Expats We Love: Véronique
In the creation of this blog, personally connecting with other bloggers and francophiles was a top priority. Nearly a year later, and that hasn’t changed! Chatting France with anyone is definitely fun, but when that same enthusiasm is reciprocated, the feeling is downright magical. As such, in the infancy of À La Prochaine, I began to introduce myself to a fantastic network of bloggers who each offer a unique perspective to the overall francophile conversation. My first exchange was with the fabulous Véronique, blogger for French Girl in Seattle. Frankly, she had me at ‘Bonjour’. Even more impressive- when it comes to France travel, Véronique knows her stuff. A French native herself, she’s sure to give readers authentic information that can’t be found in the average travel guide. Through her personal adventures, historic anecdotes, and daily experiences, Véronique demonstrates an unapologetic, unbridled appreciation for la belle France, which leaves her followers always wanting more. As luck would permit, Véronique graciously agreed to take a little time out of her busy schedule to chat, and I am so thrilled to share her insight with you. Without further delay…
Je vous présente , Véronique!
- What inspired you to pursue travel as a hobby? Was there a particular moment?
Thank you for contacting me, Jessica. I am honored, and how much fun!
I planned to work in the travel industry, but followed another path. Still, most of my jobs have been related to travel and intercultural learning somehow. Travel has always been part of my life. I blame my parents who kept moving our family around France every 4 or 5 years for professional reasons. My brother and I learned early on to hit the road, explore new places and meet new people. We spent part of our summers in Spain. Even if my family eventually settled down in Paris, I had caught the travel bug. After traveling around the UK and the US for years, (the connection was, of course, my passion for the English language,) I relocated to Seattle; and I still travel, domestically or internationally, every chance I get. Blogging and managing a Facebook community have enabled me to indulge in my guilty pleasure even when I am not actually on the road. I either travel, or I write about travel. La vie est belle. 🙂
- What were some of the cultural differences that shocked you most when you came to the United States? Did you find it difficult to assimilate?
I was 18 the first time I came to the US, a graduation gift from my parents. I visited my pen pal in Greensboro, NC. It was the first of many visits to the South, (I later studied in college in Atlanta for a year.) I remember being pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and friendly everyone was, the famous southern hospitality! I also remember being somewhat puzzled the first couple of times someone threw a greeting at me, “Hi, how are you?” but did not wait for my reply and just walked on. When eating out, I could not believe how many questions a waitress would ask during the order: “What size?” “What dressing?” “bottle or can?” Wheat, white, sourdough?” “with everything on it?” – It seemed each answer would prompt two more questions. I had just been introduced to the land of customization. 🙂 As for assimilating, I don’t recall it was a problem. I loved that first visit, and all the ones that followed, whether as a tourist, or as a tour leader for companies specializing in global education. By the time I relocated to Seattle many years later, I was so familiar with the culture and the language, there weren’t any real hurdles.
- Is there anything in specific that you miss most about living in France?
My family, without a doubt. I come from a Mediterranean background, and have a large, close-knit family. I am increasingly aware that while living abroad, I have missed twenty years’ worth of family reunions and important events. I also miss the European lifestyle, the slower pace of life (even in a crazy big city like Paris where working and commuting can be stressful,) and the guilt-free enjoyment of small pleasures, including long lunch breaks, long summer vacation, or long, decadent meals with lively conversations involving non p.c. topics. 🙂
- If you could only give ONE piece of advice to a person traveling to France, what would it be?
That’s easy. I used to do this for a living. Especially here in the US, I’d tell the person to keep an open mind about the French, to really ignore the hearsay and stereotypes, and to go and check things out for themselves. I’d recommend learning a few greetings and expressions in French too. I am confident in most cases, they’d come back very happy with their trip and interactions with my countrymen.
- Recently you wrote a beautiful post about Nice that reflected your experiences there shortly after the July 14thterrorist attack. Can you describe some of the conversations or specific interactions you had that moved or uplifted you during this time?
Merci beaucoup. I had several conversations with les Niçois when I arrived, just three days after the attack. The favorite scene I witnessed were waiters in the old town greeting young, and heavily armed soldiers as they walked by in the summer heat, and offering them, loudly, to stop by later for a free drink “on the house.” I described this scene in the post. As a mom (my son is 16,) seeing the very young soldiers and being reminded of why they were in Nice was very moving. There were still so many victims in the hospital then, and unidentified bodies at the city morgue. At the same time, the waiters’ friendly banter, as they stood outside on café terraces, was a sure sign that things would not change, that life will still be good on sunny summer afternoons in Southern France. As it should be.
- Your readers know that you love collecting Eiffel Tower replicas- when did that hobby begin, and do you have a favorite?
I have a few, but space is limited in my suburban apartment. I started collecting Eiffel Towers many years ago, when I got a fairly large size one, over 3 foot tall, to greet students outside my teaching studio at home. I have since downsized, and collect smaller versions. My favorite one is the “Paris Capital of Fashion” limited edition model I purchased at the Boutique of the City of Paris last December. I never tire of looking at it, certainly the most stylish Eiffel Tower I ever saw.
- Followers of French Girl in Seattle know that you are an expert traveler, but do you have any travel horror stories or blunders that you’ve experienced during your many excursions?
You are very kind. I love to travel, that’s true, and always have. As for horror stories or blunders, I like to prepare for my trips, so that limits the risk. Still, you can’t possibly plan everything, and why would you? Life has a funny way of keeping you on your toes. During my Paris years, I had a friend who used to say you could never get lost in Paris, because if you kept going, you’d eventually reach le Périphérique (the beltway around Paris,) and know where you where. Well, let me tell you that even after living in Paris for 10 years, and visiting at least once a year for the last twenty years, I can still get lost in the French capital. My friend’s theory works only if you assume Paris is organized in a grid, like an American city. It is isn’t. You can actually walk in circles very easily in some arrondissements, and if you don’t pay attention, it can be a while before you realize your mistake. It’s happened to me a few times. To be honest, there are worse things in life than getting lost in downtown Paris. After all, you can always regroup “en terrasse;” take out your Plan de Paris par Arrondissement; and figure out where you are.
- What big adventures lie ahead for French Girl in Seattle? Is there a particular new destination on your list that you are curious to explore next?
My time off is limited now, and I have to be selective, like many American travelers. All my visits include a few days in Paris where my family lives, and for that reason, most of my traveling is in Europe. When I can make it happen, I like to go back to favorite cities (Nice, Toulouse, Barcelona, London.) Lately, I have felt the urge to explore Italy more. I have never visited Venice, and that city is number 1 on my dream list. I really want to see Venice in the winter.
Merci et à bientôt,
Voila! Véronique, vous êtes superbe!
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