From France to New Zealand: Jean-Marc's Big News!

French winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse blind tasting degustation
From the Mediterranean to Nouvelle Zéalande--Jean-Marc will be a traveling winemaker once again. After making wine in Italy (Sicily), The United States (Oregon), and around France, ce vigneron will now experience a longtime dream of blending grapes in New Zealand! We would like to thank Whitehaven Wines for this amazing opportunity! Read my husband's update, below, for more details.
 
TODAY'S WORD: LE VIGNERON (LA VIGNERONNE)
 
    : winemaker, winegrower

NEW ZEALAND HERE I COME
by Jean-Marc Espinasse

For a very long time, I have dreamt about visiting New Zealand. But family obligations, work, Covid, and the country's location (at almost 2 days' travel from France), have made this fantastic voyage quite impossible so far.
 
I have so much affinity for these two islands because they are...islands and I have always felt good being surrounded by oceans and seas. New Zealand is also a country with a strong identity, some amazing sports, like rugby or sailing, 1000 years of history, and it's a land with deep farming values, producing the famous lamb but also many other crops and, of course, wine.
 
In 2009, as I was touring the States to promote Domaine Rouge-Bleu, a very good friend of mine (Jeffrey) invited some friends over for a blind wine-tasting party. He gave me the keys to his unbelievable wine cellar with a carte blanche to pick out any bottle in order to organize a fun game. After looking around, I decided to do a horizontal blind tasting of Northern Rhone 2003. Chave, Guigal, Gangloff, Jaboulet... all the big names were here and it was an honor to be able to select them. Exploring a bit more, I saw a New Zealand section where I had heard that some Syrah (which is the grape used by Northern Rhone wines) was producing interesting results. When I saw a Syrah from Craggy Range "Le Sol" 2003, I decided to add it to the line-up, as an intruder. Guess who won the contest--and by far? This definitely contributed to my growing interest in this magical land.
 
In 2014, Kristi and I celebrated our 20th anniversary and our friends offered us a trip to New Zealand. This voyage never happened but I continued to be interested in this marvelous country and started to follow some vineyards on Instagram. Long story short, I have some very exciting news for you today… I am thrilled to announce that I have just been hired to work as an assistant winemaker in the cellars of Whitehaven Wines, Marlborough.
 
If you have any connections over there, I am searching for a room in a house or a studio—or why not a camper—to rent (in/near Blenheim), starting March 1st for 7/8 weeks. I would also appreciate any contacts you may have in New Zealand as I plan to tour both islands by bike and camping car, before and after my work contract.
 
Thank you in advance for your help. I can't wait to tell you all about my experiences on this magnificent island.

Cheers,

Jean-Marc
[email protected]

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. It is a real pleasure to read your notes and stories. Merci!

Jean-Marc and Ricci mini australian shepherd near kayaks
Jean-Marc and our newest family member, Ricci, pose in front of a local Kayak stand here in La Ciotat. 


REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks and appreciation to readers who sent in a blog donation this past week. Your support helps me continue developing this blog, which is more than a creative outlet: it is a place to learn, reflect, and exchange.   

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Natalia, Rod, & The Mignons 

"Ricci is precious!! Thank you for the pictures!! God bless!!" C. P.

“If poets made more money, I'd support you more often--I love your column and feel great fondness for you and your family, and now your new dog, Ricci.” Lynne K.

Max Izzy Jules Ricci
Family portrait: Max, his grandmother Jules, Izzy, and Ricci.

Ricci and Max
Ciao from Ricci! See you next week (or, for the latest photo, follow me on Instagram)

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


We have a new dog. Welcome Ricci!

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UN BERGER = SHEPHERD

After one year and three months sans chien, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of our newest family member: "Ricci". She is a 3-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd and she hails from une ferme in Aveyron. 

Ten days ago, at a party, I was chatting with Corinne about her mini Aussie. "We love those dogs," I said, "but aren’t they a bit nervous?" Corinne, visibly gaga about her Berger Américain (as they are called in France), assured me le tempérament depends on the owner. With that in mind, I began to dream about these lovely dogs once again…

By the next day, Jean-Marc was combing through ads on Le BonCoin when he came across "Penny" a 4.5-year-old BAM (Berger Américain). Before we knew it, we were headed 5 hours north to a cow and cannabis* farm, where the busy owner was phasing out her dog breeding business. She had two adult females available: Penny and her 3-year-old cousin, Ricci. 

We had come all this way to see Penny, but understood right away she was not for us. "We live on a busy street," I explained. "We can't have a barker...the neighbors would not like it." Behind the chain-linked fence, there was another dog, who was a lot calmer and she was making eyes at us. "Who is that?" I asked.  

"C'est Ricci."

“Could we please see her?” With that, the gate was opened and both dogs bolted out, running circles past the chickens, over to the barn, and back. Ricci came when the breeder called her and I took her into my lap. She was thoughtful and calm for a moment and I knew, of the two dogs, she was the better bet.

My daughter had cautioned me to only take the dog if there was un coup de coeur - a lighting-strike attraction. This sort of put the brakes on things as I was not instantly enamored. I was, in fact, full of hesitation. But I couldn't be sure, either, if I wanted to leave without Ricci. We had come so far...we could make this work...fingers crossed this wasn’t a mistake. One final thought sealed the deal: Grandma will love her no matter what.

"We don't have a leash," I said.

"She's never been on a leash," the farmer replied, adding she was very sorry there might be some fleas….

"Assis!" I said to Ricci, to get a closer look, but the little shepherd did not respond.
"She doesn't know any commands..." the farmer explained.

Because this seemed like a risky transaction, and considering the upcoming expenses (sterilization? vaccination?) I negotiated the price down as far as possible. I reasoned, privately, that if we returned home and there were no surprises with this adult dog (hip replacement surgery?--I'd heard horror stories), I could eventually send a donation to the farmer to make up for any losses on her part.

Ricci now in the passenger’s seat, on my lap, I picked off as many fleas as possible during the 6-hour ride home. Our seat was also soaked in saliva, even so, the long voyage went better than expected. The closeness helped form a kind of bond, but, after reaching her new home, Ricci was running into walls. She didn't understand door-windows, and banged right into our porte vitrée. The "dog bed" concept threw her as well. And the flush of a toilet, the vacuum, the garbage truck…just about any sudden bruit had her running for cover and making puddles around the house, in the bed, and on the couch. The former “Berger” from Aveyron may as well have been dropped off on Planet Mars.

She’s been on high alert since landing here near the beach in La Ciotat. There will be so much to learn for her and for us, but thankfully, everyone in our family is smitten by cette petite Louloutte, and ready to help.
"I'm Max! You'll be seeing a lot of me," my son said, taking her calico face into his hands and gently caressing her. And when she freaked out on the leash with me, Max's girlfriend, Ana, tried a different approach by first presenting the leash for Ricci to sniff. Gradually, Ana was able to coax her out into the garden, with Max cheering her on.

