on my own and could use any suggestions and help.

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

Two years ago a sorority reunion from my university brought me back into contact with 5 wonderful women who I hadn't seen for about 43 years! We now meet every couple of months and call ourselves the "Sunday Sisters". We weren't all that active in the sorority but it filled a void at the time and brought us some wonderful times and now memories. We communicated almost daily and it has been a wonderful "Retrouvaille." I love your story of reuniting these two old friends! Love any/all pics of Smokey & Braise & you and Jean-Marc! My hat is the bluish-grey fedora - or, I really do need a new black beret!

Dad in Indian Wells, CA

That's my girl!

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

Retrouvailles! A wonderful word and it is so nice when we experience surprise reunions. This happened to me several years ago when my childhood friend, Debbie, found me through the internet. She still lives in California and I am in New Jersey. We started writing, had long telephone conversations, and like Julie and Sandy talked about seeing each other. Not long after that, Debbie and her second husband (I was in her first wedding) came East to see the autumn colors in New England. They ended their trip staying with me and we had a wonderful time catching up, telling stories, exchanging photos. We still are in touch. I hope Sandy and Julie can do the same.


Kristin & Jim - Thank you, THANK YOU!!! What an epiphany I had reading Jim's comments. I have been a student of the French language for many years and noticed the last time I did an audio course that the French kind of "ran their words together" whereas an American trying to speak French finishes one word before starting the next. Once you get the "ear" for it, it is a huge difference. NOW, I understand the real reason is the open-syllable! I am brushing up on my French again for an upcoming trip. Maybe this time, I will actually sound more French!

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

Love the story, love the Internet and love your blog!

Gabrielle Tsabag

Allo, Kristin!

Loved the story about la retrouvaille - it is a small world, and your blog is helping to make it smaller! Regarding les chapeaux ... the one in TANGERINE orange is my favorite. Haven't you heard? This year, "tangerine is the new black"?

Christine Dashper

This is such a lovely story Krisitn, thanks for making it one of your posts.


Barbara Johnson

Thank you for including the wonderful reunion story. Friends, old and new, are such a lovely gift.
Regarding the hats... I find myself drawn to the yellow cloche in the middle and on another day, the soft grey fedora in the upper right corner would be perfect.
I am practicing saying "ee-lay."


Love the story . I too just found an old friend after 65 yrs!! (through the internet) We started school together and became best friends in Montreal Canada. After my family moved to the other side of Canada (when I was 7)we continued to write letters for 10 yrs and then lost touch. She travelled a lot before returning to Canada and I wound up in New Zealand, but thanks to the internet we are re connected again. I am the white cap..the bottom left.


Quelled heureuses retrouvailles pour Sandy et Julianna! Recently, I have helped reunite an exchange student from VietNam with his long lost US host family. Due to the war in VN, they lost contact of each other. I searched the US family's name online and went through several frustrating steps before I could find the correct family. They were separated after...almost fifty years, 48 years to be exact. Needless to say, they were so happy de se retrouver. I was equally elated to be part of their reunion.
J'adore le chapeau noir aux petits pois blancs. Sais pas pourquoi j'aime bien les vêtements et toute chose avec rayures et petits pois.

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

What a lovely story. I was very moved by it. I too have found people long lost (over 20 years had past) and many others have found me. But, it all took place on Facebook of all places. :) So, I have to say a huge Thank You! to the Internet for bringing so many people back together.

About the hats: I'm always in a baseball hat. I love to get a new hat from where I go on vacations. My "souvenir" that I actually will use. :) My last hat was from Oregon.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Lynn, to hear the sound, it may help to do as my excellent professeur m'a dirigé il y a longtemps. Répétez, mademoiselle, dix-sept fois ! When I foundered, she said it again, and was counting ! At the end of dix-sept fois, I pronounced 'malheureux' comme une française.

