risk in French + an update from Kristi
How to feel alive in France & chapeau!

Serendipity in French: un heureux hazard


Serendipity - it is just the word to begin the summer edition of this journal sentimental. Only, do the French even have a word for serendipity? Et oui!


    : serendipity, serendipitously

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Mais, heureux hasard, au détour d'une rue bruxelloise, une affiche crayonnée fait de l'oeil au passant : "Discover the freedom of the bike", le genre d'impératif suggestif qui soudain vous fait entrevoir le monde autrement.LeVif Weekend magazine

Help translate today's sentence, here in the new comments box!

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

On the second to last day in Paris, a kind of seize the day sentiment gripped me. Having visited so many leafy passages, an original coffee shop, and even a vineyard, I wondered about a high-tech visit chez Google - whose existence, it seemed, was in Montparnasse.... at the FNAC.

Only, a strange mood paralyzed me. How to describe it? My daughter said it best when she commented about how the metropolis of Paris sometimes made her feel: "Je me sens comme si je n'existe pas...." I feel like I don't existe.

Jackie's observation struck me as juste as I vaguely recalled the meaning of "existential": a cold and impersonal something ... leading to an urgency to truly be.

 Grabbing my keys, I left our cozy appartment, one foot headed to Montparnasse, the other foot operating with its own sentimental compass. As I zigzagged down the street, seemingly invisible to the masses, I did not notice the trail ahead, which quietly formed itself, crumb by crumb, from the golden heel of serendipity....

(To be continued.)

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A mysterious door in one of the many leafy passages I visited. This one, in Passage Gustave Lepeu. 

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Forward this edition to a friend and let me know if anything serendipitous happens! Wishing you un heureux hasard. See you next time.


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Sh'reen Morrison

Dear Kristin,

If something is existential, it has to do with human existence. If you wrestle with big questions involving the meaning of life, you may be having an existential crisis.
Existential can also relate to existence in a more concrete way. For instance, the objections of your mother-in-law may pose an existential threat to the continuation of your Friday night card game. Often the word carries at least a nodding reference to the philosophy of existentialism associated with Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and others, which emphasizes the individual as a free agent responsible for his actions.

I have never considered the word "cold" with existential.
Copied this definition by the way.

Did you shop at FNAC ? Have ordered items from them numerous times. Thank you for another day in France.

Best to you,


Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

But, serendipitously, turning onto a Brussells street, a pencilled poster catches the eye in passing: "Découvrez la liberté de la velo," the kind of suggested imperative that suddenly makes you view the world differently.

Amber in Illinois

Bon matin cher Kristi!
I haven't commented in ages, but I love a "happy hazard"! Sometime French translation is so fun! Reading this reminded me of my own serendipitous occasion in France, when my husband & I met you & Jean Marc......remember? When we came to your house, there was another couple there from Alaska, which is where my parents reside. It turned out that they knew my parents & had even corresponded ahead of time that we would be in the same region. (Didn't know that until after the fact)
It was, indeed, an heureux hasard!
Thanks for a trip down memory lane!


Hi Kristin,

But serendipity, turning a Brussels street, is penciled Poster eye in passing "Discover the freedom of the bike", the kind of suggestive imperative that suddenly makes you glimpse the world differently.

I agree with Jackie...any big city makes one feel invisible and very small!

Happy Summer!


But, serendipitously, turning onto a Brussels street, a pencilled sign catches the eye of the passers-by: Discover the freedom of the bicycle. which suggests that if you follow that, you will see the world from a different view.

Hugh Collier

But by chance at one end of a Brussels street a written notice catches the eye of a passerby," Decouvrons la liberte avec un velo" the kind of order that on a sudden makes one glimpse another world.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Intriguing translation. Love the photos. Looking forward to part 2.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

P.S. I find suburban sprawl makes me feel like I don't exist (except for seen as a potential consumer). The country, the seaside so relaxing and restorative. The city so full of possibilities!

Kim Ross

UN HEUREUX HASARD! Truly! I write a blog about my experiences as a cycle tourist called "Well Spoken". Just yesterday, I wrote a post about my experiences over the weekend littered with many "heureux hasard" and this morning I wake up to find that it is your topic, too. Another serendipitous event? Quite remarkable.

You can find my post at


Enjoy your day in France. I live vicariously through your posts and look forward to being in France myself again sometime soon. I spent last fall cycling in France (my first independent European cycling experience) and loved it.

Thank you for sharing.
Kim in Winnipeg, Canada

Micki Simms

Hi Kristin,

My take on the paragraph is,

But serendipitously turning onto a Brussels street, a pencilled posted catches the eye in passing."Discover the freedom of the bike..." the kind of suggested 'command' (or just suggestion in English) that suddenly makes one see the world differently.

(It seems to me that 'imperative" does not translate as we would really say the sentence; one could say that "urges" one but that is not the context of the sentence. However, it captures the intensity of the sentence better, i think).


Lovely photo of "mysterious door"...look forward to the rest of the story, especially since I will be in Montparnasse on next Monday!


I have that feeling whenever I travel. I had the feeling in Paris, even though I had several friends who lived in Paris. After years of seeking I finally located my father's family. He, my father , migrated to USA and the balance of his family migrated from Romania to Paris. Needless to say my Father was luckier then most of his family. However, I have been in touch with the balance and have learned that some of my cousins were so prominent in Paris, they were writers, that they are listed in French Wikipedia. I am now in contact with the surviving family members and my daughter has visited them in Paris. I intend to return to Paris to see them. I now have a deep connection to France.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Good translations so far, catching that 'imperative' is the grammatical term, discover the world, the verb is in imperative voice. Entrevoir is a new word to me, I hope it sticks as part of my vocabulary.
I love our word serendipity. So often a French word needs an English paragraph to capture its meaning, but here the English word needs multiple French words to capture its sense, and all its connotations.

