What does “Féerique” mean in French? + compare translations of our bilingual book synopsis

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
Photo of me and Jean-Marc in 1991. Today, enjoy an extended sound file in French as Jean-Marc summarizes our story. Now that our vineyard memoir is written, we have arrived at a critical step: finding an agent and then a publisher for the hardcopy edition. Your help is vital! Please study the following synopsis in English and in French, and help answer the questions that follow.

Today’s Word: féerique

-magical, stellar, enchanting, fairy tale

The Lost Gardens is the story of a man who pursues his dream of making the ultimate Bandol wine. After experiencing the harvest at his uncle’s vineyard in the world-renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Jean-Marc Espinasse makes a life-changing decision. He quits his job as an accountant in the cosmopolitan city of Marseille, and moves his young family, including his American wife, to an isolated domaine in the windy, inhospitable Rhone Valley. There begins an unbridled pursuit of his wine fantasy, which takes him on a whirlwind of bipolar ups and downs.

In a take-turns husband/wife narrative, Jean-Marc chronicles his battle with a longtime mood disorder, aggravated by a mysterious family tragedy, and his painful struggle as he comes up against a never-ending string of obstacles at the vineyard--from a near-death accident in his wine cellar, and again on his tractor, to the ultimate threat of a lawsuit which leads to his final breakdown and loss of the winery. In her chapters, Kristi shares her determination to stay sober on two consecutive vineyards, her own struggles with anxiety, and her escape into blogging and gardening. Throughout the story, she considers the mystery of love as she analyses her difficult relationship with her soulmate, from its fairytale beginning in the South of France to a total breakdown of the heart when the love is lost, somewhere among the wine and the vines.

With the vineyard and gardens slipping away, the couple has nowhere to turn but to each other. Through the storm there emerges a story of faith, hope, and love, and what it means to stay committed in the darkest moments.

Audio recording: Click here to listen to the book synopsis in French

The Lost Gardens est l'histoire d'un homme qui poursuit son rêve d'élaborer le nec plus ultra des vins de Bandol. Après une vendange chez son oncle, dans le célèbre vignoble de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Jean-Marc Espinasse a une révélation. Il quitte son emploi de comptable dans la ville cosmopolite de Marseille et installe sa jeune famille, y compris sa femme américaine, dans un domaine isolé de la Vallée du Rhône, venteuse et inhospitalière. C'est là que commence la poursuite effrénée de son rêve de vigneron, qui l'entraîne dans un tourbillon de hauts et de bas bipolaires.

Dans un récit à tour de rôle, Jean-Marc raconte son combat contre ses troubles de l'humeur de longue date, aggravés par une mystérieuse tragédie familiale, et sa lutte douloureuse contre une série interminable d'obstacles au vignoble - d'un accident qui frôle la mort dans son chai, et un autre sur son tracteur ou la menace ultime d'un procès qui le mène à sa dépression finale et à la perte du vignoble. Dans ses chapitres, Kristi parle de sa détermination à rester sobre dans deux vignobles consécutifs, de ses propres luttes contre l'anxiété et de son mode d'évasion dans le blogging et le jardinage. Tout au long de l'histoire, elle se penche sur le mystère de l'amour en analysant la relation difficile qu'elle entretient avec son âme sœur, depuis son arrivée féerique dans le sud de la France jusqu'à son désespoir lorsque l'amour se perd, quelque part parmi le vin et les vignes.

Avec ces jardins qui leur échappent, le couple n'a plus qu'à se tourner l'un vers l'autre. À travers la tempête émerge une histoire de foi, d'espoir et d'amour et de ce que rester engagé signifie dans les moments les plus sombres.


1. An important question that publishers will want to know is this: What other books out there on the market resemble our story? In reading the synopsis above, does our account bring to mind anything else you have ever read with a similar theme? Please name those books in the comments section.

2. Does the English-to-French translation reflect the subtleties within the text? Do you have any suggestions or corrections?

3. What new words did you learn today via our text? We hope this bilingual edition has been as helpful to you as it has been to us. Thank you very much for your help with our book!

For more about our story and/or to purchase the current online edition, click here.

Our farmhouse as Mas des Brun

Jean-Marc and Kristi Espinasse
Photo of Jean-Marc and me by Suzanne Delperdang Willis Land. The "Real Men Drive Tractors" was a gift from our friends Chris and George. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone who may be interested in our story. 

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Wish us luck (Souhaitez-nous bonne chance)! + Putting the cart before the horse (la charrue avant les boeufs)...


“Do not send a letter... we don’t live there any more.” This beautiful calligraphy by Joy Fairclough, captures the beauty and romance of what many imagine to be life on a French vineyard. Jean-Marc and I share the true blood, sweat, and tears reality in our memoir, The Lost Gardens which we have just finished writing. Fêtons çela!

Today's word: un ouvrage

    : book, work, publication

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and in English:

Nous sommes heureux de vous annoncer que, après deux ans de travail, nous avons terminé notre ouvrage, The Lost Gardens. We are happy to tell you that, after two years of work, we have finished our book, The Lost Gardens.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On April 12, just before noon, after two full years of effort and dedication, my husband and I posted the very last chapter of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. And just like that, ça y est, we finished a book--un livre, a tome, a memoir, a work, un ouvrage--if not a magnum opus. (Just putting that last term in for the fun of it, reminding my serious self to do things for the fun of it--pour le plaisir de le faire. Not that writing this book was a pleasure...).

Ce n'est pas si simple que ça
Years ago at Karen Fawcett's (creator of "Bonjour Paris" one of the first websites on France) I remember sitting on the floor beside the prolific author Cara Black, who had, by that time, written a half-dozen books in her Aimée Leduc series, set in Paris. We were gathered around a coffee table, seated on couches, fauteuils, or assis par terre. I turned to Cara and said, regarding a new book she had begun: "It must be easy for you....I mean, you have written so many!"
I will never forget her response: "The next book is no easier to write than the first." 

What a lesson this was, and it has encouraged me many times since. Whether writing this blog post or a magazine column or a book, I still struggle, still sweat it out--partly because I am still putting the cart before the horse which seems to be the way I operate in life, writing being no exception. More than letters and words, I tend to invert entire passages so that after laboring for a while I realize I've gotten it all backward (les choses sont un peu à l'envers). I can't seem, from the get-go, to present an idea, an essay, a story, in its logical order. But that doesn't keep me from writing--it only keeps me from a smooth delivery.

When things get choppy, I take a break and pace around the house or the yard or the neighborhood or the town. "You are writing!" I remind myself. "You are still writing. If it were easy everyone would be doing it!" It helps so much to remember that the struggle is part of the process. And while it does not get easier to write, it is a skill that builds, a discipline that strengthens. Writing is an effort that feels good in the end. 