Grandma Jules is over the moon and inspired "Reece is so paintable! I’m just crazy about her!”
“Mom, her name is ‘Ricci’, that’s Ree-Chee like the perfume Nina Ricci... (but "Reece" is sweet, reminiscent of the peanut-butter cups I loved as a kid).

“I'm going to call her Chi-chi,” Jackie already decided, via video chat as we all gathered for Ricci's first night home.

Ana calls her "Ma Petite Puce," a popular term of endearment in France (but also appropriate given Ricci was teaming with fleas.). On day two Ana returned to help give Ricci a chewable medication for the fleas, the ticks, and any potential worms. And it worked immediately. 

What a whirlwind two days it has been since bringing Ricci home: loads of laundry, retraining, shopping (leash, bed, food, toys), and agitated sleeping. But we've enjoyed every minute. Speaking of time, that coup de coeur Jackie insisted on may not have been instant, but it came after a leap of faith.

Whether a coup or a leap, all that matters is that our dog is here. Bienvenue, dear Ricci. We love you already!


COMMENTS
To leave a comment about our new dog, or any sort of advice on welcoming an adult farm dog to the city, click here.
Will Ricci's startle reflex calm down? Will she continue to make puddles when scared? Advice welcome and appreciated.

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FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the French and English terms

sans chien = without dog
une ferme = farm
Le Berger Américain = Mini Australian Shepherd 
le tempérament = disposition 
la porte vitrée  = glass door
le bruit = noise
mon loulou, ma louloute = affectionate term for pooch, pup
ma petite puce = my little flea

*Le cannabigérol est un composé de la plante de chanvre. Cannabigerol is a compound found in the hemp plant.

Ricci mini australian shepherd

REMERCIEMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers considering sending in a blog donation for the first time. Your contribution will go a long way not only in backing this journal but also in encouraging me to keep writing. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

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“Thank you for these blogs. They are very helpful.” Kim S.

 “Merci Kristi. I love your charming stories.” Catherine L.

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In the car during the ride home from the farm in Aveyron and, finally, on an evening walk on the beach here in La Ciotat.

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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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


"To get an eyeful" in French: An accidental trip to a “Naturiste” beach

IMG_8861_Original
Amidst fragrant parasol pine trees, see the charming blue umbrellas, lower right, in front of a highly sought-after restaurant and its terrace over the sea. Hiking down toward this turquoise paradise we had no idea it was a "no clothes" cove...  Too late, there was no turning back--not when we'd reserved a table at Chez Jo a week in advance!

To View All Photos, click here to visit the blog

TODAY’S WORD: "se rincer l'oeil" ("to rinse the eye")


    : to get an eyeful, to see too much of something

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last week we traveled back to the area of Cavalaire, for our 29th lune de miel. Our destination was a little over an hour's drive from home, and we made it there by 11 a.m. Jean-Marc kept asking me if I recognized the surroundings, but it had been 20 years since we took the kids here. "Look, there’s Fort Brégançon. Maybe Bribri and Manu will invite us for lunch?" Jean-Marc smiled toward the Presidential vacation residence (and now I can vaguely remember him saying the same when Chirac was president). 

La Plage de Cabasson (with a view of the medieval fortress out at sea) is beautiful at the end of September and its crystal clear waters were almost warm. We walked to the far end of the beach to spread out our towels and put up a large parasol. It felt so good to get into the Mediterranean and wade up and down the shoreline while Jean-Marc snorkled near the rocky outcrop. Drying off, we left our serviettes on the beach and enjoyed lunch at La Cabasse, where I toasted to Jean-Marc: so far this had been 20 sur 20--a top score for his well-planned itinerary. Bravo!

Fort bregancon
View of Fort Brégançon from the mainland, at Plage de Cabasson.

We'll skip talking about our quirky hotel but it may have been a herald for Day Two.... which was set to be the highlight of our trip. Our son Max insisted we go to La Plage du Layet to eat at the incontournable “Chez Jo”. We decided to again bring our towels and parasol for a “free” spot in the cove, and then splurge on lunch at the gourmet restaurant. But as we made our way down into the beach, any excitement about our plans quickly turned to panic when we passed a sign along the path that read "PLAGE NATURISTE"....

"A naturiste beach. Are you kidding me?"

"I had no idea," my husband swore.

"I can't believe this! The restaurant is part of une plage naturiste!"

"We can go somewhere else if you want!" Jean-Marc was as surprised as I was.

I was more annoyed than anything, and that energy made me stubborn: “No! I don't want to go somewhere else!” I wanted to be near the restaurant our son had raved about, where we had made reservations well in advance. There was no backing out now. We'd figure it out when we arrived! 

Hiking around the last bend I saw the restaurant to the right, and to the left a blur of skin...de la peau à gogo.

"Bonjour," I said to the waiter. "We have reservations for lunch. But we'd like to go to the beach first. Do you rent matelas?" We had not planned on springing for lounge chairs, but this was an emergency! Designated chairs could be our ticket to more conventional digs in this unconventional cove.

"Yes," he smiled, pointing to the rental chair area. But none of the clients were dressed there either. Not a single thread anywhere to be seen.

"We'll take those two," I quickly decided, indicating the last two chairs nearest the restaurant. I dropped my bag on the sand and exhaled. I'd already decided I was not stripping down. I'd rather feel the embarrassment of being the only suit-wearing wuss at the beach (and what a suit--it was the same one I brought to Morocco, out of respect for the culture. It covered a lot of ground)!

Forming a human shield, Jean-Marc took the chair nearest the crowd and surprised me by keeping his swim trunks on. (In solidarity? I'll never know for sure.) Next, he grabbed his snorkel mask and confidently strode out to sea, disappearing into the water.

Alone, I fussed with our towels and pretended to be completely at ease as the odd one out. My eyes darted left, then right. Groups of unabashed senior citizens stood along the shoreline, casually chatting. I wanted to get into the water, too, but not if it meant The Walk of Humiliation. My paranoid side was certain the naturists were having a good laugh at my expense. Well then, let them. Qu'ils rigolent!

I shot up and walked with dignity across the shore, and fell quickly into the water. Swimming out far enough, I turned to look back at the beach and got quite an eyeful: sitting, lounging, reading, chatting, and strolling, there was the flock of nudes. And here, dans son maillot uni noir, ONE BLACK SHEEP. 

And what is a black sheep if not a rebel? The thought was amusing enough to carry me confidently through the awkward experience--in time to bare all in a lively story for you today. So hats off (and almost everything else) to the unintended adventures Life brings us.
  