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

d'impératif in French, imperative in English, I meant to say


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post(as always!)And !that gorgeous photo which just runs away with my imagination.
One lovely thing about aging (besides the realization that there are more days behind than ahead,so enjoy them!)is simply that every morning,every afternoon,every evening is serendipitous if we only make an effort to see.
Thank you for reminding me to look!
Natalia. Xo


Amber, I had a similar experience about a month ago at Kristin and Jean-Marc's home. I met a woman from Boston who was born and raised on Kyushu Island, Japan not far from where I lived as a teenager. I had the chance to speak a bit of Japanese and chat about our memories. Amazingly, I also met a couple who live part of the year within a mile of my closest friend in Atlanta. We shared interesting thoughts of the differences of life in the south of France and the U.S. south. It was a truly serendipitous day.
Kristin, I think it may be due to the magic of your home and family.


Another lovely day started in Paris - anticipating the conclusion. What is behind that door? I always wonder when I see an inviting doorway. Hope your day is delightful.

Alyssa Eppich

Good morning! I want to tell you how wonderful I think that blue delivery truck is. Funny how small things can make your day! I am so happy you seem to have had a great Paris visit notwithstanding the froid out there. I remember it, too, years ago.

susan klee

In one of those fascinating quirks of language, "hazard" in English now means danger/, while "hazard" in French means /chance/ -- if I"m not mistaken, Kristin?
So - - we're talking about a lucky chance. Otherwise, it really doesn't make sense in English: lucky danger??

Henry Cross

I have the opposite reaction in a big city. Having been born in London, England I find the feeling of anonymity empowering. In my own mind I can be anyone.


Instagram now requires an app to access? :( Miss seeing your great pics Kristin!


"Serendipity" is a word with a nuance; it does not translate correctly to "heureux hasard".

It was named for the Princes of Serendip, who were constantly experimenting and innovating, and as a result, discovered important results they weren't seeking.

The nuance is the quest. For an event to be serendipitous, the protagonist must be on a noble quest of some kind. The "happy chance" that occurs is not random; it is the result of the protagonist's hard work, or good deed, to begin with.

Here's what Wikipedia says: "Innovations presented as examples of serendipity have an important characteristic: they were made by individuals able to "see bridges where others saw holes" and connect events creatively, based on the perception of a significant link."

There is a French translation: sérendipité. Nothing else quite says it.

Jackie's feelings in the big city remind me of mine when I was new to Seattle, a city famous for its lack of warmth ("the Seattle freeze"). I remember attending an early music concert by myself--my husband couldn't go--and no one spoke to me or acknowledged my existence in any way. It makes you feel like you don't exist.

If Jackie actually moves to Paris, she will make friends through her work, and her experience of the city will be completely different.

Diane Young

Very interesting reactions to your blog. I always think of the princes of Serendif when I see the word, as learning that years ago was fun. Word origins are one of my great interests. Looking forward to reading next blog.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Every time you step out the door with camera in hand, I see you on a quest to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary...through your eyes and your camera lens. Your photographs are like your writing...very expressive. Your readers are then able to take what you offer and interpret the stories and pictures through their own filters. Imagine the variations!

It seems Jackie's experience in Paris was quite an adventure and learning experience for both of you. Thank you for taking us all along on the ride~


But, whilst ambling down a Brussels street, the passerby finds his gaze drawn to the scribbled lines on a poster- DÉCOUVREZ LA LIBÉRTÉ DE FAIRE DU VÉLO!- just the short of evocative invitation that makes you, all of a sudden, open to the possibilities of a different world.

Julie Farrar

I agree with Jackie. That's how I feel when I visit megacities. I know a large city like Paris has homey neighborhoods (if you live there long enough), but I'm a Midwesterner at heart, where everyone is a friend, neighbor, or relative.

Can't wait to read Pt. 2.


"The harder I work, the luckier I get". I love reading of all the wonderful adventures that Kristin and her family have. This is surely a result, serendipitous at times, of being open to new experiences, and welcoming to people, kind, and working hard. Et un petit verre de vin rouge de temps en temps!

Susan Klee

Interesting! Those princes were seeking something and found another thing , perhaps even better, along the road. That, I believe, is the Persian folk tale. So serendipity is finding something while on your way to something else! That original meaning is long gone, but I miss it. ;-))

Faye Stampe in Gleneden Beach, OR

Great post and lovely photos. Thanks Kristin!

Stay well!


The last sentence... Such poetry. Beautiful.
: )


Tiny typos:
La liberté du vélo.

ann sorocki

There are so many things I agree with; serendipity sends you on unimaginable quests; you can be thinking of someone & that person will appear! I just e-mailed a friend in Australia whom I met in beautiful Avignon! I didn't feel insignificant in Avignon; coming from NYC, there is a vast difference. Europe is my home in my heart.

ann sorocki

good morning, Kristin: I'm sorry to respond from an earlier message, but your serendipity is playing havoc with my heart...... Many years ago, I met my beloved husband, Freddie, at a dance. I then met his beautiful daughter. We developed a close friendship; she is my "other daughter". She was just diagnosed with a rare degenerative brain disorder (CJD) for which there is no cure or treatment. My heart is breaking for my man; I am his rock, but she is his heart & soul. We are going to see her before she can't recognize him anymore. How, why; there are no answers. So, serendipity is giving us much sadness these days; trying to be grateful for all that we have had with her & will still have for the next few months. (She is 64 yrs. old). Merci beaucoup. A biento.

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