If writing this book was a struggle for me, for my husband it was a calculated risk. Jean-Marc admits in the last chapter that he feared writing this vineyard memoir would “stir the bad sediments in our common barrel”.... 

I had better leave you with that pour le moment. It is time now to contact a literary agent (ouf! And not a divorce lawyer!). Meantime, the next challenge is to compose a short review of our finished book and this step is most difficult. How to distill this dual-narrative--this story of our vineyard and the story of our marriage--into a few gripping paragraphs...in time to wow a publisher?
Souhaitez-nous bonne chance. Wish us good luck!
*   *  *
 The online edition is available for purchase. Read it this weekend and enjoy dozens of meaningful photos!

un ouvrage = a work, a book
fêtons çela! = let's celebrate 
ça y est = there you have it
un livre = a book
pour le plaisir de le faire = for the fun of it
ce n’est pas si simple que ça = it’s not so easy as that
le fauteuil= chair
assis par terre = seated on the ground 
les choses sont un peu à l'envers = things are a little backwards 
ouf! = phew!

to put the cart before the horsemettre la charrue avant les bœufs
I leave you with an article published in our local La Ciotat magazine.  You will find today’s word “ouvrage” somewhere in the text... 


Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Demain il fera jour: A reminder not to take work (life, everything) too seriously + Escapade to Porquerolles Island

Bike rental on porquerolles island France
If today's word is too easy for you, détrompez-vous. Think again. This letter has a lot more to offer when you read to the end.

Today's Word: la plage
1. beach
2. track of music
3. time span, range

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following in French and English

Porquerolles, ses plages de sable fin, ses eaux turquoise et transparentes. C’est un véritable paradis à quelques minutes de la presqu’île de Giens en bateau. -Hyères Tourisme Porquerolles, its fine sandy beaches, its turquoise and transparent waters. It is a real paradise, a few minutes away from the Giens peninsula by boat.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Sand, Pétanque, Sea urchins and a "Be Here Now" mindset

Lundi dernier, on my husband’s 54th birthday, we boarded une navette and cruised over to the island of Porquerolles. It was the week before France's 3rd confinement and this 3-day getaway was like a large breath of liberté before lockdown.

The ferry was almost empty. We huddled at the back of the shuttle, enjoying the open-air seating with the other passengers, some dressed in shorts, some in sundresses, all of us wearing masks. Within 15 minutes we arrived in Paradise. Like the other two islands in the Îles d'Hyères, Porquerolles is known for its crystal clear, turquoise waters and fine sandy plages. There are few cars on the island (only those needed by the local businesses), bikes are the way to get around.

"I prefer to walk," I said to Jean-Marc, as we headed past some bike rental shops and made our way to La Plage d'Argent, a 25-minute marche from town. The scent of eucalyptus filled the salty air as we passed fields of wildflowers, a vineyard, and an impressive community garden full of potager beds! "Maybe we should move here?" I challenged Jean-Marc.
"Pourquoi pas!" said he, kiddingly. We would probably get island fever after the first month. Et puis tout se sait sur une petite île! On a little island, there are no secrets!

Donkeys on porquerolles island
The donkeys are slightly camouflaged. Can you see them, left of center?

"Regarde! Il y a des ânes." There were a trio of donkeys in the maquis. A sign posted nearby said that these animals help débroussailler, or clear away of the dry undergrowth which could lead to fires. "We could have used those!" I said to Jean-Marc, remembering the yearly visits by the police to our vineyard, threatening une amende if we didn't get our property cleared before the heat of summertime.

This reminded me: the last chapter of our vineyard memoir was due tomorrow! I also had a blog post to create and send out in 3 days... and a sinking feeling told me today was the deadline for my France Today article on Cairns (or rock stacking in France). I knew when Jean-Marc planned this escapade, that it would fall right in the middle of a week of deadlines--but this trip was his birthday present. I began to sweat over this decision to put everything off until our return, when a little voice within piped up....

Aujourd-hui, c'est aujourd'hui!  Today is today!

Everything in life needs a balance, especially for those who are self-employed and pressuring themselves to stay on top, to not slip or fall behind. If there is one life lesson that I cannot seem to learn it is this: Keep it in the day! A chaque jour suffit sa peine. Be here now! L'instant présent! Or, as Jean-Marc's Mom always said, Demain il fera jour.

Tomorrow is indeed another day! I reached into my bag, grabbed an apple and began eating. I never eat when walking. And I am never late with work. And I never play pétanque (but would, by the end of our périple). 

Ironically "nevers" don't exist on Never Never Island. Et heureusement! I took another bite of my apple and caught up to Jean-Marc, who was heading down to the beach. Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! I said. Happy Birthday! Joyeux Anniversaire! Thank you for this getaway, ce dépaysement! With that, we set down our only beach towel (having forgotten to pack another), and kicked off our shoes. Feet in the sand, I unpacked our picnic: last night's omelet tasted delicious on the beach, along with bites of poutargue (a sliceable mound of dried fish eggs--we're addicted!), an avocado, cheese and the main course: les oursins! Jean-Marc put on his wetsuit and headed out to the rocky edge of the beach where he found the urchins among a lot of seaweed (an astuce learned from a friend. Normally they're found clinging to rocks). 

Our stomachs full we shared the beach towel for an afternoon nap. The next two days were rebelote--or much the same: long leisurely walks to the beach, a simple, delicious casse-croute (and more oursins) followed by un roupillon. It was a wonderful birthday celebration, and a good break all around. And when thoughts of work returned throughout our stay, so did my belle-mère's wise words about keeping it in the day:

Demain il fera jour.


More photos on my Instagram

détrompez-vous! = think again
lundi dernier
= last Monday
la navette = shuttle, ferry boat, water bus

le confinement = quarantine
la plage = beach
la liberté
= freedom
la marche = walk
pourquoi pas? = why  not
le potager = vegetable patch, kitchen garden
tout se sait = there are no secrets
regarde! = look
un âne = donkey
le maquis = scrubland, shrubland, brush
débroussailler = to clear (dry grasses)
une amende = ticket, fine
une escapade = getaway, break, trip, escape
A chaque jour suffit sa peine = Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
demain il fera jour = tomorrow is another day
le périple = journey, trek
et heureusement = and thank God for that!
le dépaysement = change of scenery
un oursin = sea urchin
une astuce = tip, trick, hack
rebelote = same thing again
le casse-croûte = snack
le roupillon = nap, siesta
la belle-mère = mother-in-law


Domaine de l'ile - one of 3 vineyards on this island full of character. See more photos of this paradise:

Jean-Marc and his urchins cutters or coupe-oursins, and on the right urchins on the half shell.