Kristi and Jean-Marc in Lavandou beach

Post Note: What a relief to see everyone put on their clothes for lunch (up until the last minute I couldn't be sure about the restaurant's dress code). After lunch, one other bathing-suited couple showed up, thank God!, and quickly put down towels near ours. Finally, a family of four arrived, and they were quick to sit near us too. 

As for any naturistes who may be reading this now...I hope you are laughing along with me. I leave you with a good address—La Plage du Layet in Cavalaire—for the next time you visit the south of France. Allez-y! 

COMMENTS
To leave a comment, click here. Thanks in advance for your comments or corrections. I appreciate it!

Le Lavendou
Loved visiting the town of Lavandou, and the message on the door "Soyons heureux"--Be Happy. Do you think this one would make a good postcard for the La Carte Postale collection?

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the vocabulary
se rincer l'oeil =
to have an eyeful
la lune de miel = honeymoon
Bribri et Manu = Brigitte and Emmanuel Macron
le parasol = beach umbrella 
la serviette = towel
l'incontournable
= must see
la peau = skin
à gogo = galore
le matelas = lounge chair on the beach
Qu'ils rigolent = they can go ahead and laugh
le maillot uni noir = black one-piece


REMERCIEMENTS 

Thanks in advance to readers considering sending in a blog donation for the first time. Your contribution will go a long way not only in backing this journal but also in encouraging me to keep writing. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Jim B.
Vicki B.
Julie S.
Janet D.
Linda F.
Jennie J.
Linda Kay F. 

“Joyeux anniversaire de marriage! Love your mom’s comment.” Linda F.

"Merci beaucoup Kristi et Jean-Marc! I’ve been looking forward to reading this memoir for over a year and have finally made time." Jennie

Louis John Janet Kristi Jean-Marc Chateau Ferry Lacomb in Trets
Provence Wine Tour near Aix. The weather was spectacular for Jean-Marc's most recent vineyard visit to Chateau Ferry Lacomb in Trets-en-Provence. Many thanks, Louis, Janet, and John for reserving a specialized French wine tour with Jean-Marc. It was lovely to meet you! 


If you are still thinking of moving to France, click the book cover to read about an American family who moves to Nice.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Heartwarming in French: Ana & A Gift for the Birds

Ana and Loca
Today's story is part wedding anniversary, part birthdays, part peanuts, and part people. You have already read a little about Max's girlfriend, and today you'll learn more about Ana (and why we love her).

Are the photos in this newsletter appearing? If not, view all of them here at the blog.

TODAY'S WORD: “Qui réchauffe le cœur”

 : heartwarming, that which warms the heart

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

This week marks 29 years since Jean-Marc and I walked the matrimonial carpet at La Paroisse Saint Antoine de Padoue in Marseilles, inching our way down the cathedral's central passage toward a no-going-back "Oui" or I do!

It is hard to believe almost three decades have passed since tying the knot here in France. I had to laugh, recently, overhearing my husband make a dermatological appointment for each of us, proof we are barreling toward retirement ensemble.
"Chérie," my husband says, putting his hand over the phone. "C'est pour un contrôle, oui?"
"Oui," I nod. Yes, just a checkup.

After making the dreaded yearly appointment, we rejoined our grown kids, including Ana (Max's petite amie whom we've adopted along with her two dogs) on the front porch, for a celebratory lunch. I've got my sunhat on, for prevention and to keep my rosacea at bay, and Jean-Marc has cranked out a fabric awning over our terrasse. These days even he can't tolerate le soleil

As I'm setting the table, Max calls out, "Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes!"
Worms in the peanuts? Mon Dieu! I beeline over to where the kids were enjoying an apéro, to find the jar of nuts slithering. I'm so embarrassed for Ana to see this! As for my kids, it wouldn't be the first time they've found expired food chez nous. And my son is quick to point it out! Honestly, now that it's just Jean-Marc and me at home, the food doesn't circulate as often. (I can't speak for my own Mom, who lives in a studio around the side of our house, with her own pantry and fridge.)

"Max, please toss those peanuts into the compost!" I urged, before escaping to the kitchen to recompose myself. But it was too late, all my sloppy and negligent parts had spilled out into the light of day. Gone was the cool urban housewife-writer I may have been trying to impersonate; in her place, a negligent nut (that is to say I should've been seated outside with my family, instead the lively nuts took center stage). 

Returning to the front patio, still red in the face (not from rosacea this time...) I found Max, Jackie, and Ana on the ground, beside a few small piles of peanut shells. Nearby, dans les parages, a flock of familiar doves paced back and forth in anticipation.

"What are you guys doing?" 

"We are preparing the peanuts for the birds," Ana explained, heading The Stale Peanut Initiative.

"But you don't have to bother with that..."

"Ce n'est rien," Ana assured me.

"But the worms..."

"The birds love them!" Ana pointed out. Beside her, Max sat on the gravel, using the kitchen scissors to cut up the rubbery cacahuètes--and Ana and Jackie were using their fingers to break up the peanuts. As for the slithering vermin? Même pas peur! The industrious trio was too busy feeding the hungry to worry about a few unsavory visitors.

In the end, the kidults cracked every nut (even this one, who overcame the embarrassment). Those stale legumes became fodder for the doves that have been struggling since the drought. It was heartwarming to see these young people salvaging those peanuts. They could have easily chucked them into the compost, instead, they considered the birds.  

“Look at those beautiful kids. You and Jean-Marc are truly blessed. Happy anniversary!” Jules raised her glass and sipped some champagne from the apéro, as I updated her on all the activity out in the yard. 

After our 29th anniversary lunch, a day after Mom’s 77th birthday, I brought out the chocolate cake Jean-Marc had chosen for Jackie’s birthday and we sang Joyeux Anniversaire to our daughter who recently turned 26. What a week of special days! It was a lot to keep up with. No wonder those worms slinked by unnoticed. This cool urban housewife’s been busy with more important things, like writing about all these blessings.


    COMMENTS: To comment, click here

 
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Les Tourterelles and Izzy the Beagle.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce these words:

Qui réchauffe le coeur =
heartwarming
Ensemble
= together
Chérie, Cheri = dear
pour un contrôle = for a checkup 
La petite amie = girlfriend 
la terrasse = patio
le soleil = sun
Maman, il y a des vers dans les cacahuètes! = Mom there are worms in the peanuts!
l’apéro
= before dinner drinks and munchies
chez nous = at our place
ce n’est rien = it’s nothing
la cacahuète = peanut 
même pas peur = it doesn’t scare me
la tourterelle = dove, turtledove
Joyeux anniversaire! = happy birthday! 

Mom walking Kristi down the aisle
Mom walked me down the aisle in her black tuxedo. To the right, my French mom, Christine, who hosted me during my 1989 exchange program in Lille, France.

