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Entries from April 2013

How to say "chills" (from emotion) in French?

Librairie (c) Kristin Espinasse
A black-and-white photo for a change and some frissons in today's edition. (Picture taken five years ago in Brignoles)

le frisson (frih-sohn)

    : shiver; shudder, thrill

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Je me demande si, comme moi, elle ressent des frissons en écoutant cette chanson?
I wonder whether, like me, she has chills listening to this song. 

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

As I drive my daughter to her friend's to stay the week, I try to put aside any feelings of sadness or annoyance or frustration. Just what am I feeling as she sits beside me--dans un monde à elle?

At once plugged in and tuned out, she is hearing the music but not hearing me. Not that I am talking.

No, I don't want to start nagging or manipulating. I don't want to say "Why do you put on earphones when you get into the car?" (nag) or "If only you would make an effort..."

Je prends sur moi. I cannot control my daughter but I can control my feelings. As I let go, I look over to the young lady beside me.

Her wheat-colored hair is now shoulder-length. I notice how the new cut, a "carré", makes her look 18... four years older. She is not wearing too much make-up. She does look lovely. She is a lovely young lady—even with earphones and wires sticking out of her ears.

I look past Jackie to the fluorescent yellow field that is speeding beside her, beyond the window. The colza is in bloom! 

"Look!" I say, unable to control excitement. 

"Quoi?" comes the deadpan response.

Too late. We've driven past the magnificent blooming field. Tant pis.

"Qu'est-ce que c'est?"


I feel my daughter's irritation and my own prickly feelings are back.

It is a two-hour drive from our house in the Vaucluse to the friend's house in the Le Gard. I am borrowing my husband's car so that I can "profiter" from the GPS... only the onboard navigator does not seem to be working. Instead of a bold line indicating the chemin, there are many bold lines indicating many chemins. I begin to voice my frustration.

"Follow the road signs," Jackie suggests.

I know her down-to-earth suggestion is a reasonable one, but I've suddenly lost faith in non-technology. 

My daughter takes off her earphones and connects her iPod to the stereo unit (how she's found the connection is beyond me. I still can't figure out where the station dial is—make that the button. Everything seems to have a button in this pushy new world). 

"Ça t'embête?" Jackie asks. No, it doesn't bother me that she wants to connect her mp to the dashboard. At least we can listen to the music together—the added advantage being that I now have a live navigator:

"Follow that sign..." Jackie says.


"Straight on now..."

"Merci, ma fille!"I say, in my best impression of John Wayne-comes-to-France: May-YER-see-maah-FEE-YUH!

My girl laughs and the life inside of her is my joy... for a precious second. She returns to her technical world, lavishing all of her attention to one of two metal-and-wire devices: her iPod or her mobile phone, where she is busy texting friends.

When the song "One Cup of Coffee" comes on, I enjoy belting it out:

One cup of coffee, then I'll go...
One cup of coffee, then I'll go...

My daughter perks up. "Do you like Reggae?" 

"It's not my favorite, but I don't mind a little of it."

Jackie laughs, only, once again our connection short-circuits... one of us is back to texting, the other is looking out the window wondering what this world is coming to? And where, amidst all of these wires and wireless connections will we meet again, my daughter and I?

 "Tiens, you'll like this one," Jackie offers, unexpectedly.

As I hear the familiar lyrics, goosebumps begin to rise... Suddenly my skin is electrified. The first four words are delivered so slowly—yet my emotions burst open:

I would only be in your way
So I'll go, but I know
I'll think of you every step of the way

I begin to wonder what the French word is for these goosebumps and whether my daughter is feeling them too? Does she understand the words, wishes that I wish for her?

I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you've dreamed of
And I wish to you joy and happiness
But above all this I wish you love

"Là, elle va se gaver." Jackie warns me that Whitney is about to drive it home...

And I will always love you
I will always love you

Jackie and I listen to eternal truth as delivered by the late Whitney Houston, whose words transcend the virtual or technical world, they are on our skin and somewhere beneath, or within.

I have an urge to know whether or not my daughter is feeling these truths, as I am feeling them (I've got to know: does she feel goosebumps too?), only I do not want to bore her with sentimentality. I've got to let go, to live and let live—to let the generation gap do its thing as it did for the generations before me. We are just an ordinary mother and daughter facing an ordinary gap... 

...and yet, something extraordinary is about to bridge that gap.... a universal truth—one that it is encapsulated inside each and every goosebump, or frisson. Only, in order for her to know that truth—she's got to feel it.

And just as grace would have it, I am spared of questioning my daughter... for her next remark is proof that Love is the universal truth governing every lively cell in her body:

"Maman," Jackie looks over at me."Est-ce que tu as des frissons aussi?"


Little Angel (c) Kristin Espinasse

                         When she was little... and I was big in her eyes.

dans un monde à elle = in a world of her own

je prends sur moi = I'll get a grip on myself

un carré = blunt cut, a bob

quoi? = what?

tant pis = too bad

qu'est-ce que c'est? = what is it?

profiter = to take advantage of

le chemin = road, way

ça t'embête? = does this bother you?

merci, ma fille = thanks, my girl

tiens = here

là, elle va se gaver = there, she's going to give it her all

Est-ce que tu as des frissons aussi? = Mom, do you have goosebumps too?


   A daughter's love (c) Kristin Espinasse

How to say cherished in French? (photo, above, taken several years later)

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A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

"a sa guise" - a wonderful expression, but what does it mean?

Boat in Giens (c) Kristin Espinasse
It's a little more chaotic than usual around here today--there are workers in the living room, workers in the bathroom, workers in the trees! I chose this calming image to begin this post... up to you to choose today's story à votre guise.

à sa guise (ah-sah-gheez)

    : as one pleases, as he/she likes

Audio File: Listen to our daughter Jackie, read today's example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav

Aujourd hui, je vous donne le choix entre trois histoires à lire. Vous êtes libre de choisir à votre guise.
Today I'm giving you the choice between three stories to read. You are free to choose as you like.