More stories: The last time we went to Porquerolles, our kids had a wild party at the house, click here

Read about the creative "mop spear" Jean-Marc invented while on the island: more here


Kristi and Jean-Marc
Aujourd'hui, c'est aujourd'hui! Bye for now and remember to enjoy the day by living in l'instant présent.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

France's "Cité de L'Espace" and SpaceX "dearMoon" + Jules is ready to fly the coop.

Port in la ciotat wooden boats or pointus
Our little wooden boat, an authentic French “pointu” left the old port Monday for a special mission...to accompany my Mom beyond the limits of La Ciotat. Find out what this floating craft has in common with spacecraft in today's intergalactic missive.

Today’s word: une fusée 
     : rocket, space rocket 

Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc read the following French and English:
Un milliardaire japonais offre huit sièges pour un voyage autour de la Lune à bord d’une fusée développée par Elon Musk. Japanese billionaire offers eight seats for trip around the moon aboard a rocket developed by Elon Musk

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 
"Entrée gratuite" (Free entry). When I read a news article in Le Monde about a Japanese billionaire giving away 8 tickets to the moon, I ran to show it to my Mom. "His name is  Yusaku Maezawa and he's offering the SpaceX flight a.k.a. "dearMoon" to artists who are willing to push the limits of creativity. 

"When is it? And how long will it orbit?" Mom wanted to know.
"The rocket launches in 2023 and it's a 7-day tour if you make it past the 4 screenings!"
 "Let's do it!" Jules said, sitting up in her bed. After pushing her paintbrushes aside, mourning her husband for several years, this intergalactic journey (even the possibility of it!) was just what the doctor ordered. So, on a whim, we both signed up and made it through the first screening (as did millions of other earthlings: all you had to do was send in a picture and fill out a form). But by the second screening, I got cold feet and backed out. Yesterday's newsflash in Paris Match about the latest SpaceX rocket fusée exploding freaked me out. My fearless Mom, however, was chiche to continue! 

A souvenir from my SpaceX candidature. 

Two More requirements
Those making it past the first two screenings now had a unique challenge issued by billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is known for his own flamboyant marketing stunts:

1) Come up with your own publicity stunt to get the word out about our dearMoon SpaceX mission.
2) Create a useful tool/gadget for the lunar trip 

dearMom and dearMoon
Now all we needed was a way for Jules's candidature to stand out...and some sort of gadget! Last Thursday, while busy with our annual carénage (boat maintenance) it hit us! Why not parade Mom around Provence in this little wooden boat--this historic pointu?! It was sort of symbolic: a ride that begins on a humble floating vessel and ends on a trillion-dollar rocket.

"And ends on a rocket..." Oh God, will my dearMom be okay on the dearMoon mission if she makes it past this third screening? Did we really want Jules to take this risk? What if she disappeared forever in the galactic heavens?

"Honey, I am ready to move on!" Mom reassured me.

Meantime, my sister-in-law, Cécile, who helps sand and paint our boat each year, painted the words dearMoon over both sides of the pointu... and in place of La Ciotat (our town), it now read "La Lune/2023." As a further attention-getter, Jean-Marc put 8 cases of wine in the back of the newly painted boat, topping the boxes in a visual display of bottles and bottles of rosé. (Hoping to kiss up to the Japanese billionaire--who is also a wine fanatic--I had these cool wine labels printed. Look closely at all the details on the label...  (Maybe Yusaku Maezawa will be chiche to make wine with us here in France if all goes well! What do you say Yusaku? Are you reading? Please take Mom to the Moon! She is the perfect candidate and will be your Most Fun crew member!)


Crystal Goggles--Le Must!
As for the spacial gadget.... To put all chance on our side, we contacted our daughter, Jackie, who works for the historic French crystal company, Baccarat, to see if they would be willing to make some mock-goggles using their luxury crystal for the lenses. Jackie immediately drew up the plans and the CEO OK'd her design! Turns out the dearMoon "monture" is a méchant marketing booster for Baccarat as well! 

Moon or Bust!
On Tuesday, Mom, dressed in her favorite Frida Kahlo cape and boarded the little wooden boat--taking our golden retriever Smokey with her. "Look!" Mom said. She pulled two pairs of Baccarat goggles out of her bag, fitting Smokey with his own pair. "Jackie sent an extra for bonne chance!"

Jean-Marc hitched the little wooden boat onto our 4X4 and we were off, Jules and Smokey in tow! Taking all country roads and passing through little towns along this special pèlerinage to la Cité de L'Espace (Toulouse is Europe's capital of aeronautics, hosting the headquarters of the Airbus Group) everything went beautifully until we reached La Ville Rose--Toulouse's other nickname...and we now know why....

More than rose, we noticed a lot of red. Red faces! Our spacey entourage was met with hostility as angry French protesters stopped us at the city limits (having seen all the news coverage of our dearMoon "craft" advancing toward their famous city).

Jean-Marc and I sat wide-eyed in the front of our Jeep, while Mom and Smokey looked onto the crowd from the little wooden boat where they sat, literally goggle-eyed. The protest signs read: VA JOUER SUR L'AUTOROUTE!!! 

Whew! That's a seriously méchant French insult that means GO PLAY ON THE FREEWAY! It turns out the Toulousaines were livid to see us promoting an American/Japanese Outer Space adventure...when France had a rocket of its own to promote (can anyone tell me the name of that rocket? Hmm? Does France have its own chereLune?).

"What are they saying?" Mom shouted to us, as she poured glass after glass of rosé, trying to appease the protesters (many were accepting the wine, and some were helping themselves to a case of it!).

Jean-Marc and I looked at each other, unsure of whether we should break the news. Suddenly, we both turned and shouted:

"April Fools! The signs read April Fools!"

"Oh, that's a good one!" Mom said, raising her glass "cheers!" (The protesters raised theirs with jeers!)

And off we drove, with Mom and Smokey in tow. Mom shouting back at the crowd. "We're off to play on the freeway--the Intergalactic Freeway! April fools! April fools!"


Mom cape
I hope you enjoyed today's April Fools--and hopefully Jules will too when she wakes up and reads it :-) I really did sign up for the dearMoon mission...and so did dearSmokey, see below....

une fusée = space rocket
entrée gratuite = free entry
chiche = game (être chiche = game to do something)
carénage = boat service, maintenance, careening
la lune = moon
méchant = wickedly awesome
la monture = eyeglass frames
le pointu = little wooden boat from Provence or the Mediterranean
le pèlerinage = pilgrimage

Smokey DearMoon astronaut crew

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Update on Max + Mortgage is a creepy word! Use this French expression instead! + bien immobilier, hypothéque, piaule, licitation judiciaire

Old port de plaisance marina in la ciotat france
The colorful port de plaisance in La Ciotat. Apartment sales in our town are exploding at the moment.