Kristi Ingham Jean-Marc Espinasse
September 24, 1994. At the evening celebration and dinner, after our church wedding

REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to readers who recently sent in a blog donation, jumpstarting the fall season of future stories and vocabulary. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal week after week. Ça réchauffe le cœur! --Kristi

Rob B.
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Marcy W.
Kathleen B.

"Thanks for the time you take to write your blog and share your stories." Marcy W.

"Thanks Kristi for always making France come alive and transporting me there." Ellen H.

“Bonjour, Kristin. How impressive that you remember my aspirations to learning several languages. I have recently begun an online class (live, with other students!) in Norwegian with hopes of improving my conversational abilities. Maintaining my low level of French is mostly reading your missives, for which I am truly grateful! This year I did get to use my Spanish in Mazatlan, and my Japanese in (you guessed it) Japan, and those fluencies added a great deal to the enjoyment of both trips. Even decades after my formal studies, I have somehow been lucky enough to remember a surprising amount. "Foreign" languages have really added a lot to the quality of my life, and thanks for being part of it.” Ginny B.

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse 2023
Here’s to our anniversary! I loved my Mom’s comment after she realized how long Jean-Marc and I have been married:
“29 years? That’s a record, Honey. Most people have married 3 or 4 times by then!” Sacré Mama Jules. (Jules, you are one of a kind, xoxo)

Click on the book cover, above, to discover a new, French-themed read for the week.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Vineyard tour & lunch Châteauneuf-du-Pape with my Little Sister

Kelley Brad and Fraternity brothers  and wives
One of the prestations Jean-Marc offers within his wine business is Provence vineyard tours. Sometimes I get to join him--especially when my sister is the customer! Read on in today’s histoire.

TODAY'S WORD: La Prestation

    : a service, offering, performance

Translation of opening sentence into French:
L'une des prestations que Jean-Marc propose dans le cadre de son entreprise autour du vin est la visite de vignobles.

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

C’est la rentrée and Jean-Marc’s vineyard tours are off to a promising start this fall season thanks to an unexpected client: ma soeurette. (Not to be confused with ma soeur aînée, Heidi in Denver.)

My little sister Kelley, her husband, Brad, his 5 fraternity brothers, and their wives are here visiting from Seattle, renting connected villas in Roussillon. Because the group shares an appreciation of fine wines, mon beau-frère et petite soeur asked Jean-Marc to show them some typical southern French wine estates.

Mais avec plaisir!

Last Friday in Châteauneuf-du-Pape the skies were a rich Provencal blue and the air refreshing after the recent canicule. Fields of leafy green vines flanked the narrow chemin leading up to the partly-standing chateau. Cruising towards this historic landmark, we were suddenly engulfed in a familiar scene: tractors, buckets, secateurs, and vendangeurs…. This visceral environment we were now experiencing was none other than our old stomping grounds—et c’est le cas de le dire.

Excited to be back during harvest time, I lowered my window to inhale the scent of crushed grapes as Jean-Marc sped toward the chateau ruins, where our tour was about to begin. 

Entering the Southern Rhone village from the north side, Uncle Jean-Claude's caveau, came into view and it was like passing through a movie set. This part of town was untouched, as one had left it decades ago…. From the passenger seat I recognized the patina of old stone buildings which filed by in a blur of nostalgie. What a privilege it was to have spent so much time here during harvest--even if, back then, the overriding feeling was when are we going to stop picking grapes for the day? And stop sniffing for "la pourriture" or Noble Rot?

IMG_8640_Original
Here we were back, now, as tourists, having swapped our grape-stained t-shirts and caps for linen and straw hats. Pulling into the chateau parking lot I spotted my sister Kelley! A giant hug soon bridged our one-year separation. My brother-in-law, Brad, joined us, followed by his fraternity brothers and their wives. After a warm introduction, Jean-Marc stood in front of the massive ruins of the old castle for a brief history about Châteauneuf-du-Pape terroir and an overview of our imminent excursion…and just like that we were off to the grape fields, in a curious convoy of three rental cars and one all-terrain vehicle

On the way, we passed through Châteauneuf-du-Pape again, via le centre ville. How it had changed! I saw high-tech cellars, modern cafes, and chic boutiques. No time to shop we were headed for Le Bois de Boursin, to see Syrah vines planted among large galets roulés. Carefully stepping out of our vehicles, I noticed all the ladies made it across the large, smooth stones in their sandals, which meant the next two fields would only be easier to navigate (for the girls anyway... as for the rental cars we’d see about that….).

Pulling into the next lieu-dit, "Grand Pierre" (to witness Grenache in sandy soil) wasn’t a problem. But when it came time for all four cars to back out of the narrow path at the top of the field, that took skill (one thing the fraternity brothers were actively demonstrating. But were they ready for the final challenge?).

On our way out of Le Grand Devès (having viewed Mourvèdre planted among limestone) Jean-Marc and I, in our 4x4 Jimny, headed the convoy. Suddenly the dirt path turned into a deeply-creviced, rocky, inhospitable terrain. “Jean-Marc,” I said between clenched teeth, “I don't think this is a road…at least not for rental cars!” Glancing into the rearview mirror, I could see the rest of our group through the dust, bobbing up and down when miraculously those cars morphed into hot rods! I guess they were determined to finally taste the world-renown wines they’d been hearing about for the past hour. 

IMG_8646_Original

A BARREL TASTING AND MICHELIN-STAR LUNCH
At the recently-acquired Château Maucoil, owner Bernard DuSeigneur offered our dusty group a warm welcome, followed by a barrel tasting in the cellars. He then escorted us back to the chateau’s terrace, to a long table set with fine linens and adorned with greenery from the gardens—a beautiful backdrop for the 5-course meal to come. We were amazed this vineyard owner, along with three helpers and one lively chef, would be serving us throughout this mouthwatering déjeuner sur la terrace.

I could go into detail about every bite—the soupe au pistou that rivaled my belle-mere’s, the delicate cod on a bed of fennel and seaweed, the roasted guinea hen cooked in the estate's wine, the artful cheese plate and its zucchini-ribbons—but the chef merits the extended commentaire. Animated, flirtatious, and full of saucy anecdotes, Jean-Claude Altmayer was what my belle-mère would call sacré—as in sacré Jean-Claude. I’ve never entirely understood the meaning of that word, but never mind. Here we were immersed in one sacré experience, among family and new friends including the vineyard owner himself.

We raised our glasses, toasting to a return to this magnificent table in three years' time….I hope everyone will rent four-wheel drives then. Who knows where Jean-Marc will take us next?

*       *       *

Table at Chateau Maucoil

Bernard DuSeigneur Kelley  Kristi vineyard lunch
Bernard DuSeigneur serving his wine from Chateau Maucoil on this lovely terrace with a view.

