Happy Easter in French
How to say "to fall for it" in French? + the charming "door curtain" (photos)

French word for catacombs + photos of French locks

Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp in the Catacombs of Paris. Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 30 January 2004In case you ever wondered just who gets stuck cleaning the catacombs of Paris... (Photograph taken by Michael Reeve)

Very sorry for the hasty letter today (the sound file and "word of the day" will return--along with the regular edition--on Wednesday).

I'm in a hurry as I need to be in Paris by 9 a.m. for three days of community service. The local authorities contacted us last month after a disgruntled sheep farmer filed a complaint. Turns out we are being prosecuted for empoisonnement! (Remember the cool "punk rock shepherd"? Well he wasn't so cool after all as he is claiming his herd suffered from gastro-entérite--or le gastro--after grazing on our "contaminated" pasture.) 

That the sheep all but trespassed onto OUR private property--to enjoy a free meal--doesn't seem to faze the police, who informed us that when we made the verbal agreement allowing the berger's sheep to feed on our land, we were unwittingly taking responsibility for their santé.

I am trying to see the good in this even if I am reluctant head out, now, for some punitive community service. The 8-hour chore I have been assigned is surreal: the cleaning of the catacombs, i.e. Paris's underground cemetery. It took me a moment to understand the punishment, because of the confusing French words and legalease, which were misleading and which read: le nettoyage de l'ossuaire municipal. ("Ossuaire" threw me, but I recognized the words municipale and nettoyage and so assumed I was assigned to clean the floor of Town Hall--and not a wall of skulls!

The good news is the State is paying for my train ticket. All I am to do is to provide a personal scrub brush. (The municipal order that I received in the mail contained a small packing list: I am to bring my brosse à dents and a small flask of olive oil. A further note--an instruction, actually--states "une goutte par tête" or "one drop per skull"). I guess they'll fill me in on the rest (is the olive oil both a detergent and a polish?) once I get there.

Off now to catch the train in Marseilles. See you Wednesday...


P.S. If they think I'm bringing my own toothbrush--get out! I'm taking an extra of Jean-Marc's. He won't even know the difference--he's not back from the States yet (or else HE would have volunteered to take the punishment).

P.P.S. Even more surreal (humiliating, actually) is the uniform I have been assigned to wear. See it here along with a note, in the comments box, and I would love to know your opinion on this one! 

Note: The good news is the sheep will survive the stomach attack or le gastro; because they are no longer fit to slaughter they will live out their days in a petting zoo, outside Toulon). 

To share a comment, click here.

lock and chain in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin EspinasseIn theme with my punishement, I'm pairing this edition with photos I've taken over the years... of locks or cadenas. This one, in St Paul Trois Chateau.

lock or cadena in Italy
Locked up somewhere in Italy....

lock or cadena (c) Kristin Espinasse
Locked up somewhere in Provence...

padlock or cadena (c) Kristin Espinasse
 Locked up somewhere in Croatia...

 Locked up somewhere in Paris... that would be me. On my way now, to the Catacombes de Paris. Don't forget to see what the uniform I've been assigned looks like, here.

Smokey Locksmith says: If you're ever feeling locked up I've got a key for you! To comment on any of the photos, or something in this edition, click here.

Forward this edition to an April Fool. xoxo, Kristi 

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Kristin Espinasse

Sorry, there is no photo to show you... only wishes for a Happy April Fools Day!

To read about what the French are doing on this holiday, go here:http://french-word-a-day.typepad.com/motdujour/2011/04/poisson-davril.html


This story definitely needs to go in your next book. My husband is wondering why I am laughing so hard, which is not at you of course, but at the situation! ...Because if you can't laugh, you just might cry. This is outrageous! I suppose you will get to know your bones rather intimately and we will be charmed by your next vignette of life in France. I am wishing you a lot of courage in the next three days!


Good one, Kristi. I fell for it hook, line and sinker!


Jees...you ALMOST got me!!!!

Cheryl and Jean-Pierre Boissy

Is this true, or an ingenious "April Fool" gotcha? I hope you are not literally scrubbing sculls with toothbrush. Sounds like a public health menace to me. And, who owns the sculls? Are they the buried victims of La Revolution Francais? Yikes. Keep the stories coming. I love your blog!

