What's a "marsouin"? + French garden tour!
How to say "snapshot" in French + photos from Sanary-sur-Mer

How to say "stranded" in French?

A calanque somewhere in the south... (c) Kristin Espinasse
A calanque is an inlet from the sea, ideal for walking your dog, picnics, and snorkeling!

être coincé (etruh-kwen-say)

    : to be stranded

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav

Nous avons été coincés deux fois cette semaine: une fois sur la mer et une fois sur la terre.
We were stranded twice this week: once at sea and once on land.

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

My dad and my belle-mère arrived on Saturday for a three-week visit, ready for a month of surprises.... 

Stranded Twice in One Week
When Jean-Marc offered to take Kip and Marsha out on a boat ride along le littoral, my family were game. (I stayed behind, not because of the previous scare... but because I wanted to avoid any more sun.)

As I drove to Sanary-sur-Mer to meet my family for lunch I began to notice all the white caps across the sea. Arriving at the cove where we were to meet, I found it empty and guessed Jean-Marc must have had to anchor in the previous port of Bandol. But as I turned to get back into my car, I saw the boat stranded on the beach!

My dad was drenched and he and my belle-mère, Marsha--along with 6 beachgoers (who had swum out to help pull the windswept boat to shore)--were busy assisting Jean-Marc.

The boat secured, we huddled into a seaside cafe for lunch. But when my dad could not warm up, we let him thaw inside my car (nice and hot from the sunshine!). During the 15 minutes it took to bring Dad's temperature back to normal, I sat in the driver's seat, learning the story of their sea adventure, which began smoothly (in time to enjoy a swim at Port d'Alon) until they carried on towards Sanary... where they suddenly encountered all those white caps, or moutons.

Next it was a flat tire...
The next day we joined Phyllis Adatto and Tim Smith, our wine-importing friends from Texas, for a visit to Chateau Margui and La Mascarone. Only, while exiting the first vineyard along a long and secluded dirt road, Jean-Marc hit a nid de poule and blew out one of our front tires.

Philippe, the owner of Chateau Margui (along with his lovely wife and winemaker, Marie-Christine), rescued us. We all piled into his red van, some of us sitting on wine cartons, others on duffel bags full of Philippe's diving gear.

Piano-Piano, or "slowly slowly"
Yesterday we took things piano-piano. Marsha and Dad snorkled in a nearby calanque and Jean-Marc finally took the time to treat his jelly fish bite (or what he calls his yelly fish bite), a souvenir from that stormy trek to Sanary.

One more thing
My mother-in-law and I share a growing interest in permaculture--and are having fun mapping out a forest garden. Early this morning Marsha followed Jean-Marc up the hill, to see the bees, when the two discovered a giant stone tank. We had noticed the stone wall, during previous walks, but never realized it was part of an old water reservoir. The discovery is serendipitous as we have been thinking over ways to trap water (or to create un étang to attract insects and wildlife).

How to Say Water Chestnut in French?
So I'll say goodbye, now, and see if my belle-mère would like to hike over to a newly discovered watering hole, and dream about a new host of plant possibilities: water lilies, water chestnuts, and even buttercups!

Wishing you all a lovely weekend, and thanks for reading!



la belle-mère = step-mother (can also mean "mother-in-law")
le littoral = sea coast
le mouton = white cap (also means sheep)
un nid de poule = pot hole
un étang = pond 

Jackie and her grandfather, catching up

Marsha and Dad, outside the tasting room at Chateau Margui, near Brignoles

Philippe, who rescued us after the flat tire--and his biggest fan, daughter Pearle.

One garden's beginnings: the last of the favas--but the snow peas are ready to pick. The zucchinis are growing, raspberries too, and roquette, or arugula.... Very excited to have planted comfrey yesterday. I hear it is a good "chop and drop" fertilizer. Comments welcome here.

Belle-mère Marsha helped me rearrange the furniture. See a before picture (scroll way down this page. You will also see my beautiful mom!)

Jean-Marc and Dad making dinner above the kitchen garden.

We had Phyllis and Tim, of French Country Wines, over for dinner. Marsha set the table... then ran back to the house and carted out one of my mom's paintings. How thoughtful! (Mom, it felt like you were here!)

Phyllis pictures kristi2
Phyllis Adatto took this picture of me. Marsha picked the wildflowers and made a gorgeous bouquet. The vase was a gift from my Mom and John.

And you will find many more pictures at Phyllis and Tim's album "Our visit with the Espinasses". You can read Tim's account of our vineyard visits, here.

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


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Heather in Arles

Oh my goodness, when it rains it pours! Hopefully, all of the hard things are out of the way and the rest will be...smooth sailing. ;)

You look beautiful in that photo, Kristin. Hoping that your Dad and Marsha are enjoying their time with you all!
Bon Weekend,


Great photos and story! Water chestnut- chataîgne d'eau?

Claudette S.

Strand - laisser quelqu'un en rade??

Quelle vie, belle et mouvementee que vous menez.......

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

Such lovely photos. Truly makes one want to be there with you. And the garden and outdoor dining area in front of the ancient stone wall are all perfect. Happy visit with your family, Priscilla in La Nouvelle Orleans


So many blessings with family and mishaps that make life a daily adventure--super photos. The sea is gorgeous.

Jim Queen

Hi Kristen,
Water chestnuts = des châtaignes d'eau I first encountered this when I watched "Bewitched," starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell (the French soundtrack).
Our main characters are enjoying Chinese carryout, and he asks her, "Would you like a water chestnut?" To which she replies, "I would love a water chestnut."
Tu veux une châtaigne d’eau ?
J’aimerais avoir une châtaigne d’eau !
Best wishes,
Jim Queen

Lin Powell

Those kinds of misadventures become the family memories revisited over and over again and bring tears of laughter in the remembering many years from now.


Kristen , I love the stories about the sea! Just wondering - how soon after your arrival, did your husband buy the boat!

suzanne dunaway

Are you friends with your stepmom? I need tips....I'm a stepmom but one of the kids is trouble, the female.....
Would love to know secrets of success.


I just had my worlds collide in the most amazing way! I've only recently become (or finally embraced) my Francophile-ness tendencies. And following ong on your blog has lovimgly fed that! But many years ago I took a Permaculture certification course which changed my life! And right here, on your blog, boom! All in one place!! I just love that! Enjoy your adventures in permaculture and your food forest! So many possibilities!


OK, you scared me there with the last part about Jean-Marc taking your belle mere to see the bees.... I could just guess what was going to happen next. Thankfully, nothing did!

Georgia Schall

Dear Kristin, Jean Marc, Kip and Marsha,

Well, it never rains but it pours! Certainly could relate to the flat tire bit as we popped a tire on our way to pick up Rouge-Bleu wines we had ordered at the Ammo wine dinner back in March, I believe! Very scary as we were at the side of an onramp to the freeway having to fix the tire temporarily with cars whizzing by both on the freeway and on the onramp!
Although there was no vineyard owner to help us, Simon (I believe that is his name), the wine shop owner, rescued us with a suggestion for a tire repair shop to replace the tire as we would not have made it home on the spare! Thank you Simon!
Fortunately, all settled down after that and I hope you all have fun and easy times ahead with your family and friends!
Once again, it was a pleasure to meet so many of your family at the wine dinner, Kristin!
Have a wonderful week end!

Best wishes, Georgia

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

What a wonderful time you are all having together! Thanks for posting the photos of the enchanting dinner in your garden. Your belle mère added the final thoughtful touch by including Jules via one of her paintings. Bon week-end and the weeks to come.

P.S. If only a "hen had been on her nest" JM would have seen that pothole. I love the expression: nid-de-poule.... which is new to me. So sorry JM blew out his front tire.

Patty Nelson, Pacific Grove, CA

Hi Kristi,
Love the story, love the pictures, love the life. Glad all ended well.

I have to ask...isn't Marsha your stepmother rather than your mother-in-law? Is it the same word for both in French?

Wishing you a wonderful visit with your guests. Amusez-vous bien!


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderfully written post(and beautiful pictures!) that just takes us along with you and your dear family!
You all have the kinds of adventures that makes life sweet and fun and we are so privileged to be able to share this journey with you!
Love, Natalia XO


Hi Kristi, you look as beautiful as ever, but do I detect a skinnier version of you?



I adored your post today...I guess I have been pouting all day long because I'm not there with you.

Herm sent me some 'Beer-Hall Music' on youtube - he must have been reading my thoughts....I cranked up the volume and tried to paint...but I guess I should have gone out to the Marina and had a beer.

I am so pround of all the work you and Jean-Marc have done in the past nine months. And now to find out that Marsha has discovered a hidden water reservior behind a rock wall...!!! Of course this means there could also be 'treasure' buried in them there hills. All I need is to find some old Roman relic for my retirement!

I'll be back tomorrow morning when I have more energy...I know you are sound asleep right now dreaming of exoctic plants for your precious garden.

P.S. It will be very simple to pick up some extra fabric from your 'Home-depot' to reinforce those little areas in the garden where the weeds are popping up, just rake the gravel back and put in some reinforcement.





Hi Honey -

I forgot to comment on how much I love the photo of Kip and Marsha near the pink rose bush...I'm going to frame that one...I wish Kip would buy Marsha that charming Chateau on the other side of your meadow. Then we could all pretend we are re-living 'Grey Gardens.' What a book that would make. Also please have Kip plant some roses for Marsha and me while he is visiting.



Julie Farrar

C'est l'aventure! I can't believe how much you've accomplished on your house and property in mere months. I've lived in my house for ten years and I'm just now gearing up for renovations. I'm glad you're having such great visits with your family.

Bill Facker

Kristin, Wouldn't it be incredible to discover the old well contains an artisan water source! I'm going to wish that for you. JULES - always awesome to feel your energy on this site! Like Mother like Daughter ... and everyone likes you both! Aloha, Bill

Judi Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

I just loved everything about this post - it is just what I'd want life to be like if I had the chance to live in the south of France in such a fantastic setting - with family and friends which makes it all so wonderful! I 'fell' into that first picture, gorgeous. All the pics were wonderful. How fortunate you have two families, who are so kind and generous with each other!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love the photos and the one of the calanque is gorgeous! Your dad has a kind of Pierce Brosnan look to him! I'm glad nobody was washed out with the waves!

Pennie in Canada

Thank you, Kristin, for sharing your slice of life with us! We enjoy every detail, and the photos bring it all to life even more. I just returned from my first visit to France. I travelled with my husband and two sister-in-law to Paris for a four day stop. Your readers advice to walk, walk, walk made the time very memorable. We rented an apartment in the St. Germain de Pres district, so could walk to the Orsay, the Tuileries, Notre Dame,etc. After a wonderful stay there, we took the train to Avignon and met up with the other three sister's of Martin my love. Then off St. Remy for two full weeks in a lovely 5 bedroom mas on the edge of town. Bread, wine, cheese, church, market, moutons herded through town, hikes, Roman ruins, and very kind and friendly people. Sunshine, rain, wind, cold, or warm, all good. I toted your books along and everyone enjoyed them. I left them in the mas library for future guests to enjoy. Thank you for opening up life beyond tourism for our family. Love to you and your family!


Actually even better since I adore blonds and now Kip has silver-blond hair. Too bad you all can't enjoy his playful and fun personality too!!!



Bill Facker

SPELLING CORRECTION TO MY COMMENT: Though the well could "well" fall under the category of "artisan", since you and JM have surely created much with your hands since moving into the new digs .. I'm hoping you will discover an "artisian" well. Oh "well" ... either way the sentiment seems to fit the occasion ... point being, I send my "well" wishes! Aloha, Bill

Kathleen from Connecticut


It is so great to see how everyone gets along. I too have trouble with my husband's daughter. What is the secret to everyone getting along?

Your gardens are great and now you have found a way to water since you were concerned.

I'm glad being stranded - extant conce( is that correct? ) didn't happen 3 times...as in things happen in threes.



LOVE the redone fireplace!!

june furey

Thank you once again Kristin for sharing your life and the most colorful photos, of your family and the places you visit. It makes my heart sing and nourishes my soul.
My daily life is filled with longing nostalgia for all things French, so your cheery emails are so rewarding. artiste now anciien ami June, Gold coast Qld

Linda Barreira

Doesn't Belle Mere also mean Mother in Law?

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