Kristi and Kelley
A smiley ouistiti for our father, Kip from Kristi and Kelley.

COMMENTS
To comment on today's story, click here. Would love to know the town you are writing in from!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
The definitions, below, are in context, and the words may have multiple meanings.

Language pronunciation: Click here to listen to the French and English terms

la prestation = service
l’histoire = story
c’est la rentrée = it’s back to work
la soeurette = younger sister
la soeur aînée = older sister
le beau-frère
= brother-in-law
la canicule = heatwave
le chemin = road
le vendangeur
= harvester
c'est le cas de le dire = you can say that again
le caveau = cellar
le terroir = soil, land
le centre ville =
town center
le galet roulé =
pebble
le lieu-dit
= location, site, locale
sacré = 1. quite the character (person)
sacré (repas)= 2. On hell of a (meal)
Ouistiti! = Cheese! ("smile for the photo")

Jean-Marc Espinasse barrel tasting chateau maucoil
Would you like to join Jean-Marc on a Provence Wine Tour? Click here or simply hit return and send a note if reading this via email.


REMERCIEMENTS

Wholehearted thanks to readers who sent in a blog donation following last week's post. Your support means a lot, and I am truly grateful! Amicalement, Kristi


Al K.
Walt S.
Jean P.
Roger K.
Rajeev B.
Susan B.
Share G.
Carol T.
Linda W.
Susan W.
Joanne D.
Jeanine W.
Margaret M.
Rosemary R.
Natalia & Rod & Les Mignons

“Kristi, Merci beaucoup pour French Word-A-Day!” Margaret

"Thank you for all you do, Kristi! From Ottawa, Canada, with love."  Susan (another Friend of Bill's)

“I so appreciate your postings, photos, comments, insights, your sharing general. You keep me going! I agree, too much is indeed trepidant these days. Take care!” Jean P.

"To thank you for sharing your life, your courage, and because I can pretend I'm in France every time your blog comes out. Amicalment." Carol T.

IMG_1426
Harvesting grapes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape when the kids were little.

Jackie in chateauneuf-du-pape
Happy birthday to Jackie who turned 26 on Monday! Here she is some 20 years earlier in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. To comment on this post, click here if reading via email.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Trépidant: French for hectic + Things we can't control....

Calananque in La Ciotat
The sea and coastline, or littoral, in La Ciotat, France

TODAY'S WORD: TRÉPIDANT

    : frantic, hectic, chaotic, turbulent
    : exciting, thrilling, exhilarating

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse


Out on a morning walk with Izzy The Pocket Beagle, my mind jumps from thought to unrelated thought: Does organic milk have growth hormones? Do readers unsubscribe when I write about non-French-related topics? Is it time to rename my blog to better reflect the theme of my writing? What about an anti-depressant? Should I wash that gray right out of my hair?

So much mind talk! As I walk, I am aware of a high-level anxiety that has moved in lately. Is it that second cup of coffee? Or could it be hormonale? Though September is a little trépidant, what with la rentrée, there is nothing particularly stressful going on in my life. I'm just frustrated about goals that are not being reached on time (everything from home improvement to health). Struggling to get in my morning steps, tugging at Must Sniff Everything Izzy, yet another idea materializes, pushing aside all the other flotsam in my mind: Même effort. Même resultat.

Same effort. Same result.

Could it be that I am not really making enough of an effort when it comes right down to it? Argh! With that thought, my anxiety ramps up a notch...and I walk, and I walk! Rounding a corner we come to an abrupt halt when Izzy decides to pee in front of la boulangerie. I watch the deep golden puddle begin to trickle down the sidewalk, aware that no amount of effort could pick that up. This liquid mess is suddenly symbolic of Things Impossible to Handle. Things out of our control. Perhaps même effort = même résultat isn’t the only equation.

"Lord, I turn this ALL over to you. All of it. Everything from le pipi to the need to achieve. It is in your mighty hands. Amen." 

Looking out over the golden-trickled boardwalk, I notice a woman d'un certain âge in the glittering turquoise bay. Wading waist-deep in the sea, she's wearing a large floppy hat and pushing a purple donut-shaped raft. Inside there's a scrawny Chihuahua. I am not sure what the lord has in mind with this lively image that followed my prayer, but now that I've settled down to describe it I think I might be that Chihuahua. And Lord, you know who you are. You are the one pushing this little purple boat, la paix qui dépasse toute compréhension.

    *    *    * 

Izzy on blue arm chair
Izzy in the blue fauteuil.

COMMENTS
To comment on today's post click here. Your edits are much appreciated too. Thank you!

REMERCIEMENTS 

Thanks in advance to readers considering sending in a blog donation for the first time. Your contribution will go a long way not only in backing this journal but also in encouraging me to keep this publication going. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi



FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French 

le littoral = coastline
trépidant = hectic
hormonale = hormonal
la rentrée = back to school, back to work
même effort. même resultat = same effort. same result
la boulangerie = bakery
le pipi = pee
d'un certain âge = of a certain age
la paix qui dépasse toute compréhension = the peace that passes all understanding  

Morocco seaside boat
From our coastline to yours, Morocco you are in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the citizens of Morocco following the devastating earthquake last Friday, near Marrakech. We are saddened and sorry for the anguish and loss Moroccans are experiencing.  

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Bonne rentrée: Happy return to work or school (or a new fall season)

Dog on the beach in Cannes France Le Goeland plage
Returning to work or to school or real life demands after summer break? France wishes you Bonne rentrée. Some lucky dogs are still in vacation mode, though.  Photo taken in Cannes, where Jackie and I stopped after Villefranche. In the following story from the archives, Jackie is 16 and on her way back to school.... Le temps vole! Be sure to read to the end for a personal update and photo.

TODAY'S PHRASE: "bonne rentrée"

    : Happy back-to-school! Enjoy the new school year!

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

The following entry is from the 2014 archives. I took a trip down memory lane reading it, recently, and hope you'll enjoy the uplifting message and some more of Mom's wisdom.... 

This morning, and for the first time since summer began, I woke up in a pitch-dark room. Gone was the comforting view of the forest and with it the daily wake-up ritual of searching for my favorite tree (the old umbrella pine at the top of the hill. When I focus on the curve of that arbre I see the outline of a giant heart. Any anxieties that woke up with me disappear beneath the promise of that tree).

This morning no light, no forest, no heart. The buzz of Jean-Marc's réveil jolted our family into a new reality: la rentrée! Back-to-school for our daughter (the remaining fledgling in our nest) means a new schedule for everyone. No more sleeping in 'till seven. No more pep talks with Mr. Pin Parasol. Funny how...with the pursuit of a dream, whether writing or winemaking...each day feels like the first day of class, and, waking to the uncertainty of the next 24 hours, we are like small children approaching the giant gates of the schoolyard. Shaking in our boots as we stumble forth, into the unknown. A new day.

