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

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following example sentence:
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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 KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Wow, what a trip your Mom had and how confusing to find out where she was! Glad everything worked out fine and you have a great story to tell! Love the sunflower!
Have a wonderful weekend!


I suspect Jules is a person who meets kind and helpful strangers wherever she goes since she radiates warmth and generosity herself.

You may be a prude, but obviously I am an innocent because I followed the link and completely failed to understand what I assume must be a double entendre in the name of the fishing tackle shop!

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Kristi, I'm so glad to know Jules made it back to Puerto Vallarta safely after her adventure, but I know she gave you a fright! The tackle and bait shop, Passante? It starts with the word "Master". See if you can get there!


Glad your mom arrived home safely! You must have been very worried. What a sense of adventure she has :-)



Wow! That's quite the adventure! I'm glad your mom eventually arrived at home safely. Thank you for the entertaining, hilarious story! That's a very creative name for a fishing shop. :)


And just when you may have thought "Where will I come up with a story for today?" Two, not one, popped up. A Possibly Lost Mom or Garage Renovation!
I can't tell you how much I enjoy your writings!
Susan, NYC

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

So happy your mom is home safe --- what an adventure! Kind of scary -- sort of funny.

I love the ideas of the garage renovation --- a green house would be lovely ----and what a view!

Great sunflower - thanks for the post & photos.

Be well!

catharine ewart-touzot

what an adventure for all..and the conservatory idea sounds great

Judi, Lake Balboa, CA

Another great 'real life' story! Just think how much less stress there would have been if no cell phones existed- John just would have had told you her plane was delayed and stopped in Mexico City and she would be home at midnight. Ta da, no drama! But oh was it ever a good story for us, in your retelling!! Glad all is well and now you're on to another great thing - a conservatory. Quelle bonne idee!

Melanie Reed-Zukowski

Hi Kristin,
We have chatted by email before... I'm a Canadian who has a little place in Pezenas (Pez). My aunt, Jan Macklam, has also chatted with you be email. It just so happens that mid-July, Jan (who will be in Pez with my mom and their other sister... all of whom are avid readers of your blog), will overlap in Pez with me and my cousins for a few days. We are having a party on a borrowed property on the edge of town, with fun, musical talent from Ireland and Canada, and lots of laughs.

It dawned on me that you are doing book-signing trips to different places... so if you are available, we'd love to have you come to our party (with as many friends/family you would want to bring along)! While you are in Pez, we could organize a book-signing, meet-and-greet ... there is a large contingent of English-speaking (trying to be French-speaking) folks in Pez... Irish, English, American... and of course, Canadian!
I realize this is short notice, but thought that it was worth extending the invite... you just never know what might work out! So, the time that all of your long-time blog readers overlap is July 14-16. I'll be staying on until Aug. 10th, so if a book-signing trip would only work later, I'd still be happy to arrange things. If you'd like more details, please email me.

BTW, love the conservatory idea!
A bientot!

Luann Marie

Such a wonderful story, thank you! Been reading your blog for awhile now and I feel like I know you and your family because of your easy and friendly writing style. I'm so glad everything turned out okay with your Mom. I can only imagine how scary that must have been for you. She's such a lovely person, as are you - the pomme does not fall far from the tree! Oh, and the name of Stan's sports shop in Puerta Vallarta is hilarious! I can only assume they have a sense of humor, too!

Faye Stelly

I can well understand your concern about your many "not so good" things happening today...but all's well that ends well....good adventure story for us, however! idea of conservatory & love the lone sunflower...thanks for French words as well!

Anne Maitland

What a cute (but hair raising at the time) story! And I love the photo of your mom WITH the hose. Makes it real. And anyway she's what catches the eye.
P.S. We have a friend in common, Phyllis Adatto.

Betty Doolittle Tuininga

Never underestimate the power of the older woman for adventure! Way to go Jules!

Sorry that you went through so much Kristin. I can remember going through a similar worry with both of my parents returning from Europe during Hurricane Gloria...Alas,we do manage to pass the worry on down!


Loved the mysterious story. Glad it worked out great. Thank you, Raul, whereever you may be. Xo


I read my French blogs with coffee each morning and today it started with a lovely story from Tongue in Cheek, with "The Blue House In San Francisco" in the title. I thought to myself that the only famous blue house I know of is Frida Kahlo's home in Mexico City. Then I move on to French Word a Day, where Kristin is telling an amazing story of her mother presumably lost, but found in Mexico City wearing a Frida Kahlo cape.
Happenstance perhaps, but I found it quite interesting. Love your stories and hope to be visiting the south of France in the near future.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristin,
A potential disaster turned into an heart was in my throat, followed finally by a good chuckle. I remember hoping after the delayed take-off that perhaps you would let us know that your mom made it home okay. Never even imagined this story, but oh so glad that she is home, safe and sound. Such a beautiful, happy sunflower...our Kansas sunflowers don't bloom until August but when they do it is Provence on the Prairie! Now I have visions of a glassed-in garden on three sides with french doors opening up on one side. I see your workspace in a corner, looking out onto your garden...plants and flowers...a table and chairs for that cup of morning coffee or tea. A sanctuary during cool, windy or rainy weather. Oh the possibilities~

edie schmidt


I'm glad your mom was just "misplaced" and not lost.
I'm also glad she found the kindness of stranger and handsome ones at that! Travel in our world today as much more stressful and it doesn't get any easier as you get older.