For those of you who would enjoy a story from the archives, here are your choices (I chose the essays based on the amount of "likes" recorded at the end of the blog edition...):
  • Eleven people liked How to Compliment a French Woman. Click here to read.
  • Twelve people liked Smells like Teen Spirit. Click here and scroll down to the story column.
  • (Oh, forget "likes"--a writer should not look at "likes"--but I hope you'll still read this one: Outrunning the Bulls in Italy, in the story "Sauve Qui Peut!" Click here.
Bonne lecture! Happy reading!
P.S. I will be looking for more stories to rerun--as my mom (then my dad and Marsha) will be visiting in May (and June). I'm going to want to spend a lot of time with them and I'll need to put this newsletter on break (or reduce the number of posts). If you can recommend a story from the archives, please let me know. That would be so helpful! Comments welcome here.


Wildflowers (a gift from Jean-Marc), another French mailbox, and a  letter I received recently... 

Salut Mrs. Epinasse... or should I say Mme Epinasse!
My name is Sydney Cardozo and I am in one of Mme Siff's French classes this year at my school in Richmond, Virginia! I am 16 (almost 17) and a junior... so I am starting the lovely college process! Our College Counseling Office here at Collegiate encouraged the juniors to ask their teachers in very creative ways to write their letters of recommendation. 
So now to the point of this very random email! Our class reads your blog weekly and we are often quizzed on the funny stories and vocab! Recently our class saw Jean-Marc and Mme Siff together on a post... it was like she ate dinner with a celebrity! So cool! This may be a tall order to ask, but I was wondering if somehow you could help me ask Mme. Siff to write my letter of recommendation in one of your posts! (Sort of crazy, sounds like I am asking her to prom or something!) But if you could find any time to add a sentence or two saying something like "By the way Valencia Siff... would you like to write Sydney's letter of recommendation?" that would be so awesome! 

Hi Sydney, All of us reading wish you bonne chance!
P.S. Mme. Siff, Qu'est-ce que vous en pensez? 
Centuries-old olive tree and mas (c) Kristin Espinasse
Some of the centuries-old olive trees that were pruned this month. The event became a great spectacle, when the ancient olive trees, down by the roadside, were trimmed. The French pulled their cars off to the side of the road, and several people rushed up to take souvenir olive branches!

Max's friend Paul (right, and here) suggested building a shelter for the dogs, a shady place out of the sun. The boys were supposed to be resting after clearing out the olive grove (and getting scratched from head to toe by all the thorny bushes!). Instead, the worked another hour on the personal project. How to say "hard workers with soft hearts" in French? 

Max laundry
Later on, Max did his laundry. Those olive trees he'd helped out... helped him back.
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A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

How to say kleptomaniac in French?

La Grotte restaurant in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
La Grotte - the restaurant at the end of Marseilles located dans les Calanques de Callelongue (les Goudes)

un kleptomane (klepto-man)

    : kleptomaniac

Audio File: Listen to the sentence below: Download MP3 or Wav file

Un kleptomane ne peut se retenir de dérober des objets, la plupart du temps sans aucune valeur. A kleptomaniac cannot help himself from lifting objects that are, for the most part, worthless.

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

After an emotional visit to the American Consulate, we swung by my mother-in-law's, buckled her into the car, and drove to the end of Marseilles where the coastline rumbles out to sea, the huge limestone rocks meeting a turquoise eternity.

We arrived at the last port, "Callelongue", where a couple handfuls of fishing boats rested along the tiny bay. Facing the boats, there was our longtime favorite restaurant, La Grotte.

Ça fait du bien. Ah, ça fait du bien! My mother-in-law and I agreed: getting out, with family, did wonders for the morale! But our spirits were about to be stirred up once again....

It happened when Jean-Marc shared an update about a certain someone. The news was innocent enough but my focus automatically shifted to my mother-in-law, who I knew would self-detonate in a matter of seconds.

One.... two... three! I listened as my normally lovable mother-in-law made a cutting and unsavory remark, before staring off in the opposite direction of her son. (Leading me to speculate that older people don't roll their eyes, they dignifiably remove them from the annoyance).

Ha! My eyes hurried over to Jean-Marc to witness his predictable reaction: "Maman, is it really necessary to make such a remark each time? Why don't you just keep it to yourself?!"

Michele-France mumbled something loud enough to solicit another peeved response from her firstborn. Well, if he didn't want to hear such a remark, he needn't have brought up a touchy subject, my mother-in-law insinuated. Things were heating up now!

As my eyes traveled eagerly back-n-forth I caught myself enjoying some guilty entertainment. But it was a relief, for once, not to be on the receiving end in the word-slinging arena! Besides, I might learn a tip or two from my mother-in-law--on how to dish it back!!

Guilt won out and I quickly jumped in to defend my belle-mère. This time Max and Jackie's eyes jumped in too as we followed the grumpy dialogue. Wishing to avoid a commotion (the tables all around were beginning to take notice) I begged everyone to calm down and try to be normal like the rest of the French families, who were enjoying their public outing in a good-mannered, typically reserved way.

Why couldn't we be normal like everyone else? (The previous meltdown happened when one of our teens would not stop saying the "b"--or "bouton" (pimple) word, thus breaking a rule enstated by the weak-stomached member of our family (no potty talk at the table, either, I'm always reminding everyone!). Allez. ça suffit. ARRET! Quit it!

Soon we were all on our best behaviors again, letting go of the worries and irritations of the week in time to enjoy plates of deep fried supions and even a round of ice cream sundaes! What a lovely lunch, I thought, standing up to stretch as Jean-Marc paid the bill. Only the newfound peace was short won....

I watched in disbelief as my mother-in-law picked up the table's ashtray. "Do you think I could take this?" she asked her son. My eyes were glued to the cendrier which hovered dangerously close to my mother-in-law's wide open purse.

I thought about what a dupe I'd been to sit there defending my rascal of a mother-in-law... when, in the end, she was about to pull one on us--"one" of those social don'ts that no longer seems to faze people like her. People like her who have already been labelled or judged or misunderstood or sadly shunned to the point where no matter what they do they're damned.  

I knew I needed to be understanding but despite all my efforts I had not yet, in my 45 year experience, evolved that far spiritually. It was still very important to my well-being to control all outcomes or, at times like this--as a desperate last resort--to keep up appearances!