Recently even a big-hearted pine tree could not coax me out of bed. You know the old ditty: Mama said there'd be days like this, there'd be days like this my mama said....

Yes, but just what did Mama say to do on days like this? To find out the answer I called my Mama and here is what she said: "Focus on others, not yourself!" The message was delivered firmly but with love.

Facing a new work day, I sucked up and wrote about another's pain, sharing my mother-in-law's situation instead of my own. Next, my thoughts traveled over to you, dear reader, and how you are surely experiencing "days like this." I wondered, Did you, too, dial up my Mom, who gave you the same answer: "Focus on another!" Because that would explain the outpouring of support following the previous post. I did not expect so much sympathy over a seemingly unsentimental subject: email. You must have read between the lines of the story -- when suddenly a heart came into focus

I'm looking out my bedroom window now and the big-hearted tree is finally coming into view. Ouf! It's back! And with it a new day. But I didn't want this day to end before sending you a sincere remerciement. Thank you so much for looking past your own pain and focusing on another's. Your empathy is deeply touching!

This post was supposed to be about back-to-school and the French penchant for wishing everyone bonne rentrée, or happy first day of classes. But we haven't gone too far off theme: "Happy return," after all, is the universal topic, the bonne rentrée everyone's talking about. Yes, many happy returns! May each day be a new day--with new hope and new courage for all. Whatever is hurting you, let it gently blend into this friendly forest and reappear as the giant heart of compassion: the balm to heal all wounds. Bon courage.

Amicalement,

Kristi

Post Note: The entry, above, was written during our first years at Mas de Brun, our second vineyard and the subject of our memoir The Lost Gardens.

COMMENTS
To read the comments or to leave one, click here. I enjoy reading your updates and appreciate your corrections to my text.
 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to us read the French & English vocabulary

Bonne rentrée = Welcome back to school!
le temps vole
= time flies
un arbre
 = tree
le réveil = alarm clock
la rentrée = when the summer is over, return to school
le pin parasol = umbrella pine
ouf! = phew!
un remerciement = thanks
bon courage! = good luck!
amicalement = yours, best wishes 

 

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com
An old class photo with students from La Ciotat, France

REMERCIEMENTS 
Mille mercis to the following readers who sent in a donation following last week's entry. This truly is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!

Cate S.
Lori R.
Lynn K.
Betsy F.
Diane C.-C.

Mazzie W.

“You bring me joy reading about all your encounters, for all these years.” Betsy 

“Hello Kristi. Look forward every week to reading your journal Keep safe.” Mazzie

"I'm enjoying rereading Words in a French Life and tales of your early days in France when the children were young!" Lynn 


MORE ABOUT BONNE RENTREE
by Chatgpt

"Bonne rentrée" is a commonly used French expression that translates to "good back-to-school" or "happy return." It is typically used in France and other French-speaking countries to wish someone well as they return to school or work after a break, such as summer vacation or a holiday.

This phrase is often heard in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year in September, and it reflects the sentiment of encouragement and positivity for the upcoming academic or work-related challenges. It's a way for people to express their hope that the return to daily routines and responsibilities will be successful and enjoyable.

"Bonne rentrée" can be used in various contexts:

1. **Informal Conversations**: Parents may use it to wish their children a good start to the school year. Friends and colleagues may also exchange this expression to offer encouragement and support as they resume their regular activities after a break.

2. **In the Workplace**: Colleagues might use it to greet each other as they return to work after a holiday or vacation. It helps create a positive and welcoming atmosphere.

3. **School Environment**: Teachers may use it to welcome students on the first day of school, and students might say it to each other to express good wishes for the academic year ahead.

4. **In Social Media**: It's not uncommon to see "Bonne rentrée" posted on social media platforms by individuals, schools, or organizations as a way of marking the return to regular schedules.

Overall, "Bonne rentrée" is a simple yet meaningful expression in French culture that reflects the emphasis on education and work-life balance. It's a way to encourage and motivate individuals as they transition back into their daily routines, and it serves as a reminder that new beginnings can be filled with opportunities and positivity.

Izzy the pocket beagle and Kristi under some palm trees in la Ciotat
Izzy and Me under some local palm trees. I am still dog-sitting and enjoying the company of this pocket-size beagle. Also, this week I fudged a little (Cette semaine, j'ai un peu esquivé) by posting a story from the archives and breaking a months-long streak of “one new story per week.” You would think the break would be refreshing, but, like a kid who ditches class (or an employee who takes a sick day from work) I spent my time ruminating about the consequences. Can you relate? And what are those real or imagined consequences? I'm going to title the above photo "Focus on the Horizon"--another of Mom's wonderful bits of wisdom. Just keep your eyes on the prize and whatever is below that skyline--don't give it too much time!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Faute de Frappe: Funny Surprise After My Dad Hits the Wrong Button

Autumn fall leaves salon de the in lyon france
By the time the leaves turn gold in Lyon, we'll be meeting up with part of my American family. Read about our virtual meetup in today's story, and pick up a host of new French words.

TODAY’S WORD: UNE FAUTE DE FRAPPE

    : typing error,
    : error made when hitting the wrong button

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I wish I had a written transcript of our accidental family video chat, week before last. The surprising live conference began when my dad tried ringing me via Messenger and, d’un coup, several family members burst onto the screen--POP! POP! POP!--one by one appearing before us en temps réel...

POP! - My little sister manifested from her living room in Washington State. I could almost hear the crabs snapping their claws on Shaw Island where Kelley and her husband Brad (also visible) catch them.

POP! - And there was my daughter in Lyon, hair tied back and wearing stylish non-prescription glasses. Was she at school?

POP! - Then suddenly my husband popped onto l’écran! Beyond Jean-Marc's seatbelt, just past his left shoulder, I could see the familiar landscape of the Southern French Alps as he drove north for a week of hiking and biking. 

These sudden POPS were followed by a couple of POTENTIAL POPS as Jules, Heidi, Max, my nephew Payne, and niece Reagan were being automatically dialed up in La Ciotat, Denver, and Boulder. Mon Dieu! I felt the need to warn my mother and my sister of their imminent exposure. Au fait.... Was Mom entirely dressed? (Slim chance in this heatwave!) And Heidi…Just where would she be? Hopefully not in the W.-C.! No use transferring my own insecurities onto others--besides it was too late, here we were, THE ORIGINAL POPS, staring at each other, wondering what the heck had just happened. Indeed, qu'est-ce qui vient de se passer?

