voler de ses propres ailes
Say "Pink Flamingo" in French + Reverse culture shock

Unlucky in French

Jackie and cousins

Four weeks flew by since Jackie received this warm welcome from her cousins on arriving in Denver. I picked up my daughter at the Nice airport on Sunday, only she wasn't smiling anymore and neither was I. Read on.

manque de chance (mahnk-deuh-shahnse)

    : bad luck, ill luck

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wave file

On t'a jété un sort? Non, c'est un manque de chance, c'est tout.
Someone's cast a spell on you? No. It's bad luck, that's all.

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

Does the universe reward us when we step out of our comfort zone? 

I am making the 4-hour aller-retour to l'aéroport de Nice to pick up my daughter who is returning from America. Normally Jean-Marc would make the trip, but today he is biking the Etape du Tour where amateurs try their luck along an official section of Tour de France.

My own ride is turning out to be as challenging as my husband's, and this #$%@ GPS application isn't helping any! I've programmed Waze to steer me to Nice Botanical gardens--this in an attempt to take advantage of driving expenses (round trip to Nice costs $60! The jardin botanique is free... Why not get some mileage out of the trip and, more importantly, venture out of this train-train de vie in which staying home and directing a couple of golden retrievers is always the safest bet).

"Ta gueule!" I shout at the GPS. "Shut up!" For the past 20 minutes she's been giving me the run around--around and around the seaside airport. But "l'aéroport de Nice" was the second destination I plugged in to the direction-finder. Worse, she's just commanded me to enter the freeway ... only to give me two seconds--and three busy lanes to cross over--to exit again!  

Heart pounding in my throat, I pull over to the side of the road and plug back in "jardin botanique 87 Corniche Fleurie." Soon my little car is climbing towards plant heaven. After an hour-long visit among Mediterranean flora--and even a dozen dinosaur Koi--I am as revived as a welcoming committee, et ça tombe bien, yes that will come in handy....

Just as soon as I can get to the damn terminal! Another set-back--this time parking! I've parked in P6, but two minutes into my walk I see a sign with a stick figure and the words "11 minutes." No way I'm making Jackie walk two football fields back to the car after her 24-hour journey! I don't have time to walk them myself--I've got to get to Terminal 1!

I quickly re-park and hurry into T1, where a crowd is waiting behind a barrier marked "ARRIVEES." It's fun watching all the exotic travelers pour out from beneath the "arrivals" sign. Fun until 20 minutes pass and no sign of my own exotic beauty. Where's Jackie?!

A moment later and I have her on the phone--in sanglots, or tears. "What's the matter, Chouchou?"

"I can't find my bag!"

Our conversation goes round and round like a conveyor belt until I put a stop to it: Viens! Tout de suite! (in maternal speak that's Come to Mommy, now!)

My eyes are trained on the ARRIVEES door until one last traveler exits: a tall, pale-faced girl with a long blond pony tail. She falls into my arms, and whimpers... or rather, she falls into my arms and curses like a sailor.


"Mais, maman! Why does it always happen to me? It is as though the baggage handlers saw my bag and said, "Let's lose this one!"

"No, Jackie. You have not been singled out. This happens all the time. Welcome to the world of travel and flight connections!"

"But, Mom, these things always happen TO ME!"

"JACKIE! Don't talk that way. That is how losers speak: 'Always me! Always me!'"

I might have reconsidered the "loser" example, which was in no way a statement about my daughter. It could have been about me. Indeed, not two days before, it was I playing the "always me card": why do I always end up in the wrong line at the grocery store? And, Why do I always end up behind the slow-poke at the toll-booth? The guy who has to back out his car in order to get to the correct booth?

"Jackie, that's loser talk. People who mutter "always me" never get anywhere in life! And it is always, as they imply, 'the fault of somebody else'."

Bon, maybe my timing was wrong for another Big Life Lesson. But (standing now at the "claims center for one hour now!), we'd had plenty time to philosophize.

But what's philosophy without a test? Presently it was time for another one of those. When our turn came to file our claim, I turned my frustrations towards the delicate blond beyond the desk:

"Is this really the only way to proceed? I mean, my daughter arrived almost two hours ago--after a 24-hour flight! It is really necessary to wait this long to file a baggage claim?" The two-hour drive ahead of us--in the dark--made me panicky, and the panic easily turned to frustration and indignation.