Did you ever stop to think about the word "mortgage"? The first four letters are a clue-in: "mort" in French means death and gage = pledge. Mortgage = death pledge. If the term is too creepy for you, then use one of these when in France:

- un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
- un prêt immobilier = real estate loan
-un prêt hypothécaire and une hypothéque (when you mortgage part of your home for cash)

AUDIO/SOUND FILE in French and English
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce all of the French words in today's story (see French Vocabulary section, below)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

From our kitchen where I am quietly making lunch, I enjoy seeing our son work at the dining table. His laptop is open and he is on the phone with clients. Depending on which language he is speaking—French, English, or Spanish—I can guess which country he is calling. (I know I'm bragging. I am so proud of him!)

Though Max lives in Aix-en-Provence, he sometimes works here in La Ciotat on Fridays. Having gone into the wine business after graduating from Montpellier Business School, he’s making waves like his father in the wine world (whoops! I’ve gotten the “waves” idiom all wrong! But we’re sticking with it as the next sentence depends on it...). Speaking of les vagues, they’re one of the reasons Max is here on weekends: after work, he grabs his kitesurf and off he flies, to the nearest plage (he loves Almanarre beach on the Presqu'île de Giens, near Hyères).

Un Chez-Soi (A Place of One’s Own)
No surfing today though. Max needs to figure out where he will live after his lease expires in June. He’d like to buy a place instead of spending part of his paycheck on rent, and after meeting with a loan officer he is aware of his limited budget. So today, we are visiting an apartment in le centre ville de La Ciotat…. Only, by the end of the tour I’ll have a few tips for Max!

The split-level apartment is deep in the old town, along une rue piétonne. He’ll have to park a ways away if he moves here. Before we ring the sonnette, Max points to the end of the street where we see the sparkling sea and even the boats on the old port de plaisance. “Ah, and there’s the Irish Pub!” he smiles.

Pas d’ascenseur (No elevator)
We meet the owner at the giant wooden door leading into le bien immobilier. After climbing three flights of stairs, we arrive at a narrow landing on le deuxième étage and enter into the duplex. The stairs immediately to our left lead up to a small loft. Straight ahead, the main room/living area has a kitchenette along one wall. At the end of the counter, there’s the entrance to the tiny bathroom, opposite the fridge. Everything is nickel--super clean and tidy--which helps us to see big in a small space. The window on the facing wall looks onto the building across the street, right into the neighbor’s place.

Astuce no 1: Don’t let the owner know you don’t like his taste
“I’d change the paint right away,” Max admits as we head up the narrow escaliers to the loft. “This blue reminds me of my bedroom when I was a kid.” (Such a comment might’ve been ok were he talking to the agent immobilier, and not the propriétaire who politely showed us around his bachelors pad.)

Astuce no. 2: Don’t tell the owner how much you like the place!
Apart from his distaste for the paint, and his concern for the uneven walls, Max was full of compliments, perhaps too many.

“There’s lots of storage space! I can put my kiteboard here in this placard… and my valises in that one… Everything looks good, I won’t have to renovate (apart from the paint)...No extra expenses there...”

Up in the loft, we have to duck down in order to reach the bed (a mattress on the floor). Max pushes open the skylight and we stick our heads out and look across the rooftops all the way to the port……

Astuce no. 3: Don’t get the owner’s hopes up!
“I like it. I’ll call you next week with an offer,” Max says, as we wave goodbye to the owner. I have my doubts but keep quiet pour l’instant...

Back at home, the family weighed in with their wisdom. “Max,” I said, “with the current pandemic, you might want to find a place with a terrace or balcony, so you won’t be cooped up inside...”

Next, Grandma Jules piped up. “Buy a piece of land in the hills beyond! And get out of the city!”
“Where’s he going to sleep?” Jean-Marc laughed.
“He can get a tent!” Grandma insisted.
“Or maybe a van?” I wondered, having seen several surfer vans (with built-in kitchens/beds) in our beach town.
“I’ll put a van on the property too!” Grandma cheered.

...And don’t get Jean-Marc started, he’s been wanting a VW camper for some time!

Astuce no. 4: Don’t listen to everybody!
Meantime, with everyone now dreaming of the wide-open road, I’m reminded of one final tip or astuce: Don’t listen to too much advice when shopping for your first pad, or you might end up sleeping in a car, with the whole nutty family--avec tout ta famille de barjots!



Listen to the following list of French terms
un emprunt immobilier = real estate loan
une hypothèque = mortgage, loan agreement
les vagues = waves
la plage = beach
une presqu'île = peninsula
un chez-soi = a place of one’s own
le centre ville = town center
la rue piétonne = pedestrian street
la sonnette = doorbell, buzzer
port de plaisance = marina
un ascenseur = elevator
le bien immobilier = the property
le deuxième étage = third floor (in French)
nickel = spotless
une astuce = tip, trick
le placard =closet
la valise = suitcase

to brag = se vanter
bragging = vantardise
bachelor pad = garçonnière
un bail = lease (apartment, house…)
loan officer = responsable des prêts
duck down = se baisser
pad = appart, piaule
legal auction of property = licitation - vente judiciaire 

Estate sale
Max has (by now) visited 5 apartments (he found them via ads on sites like pap.fr and leboncoin.fr. Another way to find a place (apart from visiting the local real estate office) is via bank repossessions, estate sales, or "licitations". Here is a sign that appeared a few years ago on a derelict home (not far from the beach!) in La Ciotat. (The end price was two times the price listed on the sign.)   
Max pot de depart
Max and friends in 2017, before our son left for an exchange program in Mexico. (Max is the one under the sombrero)

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Un avion de chasse: after “canon” another French word for “hottie” or “babe” + French vocabulary: prendre sa revanche, taquin, rebonjour, phare, pantoufle

Jean-Marc randonner parc mugel la ciotat
Learn a host of new French words as I poke fun at my husband in today’s billet. Don't miss the sound file, where Jean-Marc pronounces all the vocabulary in French and in English. Photo taken in the magnificent Parc du Mugel, here in La Ciotat.

Today's Word: Taquiner

    : to tease, to kid, to joke, annoy, poke fun at

What is Taquiner? 
Having fun irritating, annoying (someone) in small things and without malice.
S'amuser à irriter, à contrarier (quelqu'un) dans de petites choses et sans méchanceté.

Audio file, click to hear all the vocabulary in French and English. Then check your comprehension with the words list at the end.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
When our regional newspaper, La Provence, published an article about une écrivaine ciotadenne d’origine américaine, my husband had a field day teasing me. “Les gens vont te reconnaître quand tu marches dans la rue! People are going to recognize you when you walk down the street!”