Edie from Savannah


Hilarious account of your anxiety while mom's enjoying an adventure! I must say she did what she thought was prudent - and TRIED to notify you, in the only way she could think of! It's amazing how we naturally transition into parenting our parents, and how they are often blissfully unaware. I have had similar instances where mom was off having a grand old time, and did not even think we were worried sick that she was lost or taken ill! Truthfully, I do the same thing already, so I can only imagine what a hard time my kids will have with me when I'm a senior!


Please may I come help you build your greenhouse?! It's a fabulous idea!


P.S. Did you ever find out why your beau-père did not just tell you her flight was delayed? Obviously he knew this somehow ... was it just too early in the morning for him to think clearly yet?

I also wanted to suggest tracking your loved ones' flights til they are safely landed. There are several websites that refresh the info every few minutes, so you always get a heads-up to delays, and then you can decide when a call to the airline is necessary. We have even texted updates to the traveller while they are sitting in a plane that hasn't left the gate yet! The most common one is: flightaware[dot]com. Hope that helps!

Diane Young

I can't believe you were as calm as you sound with the missing Mom. I admire your ability to keep on looking for answers without totally freaking out. Jules is lucky to have you and I suspect she is quite aware of that. It sounds like the makings of at least a short story. whatta you think?

Linda Chontos

I am new to your blog Kristen. My daughter, who lives in Courbevoie, and sent me the link to your blog.
I really enjoyed your story. I know whenever our daughter visits, I can't relax until I know she's safely home. We pray her all the way there!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

You had me on the edge of my seat with every word! Wonderful writing of a wild adventure (internal and external)! Glad to hear Jules made it safely home.


Our dear Kristi,
You have written too many wonderful posts to even count,but today'!Is one of your four star best!
Your description of this entire worrisome time had me both laughing(Raul in jail???) and then praying for a safe outcome for dear Jules.(who,by the way,is an inspiration!I had a hard time making such a trip at your age,much less even contemplating such a thing at the age I am now!)
Your beautiful home is coming along by leaps and bounds.How wonderful to transform such ideas into reality!
THANK YOU for sharing everything with us.What a way to begin the weekend!
Natalia XO

Cynthia Lewis

Dear Jules..... so glad you are safely home. You have the most wonderful ability to make a lovely and interesting experience out of a long and tiring trip. Now we know that Kristin can write "cliffhangers"! Many thanks to you both. Best wishes, Cynthia


Love the drama...and knew all along that your Mama would be just fine!

Chris Allin

I love reading your readers' comments almost as much as your post! Such lovely and insightful things they say. What an inspiration it must be~


Vous avez de la suite dans les idées.


and you are ready to write a detective novel too.


Lori, Your post made me think of Maxim LeForestier's wonderful song, so I looked for the blog you mentioned and saw that fantastic video about the house! Thank you!!
If anyone else wants to see it, here's the link

Mary in Oregon

I just couldn't stop reading, Kristin! I had to find out just what Jules' situation really was and whether or not she made it home. Well done. Now I can go out to the Blueberry filed and pick 7 pounds while rehashing my own Mother and Father's adventures. They stopped in another town for 3 days while we were anxiously waiting for them to arrive! Parents! Daughters! And now Granddaughters! Life is interesting, n'est-ce pas?

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

I do not see my comment -- very glad your mother was home safe and what a great story for the grandchildren. But the uncertainty must have been awful.

Eileen deCamp

La Maison Bleu is such a pretty song! I had never heard of it before but listened on youtube.


blimey, my heart was pounding on this blog!! But then I remembered, your mum would be just fine as she always is when she is out and about meeting new people and having new experiences!! xoxox


I love the idea of the conservatory/greenhouse and the gravel floor. Brilliant! Would love to have one even here in the good old USA but how very lovely to have one with a French view!


I do not see my comment(s) either. I commented on how we become 'parents to our parents', and then posted again to suggest an online site to follow your mom's flight next time - as you would have known much earlier that her flight had been held up, and could have tracked her down sooner. Were these comments somehow not fit for posting?

April Ott


I am a new follower of your blog, but what I have read so far is wonderful! I have a funny story for you. I am here in PV visiting my parents with my husband and children. Mom and I were walking the other day when a sweet lady stopped us and told us where she goes for her walks in the mornings. She introduced herself and then gushed about her time in PV, her daughter in France and her daughter's blog we HAD to check out. We said our goodbyes and went on our way. My mother was telling my dad about the nice lady we met on the street and when she was finished he said "that must be John's wife". My mother laughed and laughed because they have known John for years but never met his wife. What a small world even in PV! Your mother was a delight to meet. I am hopeful all of our paths will meet again in PV one day. We connected with Jules only a day or two ago, but I think my mother has already bought 3 of your books online. :) blessings to you and your family from ours in PV. - April and Alice


Hello Kristin, I'm Fabi, I'm 16 and I met your mom Jules in Puerto Vallarta :) she's a very nice woman, it was a pleasure to met her, she told me about this vlog, its amazing

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