Like you, I could not hear the difference at the start. Repetition transformed me, like magic. Perhaps not magic, but faith in my teacher and my vocal equipment learning how to avoid an h even when it is in the spelling.

One question to Kristin-- it is "deux amies d'enfance " not enface -- right?

It is delightful when friends meet after a long time, and in a common interest.

deux amies -- another example of la liaison, with an open vowel syllable?


Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

I so enjoyed this sweet story of re-connection! My favorite use of the internet is connecting with friends, old and new. How delightful that I can sit in my office on a farm in Applegate and be abreast to Kristi’s life on the vineyard in Provence.

I would love the gray straw hat, upper right!


Our dear Kristin,
Another wonderful story to bring smiles to our day!So enjoyed this!My oldest friend,Sally ,(from our ages of 5!) and I reconnected after 10 years,and it makes me even more aware of how life can be fleeting and special friends, and special moments are to be cherished.
As are you and your writing!
Each post is a gift! THANK YOU!!
Blessings always to you and your dear family


I was typing in a hurry, during break, this morning, at school and after clicking POST, oops, quelle horreur, j'ai fait une faute de frappe. Mais je n'avais plus de temps pour refaire. C'est "quelles heureuses retrouvailles pour Sandy et Julie."(Quelles, avec un S et pas un D). C'est ainsi quand on fait quelquechose à la hâte. Psst! Toi aussi, tu es ...comme moi, 2 typo mistakes dans ta phrase. C'est "deux amies d'enfaNce, qui se retrouvent en liGne...

Linda Patton

A big thank you to Jim Herlan for his explanation of the French "open syllable". It was SO OBVIOUS when he spelled it out but I never would have realized it on my own! It's just those kinds of small but important details that make all the difference in fluency. Thanks Jim!!
Linda NYC


Bonjour from another reader who has never before posted. Forty plus years ago when I was at the U. of Strasbourg, the French students and the American ones taught each other many folk songs. That's where I met the word retrouvaille. In this song, it's sweethearts who part. He goes off to war, and they each marry someone else. The part I recall:
Je n'ai pas écrit ces vingt années,
et toi aussi, t’est mariée
T’as trois enfants pour faire manger,
Moi j’ai cinq si ca peut te consoler;
Buvons encore une dernière fois
À l’amitié, l’amour, la joie
On a feté nos retrouvaille
Ca me fait de la peine, mais il faut que je m’en aille.

And it was a great lesson in the "il faut que" construction!

Mara in Wisconsin

Kristin Espinasse

Lynn, Like you, I did not get it the first time around. After repeating Jim's examples (à la Sarahs tip!) it became clear. (To think of the many corrections that I will now need to make in this blog... but it is worth Jim golden pronunciation tip!) 

Sarah and Millie, thank you for the corrections. All in now!

And thanks, all of you, for these wonderful stories of reconnecting with friends!

P.S.: I found a cool site that gives many bilingual example sentences for any French word that you type into the program. Check out this one for retrouvailles: 

Debbie Ambrous

Wow! What a wonderful experience. I know you must be very happy to be a part of this heart-warming story. They will remember you for a long time. This seems like a story that should be a news item for newspaper and television. I know I would prefer it to the news that I see most of the time.

Carolyn  Dahm,  Sharon, MA

Hi Kristi,

Thanks for sharing such a sweet reunion story. How lovely for long lost friends to find each other and connect.

Love the picture of Jean Marc-I remember it when you first posted it. Soooo cute!

I am a hat lover! I would definitely wear the large blue rimmed ones on the left and in the center to protect from the sun and look glam. My absolute favorite kind of hat is a cloche-love that chic look from the 20's and 30's. Speaking of hats, do any of your readers remember a hat company called "Petite Mode" that was in Boston from maybe the 40's until the 60's? It was my Italian family's company and I'm trying to find out more about it. Let me know if you have any info. Thanks!

Linda R.

a perfectly wonderful ending!

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