Suzanne Codi

What an imagination!! Fell for it too...though I would love to see the catacombs one day!! Look at the flash mob in Spain I posted on my FB page this am, you will love it!!...not a poisson d'avril either...! xox S


You had me going ,good one. I was going to give you a recipe for a real shepherds pie.

Nancy,                     Cambridge

A friend of mine has just had such a difficult time buying a piece of property in France (such a twisted 4 1/2 year piece of bureaucracy in place) that you had me believing this...but so glad this is not the case; I would hate to think of the cool shepard doing that...you've put a smile on our faces


Dang!!! You got me! Good one, Kristin. ;-0

Tom from Detroit

You got me, Kristi. Good one. Although I was beginning to get suspicious when you said the government was going to pick up your train ticket!

Julia Frey

Hysterical !! I totally believed you. (I've had my own dealings w/French bureaucracy-- nothing would surprise me) -- well, actually I thought they' would just have had you clean the local catacombs...


I was convinced this was a true "miscarriage of justice" until I clicked to see the uniform you were going to have to wear! Thank you, Kristi, for the April Fool's laugh!

Anitra Gordon

Best "poisson d'avril"! Great writing.
Anitra, Ann Arbor

Josephine Girardin

I completely believed it!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

For shame, Kristin. . .

You had me believing this sad saga until near the end and then, like what happens every morning, it finally dawned on me.

À plus tard

Laura Purdy

I read it twice to see if I was following it correctly. Damn, you're good! Thanks for the laugh Kristin!


You got me with that story. Brilliant! Enjoy the lovely day!

Robin mason

Happy first of April...just love your concept of French justice. And could you PLEASE come up with a uniform for the oiling of the skulls?


C'est encroyable! You had me - hook, line and sinker! (how do you say that in the French equivalent?) Too funny .... After having bought brought property in Paris and working with the crazy laws it seemed plausible. That's the scary part - it actually sounded like it could be true. Happy April Fool's Mizzz NOT-so-Fool Extraordinaire! Hugs, me

Nan Morrissette

The whole thing is so bizarre I STILL believe it. And it scares the you-know-what out of me. Every possible danger leaps to mind, plus a few impossible ones. Please of please say "April Fool" right now so I can get through the rest if the day. My angst is only mitigated by the words to the old song... "The foot bone connected to the ankle bone... The ankle bone connected to the leg bone... The leg bone connected to the thingh bone... (And so on...) I hear the word of the Lord!"

Rebecca Q. T. in Baltimore

You got me!!! But cleaning the catacombs would really make for a great story so maybe you should go for it anyway....

Lee Mears & Bill Mears

Good One, Kristin! You got us too. Not surprising though. Here in the US, a woman held a Hot cup of take-out coffee in her lap while in a moving vehicle, the coffee spilled, she got burned and she sued the fast food place for making the coffee too hot!! She won her case. You've probably heard that one. There are all kinds of crazy lawsuits, so your story didn't seem so different.

Cheryl in STL

Brava, Kristin! Well played!


OH HONEY - YOU ARE THE SAME LITTLE BRAT you were as a child...



Audrey Wilson

A great April's fool fool, Kristin !

Deb Locke

You got me for sure! This story was just bizarre enough to be true. 'Reminded me of the strange and bureaucratic hoops we had to jump through just for a long-stay visa.
Masterful joke from a very creative writer.


I completely believed it and sent it to everyone I knew before I figured out it was an April Fools Joke! Now I get to get all my friends with it too :)

Margo Lestz

This was hilarious and really well done. We also have a property in France and have seen and heard many strange stories, so this all seemed plausible to me until I clicked to see the uniform. Great job!

Petra Douma

I believed you too! I was ready to tell my whole family this crazy story until I clicked on the uniform photo.

Patty Austin near Bethesda, MD

I, too, fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Ha, ha... well done!

judi dunn

.... OMG!!! You really fooled me as well.... it seemed perfect plausible ! Brilliant! Have a super wonderful week and be careful what you believe! Best wishes, and a belated Joyeuses Paques! Judi Dunn, Tallahassee, Fl.