The delicate blond behind the desk typed away while politely answering my question.

"This is the surest way. Although you could file via internet, but I would not recommend it...." With that she smiled peacefully, and her energy reached out, patting me gently.

A little bird landed on the comptoir between us and the delicate blond greeted him. "If you're lucky, Mister Feathers, you'll get a biscuit...."

I threw open my purse, hoping to be the first to find one! Hélas...

 "Do you get a lot of birds here?" I asked, looking around room with the sky-high ceiling. This one must have gotten in through those windows at the top....

"No, only this fella," she said, her eyes dancing over to le petit oiseau before returning to her computer screen.

As we spoke, my daughter's hand slid slowly across the countertop, toward the little brown bird. "He seems tame," Jackie observed.

"Yes, but if he doesn't get his treats he gets testy," she laughed. "He'll then land on my head and stomp his little feet."

Oh no! That would be unfortunate, I thought, admiring the woman's soft curls. And then I made the connection: stomping feet. That poor woman must see a lot of that here at the "file your losses" desk.

I smiled at the delicate blond behind the counter. She continued to type-record masses of mind-numbing data--managing to work peacefully amidst a roomful of savages. I didn't need to give my daughter any more life lessons today. But we could both learn a thing or two from the fair-haired Frenchwoman on the other side of the comptoir. And her hoppity, feathered sidekick might even drill in the lessons, with those insistent feet of his.

Corrections Welcome!
Please use the same comments box to correct the French or English text in this post. It'll be our respectful clin d'oeil or nod to Bill Myers who recently passed away.

  Photos from instagram

Having a lot of fun posting photos on Instagram. See the one of Jean-Marc, about to attempt the Tour de France's "Etape du Tour"! You'll also discover more French words from our daily life. Click here and hit "follow" to see upcoming photos from every day.

*    *    *

New to this word journal? Read the story about how it began, starting with one-way ticket from Arizona to France... Click here to read First French 'Essais': Venturing into Writing, Marriage and France

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Wonderful and charming. I call my navigation system "our lady of the dashboard" and a very stubborn lady she is. Thank you for a great lesson in positive thinking and patience as I head to the airport in the U.S. for a month in Brittany.

Will you share Jackie's experience in the U.S.?



Sweet story, and a good reminder for us all to greet life's trials with more patience and grace. I can imagine how happy you must be, to have Jackie back home with you! Also, I love the new photos on Instagram. Your photos always make me smile. :)


Join the club - I am also always in the wrong queue and I've never met anyone who claims to manage to get in the right one, but someone must!!!!!!! SO Sorry you didn't stop here en-route but glad you have got her home now. xoxoxo

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Welcome home, Jackie! I hope you had an enjoyable visit here in the states. Today's story reminds us all of the stamina it takes to travel nowadays. The pretty blond behind the "comptoir" had a calming effect on you; the little bird did his part, too. I hope that your drive home went well. Thanks for an engaging read today. Best wishes. (How nice that you were able to squeeze in a visit to the Nice Botanical Gardens!)


Don't worry, Jackie, your bag will come. Just get home safely and take a nice nap and before you know it, a taxi will arrive with your souvenirs.


Did you find Jackie's luggage?

Robyn Mixon

Wonderful story today--reminding us we are not always "in charge" of the situation--I'll store it up for the next "big wait"--they come around quite frequently.

Eileen Threefoot

After reading today's entry, Kristin, I had to remark upon the coincidences... Last August, when we first came to the Côte d'Azur to accompany our son who now lives and works here, we took a very (but unintentionally) circuitous route as we returned in a rented car to the Nice airport, with my husband finding new expletives to express every few kilometers. This time, when we returned to see our son perform, we arrived after a long three-legged flight, only to find that our bags did not make it. The resident petit oiseau who entertained us on the claims counter certainly lightened up a frustrating moment! Thank you for your stories, and the everyday truths you find and share with your readers.

Patrice Newman

But how was Jackie's visit avec her cousins?! Maybe that will be in the next installment....Merci

Karen from Towson, Md

The start and the finish of air travel is never the best part of a trip. You're either stressed or weary and when there's a glitch ..... it's the worst!! I'm glad she is safe at home and hopefully her luggage is, too now.

Her older cousin looks so much like her. They must get comments on that a lot.