"No! No she can't take that! " I implored my husband. "Tell your mom she can't steal the ashtray!"

Jean-Marc, caught in the middle, spoke firmly. "Laisse-le, Maman." Leave it, Mom.

But wasn't that, after all, a little hypocritical to judge my mother-in-law for wanting to swipe restaurant property? Hadn't I done the same at some point in the past? What about that time when, after a couple or 5 glasses of wine, I slipped a wonderful clay cendrier into my purse on leaving a historic restaurant in our old neighborhood? Who was I to be so shocked by my mother-in-law's simple desire? At least she had the politesse to ask if she could steal it!

"I should have just slipped it in my purse," Michèle-France explained, "and not bothered you about it."

Or was it pride that had me wanting to control the situation? We weren't going to risk our reputations, were we, over a cheap cigarette dump! Frustrated, I looked at the pitiful ashtray. It was only a standard glass cendrier. Rather than cause a scene, we could stop by the dollar store, on the way back--or any local quincaillerie--and buy her one! Or I could send her the pretty ashtray that we inherited from Maggie and Michael when we moved to our new house. If my mother-in-law wanted an ashtray, she could at least have a beautiful one. It certainly wasn't worth the risk of condemnation to steal this lousy thing! 

Michele-France spoke innocently to her son. "Do you think you could ask the waiter if I can have it?"

Oh gosh! This was almost as bad! She wasn't going to ask the waiter! This was the point at which I realized it must be pride that was shuffling all my emotions. If only I could learn that lesson, which began 10 years ago. And what little progress has been made...

"Jean-Marc!" I said, hoping to influence him. But my husband grew frustrated with the ridiculous situation and I watched as his turn came to self-detonate.

What a ridiculous situation indeed. And to think, up til now I wasn't in trouble with anybody! I had set out to mind my own business--pausing only to help defend my mother-in-law (that was it! Last time I'm sticking up for her--THE RASCAL!--only to end up on the attack end!)

It was too late now to try to keep up appearances. My husband threw up his arms, "C'est le monde à l'envers!" With that he stormed out of the restaurant, leaving me to translate--and then contemplate--his departing remark: "It's a crazy world!" Indeed, it's the world upside down.

Michèle-France wasn't fazed, but lingered suspiciously close to that ashtray before I snapped, "Come on, let's get out of here!"

"I'll just rest here until he brings the car around," my mother-in-law casually mentioned, pretending to ignore the ashtray. 

Oh no she wouldn't. Not if I could help it! With that, I coaxed the little trouble maker away from the table and its treasure, past the discreetly indiscreet restaurant audience, and out to the curbside where we waited for our ride.  

I couldn't wait to see how my husband would navigate... what with the world being as he said,"upside down". I guessed we had better put our seatbelts on! 


French Vocabulary

la grotte = cave

ça fait du bien = that feels so good

la maman = mom

la belle-mère = mother-in-law

le bouton d'acné = pimple
allez / ça suffit / arrête! = come on. that's enough. stop! 

le supion = une petite seiche =small cuttlefish

la quincaillerie = hardware and junk store

c'est le monde à l'envers! = this is crazy! (or this makes no sense!) 


"Cabanes de Pêche" or Fishermen's cottages in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Cabanes de pêche. On the way to the restaurant, there are these classic fisherman's cabanes--used nowadays by families who spend the day at the beach. (The colorful doors open up and the family has access to everything from beach mats to little cooking stoves on which to fry merguez sausages for lunch!)

Kristin Espinasse (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

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A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

How to say "endangered species" in French? Plus a cultural snafu?

lady bug and artichoke (c) Kristin Espinasse
Today is Earth Day and we're talking about a humble old arbre also known as The True Service Tree. (Don't mind this artichoke, today's subject is still "tree", but the artichoke's red and dotted passenger seemed a good fit with Earth Day!) 

espèce en voie de disparition

    : endangered species

Audio File: Download MP3 or Download Wav file

Quels sont les arbres en voie de disparition? What trees are endangered?

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

Two Stories in One

Last night we sat out on the front patio for a goodbye dinner. It was time to thank Tanguy and Thomas (who returned last week, with a friend) for their hard work pruning the centuries-old olive trees. Nearly 100 oliviers, some close to 500 years old, were given a new lease on life.

As we sat chatting about a couple of exciting discoveries (endangered trees...), Max and his friend Paul appeared, in time to say goodbye.

Paul and Max (c) Kristin Espinasse

(Photo: Max and Paul, on their way to town.)

Max (c) Kristin Espinasse
(Extra photo, nothing to do with the story... everything to do with a proud mom. Max turns 18--French driving age!--in a few weeks. Oh gosh, there go the tears again.)

The boys--make that the young men--had helped the men with the débroussaillement (the clearing of the thorny bushes and weeds) at the feet of the olive trees. Max and Paul were exhausted by the work and were left with a new respect for Tanguy and his crew (aka the pirates of the olive plantation). 

I watched as the hip and cool (and whatever the current word is) teenagers reached down to kiss the pirates who were seated around the dinner table. Even after two decades in France, I still experience the occasional "cultural awareness moment", never mind I've seen the kiss-on-both-cheeks ritual a thousand times by now. 

For an instant, I imagined the cultural snafu that would be committed, were the boys exchange students in America. What if they suddenly forgot the etiquette? (How many times had I reached out to shake someone's hand, in France, when protocol required la bise or cheek kisses? Such an etiquette slip is not a big deal in France, but the same easy-to-make mistake in the States--with kisses in place of a handshake--could be dangerous.... if you were male. Such a deep, culturally ingrained habit of respect could get you beaten up elsewhere in the world.

This got me thinking: could it be that some cultural blunders are further compounded by sexism? i.e. okay for girls to make the gaffe (just a little awkard, after all), but the same etiquette error could amount to ridicule--or even a black eye--for boys!

(Sorry for the digression, but it seemed a good chance to bring up etiquette and an "unequality error"! Your thoughts welcome here. Meantime, on to the next story now...)

 *    *    *

Now, back to the trees discovery. It was Tanguy who identified them as cormiers. The tree's fruit, affectionately known as a poirillon (for its resemblance to a small poire, or pear) is seemingly unedible (super sour!), but, Tanguy explains, if you wait until the little cormes or sorbes fall off the tree, you can eat them. The secret is to let them blet or over-ripen. 