Mr. Taquin could needle me all he wanted, the tables were about to turn... and I wouldn’t be the one wearing dark sunglasses...

It all began while out on a morning walk, when a complete stranger called out:
“Bonjour, Jean-Marc!”
“Who was that?” I whispered, as the man passed by.
“One of my customers, ” my husband answered, thinking nothing of it.

Ici arrive les groupies (Here come the groupies)
Next, our accidental idol was spotted at the supermarket after a woman did a double-take when we walked in. “Bonjour, Jean-Marc!” she demurred, dropping some fruit de la passion into her dainty market basket. This was only the beginning of le deluge. Ever since he opened his wine shop, Le Vin Sobre, Il ne passe pas inaperçu! He does not go unnoticed by the locals.

C’est lui la vraie vedette (He's the real celebrity)
The other night we were on our way to the flat rocks by the shore to enjoy the sunset, when a couple began waving… “Rebonjour!” Jean-Marc responded. Evidently, he’d seen them earlier. “Do you know my wife? Jean-Marc said, by way of introduction.
“Non,” they admitted. They didn’t.

Ce n’est pas grave. No hard feelings, I mean, it wasn’t as bad as the last time we were stopped. “Tu connais ma femme?” Jean-Marc said to the man with the golden retriever. Before the man could respond I nodded my head, Oui...but the other answered, “Enchanté. Nice to meet you!”

Harrumph! Talk about being invisible! Maybe it would be good to stand out after all? Speaking of stand out… WHO was that jogging past us now?

Coucou, Jean-Marc...”
“C’était qui?” I elbowed my husband, watching the avion de chasse fly by.
“Encore une cliente. Elle s'appelle Célia.”
“Célia? Mon Dieu! I’d better spend some time at our wine shop instead of remaining holed up at the house all day, in pantoufles.
As if reading my mind, our local celebrity added, “T’inquiètes pas Ma Chérie. C’est toi mon avion de chasse! Don't worry, Dear. You are my dreamboat!”

On our latest outing, Mr. Visible and I managed to make it all the way to the phare without any fans calling out his name.

“Personne ne t’a reconnu ce matin! No one recognized you this morning!” I snickered.
“C’est un miracle!” my husband laughed, adding: “But then not all of my girlfriends say bonjour when they see me walking with my wife….”

Pfft! Ah well, he could rib me all he wanted. At least HE noticed me. In nearly 20 years of blogging, I can count on two fingers how many times I’ve been stopped in public. As for my husband, C’est une star!

le billet = post
une écrivaine ciotadenne = a writer from La Ciotat
d’origine américaine = of American origin
un taquin, une taquine = teaser (one who teases)
le déluge = the inundation
rebonjour = hello again (for the second time today)
le phare = lighthouse
taquinerie = teasing
Il ne passe pas inaperçu! = he doesn’t go unnoticed
ce n’est pas grave = no big deal
un avion de chasse = very beautiful girl or woman
la pantoufle = house slipper

...And the word "canon" (from the title of this post). Can you guess the meaning? Answer here (along with a pretty picture of my Mom).

Language/cultural note: Rather than saying bonjour to the same person twice in one day, the French will say, “rebonjour.”

to have a field day with something = faire ses choux gras de [qch]
to needle = embêter
to turn the tables on somebody = prendre sa revanche sur
to snicker (US), snigger (UK) = ricaner
celebrity = la vedette
evidently = visiblement, il paraît que


Jean-Marc serre chevalier jacket
Our local star. I hope you enjoyed the humor in today's billet, or post. It was fun getting back at Jean-Marc after all his taquinerie! P.S. Here, our accidental idol is wearing a light blue jacket available at Jules Melquiond Sports, in Serre Chevalier!

Enjoy one more teasing story in the post "Six-Pack Abs", and learn my husband's tip for a chocolate bar stomach (and why the French call it that!)

Smokey golden retriever rugby shirt St. Patricks Day France
Unlike the French, Smokey dressed up and celebrated St. Patrick's Day. A few more pictures here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Following a hunch from Paris to Miami + know these useful French words?: débrouillard, fonceuse, farfelu, embaucher, boulot, bagnole

Baccarat bar
Today's lesson: Be a smart cookie and follow your dreams! Learn the French, below, and read about a fashion student who "sows" an unusual seed, and is hired to mix designer drinks.

Today's Word: un débrouillard, une débrouillarde 
    : resourceful, clever, self-starter
    : a smart cookie, self-reliant, street-smart

Listen to Jean-Marc read the following French
Sois débrouillarde. Suis ton rêve!
Be a smart cookie. Follow your dream!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Following a hunch from Paris to Miami

You never know where a hunch will lead unless you follow it! Our daughter surprised me years ago when she mentioned bartender school. At the time we were in Paris, where Jackie was doing a 3-week internship with an haute couture designer. Her bartender remark seemed farfelu given she was studying fashion design, but she ended up following that hunch: she dropped out of design school and started working in la restauration, as a food runner.

At 18, she moved in with her boyfriend, who was sans bagnole so Jackie did the driving. On lonely nights in their shoebox apartment, she cooked, cleaned, and shared her dream of moving to the States. "You can come with me!" she enthused. But the two didn't share the same enthusiasm or motivation. “You’ll never do it,” he said (daring her? Or didn't he think she had it in her? "It" being drive? determination? Guts? The courage to leave the known for the unknown? Or zest? I like this last one, ZEST, and you'll soon find out why :-) Meantime, never underestimate a smart cookie! Il ne faut jamais sous-estimer une débrouillarde!)

Jean-Marc and I were not crazy about the situation but Jackie’s loyalty, both to her petit ami and her job, kept her stuck there...until one day her landlord phoned, saying he heard a commotion and shouting. Jackie denied this, but it was too late, Jean-Marc wasn’t taking any chances. He and Max showed up at the apartment and brought Jackie back home.

Our daughter no longer mentioned her dreams or the USA, but we kept encouraging her. “Aunt Heidi’s friend owns a Mexican restaurant…” Little by little Jackie’s dream revived and she got on the plane, September of 2018, headed to Denver. She lived that first month with Aunt Heidi, who helped with her resume so she could apply for a job at the Ritz in Vail.

Embauchée! Hired!
Jackie loved her job as a cocktail waitress at the elegant Ritz Carlton. She watched the bartenders who showed her how various drinks were made. In turn, she shared a few French apéritifs (two favorites from the south: le Mauresque (pastis with orgeat syrup) and le Monaco (panache beer with grenadine syrup). Around midnight, she walked home in the dark, slipping and sliding along the snowy highway. She often called home (it was 8 am in France) during the midnight trek, reassuring us all was well… even if she lacked cold-weather gear. “I need to get some après ski boots!”