This was a sweet story with a good message. Many of us are guilty of feeling like the "always me" victim. Me, included. Lately I remind myself that these tiniest of thoughts cause more misery and give others the power over the direction of our lives. Besides, it could be that I'm chosen to suffer the inconvenience so that someone with greater needs can be sent on. Still.... that puts my life in the control of someone else, too - doesn't it? Wait a minute... it IS in the control of someone greater!! How's that for circular thinking babble on your COMMENT page?! (sorry)

In any case.. welcome home, Jackie. It's always nice when the kiddies are back in the nest, isn't it Kristie? All's right with the world. Enjoy the rest of the season!

Looking forward to your Instagram posts.

Karen from Towson, Md

OOPS - I guess that IS Jackie in the picture, isn't it?

(need more coffee)

Kristin Espinasse

Karen, loving your circular thinking here on the comments page. :-)

Thank you all for your responses to this story. I have not gotten around to summarizing Jackies trip, but if I had to do so in two words, maybe I could borrow her response to the question Tell me one thing you noticed about America?:  ICE CUBES

Chris Cisgrove

I take the tact of saying "A winner says (or does)..." when addressing my kids' behavior. It gives them the opportunity to decide how to proceed without directly criticizing them. Thank you for these stories.

Melissa Britton

I always heard "Ferme la bouche!" or "Ferme-la" was "Shut up!" Never heard Ta gueule...


I think you may have just criticized Kristin, though, Chris.

Patricia Sands

The airport in Nice has a way of sending us all in circles, with or without our GPS! Thanks for sharing your delightful lesson from the sweet girl behind the counter and Mister Feathers.


Bonjour Kristin :-)

Vient tout de suit should be Vient tout de suite

ARRIVES should be ARRIVEES (feminin)

C'est tout pour aujourd'hui :-)

I have to say I am surprised at your pleasant interaction with the delicate blonde behind the counter. My past experiences with French service workers has been less than pleasant.

Good for her and the little bird.



Viens, Alain


and also, Alain, "arrivés," because both females and males are arriving.

Kristin Espinasse

Alain, thanks for the helpful corrections. Will get them in at the next chance.

Marjorie, thanks for the correction updates!

Summer, how thoughtful of you to look out for me. But there is no offence taken by Chris's comment. (Not that I didn't read it a few times while checking my pulse :-)


Loved the post! Life happens! If one is out & about living life to the fullest, there simply are more opportunities for things to go wrong. What a blessing to be able to travel, see the world, visit with friends & family. If one just putters in their own garden, they certainly can keep things more orderly, but think of the adventures missed, lessons not learned, loved ones not hugged. Just in case, always take a carry-on for things you couldn't bear to lose, gifts & souvenirs, and a change of clothes. Then lost luggage becomes a much more minor inconvenience. House & pet sitting for my niece in Portland, OR, rainy & 57.


Your ellipses are still wrong. They are: space, dot, dot, dot, space.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I really liked this post Kristin. It is life, and it is travel today. I'm so glad Jackie is safe and home.

Nothing wrong with saying "losers think like that" because it's true!
Winners think differently ---- exactly what you were pointing out.

Betty ---- have fun in Portland, OR. I'm on the coast of OR and 2 hours away from Portland. I envy their weather!

Stay well!


Bonjour Kristin: I enjoyed your today's story and I can really relate to it. I just came back from Europe and I've got my own frustrations at CDG airport. I was supposed to be picked up by Paris Shuttle upon arrival, but nobody came for me. Only after 4 phone calls and a long wait of almost 2 hours did somebody finally show up with the pancarte with my name on it. Needless to say, I was simply exhausted after over a day on the road. The service people derriere le comptoir sont souvent terribles. That must be a common problem in France, for I saw a French movie long time ago in which a traveler got frustrated, asking questions when the pretty girl behind the counter just took time to paint her nails.
Mais mes vacances en Normandie et à Paris étaient fantastiques.
I have been busy, so I missed many stories from you, mais je pense souvent à toi. À propos, pendant mon voyage, j'ai rencontré quelqu'un qui est aussi ta lectrice. Que le monde est petit!


Our dear Kristi,
Another completely wonderful post today!
I especially loved the ending,your description of that sweet little bird,and the lesson there to be learned--and remembered by all of us when we feel we are especially being signaled out!!
Natalia. xo

Sue Lennox

I am still blown away that a 16 yr old traveled all that way on her own. Well done, Jackie!!