Tanguy says he uses the fruit to make a special kind of beer or cidre called piquette de cormes.  (Jean-Marc would enjoy that! As for me, I can't wait to get on my hands and knees and harvest the overripe fruit. But when? I forgot to ask Tanguy. Jean-Marc guessed October...)

Sorbus domestica Fruits Leaves (c) Wikipedia
Sorbus domestica. Photo from Wikipedia

Last fall, while looking for a place to hitch her make-believe roulotte, or gypsy trailer, Mom noticed one of the trees, its ornamental leaves bright beneath the blue sky of autumn. Something seemed special about the arbre, which towered over a carpet of rosemary and thyme. 

It turns out the tree, called a sorbus domestica, or "Sorb Tree" or Whitty Pear, was once highly prized for its wood--harder than oak. The bois was used for the fabrication de manches d'outils or tool handles. No wonder it is endangered, Jean-Marc commented, as we looked at the information online.

  Petit cormier (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse

Some say the trees are of cultivated origin, probably from a mediaeval monastery orchard planting according to Wikipedia....

Another thing to love about this endangered tree is its humble name. Known unceremoniously as the service tree or even the true service tree, one imagines etiquette is the last thing in this tree's heart. Chances are you could wrap your arms around its trunk and safely plant a big kiss on his bark cheek--and no one would look twice. If only the world and its at-odds customs could be as easygoing and down to earth. Au fait...

Happy Earth Day! Bonne fête la terre!

French Vocabulary
un olivier = olive tree
un arbre
= tree
un débroussaillage = a clearing of the undergrowth
la bise = a kiss on both cheeks greeting
au fait = by the way 

  How to say "Welcome" in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
Watch out Mr Sacks... You've got competition! If you think Jean-Marc is sentimental about his sacoche, you ought to see his heart leap, every spring, when he unpacks his trusty sandals. After "Mr Sacks, what could we name these guys? Share a name, here. (Re the photo, I tried to outsmart my shadow, keeping her out of the picture... what a dummy!)

  Kristi and Jean-Marc (c) Bill Facker
Bill Facker took this photo of Jean-Marc and Braise and me and posted it along with a touching tribute at his Kauai to Paris blog. Thank you, Bill!

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Homesickness strikes during passport renewal at the American Consulate in France

The sea in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The wind and sea in Marseilles....

French Quote:

Les larmes sont les pétales du coeur. --Paul Eluard
Tears are the heart's petals.

Audio File: Reread the above quote, then listen to it here: Download MP3 or Wav file

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

Coming Home  

Standing before the great iron gates of the American consulate in Marseilles, I was surprised by a barrage of tears. Afraid the larmes would tumble out from behind their lash-rimmed dam, I rummaged through my pockets for un mouchoir. But all I could find was a ratty, make-up stained Kleenex. 

"Mom!" Jackie said, with a mixture of tenderness and assertion. "What's the matter?"

I widened my eyes, as though stretching them might staunch the teary flow. Instead, the gesture added a bewildered look to the fragile exterior I hoped to mask.

"I don't know!" I said to my daughter, blotting the corners of my eyes with the weak tissue, careful it didn't end up in pieces, too.

My mind began to chatter:

Gosh, you are so sensitive! You'd think you were a hostage and that now, after two decades of captivity, you had arrived at the great freedom gates! The American Consulate, The Knight in Shining Armor!

I tried to understand the flood of emotion. It must be that feeling of release... The tears must be a kind of catharsis. But what was there to be cathartic about? 

I did everything to curtail the tears, when my eyes settled high up on the branches of a leafless tree, planted, like me, outside the consulate's intimidating security barrier.

With my eyes lifted upward to the tree's limbs the tears had no chance of advancing but had to fall back into the fragile vessel producing them. 

"Look!" I said to the kids, who all but towered above me like that tree. "There is a towel stuck in the branches!" I wasn't really interested in the flimsy, displaced serviette...but focusing on it might be just the distraction needed.

As we waited outside the U.S. Embassy, where we were scheduled to renew the kids' American passports for the third time in 18 years, I reconsidered the fragile object in the tree above us.

Uprooted, the little towel had been swept up by a passionate gust and deposited in an exciting foreign land. Months or years or decades later, the novelty having faded, there it remained....

There were pros and cons of the towel's foreign residence. The pros: a fantastic view! An elevated situation! An original life! The scent of baguettes wafting upwards... But there were cons, too:  years and years away from its homeland, loneliness, and a separation from its people

As my mind entertained itself with the towel's drama my emotions were kept at bay--but not for long! The great iron gates of the Consulat général des États-Unis swung open and I heard a voice that sounded just like my own.

"Hello. How are you doing today?" one of my people said.


*        *        *

Kristin with Jackie and Max (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
Picture of the kids and me taken just around the corner from the The U.S. Consulate General in Marseilles. Jean-Marc suggested we have a coffee while waiting for the consulate to open. (The pause helped temporarily to settle these emotions!) The kids (Jackie, 15 years old is center -- and that's an almost 18 year old Max) were moved, too, by the experience of entering the American consulate in Marseilles. I hope to write about Jackie's emotions sometime (what a different reaction she had than I! Do you know the French expression "fou rire?")


une larme = tear drop (story and post here)
un mouchoir = tissue
la serviette = towel
Le consulat général des États-Unis = Consulate of the United States of America
le fou rire = the giggles

Le Panier in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The Panier neighborhood in Marseilles, just off the Vieux Port.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

How to say "to lose it" or "to come unhinged" in French?

Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseilles (c) Kristin Espinasse
One of the doors on the cathedral of Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles. We visited there, yesterday, after renewing the kids' passports at the American consulate. See the giant gond on the right? See today's expression, below...

le gond (le gohn)

    : hinge

sortir de ses gonds = to come unhinged, to lose it

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file

Pendant la periode de renovation, on peut être un peu sur les nerfs. C'est alors facile de sortir de ses gonds! During renovation, one can get a bit worked up. Therefore it is easy to come unhinged!

