How to say "To invite oneself over" or "to overstay your welcome" or "to crash a party"
Moving to Mexico : voler de ses propres ailes

See Jackie's new home in Aix-en-Provence! Apartments Tour & Finding student housing in France (It's a jungle!)

When my daughter saw this photo, she recognized a favorite bar in Aix-en-Provence. I was actually hoping she would notice the old sign, above it. One thing's sure, we don't see things the same way. Read more about hunting for a studio in Aix, in today's story.

TODAY'S WORD: une studette

    petit studio
    little studio
    small room, accommodation, rented to students

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word: Download Studette

Ce jour-là, un tablier noué autour de la taille, les manches retroussées, il avait décidé de mettre de l’ordre dans sa studette. — (Dai Sijie, Le Complexe de Di, Gallimardl)
That day, an apron knotted around his waist, the sleeves rolled up, he decided to clean up his studio.

Improve your spoken French. Try Pronounce it Perfectly in French or  Exercises in French Phonetics


    by Kristi Espinasse

On Tuesday Jean-Marc and I drove around the périphérique of Aix-en-Provence, in a rush to make it to our 10 a.m. appointment to visit a studio apartment for our daughter.

Hunting for parking, I couldn't believe my eyes when a spot appeared. "There's one! Take it!" I said.

Jean-Marc pulled into the narrow slip and sprinted to the pay meter, half-way down the block lined by giant, shady platane trees. Moments later we were walking through the maze of Aix's centre ville. The pastel-colored buildings rising to meet the blue sky helped to calm us down. Both Jean-Marc and I have been on edge lately, and the latest news this morning (our daughter had overslept, missing our meetup) was enough to make me wonder if--I--and not our daughter--should be shopping for my very own studette in Aix. Every wife and mother needs her own man cave!

But those same fountains, along with the soft palette of old buildings had a calming effect. And yet, we needed to keep some of this feisty adrenaline going.... "We are not leaving this town until we have found a place for Jackie!" I reminded Jean-Marc, who had already received 2 cancellations for some apartments we were supposed to visit.

At 8 rue Matheron, a youngish realtor greeted us, looking fresh out of école immobilier...except France doesn't have real estate school. Anyone can show a house or, in our case, a tiny studio for one....


As we followed the bright-eyed realtor, climbing a narrow, winding staircase to the 6th floor, I began to have doubts. "Fire hazard!" for one. Claustrophobic by now, it was some relief to step down into the room on the last floor...when other doubts cropped up. A half-window (with bars) permitted a view of the sky only...the mattress looked like a Hotel de Puces, and the kitchenette was covered with dust and dead bugs.

Remembering our surprise at losing our deposit for our son's apartment (even after he and his girlfriend spent hours cleaning it) I wanted to know what this company's expectations were... "Excuse me, sir." I interrupted. Will this be cleaned before our daughter moves in?" I already knew the answer, which I repeated on our way to the second appointment:


The second and third appointments (with a different, less-perky realtor) had four families vying for an available studio, each of us keeping our cards close. That's when Jean-Marc slyly asked, "Will the winning party be the first one to whip out his or her checkbook?"


The sarcastic look sent back by the realtor meant that we had begun to lose favor with her, not that we had any to begin with. I studied the three other families, wondering who might secure housing today. This studio was was clean and modern, if piping hot from a south-facing midday sun. But there was an elevator - no need to climb 5 flights! This looked like the one, but we still had 3 more appointments....

Four families now zigzagged across Aix, eventually sprinting to keep up with the Realtor With Attitude, who was presently ducking into a clothing boutique....

Any confusion was soon cleared up, when a small door with 8 apartment numbers appeared. Jackie will love this! Brushing by clothes racks each time she enters or exits her new home. Oh, the quirks of Aix-en-Provence, where your front doorstep was shared with a boutique!


Four families passed beneath the colorful awning and brushed past the rack of summer dresses to access the hidden stairwell. Another hike up an old staircase to the 5th floor (no elevator) and we arrived in a charming studio with ancient red-tiled floors,  light gray cupboards, and all around spaciousness! It was the perfect man cave for me (I'm only dreaming!)...but I knew it wasn't for my daughter. That is when I began thinking of my Mom, who just lost Mr John, her husband and who is about to move out of their condo--to live on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarto, in the barrio! Mom would love this place...which seemed much safer despite 5 steep flights of stairs and Mom's bad hip!