Does Que sera mean I can't cuss when manque de chance attacks?


What a sweet story and important message for us all! Thank you so much for sharing. Just what I needed to read today.


Merci Kristen,

Your story made me smile...

Kristin Espinasse

Alain, thanks for the helpful corrections. Will get them in at the next chance.

Summer, how thoughtful to look outfor me. But there is no offence taken by Chriss comment. (Not that I didnt read it a few times  :-)

Marie Antoinette

My husband and I had a similar experience at the airport in Paris several years ago, as our luggage had been misplaced by the airlines. Ever since that happened to us, we have learned to travel light. We don't check in luggage any more, instead we each use a carry-on bag regardless how long we go away for. As a matter of fact, one year we took a 17-day trip to Italy and we traveled with just a carry-one bag each and it was great! We have gotten used to traveling so light now, that we have no desire to be bogged down by extra luggage. As soon as we get off the plane, we can leave right away for our destination. We don't have to wait an hour to retrieve our luggage, or worry about the airlines loosing it. It can be done and it's much easier than you think!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I hope Jackie enjoyed her time in the U.S. Love the photo of the cousins together! Traveling can be so exhausting. After a long trip of plane changes, waiting, lines, crowds, you just want to get your bag and be on your way. I hope the bag shows up. We need people like the woman behind the claims desk and the little bird to bring some calm into our lives. The job probably suits her and her feathers aren't ruffled while talking to the ruffled feathered passengers.

Mary Ann O'Donnell

Love this story. Hopefully I will remember it when I need itl

Julie Farrar

Ice cubes! How perfect. In France I now see that I get exactly three in my glass every time. That's better than when I first started traveling to France.

However the story ends I'm glad you have your girl back.

Vivian Langley

I know the feeling. I arrived in Paris from Lake Charles, Louisiana without mine, helas.

Diane Young

This has been a tough summer for you, both kids leaving home, for a short or long time. Travel is a pain for everyone these days and I think Mlle Jackie is a real trouper for making the long trip. In US speak, it's "offense", the "offence" being British. Little Prince George is so cute; remember when your children were 1 year olds? Il y a beaucoup ans. Maintenant, they are world travelers almost. You and Jean-Marc have done well.


Kristin such a peaceful climax - isn't wonderful how someone just exudes calm and it's catching. Thank you for this little snippet it's blessed me.

Gerry o.

Many thanks for today's life lesson. I have had to say the serenity prayer many times when the GPS tells me to turn around. love your stories .


A couple of years ago our daughter met us in Prague, without luggage! She just had her backpack plus a T-Shirt & toothbrush the airline had given her, when her luggage didn't arrive with her from L.A. She spent the next 21 days with us, free as a bird without luggage, and yet having the luxury of being able to pick up some new 'replacement' clothes in Europe. Sometimes, things that first appear to be a disaster, turn out to be 'lemonade!' I'm sure all will turn out well for Jackie, too - even though for right now I know it is very disheartening to have all of one's things 'lost.'

You have such a wonderful relationship with Jackie, just telling her to 'come to you' I'm sure meant all the world to her! As always, thank you for sharing your story! You always seem to have something I can relate to! Love Jackie's "ice cubes" comment!


Welcome home, Jackie! I'm certain that you will soon be reunited with your lost luggage. It is extremely upsetting when one waits at luggage claim for a case that never appears. It has happened to my daughter and my husband on separate occasions. They were both pleased to have their bags eventually returned. Darci (who is visiting us right now - yay!) always travels back to France with a second case filled with belongings she is moving to her home there, and often with gifts for her friends and new family. Losing those items would indeed be a tragedy. Great post, Kristin, with a sweet message at the end.


Although, I'm very late reading this post, I feel impelled to respond. Several years ago we took the train from Milan,Italy to Paris and somewhere along the way had one of our suitcases stolen. We had to go to the police post at Gare de Lyon to make a report and then wait for it to be typed up & signed by me so I would have a report for my insurance company (note to all: never travel withut travel insurance. The process took about 4 hours becuse they had to bring in an officer that could interview me in English. My bag was never recovered & it was weeks before I figured out all that was lost as things were devided between two bags but our house & car keys and numerous Christmas presents & souvenirs were forever lost. A very frustrating experience but not the end of the world.

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