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

After writing Monday's post, my head was throbbing and my stomach, growling. Even though there wasn't a "real" story to labor over (just a series of dog pictures and French expressions), I am always surprised by the physical toll that writing takes and, when it is over, I feel like a wrung rag (and resemble one, too).

When the writing is finished I need to rest and refuel. I can't handle any more decision making or any more pressure, having pulled out all the stops to meet a self-imposed deadline. So when my 15-year-old appeared in my office (a corner nook of an increasingly cramped bedroom), asking whether a friend could stay the week (it's school vacation time here in France), I began to crack.

"No! Jackie," I growled. "Look around this room," I said, waving my arm from my desk, to the couch, to the bed, to the mattress on the floor. "We are already piled one on top of the other!"

"But Daddy said it's okay!" Jackie informed me.

But Daddy said it is okay? My blood begin to boil. I remember the last time we renovated a house, when--with no doors or windows and construction booby traps everywhere--the very same scenario played out. No! The kids can't have friends over for school vacation! I had said then, amazed at how differently my husband and I saw things.

Six years later, another renovation and we still see things differently! He just doesn't get it! NO. No sleepovers--at least not at our place!

"But Daddy said it is okay!" Jackie insisted, and when I went to argue back, my daughter's words stole my breath: "It's not a problem with him. But YOU are the problem!"

I left Jackie and stomped out of the room to find my easygoing let's invite the world to sleepover during major reconstruction husband. But I knew better than to try to talk sense into him. We would only end up in a shouting match and I didn't want the workers--who were busy tiling the bathrooms-- to be our audience!

And yet... amidst the drilling and the hammering a few more machines were now whirring as two mouths fired up like power saws. But when neither my husband nor I could get our points across (Him: well! if you prefer our daughter watching TV reality shows nonstop during vacation! Me: WHAT?! Of course I don't want that!!) we stomped off--each in opposite directions. 

I stomped out to the vegetable patch to get some green onions for a salad... and that is when I came face to face with the two workers who had been tiling the bathroom. They were seated at the picnic table, their ice boxes open, having lunch. They had already finished work, but I hadn't heard them over all the commotion in my room!

Surely they had heard the excited murmuring in the next room? I smiled sheepishly at the workers. Waving my green onions like a peace flag, I wished the men bon appétit.  

I meant to hurry and disappear, along with my onions and my pride, into the kitchen. Only, seeing the savory plates of the workers, my stomach began to tug at me. Apparently Smokey's stomach was tugging at him, too, for there he sat begging like a mendiant

I pushed the golden mendiant aside. "Off you go, Smokey..." and quickly took his place.

"I meant to tell you what a wonderful job you are doing here. Thanks!" I said to the workers, when my eyes tiptoed back over to those savory plates. "What's that you are eating?" I asked.

"Couscous!" The chef d'equipe said, pushing his plate toward me. 

"Oh, thank you, but I've got something cooking in the kitchen." In reality, there was nothing waiting for me to eat in the kitchen. As I lingered at the table, my blood sugar dropped and dropped (which explained my quick-to-snap temper, earlier. But I wasn't the only one with low blood sugar! My heart smarted again as I recalled my husband's words!).

"Have you ever tasted couscous?" The builder asked, pushing his plate all the way to me.

"Yes. Oh, thanks--but you need to eat your lunch!" I said, pushing the plate back.

"I've finished. Go ahead, mangez!" Monsieur insisted. I watched, eyes wide with hunger, as the plate was pushed back my way. I thought about all the snacks and meals and coffees and chocolates I have offered workers over the years, but never had the situation been reversed like this.... 

I picked up the spoon Monsieur was using and shoveled a bite into my mouth. A sensation of calm came over me. I pushed the plate back, but Monsieur insisted, "Go ahead. Mangez!"

I felt a little awkward but that didn't stop me lowering myself into the seat, beside monsieur, all the while aware of the situational comedy. It was funny how one situation had led to a completely unexpected turn of events: had someone told me twenty minutes earlier that in the next life scene I would be dining with our tile-layer, scarfing down his wife's lovingly-packed lunch, I would never have believed it. Impossible!

And yet, in life, all things are possible. With that hopeful thought, something inside me murmured: Go ahead. THIS is life! This is the authentic moment you are always pining after. So take the risk and finally live it! What are you afraid of?

"I picked up Monsieur's soup spoon. "Well, that ought to calm me down!" I admitted to Monsieur, who, had he indeed heard the bickering earlier would appreciate the comment.

He smiled. "How do you like it?" 

"It's good. Very spicy!"

The worker laughed. "It is Tunisian couscous. My mother makes it, in Tunisia, and my wife makes the sauce here in France."

I remembered both workers were Tunisian. That is when I realized why the other worker, whose seat I'd taken, had gone off to sit on a pile of logs. He must be a practicing Muslim, in which case  it would have been improper to sit with a woman. But this would not occur to me until after I had consumed the entire plate of couscous that his boss, the chef d'equipe, was currently offering me. Only then I would understand the compromising position I had put the men in, and further appreciate their graceful response.

Meantime, what with the colleague waiting at the wood pile, I began to worry that the boss needed to get back to work, too. I started shoveling in the couscous, unsure of whether it was impolite to hand him back an unfinished plate. As I struggled to finish, I noticed how a very large portion remained. That is when it hit me that the boss had not really finished his meal, as he said he had. He'd only finished half of it! He was just being polite by offering me the rest. But should I believe what my ever-anxious thoughts were telling me?

Oh you think too much. I told myself. Be simple and do what you are told. Eat this meal!

And so I shoveled down bite after bite until... what was that? I began chewing on a fleshy compound. It soon dawned on me that this was chicken skin--spat chicken skin! The boss must have rejected it earlier, pushing it to the side of the plate, as one does. And there, in my haste, I'd gone and pushed it back in with the rest!

I sat there in limbo, with the spat chicken skin tucked in my right cheek, unsure of whether to spit it out (as the boss had done...) and so embarrass him, or did I swallow it? Quickly I brushed my hand across my mouth, spat, and tossed the piece into the onion patch beyond (wincing at the assault this must have been to the tall green herbivores, who preferred compost). 

If the chef d'équipe noticed the skin-slinging gesture, he was discreet. I hurried to finish the couscous when Jean-Marc walked passed, stopping in his tracks for a double-take at the picnic scene.