UNE FAUTE DE FRAPPE...
"Hi Dad. Hi Everyone!" I giggled. “Dad, did you accidentally hit the ‘Family’ tab?” (That's the name of our Messenger chat group. We use it for sending each other photos, updates, and milestones. But this time, with his unintentional frappe, Dad was teleporting his kin into a live conference!)

"I don't know,” my father replied, in his characteristic innocence and étonnement. “I was just trying to call you." Dad was referring to our weekly appel, the one he’s affectionately dubbed "Coffee with Kristi”, but today's call with all the gang was more like Happy Hour! All we needed was champagne… and sparkling water pour moi.

As we smiled at each other, a little tongue-tied from the surprise, Brad chimed in with news about his and Kelley's upcoming visit to France, and would Jackie be available to dine with them in Lyon? 

Jackie lit up, "Oh, I’d love to! Avec plaisir!" And just like that the screen came alive with conversation.

I sat back and enjoyed seeing my family’s faces, thinking it amazing how quickly we’d all showed up to this unscheduled party. And how easy it would be to reach everyone again if ever in need or—soyons fous!—just spontaneously.

Maybe that’s what Dad was thinking when he “accidentally” hit the wrong button and POP! POP! POP! POP! he got a sudden burst of smiling faces in return. It all just goes to show that, sometimes, it pays to throw caution to the wind… and hit the Family Button.

This one's for you, Dad, OUR ORIGINAL POP❤️.  


COMMENTS
To leave a comment, or to read one, click here. My Dad, who is hopefully reading, enjoys a brief weather report so please include one along with the city you’re writing in from. Merci. Click here to comment.

Dad and family
Une faute de frappe led to everyone in this picture (except Max) being virtually teleported into our live video conference. Left to right: Max, Dad, Brad, my belle-mère Marsha, Jackie, Kelley, Me, and Jean-Marc. 

Below: A screenshot of the message I sent after our chat ended. (Re “Marsha joined the chat”: Dad shares his account with my belle-mère Marsha.)

Screenshot of video chat

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Click here to listen to the French words

une faute de frappe = a typing error
d’un coup = all at once, in one go
en temps réel = real time, instantly
l'écran = computer, phone screen
Mon Dieu! = My God!
le W.-C. = water closet (bathroom)
au fait = by the way
Qu'est-ce qui vient de se passer? = what just happened?
un appel = phone call
l’étonnement = surprise
pour moi = for me
avec plaisir = with pleasure
Soyons fous = be a little wild, be a little crazy
la belle-mère = stepmother

REMERCIEMENTS

Mille mercis to the readers listed below who have recently sent in blog donations, or purchased our memoir--or bought postcards! Your contributions go a long way in not only backing this journal but also in inspiring me to maintain my writing momentum during the summer break. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Sue W.
Joan C.
Joan L.
Patty C.

Leslie B.
Judith L.
Sandra D.
Kitty W.P.
Suzanne P.
Jacquelin H.
Marshall & Caroline M.

"Our dear Kristi, wishing you & Jackie many more delightful getaways! xox" Patty C.

"…avec des câlins pour la façon dont vos splendides écrits nous enrichissent." Kitty W.P.

365666129_2139106209779351_6294804017322448205_n
My son Max, up to his usual shenanigans--cuz Mom can't have enough hats!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Soyons fous! A Mother-Daughter Trip to La Côte d’Azur

Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer, where Jackie and I spent three days last week.

TODAY'S EXPRESSION: SOYONS FOUS

  let's be crazy" or "let's be wild". 

Soyons fous is a playful and light-hearted expression that encapsulates the idea of taking risks, having fun, and embracing the unexpected. It's a reminder that life is short and should be lived with enthusiasm and a willingness to explore new horizons.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Pour la cinquième fois, ever since our first trip together to Paris when she was 16, Jackie and I had the pleasure of experiencing a mother-daughter getaway. On Monday, my girl at the wheel of our Suzuki Jimny, we headed East along the A8 motorway, direction La Côte d’Azur. What should have been a 2-hour drive turned into 4 given “le traf” as we jokingly called it, though le trafic didn’t seem so long in Jackie’s company.

The moment I put my daughter in charge of this mini vacation, Jackie decided on a 3-day stay in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I had given my 25-year-old a budget and a green light to select our hébergement but she surprised me by making lunch and dinner reservations, too—including an evening in Monaco! It was time to let go of my purse strings and practice the French art of leisure and enjoyment, and there was something to celebrate as well:

“You have made it to midterm, Chouchou! Look how far you have come. I’m so proud of you!”

Six months ago Jackie made the decision to leave bartending and study UI (or User Interface Design). Her swift vocational changes (from Fashion design to bartending to web design may have given me whiplash, but each seemingly unrelated étape is bringing her closer to her field, or to a field of possibilities. Already, this 10-month intensive computer design course in Lyon has given her a host of useful and technical skills, from website creation and coding to logo design.

As we drive East towards the Riviera at a snail’s pace, I notice all the logos along the autoroute, and Jackie and I tchatche about everything from design to user experience (something we’ll soon be laughing about when we “experience” our hotel room…).

Our stay at Hôtel le Versailles began with a birdbath (for me) at the sink after our room’s shower was too complicated to operate, in spite of the hotel’s laminated diagram (a clue we weren’t the only befuddled bathers). Next, it was the light switches, les interupteurs, which didn’t correspond to the lamps and the plugs which were few and far between. None of the switches on the hairdryer worked, making me think it was the fault of the plugs again when really it was a matter of locating the push-button on the back. Mais bien sûr…but then why not eliminate (as most hotels do) all the other buttons for clarity? The electric blind couldn’t be raised…until we finally located the switch (yards away from the window, above my nightstand. No wonder my reading lamp didn’t work). Because the hotel was historic, and the staff, kind, we overlooked all these design flops and, instead, had a good laugh with each new discovery.

That first night we dined beneath the stars at Les Garçons, a 10-minute walk from the hotel. The braised beef over mashed potatoes was delicious and filling, so when the waiter presented the dessert menu there was some hesitation until, with a devilish smile he exclaimed “Soyons fous!” Go ahead. Be wild and crazy! Have some dessert.

From then on, soyons fous became the catchphrase of our escapade

Soyons fous! And so we threw caution to the wind, ordering the Menu du Château in Eze…
Soyons fous! And splurged on paninis at The Jasmin Grill & Lounge in Beaulieu-sur-Mer...
Soyons fous! And drove to Monaco for reservations at Sexy Tacos--this, after Jackie won at the Casino (that's a whole nother story)!

Gripping the passenger door as my daughter navigated our mère-fille adventure, I tried not to worry about accidents or the money being spent. And when we cruised past the morgue and a lonely cemetery, ça y est, I knew this carefree time with my youngest was as priceless as life itself.