She got those boots and more! Before tourist season in Vail ended, Jackie received an employee award--a 5-star recognition from her manager at the Ritz for outstanding service. 

Back in France for the summer, our Franco-American immediately found un boulot here in La Ciotat. We barely saw our daughter that summer, as she worked overtime or double shifts. When tourist season in France ended, Jackie debated her next move: school in France or go back to the States? After seeing an ad for a bartending school in Miami, she had an epiphany!

A True 'Zest' for Life
At 21 our would-be bartender was on her way to Florida, where she had no family or friends, not even a room to rent! The school placed her in a hostel, where she took a bottom bunk in a roomful of foreigners. Tucking her suitcase under the bed, Jackie organized herself in that little space, while going to bartender school. She celebrated her 22nd with strangers and began looking for permanent lodging. After 6 weeks living out of her suitcase, in two different hostels, she moved in with a French girl, and found work waitressing in a 5-star restaurant, at The W Hotel. 

Another season ended and this time Jackie received a tip from her roommate about a bartender job opening at Baccarat, the historic French crystal company. Did you know they have a boutique bar? This, from their website:

We invite you to live the unique experience of sipping a coffee, tea or cappuccino; enjoy a bubbling coupe of champagne, a glass of wine, or discover our signature cocktails and taste our delicious food.  All served in Baccarat, surrounded by Baccarat’s beautiful and colorful crystal.

The manager liked Jackie’s French look and hired her on the spot. During the challenging months ahead (the beginning of a pandemic!), Jackie continued to work as some employees were let go, including the manager. In addition to tending the bar, she was now in charge of opening and closing the shop, and various managerial tasks. The pressure and stress built up, but Jackie hung in there!

All this to tell you that last week on her one-year anniversary at the Baccarat boutique, Jackie was surprised with a luxurious gift and a letter of recognition from the CEO! We are so proud of our daughter who followed a hunch and landed a job in America for an historic French company—and is working in a beautiful boutique while doing something that combines her love for design and bartending

From Fashion to another Passion
“I have never been happier,'' Jackie recently shared. Her gutsy decision to move to another country and a new city was timely. Had she stayed in France she would have been an out-of-work waitress (restaurants here are still closed) or a student stuck at home, following courses online. 

Speaking of which...Jackie is still unsure about college, though she’d like to take a class in taxes. 

Taxes? Another farfelu idea?

“Well,” Jackie explained. “I’m tired of paying someone else to do mine!”

Who knows where this latest hunch will take our Go-Getter? Meantime she’s bought the current no. 1 book on finance and is saving (most) every penny while looking for a good investment

I hope you enjoyed today's update on my daughter. Now remember, no matter your age: Be a smart cookie and follow your dream! Sois débrouillarde. Suis ton rêve.


Jackie behind bar
The crew from channel M6 filming Jackie for a special report. If you are in France look up the M6 schedule for March 28th (not sure of the name of the episode...look for Baccarat or Miami report!) 
Harmony goblets by Baccarat
Baccarat "Harmonie" Tumblers. This gift was serendipitous:"Harmonie" was the name of Jackie's first horse. Ever since, the word "harmonie" has always held a special significance. This was such a meaningful reward from Baccarat!

Jackie baccarat crystal boutique miami florida

If you are in the market for a fabulous French chandelier (or anything crystal! I love their papillons/butterflies...) contact Jackie at the Miami boutique. She will be happy to help you! Or stop by the bar for a refreshment....


farfelu = crazy, farfetched
la restauration = the restaurant industry
une bagnole = slang for car
un petit ami = boyfriend 
il ne faut jamais sous-estimer une débrouillarde = one must never underestimate a smark cookie!
embaucher = to hire
un apéritif = alcoholic beverage enjoyed before dinner
un boulot = slang for "a job"

an internship = un stage
food runner (busgirl) = aide-serveuse
a go-getter = un fonceur, une fonceuse 

Jackie at 17, in Paris: "Je suis assez capable de me gérer moi-même."
To Flip Somebody Off in French 

Jackie and coworker
Jackie and a colleague
Rum drink baccarat bar

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Jules update + Which of these French words is new to you?: guet-apens, tuyau, épuisette, taule, couvre feu, comme si de rien n'était, arroser, pantoufle...

Max spear fishing in La Ciotat beach
My son, Max, spearfishing here in La Ciotat. In today's story, his grandmother Jules goes fishing in the garden, while I reel in a boatful of new French words for you. Enjoy, and please share this post with somebody who loves France or the French language. Merci!

Today’s French expressions: avoir la pêche (vs) aller à la pêche

  : avoir la pêche = to feel great, to feel happy
  : aller à la pêche = to go fishing

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence in French:

Quand ma belle-mère, Jules, a la pêche...Elle va à la pêche!
When my mother-in-law, Jules, is feeling energetic, she goes fishing!


“I feel good!”  my mom announces, stretching out her arms beside the budding fig tree. “Look how rosy my cheeks are!”

En effet! After hibernating all winter, Jules a la pêche. Her energy stores are full and she is ready to return to work as our resident Tuyau Operator, in charge of watering all the flowers and veggies. It’s about time Sleeping Beauty woke up. Les hibiscus ont soif!

Mom surveys the wild garden and its unruly grass, its patches of buttercups, dandelions, grape hyacinths, and, oh—look at those two-foot-high beanstalks! Our front yard has come to life, just like Mom and her furry, elderly assistant, Smokey (who’s put on a few pounds after guarding Grandma all winter. The two share the afternoon goûter in bed, and I suspect it’s not the only snack for nos aînés gourmands!).

Plus de Pantoufles!
When Jules, in her black Converse high tops, marches past her favorite Papillon chair, you know she means business. No contemplating the clouds today, c’est l’heure d’arroser.

I pass by the fountain on my way to meet her, and the water begins to tremble. Can you believe that’s 4 dozen baby koi rushing to the surface? The doves use a similar attention-getting strategy, going as far as to knock on the window until Jules gets up to feed them! Everyone is hungry now that winter is over, ou presque

Un guet-apens? (An ambush?)
Jules grabs the long wooden pole and net—the épuisette—and plunges it in and out of the water sending petrified poissons darting toward the papyrus for cover.

“I caught 5!” Mom gasps, upending the net and watching the fish land in the copper jam pan (a recent gift Mom picked up for us at la Coop Agricole). 

“Hurry! Get some water in there!” Mom signals, as the fish flop around their copper tôle, or prison.