Realizing this wasn't the right place for Jackie (or Mom) and panicked about the high demand for apartments in Aix, I elbowed Jean-Marc, "should we take the previous one? We need to reserve it before the others get it!"

Jean-Marc agreed, casually pulling aside our realtor. "On le prend!"

Given The Checkbook Comment, earlier, I was surprised when the realtor agreed so easily, even assuring us we could sign for it back at her office. Alas, once we separated, we received the famous call: l'apart n'est plus disponible.

Now we were desperate. For the next visit, we stood facing two sweaty lovers, hickeys all over their necks. The man pointed to the mattress up in the loft and said: it comes with the studio....

I elbowed Jean-Marc and we backtracked to the door, down the dusty stairs, back out to the winding streets of Aix. Little did we know that we were about to find the perfect place, at our very next stop. As we wait for the paperwork to go through (not easy for a wine farmer and a blogger to prove a constant stream of income, given the weather and a few other factors!), we will believe our good fortune when we receive "les clés en main", or keys in the hand. The place has a mezzanine (a loft just big enough to hold a mattress--an advantage when it comes to limited floor space), which was Jackie's only wish, so she is very very happy!

Jackie's studio! You can see my hat, as I am flattened against the far wall, trying to photograph the size of the apartment.

Another advantage is the full size window, which leaves me with loads of nostalgia--and goosebumps. In 1990, two floors down and out on the street, I walked towards this window, and made a sharp left, on my way to to get croissants for Jean-Marc. Madly in love, I had no idea that the spirit of our daughter was looking out that very window, whispering to me down there on the street, "See you in the future, Mommy..."

Post Note: Throughout our visit, I got an even greater appreciation for an inspiring book I have just finished. Diane Covington-Carter's memoir about her time in Aix is a sheer pleasure to read. I did not want it to end! Remembering my own junior year abroad, I knew one thing to be true--I would have appreciated it even more had I had to wait for it! Having read Diane's book, I can now go back to Aix (thanks to Jackie's studette, i.e. my man cave), and discover all she wrote about, including her favorite hotel, café, and activities.

Read EIGHT MONTHS IN PROVENCE - You will absolutely love Diane's book. I recognized so many French Word-A-Day members in the reviews section for this book, and I've left a review as well! CLICK HERE to order.

To leave a comment, click here.

                          Click the image above to order Diane's book

SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.           

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YOUR AD HERE. Reach 26,000 readers. Place an ad in the French Word-A-Day newsletter. Click here.

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I love my new foutas towel and am finding many uses: pareo (beach wrap), beach towel, picnic blanket...
Mon panier. And I have gotten many requests for this market basket. You can find a similar style right here. I had mine custom embroidered in France.

TISANES - French herbal teas. My family drinks one every night, to help drift off to sleep ORDER HERE.

Good French moisturizer! My daughter and I continue to use and enjoy this popular French facial moisturizer. Don't miss all the reviews! Click here.

French groceries: Carte d'Or coffee, berlingots candies, cassoulet and more.

Laguiole steak knives are for sale in many of the local French market stands

French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut.

Espadrilles -  seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere!

PARIS EIFFEL PEACE T-shirt - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty.

Can you see the steam coming off that mattress? Because you were so nice to review all my product links above (thanks!), I'll show you the lovers' apartment that we visited, hickeys and all, before we found the right place for Jackie! Notice the mezzanine with mattress. Mezzanines are very popular in student housing in France. Is it the same where you are?

If you enjoyed today's post, thanks for taking the time to share it. That's so helpful to me!

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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I love that old sign. I may have a photo or two of it in my albums myself.... :)

Cathy - California

As an American it is so interesting to learn about apartment hunting in a university town in France. Some things are similar and some are so different. It appears to be a simple story at first, but we learn so much on the journey with you. Thank you for sharing.


Ooh! Kristi, your paragraph about the window in Jackie's new apartment gave me goosebumps and now I sit here with a broad smile on my face. Congratulations for finding the perfect place for Jackie! I like the idea of sleeping lofts in small apartments. Very convenient!

Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Jackie must be over the moon with her new apartment! I know you'll enjoy it too, Kristi. And it's in AIX!!!


We have similar apartment hunting problems in Seattle. A great story....

I too just finished Diane Covington-Carter's "Eight Months In Provence: My Junior Year Abroad 30 Years Late" and I've recommended it to just about everyone I know. To me it's further proof that there is so much more to each of us than we know--unless, of course, we're brave enough to find out. I love her fearlessness, just one of the many "take aways" from this book.

I've been reading your posts for some time and have meant to introduce myself to say how much I enjoy them. I consider them a gift from the internet because I honestly can't even recall how I first stumbled across them. It may have been through the "Le Petit Journal" that I subscribed to a couple of years ago. They allow me to wander through France vicariously. A joy.


Thérèse Hyde

Cheryl in STL

I love this hunting is such a challenge in any French college town. But mostly I love the full circle that you're experiencing with Aix! And you will continue to view it through different eyes than Jackie can. My heart is happy for you!


Hello again. I really enjoyed this. I felt I was there! It also brought back memories of some 50 (yes!) years ago in Aix-en-Provence where I spent 6 months during my degree in French from a British University. Accommodation was difficult even then. I spent some time in an Auberge de Jeunes Filles (grotty and strict)which was centre ville, then moved with 3 others to nearby countryside, a farm, from which we hitched lifts into town. I long to go back to Aix but console myself by teaching my 3 year old grandson some words and songs in French. I hope Jackie stays safe and happy. You too.


The lovers' sleeping arrangement looks insanely dangerous! I'm glad you found a sleeping loft with a very sturdy railing for Jackie. The studette looks charming, though I'm interested as to why you knew that the one with the brick floor, which also looks charming, wasn't for Jackie.

I've rented various furnished monolocali (the Italian for studettes) for stays of a couple of months or so in Italy and something I don't understand is why, when a small microwave oven or a toaster oven -- my preference but maybe not that of a student -- is so cheap, the landlords in my experience never provide one. One monolocale I rented had an incredibly fancy espresso machine (that I never dared to use), a washing machine (that I gratefully used), and faster Internet than I have at home in the U.S., but no cooking facilities beyond two burners.

So I suggest you treat Jackie to a microwave or a toaster oven so she doesn't have to live on a diet of omelettes, pasta, and soup!

In bocca al lupo/bonne chance to Jackie and much happiness in her student life.

Julie Farrar

When we bought our apartment in France we got lucky that we were shown something and we liked it and we bought it. I know, however, that the realty process is a bit like the wild west over there. My husband and I consider upgrading our apartment, but I don't know if I have the stamina to make it a full time occupation trying to connect with so many realtors and sellers since France doesn't have the very convenient websites with photos of every property for sale. I read the adverts in the agence windows and they tell me absolutely zero about the apartments, not even their locations.

However, congratulations on your success. And congratulations to Jackie on this next stage of her life.

And thanks for reposting the face moisturizer. I saved the link so I can go back later to read the ingredients. The bio moisturizer in France last year has helped calm my sensitive skin, but it has been so heavy and hot during this summer.

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

What an adventure for Jackie! And such heartwarming generational history for you both, too.

This story reminds me of apartment hunting in Manhattan. Enjoyed reading this so much. As always, thanks for sharing.


Our dear Kristi,
Today(once again!) your words have given us magic to see life's
excitement through dear Jackies's eyes,and still the present and past joie de vivre through our own (considerably older!)ones.
Reminded me of our first apartment(across the street from the Parc de Prince in Paris)which was laughingly reputed to have a ghost in residence(and did!!Eeww!!)
And thank you,too,for telling us about Diane's book,which is not only enjoyable,but a gem.
She gave us a wonderful quote which I read every day:"Ouvrez votre coeur,ressentir la paix,la partager avec les autres."
Blessings always to you and your precious family.
Natalia. xo

Lee W

Charming apartment!

Kristi, you have been spot on with your recommendations for the floutas, woven baskets, fisherman sandals and hats. That's all we see at the markets along Cours Mirabeau and all around southern France!