As if reading my mind, Jackie said, “If I die before you j'aimerais être incinérée.” The unexpected comment, coming from a healthy young woman, was halting. This many days later I am all choked up remembering the conversation in which, for a moment, we stopped to think about death and a life without each other.

“Oh, Jackie. It is hard to talk about la mort (pronouncing it now, I’m struck by how similar it sounds to l’amour, or love). Taking a deep breath, I copied my youngest’s wishes. “I would like to be cremated too.”

There!  We'd said it!  “It is all such a mystery, Sweetie. All I want when we are gone…is to find each other on the other side…two heart-shaped bubbles floating through space!”

In the meantime here we are in the heart-shaped present moment. With a reminder to seize the day. Soyons fous!  My wallet is empty but this mini-vacation with my daughter was worth every penny. And after a cathartic conversation in our car my spirit is bouncing again, comme une bulle d’amour bridging the gap between now and The Ever After. I am a little less fearful of the unknown. After all, “There is no fear in love.”*


*1 John 4:18   

COMMENTS
To read the comments or to leave one, click here. Include your town or city and a weather report (my Dad, if he's reading, will appreciate it and so will I!). Click here to comment.

IMG_7835_Original

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the soundfile of all the French

soyons fous!
= Be wild! Be crazy!
pour la cinquième fois = for the fifth time
la Côté d’Azur = “The Blue Coastline,” The French Riviera
le trafic  = traffic
l’hébergement = accommodation, lodgings
Les Garçons = The Waiters, The Guys
une escapade = getaway
le chouchou/ la chouchoute = the favorite 
une étape = a step (in a process)
tchatche (tchatcher) = to chat 
l’interrupteur = light switch
mais bien sûr = but of course
le panini = grilled sandwich 
ça y est! = that’s it!
la mort = death
l’amour = love
une bulle d’amour = a bubble of love

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REMERCIEMENTS 

I want to extend a big thank you to the readers listed below who have recently sent in blog donations. Your contributions go a long way in not only backing this journal but also in inspiring me to maintain my writing momentum during the summer break. Your support means a lot, and I'm truly grateful. Amicalement, Kristi

Mary T.
Sally B.
Betty R.
Linda G.

David C.
Heather H.

Suzanne D.
Bernadette G.

Natalia,Rod and Mignons

“Que cet petit pourboire vous encouragerez de continuer.” David C.

"Thank you for your always wonderful posts!! Your words never fail to touch our hearts! Blessings always Calins et bises!" Natalia,Rod and Mignons

"I enjoyed The Lost Gardens. Both you and Jean-Marc chronicled your Life Journey with such candor and honesty. Your descriptive writing styles kept me reading and cheering you on." Bernadette G.

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Jackie. 

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At Les Garçons

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


A Funny Nickname for “Dog” in French

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In French, the term "patate” is sometimes used to describe an animal that is very cute and has a very endearing character. Dogs and cats are known for their sweetness and affectionate side, and that is why they are often nicknamed "potato." (French translation below)

TODAY'S WORD: “la patate”

   : potato 

Enfin, le terme « patate » est parfois utilisé pour décrire un animal qui est très mignon et qui a un caractère très attachant. Les chiens et les chats sont connus pour leur douceur et leur côté affectueux, et c'est pourquoi ils sont souvent surnommés « patate » —Kingpet.fr


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

"Les Patates (The Potatoes)"

This month we are sharing our home with two little dogs, Izzy (pronounced "Easy") and Loca— otherwise known as “Les Patates.” The chiens belong to our son's girlfriend, Ana, who lives in Montpellier but braves many aller-retours to La Ciotat to be near Max. And because Max temporarily moved back in with us after renting out his snazzy apartment to tourists, we have le jeune couple here at home along with the dogs. 

Though I am a dog-lover, I didn't have an instant connection with these two toutous. I think any hesitation was more on the part of the dogs than on me. They only seemed interested in me when I was eating. Perhaps that is where they get their amusing surnom? (Ana calls them Les Patates which means “The Potatoes” in colloquial French.)

“Foodies” could just as easily be a surnom for these little sausages—given their ability to instantly manifest at the sound of a wrapper, or any ear-raising inking of food. 

As for me, I call them “Les Filles”, even if they are more like Les Mémés, or grandmas—hard of hearing and with cataracts. It took several visits before one of the girls eventually warmed to me. That is how Izzy (the 10-year-old pocket beagle) became my favorite, or le chouchou. I began to notice how sweet she is, how she'll eventually give you a kiss if you lean down and repeat "bisous" enough times, and how she wags her tail like a puppy when passing strangers on the street. 

After having two big dogs, I am seeing many advantages of small ones: they're easier to handle when out on a walk and they are moins encombrants (not that dogs could ever take up too much space in our lives, could they?). Compactness is a plus when it comes to hosting a couple of canines along with extra company (did I mention our daughter is home for vacation, too?).

As things get busier, messier, and louder around our household this summer, I have discovered an unexpected connection with the second dog, Loca, the French bulldog-Jack Russell mix. She too needs a room of her own, and blankets and snacks and YouTube when the world begins to hurl and whirl around her. Like that, one morning, the two of us found ourselves cuddled up in bed when a familiar feeling returned to me after a year sans chien: la paix.

There is something so calming about a dog snuggled by one’s side. Dogs are like comfort food, they nourish us in ways a healthy diet can’t. They fill and refuel us like a humble potato. Perhaps that is why the French call them “les patates”….

🐾   🐾   🐾   🐾   🐾

COMMENTS
Thanks in advance for your comments which are the icing on the cake of this edition! I love to read your words and learn so much from you (including spelling and grammar--so don't hesitate to send in a correction). Click here to leave a comment.

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A tomato on the left and a “potato” on the right. Loca, enjoying the front porch.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English

la patate = potato
le chien = dog
l’aller-retour = round trip 
le jeune couple = the young couple
le toutou = dog
le surnom = nickname
les filles = the girls 
les mémés = the grandmas
le chouchou = the favorite
le bisous = kiss
moins encombrant = less in the way
sans chien = without dog
la paix = peace

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Max and Izzy

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Izzy, Loca, and me at the beach

REMERCIEMENTS

Un grand merci to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation. Your contributions not only support this journal, but they also motivate me to keep on keeping on writing through summertime. Thank you! --Kristi

Pat S.
Ann B.
Greer B.
Judy W.
Alicia A.

Nancy J.
Linda H.
Linda S.
Renee D.
Nancy G.
Marsha C.
Kathryn K.
Karmen K.

“Just finished The Lost Gardens. I am so glad you and your husband wrote this book!” Nancy G.
"Thank you Kristi - I look forward to your writings each week!" Pat S.
“I always enjoy your posts - the more French you include, the better.” Judy W.

Izzy loca Jules
Loca, Issy, and my Mom, cuddling

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety