To take off, to get off the ground. Can you say this in French?
s'incruster: do you know this popular French word?

Mom goes missing - and What does "quiproquo" mean in French?

Smokey and the sunflower stalk

"Smokey and the Sunflower Stalk." The day Mom flew home our giant tournesol blossomed. But the joy Mom left in her wake turned into something else....

quiproquo (kee-proh-koh)

    : mistaken identity

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Un quiproquo est un malentendu qui fait prendre quelqu'un pour un autre ou une chose pour une autre. A quiproquo is a misunderstanding in which one person is mistaken for another or one thing for another.


Style & comfort in the beauty of the Provencal countryside. 4 bedrooms & a study with a sofa bed, each with ensuite (full) bath. Villa comfortably sleeps 7-9 adults.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Yesterday, I received a strange email. Inside was a photo of Mom in a darkened cell. Though the picture was flou, I could tell Mom was smiling and I noticed she had on her travel clothes, including her beloved Frida Kahlo cape--the one she had on when she kissed me goodbye 30 hours earlier.

In the emailed photo, Mom was pictured sitting on the ground with her favorite notebook beside her--le cahier in which she copies her scriptures. (She's almost transcribed The Book of Mark!)


I searched the courriel for a note accompanying the photo but there was none. Then I recognized a prénom above the subject line: Raul. What a coincidence! I thought, She's run into her friend Raul at the airport in Puerta Vallarta--and she's had him use his Smartphone to record and send me her picture, as evidence she's arrived safely.

Owing to the darkened shot, I supposed the photo was taken at midnight, when Mom was scheduled to arrive. It was now 7 a.m. By this time she would have had a good night's sleep in her own bed, beside which her telephone would be ringing on her little nightstand. (I could wait no longer to call her!)

John, my beau-père answered the phone. After our shy hellos, I noticed he still hadn't offered to pass the phone to Mom. That was unusual. 

"What a long trip it's been for Mom..." I hinted, eager to hear Mom tell about the 24 hour journey home to Mexico.

"Yes, I hope her transfers are going smoothly," John agreed.

"What do you mean? She's not home yet?!"

"She gets in at midnight," John pointed out. 

"Yes, midnight--as in 7 hours ago!"

"Oh, God!" John said, and the panick in his voice echoed in the pit of my stomach.

*    *    *

But there was more to the confusion than a misread ticket. There was that mysterious email I'd received, from Raul. Mom knew him from her neighborhood--before he was thrown into the slammer. And Raul, I remembered, had just gotten out of prison.

I thought back to the bizarre email. Why was there only a picture--and no message? I clicked open the email and stared at my Mom. Only now the picture looked very much like a ransom shot!

Panic took over as I calculated the time in which Mom had been missing: over 7 hours! 

Where to begin the search? I emailed Raul.

Careful to keep things breezy, I began with a note of appreciation: "Thanks again for the photo!"--then segued into a positive identification: "By the way, is this Raul?" I'd noticed two prénoms in the sender's line. But one was feminine.... Perhaps it was a joint account and it was Raul's wife with whom I was corresponding? Perhaps I could let her know Mom's been praying nonstop for Raul ever since he was locked up. But before I could type a follow up email, the sender replied:

"Yes, this is Raul. Nice to meet you," came the instant response.

That was odd. We'd already met--back in February 2011 when I visited Mom in Puerta Vallarta. I guessed it was a fault in translation. I decided to follow Raul's lead. More than a lead, he was a lifeline to my dear Mom! 

"Nice to meet you, too!" I typed back, as if it were correct English to carry on telling someone you'd already met "ravie de vous connaître!" 

Then, very unassumingly I pried for information. "Just tried to call my Mom. She is not home yet. Have you seen her today? Was this photo taken last night? Thanks. A little worried."

A moment later Raul replied: "This photo was taken an hour ago. You mom was reading and writing something next to the main entrance from Camino Real airport hotel."

*    *    *

I quickly phoned John to give him the update, adding, "I got this info from Raul. What a coincidence he was at the airport!"

"But Raul's in prison!" John answered. 

I guessed John wasn't up to date about Raul's exoneration. This was no time to point out answered prayers (I'd fill John in another time. Meantime, he needed to hurry up and get to Mom, who'd been waiting, it seemed, at the airport on that dark curb as seen in the photo).
Feeling silly now, for doubting one instant Raul had plans other than to help Mom, I quickly wrote back to offer him an update:
"Thank you, Raul! I just called John. He is on his way to pick up Mom. So glad you saw her and sent the picture."

"You are welcome Kristin. Nice to meet you. Saludos, Raúl."
His language gaffe (the repetitive "nice to meet you") must have been a mistranslation, one that now struck me as charming and innocent. At this point I felt a little ashamed about my far-fetched kidnapping assumption... that is, until I received an unexpected follow up from Raul:

"Your mom is still at hotel. I saw her and told her yo were a little bit worried. :-) You may call her at 1102 extension at Camino Real airport hotel. Regards, Raúl"
On first glance, there was nothing menacing about the note (au contraire, there was even a smiley face!)..... 