Julie Farrar

French bureaucracy being what it is, this was truly believable. You got us all this time. Great job!

Tina in INdiana

Oh that was good! I fell for it. Gullible is my middle name. :D


I thought, "How lucky she is to be able to run off to Paris" even though for such a terrible task.

You got me! And thank you - so few people honor April's Fool Day anymore. I love it!


I'd rather be an April in Paris than an April in Fool!

Ronni Ebbers


Will stop laughing long enough at your story of potentially back-breaking skullery to say:

Je suis une victime sans méfiance d'un poisson d'avril.

Forgive my French, but that was the best "gotcha" in a very long time.

In uproarious laughter and mille mercis

Beinvenue à avril,


Jens from Copenhagen

You got me, too.

I was about to write back and comment on 'Liberté, Egalité & Fraternité' but then I realised that you might have joined the sheep and eaten (or smoked) some of the same grass or herbs yourself! ;-)

Kathy in Nashville

I fell for it, too! I thought, how crazy of the French system to actually BUY you a ticket so that they can punish you in Paris. This was surely your most creative episode yet! Kudos on having "gotten" us all.

Kathryn Duchene

Got me! Happy April Fool's Day to all of you too!

anne wirth

Oh, my stars! Good on you!
Oh course I fell for it and thought what a great experience she will have at the cost of the French government. However, I thought the sheperd was a rat! Oh well, thanks for the morning laugh.


Dave Navarrre

You got me! Happy April Fools! The Washington Post fooled me as well today! http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/going-underground-to-see-a-remnant-of-dcs-history/2013/03/31/eff96dc8-9318-11e2-a31e-14700e2724e4_story.html

Mimi Foxmorton

Oh.....I got sucked right in! lol

Just wanted to say that I have recently discovered this blog and am currently reading your Words in a French Life and loving it! :)

Most wondrous April Fool......and there I was, feeling terribly jealous that you got to go to Paris and the catacombs! :)

Have a wonderful day.....I look forward to following you!

The Goat Borrower


Oh my. You got me, too. I was worried for the sheep and shuddering for you down in the catacombs with a toothbrush. What an imagination! Loved your Mom's comment.

Edie Schmidt


C'est une drole histoire!
It sounded strange enough to be true.
Happy April Fool's Day indeed!

Edie from Savannah


C'etait un grand poisson!


..and you should have said..'and they were putting me up at Le Meurice for a place to stay.
hahaha how typically french! happy april 1st to you and to our red-caped lady in mexico.
and since you made me laugh so hard I am sening you dinner from Taco Bell.

maria bergman

Forgetting the date today, I was so shocked and indignant at such a punishment for you! No inkling of a trick in my mind!

You are BAD!!

Thanks for the fun!!!



Pennie in Canada

I was just about to shout out to my husband in the next room, "You won't believe what happened to Kristi," when I suddenly remembered today's date! You are good! We just started reading your second book.

Tracy and Peter

Haha! And I was so outraged on your behalf too! (Now, readers, how are we going to get even with this trickster next year?)

Marcia Douglas

You had me going there, lol. Very good one! Sheep do tend to easily have gas problems, endangering their lives very quickly. Just in case you ever need to know! ;-)

Peggy Wright

Thanks for a wonderful start to April. I'm so sorry that I missed Chief Grape in D.C. Best to you and your family

Chris Kelly

LOL, you certainly got me! I was ready to send this to my French friends.

Happy April Fool's Day a tous!

Devra Long

Best April Fool's EVER!!!!

Jacqueline Bucar

Kristin, I posted a long comment about rescinding the agreement to allow the sheep on your land or to modify it to include a hold harmless clause (in writing). Sorry but I'm an attorney. The comment appeared above as posted and then disappeared into cuberspace when I checked back later. I'm not sure if it's awaiting your approval or if it's lost. Let me know and I'll re-create it.


Good one! Bon Poisson d'Avril!


You totally had me! Great poisson d'Avril!

