Tarpin! A slang word in French meaning "so" or "very" or "super"
What's a "marsouin"? + French garden tour!

How to say mermaid in French?

Calanque near Cassis (c) Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc took this photo while out fishing for daurade (sea bream or porgy). He brought back some bulots, or whelk, instead. I'll try to post a picture soon. 

la sirène (see-ren)

    : mermaid, siren
sirène des pompiers = firefighter siren
la petite sirène = the little mermaid

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

I have never stepped foot inside my husband's boat--that is, until a few days ago. My plan was to wait until the newbie captain had logged several dozen hours on board--working out potential disasters. In this way I've escaped one incident of stranding (he and a buddy were just off the coast of Bandol when the motor died), and one minor shipwreck (he and another buddy were trying to anchor in a local calanque when they came too close to the rocky shoreline...).

But on her day of departure, after a 4-week visit in France, it was decided that a balade en mer would be a memorable way to send off Mom. We'd have plenty of time for a boat ride in the morning, then a light lunch at home before heading to the airport.

"Come on, Kristi. Let's Go!" Mom's joy was catching and off I went--as enthusiastic as an officer walking a plank.

Just like an officer--and from the moment we arrived in the marina--I began spouting directions.

"Jean-Marc--you need to turn around!" I shrieked as he drove onto the narrow boardwalk, causing cafe-goers to jump back, taking their seats and their tables with them.

From behind the wheel of our family van, my husband informed me "This is the entrance to the dock!" 

Mom poked me in the side, whispering. "This is his domain, Honey, Let him work it out."

She was right. I'd better relax--or join the others in the café, watching my family go out to sea without me. 

No sooner had Jean-Marc pulled up to the loading zone than Mom flew out of the car--excited to help out. I watched her grab the boat cushions--her carte blanche to begin chatting up the local sailors. I noticed how many off the locals included beautiful blonds... who draped themselves along the dock, like pretty sirènes. A low growl in my throat as we passed them made my Mom laugh, "Well, now you won't be sitting home while he's at the marina!" 

We followed our good-looking captain past a line of wooden fishing boats to the end of the quai where our semi-rigide was squooshed between two larger boats. That's when Mom lept from the dock, landing in the pneuboat

"Mom! BE CAREFUL!" I shouted.

"Give me your hand!" Mom motioned for me to shut up and get in the boat. I might have been impressed with her authority if she wasn't swaying in the rocking boat, about to lose her balance. 

"Hold on to the side!" I called, jumping in beside her. My throat was pulsing from the excitement of a near slip of my own, and I clutched the little rope that lined the inside of the boat.

As Jean-Marc backed the boat out of the cramped slip, Mom took on the role of First Mate. I watched as she pushed our vessel away from the others, until we were released from the tangle of boats.

I was impressed by Mom's participation--given that she has suffered a lifetime fear of water. She was clearly putting her phobia aside in time to enjoy our last day together. But as we motored out to sea, a nascent fear arose within me.

"Did you see those waves?" I asked the tiny crew. 

"Don't worry, Honey." Mom demonstrated by throwing her legs over the side of  as she lay down to relax in the bow of the boat.

I hated to be a worrywart. It was so uncool. I thought about those gorgeous sirènes--letting it all hang out along the dock. They were cool--and, no matter how challenged, I would be too! I had a prized seat and didn't want to lose it to some halter-topped pouffe!

Zipping up my windbreaker, I began to notice how close we were to the water, which was more and more troubled. Suddenly our boat seemed more like a flimsy raft. As the little boat went over more and more bumps I realized it wouldn't take much to eject Mom!

"Mom! Sit up and hold on to the rope!" I shouted. "Did you notice how there are no other boats out today?" I questioned Jean-Marc, as I watched the sea begin to rise here and there. 

"Don't worry," he assured me. I studied Mom's face to see if she was worried yet. A moment later she spoke up:

"Shouldn't we put those in?" She was pointing to the little buoys that were flopping outside the boat.  

"You can if you like," Jean-Marc said, underplaying the omission. Next I watched wide-eyed as, standing behind the wheel of the boat, still navigating, Jean-Marc bent sideways -- reaching down into the water to pull in a buoy.

"Jean-Marc!" I protested. 

Mom yanked in the front buoys as Jean-Marc--one hand on the wheel--reached out of the boat for the last buoy. But what if he lost his balance -- and tumbled into the water? Then Mom and I would be headed towards Africa--in a vessel without a captain!

There was no time to think about being lost at sea. Looking ahead my heart began to thump as I watched the water rise.

When it rose high enough for me to imagine a line of surfers riding the wave, I could easily imagine our "raft" turned upside down.

"Enough is enough! TURN THIS BOAT AROUND!

"Yah," Mom seconded. "I'm ready to head back!"

If Jean-Marc was concerned he didn't show it, but remained the picture of calm--which assured me. The boat now turned around, I watched as the port grew bigger and bigger and I could make out the "mermaids" hanging out at the marina. I was never so happy to see the old threat, and I relaxed remembering my husband's words:

"Mais c'est toi ma jolie sirène."



la calanque = rocky inlet
la balade en mer = sea excursion
la sirène = mermaid
le quai = platform
un semi-rigide = inflatable boat
un pneuboat = synonym for semi-rigit boat 
une pouffe (slang) = bimbo
mais c'est toi ma jolie sirène = but you are my pretty mermaid 


Jean-Marc speedboat riviera France (c) Kristin Espinasse
My old man and the sea.

Another sirène. (Miss you Mom!)

Sorry for the blur, but during the exciting and bumpy ride the camera was reset.

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