Dawn Johnson

What a fun post. I enjoyed seeing all the studio pics. I just finished 8 months in Provence as well, in just a few days. It was like I was reading about myself. The way she connected to France as a young girl. I remember my older sister and cousin playing with their Barbies and one of them had a case with a picture of the Eiffel Tower and it said Evening in Paris. That's when it started for me. I just knew wherever that was, it was a magical place. I Started taking French classes in the seventh grade and so it goes. It's like we are all part of this special club and truly u derstand one another so well, we Francophiles. How I would love to spend a year, in my own "man cave" in Aix or some other village or town in France. I doubt my husband would let me stay away for that long though.

Alyssa Eppich

Bravo, Kristie! I know all of you worked hard to find Jackie a good, safe place-it's such a relief, isn't it? Et votre Maman-will she be coming to France, eventuellement?

Judi Brandon

I hate to say this now, but when a student is looking for an apartment in would have been wise to start looking in May or June.....for that matter, even if someone was going to just live there. I know, I lived there for 5 yr and I truly miss in a small town in Italy 1 1/2 hrs south of Rome....on the Sea...

Your daughter will love has soooooo much to offer.

I signed up for you daily french word, because I don't want to forget...I really want to move back, but I really need to live by a lake or the sea....any large body of water....I'm from West Los Angeles, and Maui.....

Bon chance to your daughter......tell her to fully enjoy herself....

Christine Webb-Curtis

Delightful post, Kristin. I'm sending this to a friend whose son had a similar experience trying to find an apartment in San Francisco. This one tops it by a long shot.

I have photographed that same old sign in Aix. In fact, I have photographed pretty much every old sign I've ever seen in France. And yes, we do have a different perspective on what to appreciate from our children.

Stay well. Thanks for the chuckle. And I'm happy your daughter has found a place.

Chris Webb-Curtis

Kristin Espinasse

It was too many flights up,  and the window looked right into the apartment across the way. Also,  it was a little higher in price. Re toaster ovens,  Jackies  apartment has one--and nothing else. Go figure! :-) 

Diane Young

Oh, the memories of my 17 year old self climbing 3 flights of stairs to a room I would share with 3 other girls in a non-air conditioned dorm. Had never been away from home and am an only child. It was one of the best times of my life! When you are that age, you can survive so much. Bonne chance, Jackie!

Joan L.

Jackie is so lucky to have parents willing to "run the gauntlet" for her. I tell my students that one of the reasons French people are healthy is because of all the walking they do, and all the up and down apartment steps without elevators. The studette reminds me of dorm rooms my kids had when they started to college. The first order of business was to "loft" one of the beds to make more room in their postage-stamp area, and to make room for the stereo, tapes/disks, speakers, computer, printer, etc., when now all they bring is a laptop and a smartphone.
My husband's absolute favorite memory of Aix is the open air market and the biggest selection of olives he had ever seen.
Great work finding the apartment.

Debbie Houston

I agree, Kristin, every woman needs a man cave.

Suzanne Cappozzo

This post made me cry. The ending was so unexpected and poignant . Life never ceases to amaze. Your writing is getting better and better. I felt as if I were there with you. With live, Suzanne

Kathleen from Connecticut

Jackie is lucky to have her parents hoofing around Aix to find her an apartment, and you did well. It is cute and hopefully will not break the bank. It is surprising that she is going to live alone. I had roommates for many years until I felt that I could finally afford a place of my own.
The best to Jackie and JM and you and of course Max and Smokey.


Sh'reen Morrison

Hi Kristin,

Posted on Facebook with this comment-

A few tears as I remember looking for the "right" NYC apartment in 1962. Found it on the lower east side, 6 floor walk up, 3 sides exposed to the sun, near the corner of Avenue B and 12th Street. My mother came from Ohio to help me paint and decorate.