Les yeux ébahis, I scramble to fill the copper jam pan with water before the fish (that's slang for inmates!) go into shock. Visiblement, Mom’s energy is running ahead of her again. If you think her motor is charged, you should see Smokey! Our 11-year-old golden retriever has leaped over the fence and is trespassing in the neighbor’s yard, probably eating the cat food again! “Smokey! Reviens ici!” Whereas moments ago our senior chien jumped over the fence, he is now crawling under the flimsy barrier, comme si de rien n’était.

As you can see, I’ve got my hands full keeping these thrill-seekers in line. But I’m not complaining. I’m too dazzled by the koi swimming in the copper jam pan. Jules has the coolest ideas and her creativity is enough to wake a zombie (or anyone feeling lethargic during a pandemic!).

“It would be a fabulous centerpiece for your next dinner party!” Mom adds, easing into her butterfly chair. Time now to contemplate the clouds, and think up more adventures in this era of couvre-feux and confinement.

Post note: No photo of the fish in the bassine à confiture, or copper jam pan. When I tried to recreate the scene, fishing wasn’t as easy as Mom made it look! 

Fish in pond

un jeu de mots = a play on words

en effet = indeed

avoir la pêche = to feel energetic 

le tuyau = garden hose

avoir soif = to be thirsty

le goûter = snack

la pantoufle = house slipper

nos aînés = our elders

le gourmand = food lover

arroser  = to water

ou presque = or almost

un guet-apens = an ambush

une épuisette = pole and net for collecting fish or clearing  leaves from the pond

en taule  (en tôle) = in the slammer, prison

le poisson = fish

visiblement = clearly

reviens ici! = come back here!

le chien = dog

comme si de rien n’était = as if nothing were amiss

couvre-feu = curfew

The paris library
NEW IN BOOKS: THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles. 
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. Order a copy here.

Smokey in papillon chair
Or senior chien, Smokey is doing great. Don’t miss this story of Mom’s papillon chair, click here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Adieu to a beloved Poet + favorite French words, in honor of Herman Meyer

Sospel  France Eglise church french architecture
This photo was taken on February 16th, at 3:21 p.m. in Sospel, France. Marveling at the heavenly ceiling and the mysteries beyond, I was unaware of a friend's passing on the very day.

I have been carefully collecting a list of interesting French words since the beginning of this month, in hopes of sharing them with you someday. I never imagined I would use them in a eulogy. L
et's learn some vocabulary now while remembering an honored war veteran--and fellow desert rat (from Phoenix) whom many of you know from the comments section of this blog. 

"Une Lubie"
That's "hobby" in French. One of Herman Meyers's passions was la poésie. More than une lubie, poetry was a gift this 90-year-old outdoorsman and electrical engineer shared with the world. Right up to the end, Herm posted his poems on his blog Poems, Photos and Stuff and sent them privately to cheer up friends. He eventually collected his rhythmic verses into an anthology "that may leave you smiling, pull at your heartstrings and/or leave you in tears..."

Herm's book

"Flambant Neuf"
"Brand new"—Herm, who would have turned 91 on May 23, wasn’t flambant neuf. He would have had fun using the brand new term in a stanza. Most of his works were inspired by photos. His book is aptly named "Pic Poems and Stuff". Don't you just love the "and stuff" which hints at the author's way of not taking himself too seriously?

"Le Système D"
"Plan D"--I learned this term in the comments section of this blog (thanks Sheryl!). Jean-Marc tells me the D is for débrouiller which means to deal with it. How would Herm want us to deal with his departure? What is Plan D?!

Plan D rhymes with zinguerie, a word I saw painted over a (plumbing?) shop while passing through Monaco last week. The term has something to do with zinc... which, come to think of it, is sort of the color of Ham Radio (OK, that was a stretch, but I'm determined to share the words, in the order in which I've learned them, into today's tribute. Hang on, it'll get more chanllenging soon!). Just to say Ham radio was an early passion of Herm's that eventually led to extensive radio school training with NATO in Fontainebleu, France!

"Péché Mignon"
Now there's a fun phrase meaning "guilty pleasure" and I have a hunch Herm would have incorporated this phrase in his picture poetry, where he shared his love of hiking, the Southwest, cowboy culture, friendship, family, service to others, and all creatures great and small to name a few. Perhaps one of Herm's guilty pleasures was repetition (mais bien sûr, he was un poète!); his favorite expression, shared now and again in the comments on my blog, was this gem:

C'est la vie, c'est la guere, c'est la pomme de terre!
(Literally: That's life, that's war, that's the potato!)
(Herm's translation: "Stuff happens!” Of course he’d say “stuff”! This poet wasn’t stuffy or smug!)

"Herm on his daily ride around the park" (title of an email he sent)

"C’est commode"
"It’s convenient"--In one of Herm's last emails of 2020, this passionate outdoorsman announced his hiking days were finito! From then on he rode, et c'était commode! Of course he "poemed" the news:

As time passes by for this aging man
I'll keep doing the exercises that I can
But, instead of the cross-country hiking
I'll stay active with my in-the-park triking

"Se Gâter"
"To take a turn for the worse"--I learned this reflexive verb while out on a walk with Jean-Marc. "Le temps se gâtent" he said, as the bright sky darkened. Returning home, I found an email from my friend Karen in Phoenix, who shared the news of Herm's passing. 

"Sans Déconner"
"No kidding" (Just a cool Southern French phrase you hear--even in Paris! It doesn't really fit in this section. But we're going to make it fit, just as Herm did with his rhyme gift.)

I received a courriel from Herm's wife, Sharron, who shared about Herm's joy reading my blog.  Sharron left me with a compliment as she signed off:

"I always fondly called you his "other girlfriend." Please share this with your mom, he was also a fan of hers too.”

"To show off"--Because Herm didn't talk a lot about his service to the United States, let's show off for him here.
 In 2018, he was honored as a war veteran, and selected to go on the Honor Flight--an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.

"La Pénurie"
"Shortage"--Now Herm has passed to the other side, the mysterious Ever After. Let us all make sure there are no shortage of words for our word wrangler to work with, as he writes his poetry from the hereafter, l'Au-delà.

Help honor Herm by sharing a favorite French word in the comments section just below. And share what town you are writing in from. Merci beaucoup (I have a feeling Herm would say Merci buckets.  He was comfortable enough with words to have fun with them :-) 

"La Houle"
Swell--That's "swell" as in "ocean waves" but it may as well mean swelled or swollen hearts. To Herm's wife, Sharron, his 3 adult boys, Brien, Craig, and Neal, and to all who love him, our collective hearts go out to you. May the favorite French words that follow in the comments, send waves of comfort your way.

Tu vas me manquer. I am going to miss you, Herman Meyer! Sans déconner!