Owing to the absurdity of the situation, there was no way, now, to maintain my cool silence (earlier I had vowed never to speak to my husband ever again!). But I would have to bow down, now, and explain the situation... or buck up and ride it out in pride, with a what are YOU looking at attitude.

But I knew that what Jean-Marc was looking at was slapstick funny. There was no way possible to maintain a holier-than-thou self-righteousness. I had to give in!

I pointed the giant soup spoon at the boss. "He offered it to me," I said, managing a crooked smile.

Jean-Marc laughed back, but his words were addressed to the chef d'équipe, who had handed over his lunch.

"You going to bill us for that one, too?"


Post note: once those carbohydrates went into effect, my perspective changed a bit. The idea of having Jackie's friend over, during renovation, didn't seem like the end of the world, after all. So what if there wasn't an extra bed. The girls could sleep on the kitchen floor or in the bath tub. What was the big deal after all? (As it is, we're sticking with plan A. No sleepovers yet! ;-)

French Vocabulary

mangez (manger) = eat!
bon appétit! = enjoy your meal!
un mendiant = beggar 
le chef d'équipe = crew chief

Hollyhocks on Re Island (c) Kristin Espinasse
Hollyhocks on Isle of Ré. Photo taken last summer.

Good News: Very excited to tell you that France Today magazine is about to relaunch into a worldwide publication and that I have been given the chance to write the last page column titled Le Dernier MotClick here to view the trial offer


Student for hire (c) Kristin Espinasse
Slices of French life. Photo taken last summer. The handwritten sign on the bottom reads: Young serious law students looking for housework and babysitting jobs. I am experienced, dynamic, and responsible. Available every day from 3:30. Contact me. You see these signs in the baker's, in the superette, and in any number of little shops in France. Have you ever put up a sign like this? What did it say?

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

The French word for "good"... and an amusing French idiosyncrasy!

  French dog in Biarritz (c) Kristin Espinasse
Please share today's "Dogs of France (and Europe!)" post with an animal lover. Meantime, French learners will appreciate notes on all the "bon" expressions (bon courage, bon appétit, bon séjour) and insights into the French idiosyncracy of well wishing. Read on ... but first allow me to wish you bonne lecture!, or happy reading!

bon (boh(n) silent "n")

     good; right, correct

Audio file: Listen to our daughter, Jackie, read the following example sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Bonne fête, bonne journée, bonne promenade... bon appétit... les francais ont la manie de souhaiter les bonnes choses! Happy holiday, have a good day, enjoy your walk... or meal... the French are obsessed with well-wishing!

The following post was inspired by a comment I received over the weekend: 

Hi Kristin,

I was recently in France, and people wished me "bon courage" at the recent death of a family member there. Does this really mean "good luck"? This expression must have many meanings and uses. To my anglophone sensibilities, wishing someone good luck when a loved one passes away seems a bit odd and inappropriate. But I was wished "bon courage" with such heart felt emotion that I knew that this was an encouraging thing to wish me. Language is so interesting. Bette

Hi Bette,

I'm so sorry for your loss. You mentioned the bon courage expression meaning "good luck" and it seems this is true (though, for "good luck," the expression bonne chance also comes to my mind).

But back to bon courage... in addition to meaning "good luck," bon courage is also an expression of support, similar to "be strong" or even "take it easy." 

Bette, your note about the French language reminds me of the confusion I often felt, when I first came to France, on discovering all the bonnes choses or "good" things the French were constantly wishing each other. I remember my surprise and embarrassment when complete strangers wished me bon appétit! while passing by the park bench, where I sat eating my lunch.

This very personal acknowledgment by a stranger would be the beginning of a  budding insight into the French and their automatic courtesy. I leave you with several more examples of French well-wishing (which I've paired with some photos from the archives), and wish you, as my husband often wishes me when I set out to work: bonne édition! Enjoy this post! (or good luck writing today's post, as Jean-Marc said just this morning.)

Italian dog in Sauve, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon voyage... Photo taken in Sauve, Italy. Bon voyage is one of the more common courtesies you will hear the French wish each other. 

Bon voyage = Have a good trip!

Croatian dog (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon rétablissement... Photo taken in Croatia. Bon rétablissement is something the French wish each other when they are sick or healing. 

Bon rétablissment = Get well soon or speedy recovery!

French dog in Colmar, Alsace (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon essayage? As I said, above, one thing that amused me when I first came to France, was how they were always well-wishing each other--everything from bon essayage to bon bricolage (I heard this last one at Castorama over the weekend.)

bon essayage! = happy trying-on!
bon bricolage = happy DIYing! (happy home improvement!) 

French dog in Serignan (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon jardinage. I dare you to go to une pépinière or nursery this time of year and not hear this well-wish at the checkout lane:

bon jardinage! = happy gardening! 

French dog and cats in Visan (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon débarras! Cats--and an imposter--in the town of Visan. Don't go getting the idea that all the wishes wished by the French are altruistic! From time to time you'll hear this one:

Bon débarras = good riddance! 

French dog in Gigondas (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bonne dégustation. A wish I often hear, living with a winemaker who loves to share his vin with friends, is this one:

bonne dégustation! = enjoy your drink!  

French dog in Seguret (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon reniflement? Just kidding, French dogs don't really wish this to each other... but one can't be sure about French perfumists, and their courtesies...

bon reniflement! = good sniffing! 

French dog in Bedoin, Vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bon....? Your turn to decide what this dog is wishing its friend, and in so doing share several more "bon" expressions. Click here to share your answer.

French dog in Seguret (c) Kristin Espinasse
By the way, will you please help name the  dog types in today's edition? Click here to identify the dog breeds.

Mas de Martin dog (c) Kristin Espinasse
Bonne sieste! = Have a good nap! This napper, or vineyard dog, lives at Mas de Martin. Total animal lovers there.

French dog in Tulette, France (c) Kristin Espinasse
Almost time, now, to wish you bon au revoir. On second thought, they don't say that at all in France! So much sweeter to say "à la prochaine!" (until next time...)

Italian dog in Ventimillie (c) Kristin Espinasse
... and bonne continuation! I almost left out my favorite "bon(ne)" expression...