Leah Martin

Wow, you really believed you! I was like OMG? How dis this happen to you? Good one Kristin!


Really fell for it. Loved it.


As I was reading I kept thinking "This had better be an April Fool's joke." One of the first things out of my husband's mouth this morning was "Beware! Watch your reaction to things today." So you didn't quite get me, but good story & nice try.

Linda, Port Townsend WA

Hey - I was going to say COOLEST punishment EVER!! But then you dropped the masque. Very imaginative of you; was any part of your story true? Is the punkrock shepherd really mauvais? Congrats on such a successful ruse.

Kristin Espinasse

Just coming up for air--and I need to rinse my toothbrush in the Paris gutter before heading back to the wall of sculls. A lady on the street loaned me her iPhone and I am quickly typing this in time to say THANK YOU for reading my stories! Even if I have never ventured down to Pariss underground, your readership allows me to dream a little. P.S. Linda, no the punk rock shepherd is not bad at all. Just a victim April Fools, like some of you!

Jacqueline Bucar

I suggest you rescind the agreement since, by volunteering to allow the sheep on your land, the law apparently places the obligation to maintain and keep the land safe for the sheep on you. It appears that simply by agreeing, you have assumed the extra liability. There can't be an obligation that you continue to allow this in perpetuity. Either rescind or modify it in writing whereby the sheepherder agrees to hold you harmless. You may need a notaire or a lawyer to do this. In the States, agreements pertaining to land are usually required to be in writing. Not sure what France has but since a casual, friendly, oral agreement has produced a claim against you, I suggest it is worth the price of a notaire or lawyer. Sometime, to paraphrase Robert Frost, fences DO make good neighbors. Your neighbor had no problem causing you all these problems; I would in your place have no problem putting an end to your kind, oral arrangement. Bonne chance

Melissa Straiy

Ok, so I was wondering how you were able to get a pic of your "uniform", catch the train, get to your community service, AND still post all this. Good one! Happy April Fools Day!

John Senetto

And I was thinking wow! I'm glad I don't live in France>

Linda C.

Darn! Here I am in Paris for one more day-- I was going to insist that we go to the catacombs and try to catch a glimpse of you, scrubbing away! Once I knew what uniform you were going to wear ...! Well, we will just have to celebrate our last day of vacation above ground!!

Gayle Markow

got me too!!! good story!



Skip Anderson (skip@skipandersondesign.com)

Okay, Kristi...you got me.

This is after my daughter called early this morning to tell me that she had been awakened last night by a racket in the backyard. Turns out it was a pair of coyotes...shouldn't surprise you being from Arizona...and I fell for that, too.

I did wonder about the French government paying for your train ticket, and the advisability of olive oil, but I still took it hook, line and sinker.

Good on ya!


Skip & Karen


You got me too! That was superb! What an adventure that would have been, if it had been true. The kids are still in bed, they have a school holiday for Cesar Chavez day and you've inspired me to conjure up an April Fool's gag...

David Simmons

Well, the wall is real. The skulls are easy to see, but the less visible objects stacked in rows upon rows are the lower ends of human thigh bones. Imagine the number of skeletons involved...



What a hoot!!! Here I was feeling incensed at the injustice!! So who does clean the catacombs?


Haha, you totally had me fooled! Thanks so much! April 1:st just isn't complete without being fooled at least once. Now to see if I can inflict the same hilarity on my friends; I'll forward the RSS around.
Cheers from a new subsriber!


Good one Kristin! First chuckle of the day. Merci!

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

Too funny Kristin! I loved it!

Merci beaucoup!

Just a passing comment --- why is there a Cesar Chavez day in CA but we group all the presidents together on Presidents day? Don't Jefferson, Washington & Lincoln deserve their own day? Nothing political ---- just an observation.

Claudette Kunsay

Oh! Kristin, je suis tombée dans le panneau comme bcp d'autres !!! Et j'étais si fâchée contre ces hommes de loi!!! Je trouvais la situation ridicule mais, tout est possible. You explain it so well that you got me.
Very amusing...

joie blair

You got me pretty good. I was a little suspicious about the sheep living happily ever after....but still fell. I was thinking, boy is Jean-Marc going to owe you for this one.