"Your Other Girlfriend"


Herm hike in the desert
Read more about Herm on his blog and his book of "pic poetry" Photo: Herm leads a group of Francophiles at a meetup in Phoenix, in 2011. That story here.

Thank you for considering a contribution today!
Ongoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and improving this free language journal, for the past 18 years. If you enjoy this website and would like to keep it going, please know your donation towards this effort makes all the difference! No matter the weather, on good days or bad, I am committed to sharing a sunny, vocabulary-packed update with you, one you can look forward to. I hope it fuels your dreams of coming to France while expanding your French vocabulary. A contribution by check or via PayPal (or credit card, links below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!

Kicked out of Monaco + On the road to the Riviera in our electric car + 22, v'là les flics + pictures from Sospel, Menton, Nice

Sospel, France. February 2021. What with La Crise Sanitaire, it has been over a year since Jean-Marc and I traveled and courted adventure. Recently, we hit the road in our electric blue ZOE and were pleasantly surprised at how far it took us--all the way to the Italian border from La Ciotat--on one full "tank". (Jean-Marc had une borne de recharge installed at his wine shop, where he and his clients may charge their electric cars. C'est commode!).

For our 4-day escapade, we considered France's "Island of Beauty" (an overnight voyage via ferry) but were dissuaded when the Corsican getaway called for a PCR test for Covid. That is when Jean-Marc mentioned Menton, only a two-hour drive from our home. The moment my husband suggested it, visions of bright yellow citrons danced in my head. Bonne idée! I agreed and, fast as you can say Vingt deux, v'là les flics! we were on the road, heading toward a needed change of scenery just a stone's throw from the Italian border.

Any fantasies of traversing that frontière (for a meal in Badalucco or a stroll in St Rémo...) were soon nixed when, on day two at the bustling farmers market in Menton, a few locals relayed the latest government orders. "Il ne vaut mieux pas. Vous serez arrêtés et détournés," warned the octogénaire, handing me my change along with her homemade "confiture 3 agrumes," and bay leaf branches from the riviera hinterland.

Jean-Marc quickly offered a Plan B: A visit to Sainte Agnès. Allez, chiche! I agreed, sharing that my artist friend Tessa lived there many years, and it would be good to finally see the perched village and hike up to the chateau ruins above it (Jean-Marc's idea, nevermind it was freezing outside). But with cafés closed because of Covid, the next best way to warm ourselves would be a brisk hike. As we climbed the medieval stone steps I noticed the ground was covered with le verglas...it looked like somebody had dumped a giant snowcone over the hillside. Mittens and wool bonnets would have been good to bring along, but who packs those for a trip to the sunny Riviera?

Jean-Marc and Kristi at Allez Hops beer shop and brewery in Nice

The rest of our séjour was warm, cozy and colorful! (photos of Sospel, below), including a trip to see our friends who run Allez Hops! a boutique beer shop and micro-brewery in Nice. Dan, Julie, and their daughter, Gab, thoughtfully welcomed us with a cheeky--make that chalky--message on the ardoise outside their shop--and even had delicious rootbeer waiting for the abstème in our group! It was wonderful to catch up with our friends, and we were set to see one more copain the next day.... 

Every trip has a misadventure or two and for us that came on the last day, at the border of Monaco, after a couple of flics ordered us off the road. I rolled down the passenger's seat window and fumbled for my mask. "Vous venez d'où?" the policeman with salt-n-pepper hair asked, beginning his interrogation.

"Menton." Jean-Marc replied, from the driver's seat.
"Vous habitez en France?" The officer asked, noticing our license plate, with its two-digit area designation (13 for Marseille, where we bought our car).
As the two wrangled in French, I was about to elbow my husband to just answer the policeman, and quit with all the explanations! but that would not be very French of him, would it? Every Frenchman (mine, at least) must have their say! 

"Je vous ai demandé où est-ce que vous habitez?" The policeman persisted.

"La Ciotat," I replied. "On vie à La Ciotat!"

"But we are here to have lunch with our friend--un Monégasque." Jean-Marc insisted.

"You'll need an affidavit from your friend." The police responded. Zut! Only one day ago we could have wandered aimlessly through Monaco, the rules had changed overnight! After a little more wrangling, Jean-Marc relented, or so it seemed. Taking the next exit, he phoned his friend, who arranged a clandestine rendez-vous, and so smuggled us back to his place for calamari... Everything happened so fast, it was only after I took another bite of octopus that I realized I had once again gone against my gut in order to go with the flow!

"Is it good? Do you like it?" Our smuggler Monégasque asked.

"I do, but... Have you seen My Octopus Teacher?"

If that sounded like an obscure question, dear reader, you haven't seen this documentary, but back to our ethical dilemma involving cops and calamari, because I know what some of you are thinking: Shame on you, Kristi, for sneaking back to your friend's house! How irresponsible of you! What do you have to say for yourself?! We are waiting for an answer!

All I can say is Thank you for waiting! From here on out, I will listen to my conscience, whether it tells me to skip the octopus or skip town! Or skip the comments section of this blog which has taken a slight turn since the new year, with just enough negativity to have me weigh every single word for fear of offending someone, somewhere, somehow. And that makes for a lot of stress in writing and sharing my stories. 

One step forward, two back. Just like you, I am doing the best I can. And the best I can do is to get out of bed each day and go to work, avec ou sans peur. I am extremely grateful for this job as a full-time writer. Thank you for your understanding, for your trust, and for your support. It keeps me writing in an era where speaking to a friend (let alone an audience!) is akin to walking in a minefield. Watch your step! 22 v'la les flics! (Watch out!)



Room with a view in Menton
Room with a view in Menton

la crise santitaire = health crisis
une borne de recharge
= charging station, charge port for electric car
c'est commode = it's convenient
dépayser = to experience a change of surroundings (more here)
bienvenue = welcome
une escapade = getaway (travel)
le citron = lemon
une bonne idée = good idea
Il ne vaut mieux pas = better not to
Vous serez arrêtés et détournés = you'll be stopped and turned away
Vingt deux, v'là les flics! = a slang expression for "watch out!", literally Twenty-two, here are the cops!
la frontière = border between countries
la confiture = jam
l'agrume (m)
= citrus fruit
allez chiche!
= you're on! let's do it!
un périple = trek, journey
le verglas = ice
une ardoise = slate, blackboard, chalkboard
l'abstème (m,f) = person who doesn't drink alcohol for one reason or another
le copain (la copine) = friend
le (la) flic = cop
le carrefour
= roundabout, intersection
le séjour
= stay
monégasque = resident of Monaco
zut! = darn!
avec ou sans peur = with or without fear

Sospel balcony
Colorful patina in Sospel
The colorful town of Sospel. Not a lot of tourists, plenty of local characters.

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