Bonne continuation! = I wish you all the best (also = Keep up the good work!)

Do you have a favorite "bon" expression? Share it with us in the comments corner, here.  

Other Favorite Dogs! Don't miss them here:
Dog in Giens 
Dog in Spain - Amazing fur style!
Hiding dog... can you guess who this is?
Dog with motorcycle 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

What is the French word for peel or bark or rind?

Flower shop in Camaret (c) Kristin Espinasse
Houp-là! (Whoops-a-daisy!) Today's story was supposed to be about kumquats but I got completely off track. I should change the word of the day from écorce to hotte (see the missive, below...) but no turning back now! We'll get to the "peel" story later! (photo taken in Camaret-sur-Argens. The sign reads: Send flowers to those  you love. 9 euros for delivery all over France, in less than four hours.)

une écorce (ay-korce)

    : peel, rind; bark

une écorce d'orange
= orange rind or peel
écorce terrestre = the earth's crust
écorce de saule = willow bark
écorce cérébrale = the cerebral cortex

Audio File and French ExpressionDownload MP3 or Wav file

Entre l'arbre et l'écorce il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.
One should not put one's finger between the tree and the bark.
(Don't get involved in another's family's quarrel!) 

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

We enjoyed another break from renovation, yesterday, when friends from Nice came to spend the the day with us. After visiting the nearby vineyard Domaine Tempier, and lunch along the seashore in a favorite calanque, we headed back home for coffee.

When friends come to visit I can't help but seek their reassurance that the home "improvements" we are doing are truly améliorations--and not threats to the character of this endearing mas.

My friend Gilda is an artist who also has deep sensitivities regarding the preservation of le patrimoine (in addition to being president of Association pour la Protection du Dolmen de Clamarquier, she has a weakness for historical objects and is known to rescue outcasts including chairs (I can relate...), which she lovingly recanes, offering the rejects a second or third life). It was refreshing to see our home through an artist's and preservationist's eyes and to witness my friend appreciating its character.

In the kitchen, Gilda and I studied the large iron and glass enclosure over the stove. Visitors sometimes comment on it: "And you are going to get rid of that, aren't you?" they say, innocently enough. But Gilda saw the glass-and-iron hotte through the eyes of time, and was amused by its originality.

Fueled by Gilda's enthusiasm, I pointed out all the bells and whistles of the sometimes-rejected piece:

"Look," I said, pulling out the glass vasista-like window. "This opens up!"

"Isn't that interesting!" Gilda smiled.

"Yes, it is!" I agreed.

Turning the latches, which double as wonderful hooks for nets of onions and garlic and wild herbs one so often uses when cooking, I looked at the hotte with renewed appreciation. Never mind the naysayers, I decided. As for range hoods they just don't make 'em like this anymore!

la hotte or how to say range hood in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
A very efficient range hood -- though not everyone appreciates the style....

Should I stay or should I go now? (What old French hottes ask themselves during renovation.)

 Comments, corrections, and complaints (well, maybe not complaints!) welcome here. 

Enjoy archaeology? Read Gilda's article, Monument to Mankind, about the threat to the dolmen France:

Approximately 5,000 years ago man traveled all regions of France, including the Alpes Maritimes, and left vestiges of his presence which we can still find today in the forms of dolmens, menhirs, and tumuli. (continued here)
P.S. I didn't get a picture of Gilda and husband, Robert, but I did post one here a few years ago.  Robert is the author of Jean-Marc's favorite wine reads, the books Corkscrewed and Palmento

 By marcia fyfe

Photo by Marcia Fyfe

By the way, here's a picture of our old hotte--or the stove or range hood we had in our previous house. That's Jean-Marc, looking for a bottle of wine as we were setting up for another tasting. Those were the days! We will figure out where to do more wine meetups, once renovation is past.  

pool in sainte cecile-les-vignes
Speaking of our previous home, good news: it will soon be opened up as a Bed and Breakfast! Thomas and Caroline (don't miss the story about Caroline and pictures) purchased the vineyard last summer and have been busy with the harvest and renovations there.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

quatre quatre (4X4) + photos of French landrover

Toy cars in Vaison la Romaine (c) Kristin Espinasse

"Traffic" in the town of Vaison-la-Romaine. A car lover will appreciate today's edition, which focuses on a unique off-road vehicle, the UMM. Thanks for forwarding the post on to a friend!

quatre-quatre or 4X4 (kat-kat or kat-ruh kat-ruh) (see sound file below)

    :  four-wheel drive

Audio File and Example sentenceDownload MP3 or Download Wav

L'apiculteur est arrivé avec son 4X4 pour monter jusqu'aux restanques et deposer les ruches. The beekeeper arrived with his 4X4 to climb up to the rock terraces and place the bee hives.

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

This morning Mr Pottelet, the beekeeper, came to deliver four hives.  Jean-Marc met the apiculteur at the edge of the gravel driveway, where the two men took a steep passage that leads to several hillside agricultural terraces, where Jean-Marc will plant his vineyards.

I hurried to dress, grabbed my camera and rushed up the other side of the hill, just behind our house, but it was too late. The men were already headed back down the hillside, having placed the buzzing ruches

Zut! I'd missed the bee-installation. Never mind. My attention soon caught on the unique vehicle driven by the beekeeper. I watched the tail end of the rover disappear down the steep path, at which point I hurried down the stairs beside our house, to our driveway, where the quatre-quatre was now arriving.

Shaking the beekeeper's hand I couldn't wait to ask about his four-wheel drive.  "An UMM?" I questioned, amused by the metal lettering on the front of the car.

Lately I've been fascinated by the Citroën Méhari and the history of this off-road vehicle. The beekeeper's 4X4 looked like a mix between a Méhari and a taller landrover.

UMM or 4X4 manufactured in Portugal (c) Kristin Espinasse
The most famous UMM is probably the one that transported Pope John Paul II in one of his visits to Portugal. --Wikipedia

"It was meant to be a mix between a tractor and a truck," Mr Pottelet explained. The vehicle was originally conceived by the French engineering company Cournil as a prototype. Its raison d'être was to function as something between a tractor and a truck. 