You got me!


Naughty! Naughty! Had a big laugh. Happy April Fools'Day!

Bill Facker

That was Baaaaaaaaaaaaaad Kristin Espinasse, Ewe should be ashamed of yourself! :-) Aloha!


Brilliant - Happy April Fools Day!!!!

Dawn Johnson

Okay, just when I was about to rethink my idea of ever moving to France on account of the crazy laws that would allow such a thing to be happening to you, YOU GOT ME! That was great. I really believed it knowing how upside down our own laws here in the states have become. Keep the stories coming and hopefully I will get to see you on my next visit.


Our dear Kristi,
Between the dress, and scrubbing skulls with a toothbrush and olive oil....
(the only thing I really wish was true was the part about the animals being spared)(and this,alas, is from a woman who served lamb on Easter!)
There is NO better way to start the week than with a HUGE laugh, and thanks to you, we (once again!) have!
Happy April Fools!
Love, Natalia XO

Linda R.

Poisson d'avril right?! Otherwise it'll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that most of us could only dream about! And what a story for the grandchildren - you'd be a legend! :)


Oh my goodness!!! I was quite horrified and rethinking how much I love France!!!! Boom. You got me!!!! :)

Steve & Maxine

Oh, you got both of us! In our defense (a weak one at that), this year 1st April was overshadowed by Easter Monday. At least Maxine discovered the truth before I suggested that you roll up hundreds of little paper slips with "Cleaned and Inspected by K.E." to pop into the eye sockets as you went along the rows of permanent residents... Thanks for a great laugh. -Steve & Maxine in Lincoln, UK


What would you have done if this was a real life situation, Kristi??? Just curious.
You have a very imaginative mind. Great story! Your Mom hit the nail on the head, you little brat!
Luv ewe!!!

Sue Lennox

What an "I gotcha"! Sure got me....still...the image of you scrubbing skulls is a great one...bien joue (please insert accent aigu)

Kristin Espinasse

Marika, good question... and wonderful story prompt! I should try to flesh that one out :-)

Really enjoying everyones comments. Thank you so much! I had planned to post of rerun today and am glad to have followed a creative nudge instead. 

Melvin Osborne

I used to raise sheep and one of the surest ways to cause the gastro was to put them to pasture too early in the spring or for too long a stretch. Gotta introduce them slowly to new grass. The fault was probably his.

Christine Broussard

Bonne histoire, Kristine, presque credible! Je viens de peindre la porte de St Paul Trois Chateau sur le couvercle d'une boite a cigare. Elle est tres reussie. Je vous l'envoie par email. Ce n'est pas un poisson d'avril!

Randy Talbot

You had me believing the possibility about being blamed (even convicted) for the sick sheep but a free train ticket to Paris caused me to become doubtful :-)


OK, you got me! I just thought that is one more thing that shows a cultural difference between countries! I was really trying to figure out how cleaning catacombs would help your community so far from Paris, but...
Good one! Hey, how I say that in French? Bon chose? Bon un?


i had a good laugh on this one and said, that is why Paris is so clean and shining -- all small crimes go to Paris!!! you got me!!!

Bethany Russell

You had me on this one. I was SHOCKED yet, looked forward to the photo of your outfit!


Poisson d'Avril!!! You are so bad! I fell too.


O how I gobbled up your story and predicament feeling my heat rise..... only to suddenly escape into April foolishness! Great writing Kristin.

Augusta Elmwood

Poisson d'avril! You got me good! It was just SO believable :-))) Bisous from sunny Spain!

Bettye Dew

Have you ever read Thomas Hardy's novel "Far From the Madding Crowd"? When the sheep fall ill from gastro problems, just as you describe here, Gabriel Oak punctures their stomachs to expel the gas and thus saves the flock. I was wondering why the cool shepherd didn't do the same!(I'm sure there's an updated treatment for the condition now!) Thanks for the laugh.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Fabulous! I adore April Fool pranks/stories and yours was one of the best I have ever heard. Using J-M's old toothbrush and one drop of oil per skull was priceless. Mille mercis!!

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