And then I called the Camino Real airport hotel only to find out it did not exist!!!
"No, Senorita. There is no Camino Real hotel in Puerta Vallarta!" the switchboard operator insisted.
I hung up the phone. Where on Earth was Mom and what might have happened to her in the 7 hours since the photo was taken. More importantly, was she still smiling?
*    *    *

I wasted no time emailing Raul, who, little by little, added bits and pieces to the missing puzzle. Why wouldn't he give me all the info at once? Would it all add up to a meeting point -- one where I'd drop off a 100 pound sack of pesos. Bills in exchange for Mom? 

The last email I received from Raul said this: "Your mom was at the lobby of Camino Real airport hotel in México City."

Mexico City?
*    *    *
The race was on! Unable to get in touch with John (I'd sent him on a wild hare chase to PV airport) I fired off an email to John's cohort, Stan, who runs Puerta Vallarta's sports fishing and tackle shop--the name of which I'm too prude to type, so go ahead and call me an old maid! Only then we'd both be caught up in this game of assumptions, which up till now got me nowhere in this puzzling question of Mom's whereabouts!!!

As email voices go, Stan's was lighthearted and humorous. He took in the information--Mom, Missing in Action!!--and got right back to me:

No worries, Stan said, John's been in contact with your Mom. And by the way, did I have a minute to shoot the breeze about marketing? (Mom, it seems, had gone on and on about her daughter with the successful French Word-A-Day site....)

With no choice but to trust Stan's report, I let go of all anxieties and launched into a crash course in product marketing! In a nutshell, start a blog already! (Stan informed me he has one. I must have overlooked the name...)

*    *    *
The next day, 48 hours after Mom left France, she answered the phone on her nightstand. Oh, the stories she had to tell--an adventure including airstrikes, missed flights and lovely people met along the way (are you reading, Jacqueline? Mom loved meeting you in Mexico City!).

I laughed and cried--so relieved to hear Mom's voice. And I smiled as she told me of her lucky encounter with Raul--the tall, elegant Good Samaritan whom she met at Camino Real hotel (where KLM had put her up after a late landing!).

"You should have seen this guy!" Mom gushed.
And that is when it dawned on me. I'd been speaking to a stranger all along! A tall, dark and handsome stranger. A deuxième Raul.

*    *    * //
Post note: When Mom learned I'd mistaken the two Raul's, fearing one of them to be a kidnapper, she burst out laughing. "Honey, you have to write the story." 

"It's too complicated. Besides. I'd have to change Raul's name," I pointed out. 

"Oh, he wouldn't care. And remember, he's innocent!"
Raul may be innocent but it's Mom's turn to be thrown in the slammer! She should have sent the first email herself, instead of assuming Raul would fill me in on all the details of Mom's missed flight. Oh well, no use rubbing Mom's nose in it. Instead I'll take a lesson in politesse from Tall Dark and Handsome Raul (Raul, if you are reading, here goes):
Nice to meet you, too! :-)

...because kind words are always worth repeating!

P.S. Stan, if you are reading, you had suggested (a week before) that we pull one over on Mom's humband, John--suggesting Mom may have found another love interest. Alas, Raul (of Mexico City!) was but an innocent bystander who happened to be in the lobby when Mom's eyes locked onto the Smartphone that could communicate a travel update (however failed, however creative!) to her daughter. No worries, John. Mom only has eyes for you!

To respond to this story, click here. I love reading your comments and so does Mom. I sure hope both Raul's will enjoy them, too!

New rental in Provence. In the charming village of Sablet--this spacious home is the perfect place to return to after sightseeing, bicycling or hiking. Click here for photos


"Maman sans Tuyau" 

Hello Kristin!

Every so often my husband and I check in on your blog, and came across this lovely pic of your mother with the annoying garden hose in the background. I’m sure I'm not the only one who thought, “oh, it’d be easy to Photoshop that out of the picture!” ... Just in case no one did, here’s the pic, sans tuyau….
Merci pour les bonnes nouvelles de Provence! (And now I’ve exhausted my French…)

Thanks, Anna! As you suspected, some readers did send in a photoshopped version after I lamented about the errant hose! ...
Maman sans tuyau
Anna's corrections...
Maman sans tuyau Paul
And Paul sent in this one, adding: I work for Adobe and thought I'd use our Photoshop product to clean that up and give you a little Summer gift.   I'm no pro at PS but was quickly able to delete the hose and take care of some of the washed out effect from the sun to bring out the color in your mom's beautiful dress and face!   :-)

Thanks, Paul! Love the richness of this one. What a gift, indeed!
 Speaking of Paul, two more Pauls helped us to stack the woodpile... (That's Paul, left, and that's my son, Max, top of the stack.)
Garage garden room
You can barely see Paul no. 3--in the right-hand corner. Now have a good look at our garage, located just off the kitchen. Here's my dream: to turn it into a conservatory (just borrowing the fancy English word, still not sure if I've got the meaning right...

I would love for that wall to the right to be glass and iron (greenhouse). Then we could see up to the boulder, just outside it. And, where Smokey's walking, that would be enclosed, with more greenhouse glass/iron. Then one could amble from the kitchen to the garden room! The floors could be left in gravel (Mom's idea) and Jean-Marc would never have to vaccuume. ;-)

What do you think about this project? Comments welcome here.
*    *    *
Still reading? Don't miss My French Life's  HOW TO LEARN FRENCH ONLINE: The best resources and experts. (Good news: French Word-A-Day is listed in the category "Vocabulary With Soul"!

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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