Thank you again for sharing your life,

Blue Butterflies to you,


Jo Ellen

Having taken daughter no. 1 to San Diego to find an apparment, found my own in the lower east side of NY 50 years before that...and at age 58 a studio in Paris for 7 months by myself, I totally get the search for the ideal "room of one's own" as literary types might put it (gracias Virginia Wolf). Sending so much warm love to your mom, and your daughter on opposite ends of the life search for autonomy,


I'm well beyond 58, but your note about finding a studio in Paris for 7 months by yourself, is very inspiring. I would love to do that - just need the nerve! Judi


I'm so glad you were able to find a studio for Jackie. It sounds like it was a real chore, but actually, it was a 'labor of love,' to find just the right apartment for her! Oh, to be living in Aix, on one's own, starting college - it all just sounds so very exciting. I'm sure many of your readers, including me, are going down memory lane regarding that very exciting time in our lives! I think, for now in my life, a 'woman cave' sounds perfect - I'd like to make mine in Aix (or in Paris!! Judi

Cynthia Lewis

My word! What an experience you had in searching for Jackie's studette. I so enjoyed reading about it and learned some new quirks about renting in Aix. It's almost like a silent bidding "war". Years ago my daughter "won" such an affair for a small home in Piedmont CA when she agreed to take and care for an aged cat and dog which would convey with the house!! All went well since she loves animals and had pets of her own.

...Wishing Jackie a fabulous time in Aix! Best wishes for everyone.

Faye LaFleur

Bonne Chance, Jackie! How exciting!!!


40 years later I still regret shortening my junior year abroad to a mere semester. Aix was a delight - even if a pigeon did force me to wash my hair in a fountain during our introductory tour of the city! I visited the city again in the 90's with my students while on a tour and it had changed so much. All the best to your Jackie, I'm about to help mine find a place in Savannah, GA, nearly if not as difficult as Aix.


You write so beautifully about ordinary life. Thank you.

Kate Dickerson

Such a cute story. I'm so glad you found just the right spot for Jackie! Please post a new picture once she had "decorated" it. : )

Mary-Jo Johnston

Catching up on my reading as we as well have been busy searching for a room for our son who is moving away to attend university. It's a hot market here as well and this is our first adventure looking for such a place to live. Quite the experience however happy to report we were successful. Agree with another reader, would love to see photos once it is decorated. Congratulations on a successful mission! ;)


Oh, là, là, oui! M. et Mme Hickeys' loft looks incroyablement claustrophobique! I can't imagine how one person could fit in there, let alone 2! How could one even turn over in bed w/o bumping one's head? My younger son had top bunk in his first dorm room, but at least had some head room-- He's 6'3", though, so he developed a bad neck from bending over his laptop up there! Kept wondering why his neck was always so sore, yet snarked at me every time I suggested it might be his computer posture! Le pauvre!
He was in the oldest dorm building on his campus, so the poor soul and his roomie had to make do with a window air conditioner- an ancient one at that. Sounds like a luxury to those of us who dormed w/o any climatisation, but then, he was in a tropical border state where 100 degree [F.] temps AND mid 90's humidity are not unusual.
Winters there are equally extreme.He had to share his upper bunk w/ the window unit- and learned of the season's first snowfall's arrival because it blew through the a/c vents and covered him with snow! His roommate was a Cuban-American from Miami, who'd never experienced such weather, and my son said he would talk in his sleep in Spanish, cursing our Midwest winter! Later in the winter, Nico went to student health b/c he was losing all the hair on his legs and arms & wondered what that could mean. The doc said it was 'friction alopecia' because the boy's skin was not accustomed to being covered with long sleeves and long pants for extended periods! I'd never heard of such a thing!
P.S. - During my year abroad, I shared an appart à Paris with 3 classmates, on the 5e étage, so, in U.S. terms, a 6th floor walk-up. Well, there was an ancient, open grill, phone booth-sized lift, but it was so old and creaky, and only held 2 at a time that we usually walked up. And when we were traveling en quatre, at least 2 of us had to 'hoof it'-- If only I had that youthful strength now, in our 3rd floor stateside walk-up sans ascenseur!


Beautiful post,,, after that story can there ever be any doubt in your mind about the man you love and married and had beautiful children with...

A sort of similar story happened to me , I was idling away the time and drawing some pictures with my new pastels, when I completed the drawing the image of a young man had a startlingly affect on me. As if I knew this person? It was just drawing from out of my imagination, I was 14 years old at the time. Fast forward to age 36? I was looking at my son and it hit me I remembered the drawing , it was his face as a young boy.

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