UMM vehicle belonging to the Service Departementral d'incendie et de secours or fire rescue department (c) Kristin Espinasse
The design was sold to the Portugese who manufactured the UMM for the public until 1994. Currently, they are made for the military and utility services only. --Wikipedia The apiculteur's UMM was used by the fire rescue department

I circled around the tractor-truck, wishing more than ever that it were my own. Jean-Marc has wanted to trade in my Citroën C3 but, being only 8 years old, it is hard to justify the need for a new car.

"Does it get good gas mileage?" I asked the beekeeper, who told me the diesel engine doesn't consume much.

"But it can't be that comfortable," I pointed out, "how was the two-hour drive getting here this morning?"

"Elles sont très agréable à conduire."  "They are very nice to drive," the beekeeper said, summing things up.

dogs of France. Meet Kek (c) Kristin Espinasse
Most of the known Portuguese off-road drivers started their careers driving UMMs. --Wikipedia (the off-roader pictured beyond the window is called "Kek". He's the apiculteurs gentle Corgi/Westie mix... or was that a Jack Russell/Westie mix?

  UMM or 4X4 land rover (c) Kristin Espinasse

And it must be quite useful for him, I thought, what with the four buzzing hives he was able to transport.

I began to wonder how I might justify the need for such a vehicle of character?... Two golden retrievers and a steep and winding driveway... was that enough to justify it?

"Je peux vous demander une question indiscrète?"  

I wanted to know what a car like this costs. The beekeeper said he paid around 4000 euros after finding it in Le Boin Coin, the local classifieds.

4000 euros? By now Jean-Marc, who had been anxiously following the conversation, was looking relieved--interested even.  What with so many French Riviera women driving little Mini Coopers ($$$), he might count his lucky stars that his wife's set her sights on something grander.

bee hive and four-wheel drive (c) Kristin Espinasse
Now all my husband has to do is sell several hundred jars of honey to pay for it. Better yet, maybe he can trade for it? Wine and honey for a lemon? But this baby is no lemon!

The UMM rover arriving high up on the third terrace. The beekeeper, who also has 12 donkeys, tells us these dependable workers would be ideal for clearing this land.... Don't tell Mama Jules, or she'll pass out in excitement. After a gypsy trailer, or roulette (or maybe even before it), she dreams of having a donkey.

Move over Popemobile... UMMs are THE beemobile! 

Back to work now.... Don't forget to forward this post to a car enthusiast (or even bee enthusiast!) Thanks. (P.S. Just look at all the work there is for a donkey. Is this justification enough??)


A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

What to do on Porquerolles Island? Que faire sur l'île de Porquerolles?

Le Port pizzaria on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse

Jean-Marc and I stole away to Porquerolles island recently. Because it was play and not work, I didn't pay a lot of attention to detail or think about what could be shared in another France city guide.

This is where you come in. If you have been to Porquerolles, or have researched it while planning a future trip on the southern French island, please share with us here some of the activities and tips that come to mind:

  • hotels
  • restaurants
  • ferry info
  • what to pack
  • how to get around on Porquerolles
  • activities for kids
  • favorite beaches
  • what not to miss
  • nearby islands and towns to visit
  • etc... 

Meantime, I'll share a host of photos and add some interesting facts beneath them, in hopes that you'll be inspired to visit this little pedestrian island only a hop, skip, and ferry ride from the coat of Giens. 

Jean-Marc and "Mr Sacks" on the main square in the village of Porquerolles (c) Krisin Espinasse
Jean-Marc and Mr Sacks on the main square in the village of Porquerolles. Eucalyptus trees frame la place which is lined by boutiques and café-restaurants. 

  • The size of the island = 12,54 square kilometers (or 4,84 square miles)
  • It's one of the 3 Hyères islands a.k.a. "the golden islands"

Island dog and laundromat on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Island dog and laundromat. 

  • Though you'll see plenty of island dogs, the village of Porquerolles gets its name after the wild boar that once roamed the island

Mehari and island vehicles on Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
You cannot bring your car onto the island, but you can appreciate some of these local classics-on-wheels. The one of the right is a Méhari. You see lots of these off-roaders threading through all the foot traffic.

sandwich hut on the port of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Save a few euros by ordering a sandwich and eating it on one of the many benches that overlooks the gravel square or the port or, better yet, take a picnic and hike inland a few kilometers for a view of the vineyards and vergers, or orchards or for this view:

Calanque in Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse

  • Not pictured here... but among the many points of interest is the botanical garden or la conservatoire botanique national méditerranéen de Porquerolles

Exotic door in Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Off the main square there is a long alley of what seem to be bungalows. This narrow had one story habitations on either side and one had the urge to jump up and down like a pogo stick... to see what sort of bucolic scene was on the other side of these walls....


  • It is said that in 1912 the island was purchased as a wedding present for a lucky bride-to-be. Buyer François Joseph Fournier then planted 500 acres of vines. (No wonder Jean-Marc loves this island!)
  • In 1971 the state purchased most of the island in an attempt to preserve it from development.

Artisinat on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Out in front of the artist's house... or one of the artist's homes. There must be plenty of them living on this begs-to-be painted island.

Domaine Perzinsky on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
Walking towards Domaine Perzinsky, on our way back to the village.

Porquerolles vineyards were among the very first to be classified Côtes de Provence. There are three vineyards on the island:

  • Le Domaine de l’île
  • Le Domaine de la Courtade
  • Le Domaine Perzinsky

Le fort du Grand Langoustier (c) Kristin Espinasse

There are nine forts on the island of Porquerolles, including Le fort du Grand Langoustier (pictured) and Le fort Sainte-Agathe.

From the port of arrival, this is the first beach on the left. Pass in front of all the cafés, go around the corner and you're there! Off season you'll see this peaceful scene. 

  • Porquerolles was the inspiration for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Teddy Bears on the island of Porquerolles (c) Kristin Espinasse
The laid back islanders on Porquerolles are known as les porquerollais (see exhibit A, above... and if you love teddy bears, see exhibit B here!)

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Kristi's nap (c) Jean-Marc Espinasse
After lunch I borrowed Mr. Sacks for a pillow and took a nap while Jean-Marc went hiking and photographing.

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