Once a Francophile, always a Francophile?

June 20, 2012 in France,Philosophy,Travel

I felt a shiver of trepidation as I stepped off the plane at Charles de Gaulle: my passport pages are filled with European stamps, but this was the first time I’d anticipated the thunk of the stamp with pages also covered in stamps from Australia, New Zealand, Asia.

Christine Amorose and mom Linda Paist in Nice, France in 2008

France is both familiar and foreign to me, a place where I slip into a comfortable state of speaking the language and understanding the street signs until I’m jarred into culture shock with a classic Gallic shrug.

I fell in love with France before I fell in love with traveling. I swooned over the smell of fresh-baked bread on every corner, the thrill of successfully ordering in another language, the exotic experience of riding the Metro. I was introduced to France by a true Francophile: my mother still wonders out loud why I bother to spend my money on traveling anywhere else, when I could just simply go to France.

Christine Amorose in Etretat, France in 2007

For a long time, I didn’t think I would go anywhere but France. I spent weeks in Paris and Provence and Nice, studying French and cycling to buy baguettes and sampling fresh figs, snails, mussels. Then I slowly ventured out, although not very far: weekends in Belgium, England, Ireland to break up long stints in France.

I’m not exactly sure what convinced me to break out of the maternal clutch and test my travel prowess in the rest of Europe, tackling five countries with five different languages in five weeks on my first solo trip at 21–although, not surprisingly, I ended my trip with a few days in Nice. This whole thing–this blog, this lifestyle–only started because I desperately wanted to live in France.

I’m really not sure what urged me to move to Australia or explore Southeast Asia: most surprising to me is I loved them both. A lot. Maybe more than I loved France. My stint in Nice proved I could never live permanently in France–the red tape, the waiting, the aforementioned Gallic shrug–but Australia? There’s plenty to draw me back. Bali or Vietnam? I wouldn’t mind an expat stint there.

Christine Amorose enjoying steak tartare in the Sixth in Paris, France

So as I planned my 2012 resolution to Croatia, bookending a new country with a weekend in Paris and a week in Nice, I worried that maybe I had fallen out of love with France. Maybe I’d think it was too expensive, too hoity-toity, too rude; maybe this would be my last trip, my travel funds funneling into new countries and continents after a much-anticipated catch-up with friends.

And then I stepped into the Metro station and was enveloped by a thick layer of sweat and accordion songs and shouting heavy with slang: it instantly felt right, as if me and my peacock-hued scarf could just fade right into City of Lights without a second glance.

Once a Francophile, always a Francophile. 

  • I feel the same way. France has a magical way of allowing you to take in the bad with the good and just feel that all things are right in the world. 😉 Was your pic w/the beach in the background taken in Etretat? I think I have the same one!!

  • And I’m a moron. I hovered over it and saw that it was indeed Etretat.

  • Nevin

    I adore this post and I’m right there with you but I wonder if I’d love Paris as much as I do now if I actually lived there?  Maybe that’s why I would be hesitant to move there.  Either way, I’m jealous of shampoo/shower gel shopping round #2 (and lots of other things besides).  Also that first photo of you and your Mom is lovely!

  • LostInCheeseland

    Welcome back! I usually have that reaction when I return to Paris after vacation in the States or elsewhere in the world. For the first time ever, I recoiled when I landed in Paris (after 10 days in California). That has faded a bit and am now back to my groove. But I can say with certainty that should we ever leave, that Francophile bug is indelible. Unshakable. 

  • Jan

    I love reading your posts, you convey your story so well.  I know you liked Australia from your previous blogs.  Glad it is still up there on your list.   I have been to France as a young woman, and then again with Marty before we married.  Our lack of language skills limited our enjoyment, but it was definitely amazing.  France is in your blood, literally, and I think you will always feel a sense of coming home whenever you visit.

  • I think everyone has that special place that first made them love travel–no matter what other places you see, going to that place is always a bit like going home. Glad you still felt that way about France!

  • the way you talk about france is so romantic- like it’s an old boyfriend you randomly ran into and sat down and talked for hours. enjoy your time there, it sounds  lovely

  • Michaelebrehm

    For once I’d say: Pay attention to your mother!

    Actually, while she is correct about France, you have shown her that you are also correct about expanding your travel horizons. It’s really the best of both worlds; the two of you will realize that one of these days.

    Are you still visiting the southwest (Sedona, ABQ, etc.?) as a Flagstaffian who follows your blog I’m curious.

    Oh and please tell me you pop your head out at random Metro stations just to see what’s going on? :-)

  • camorose

    Yes to all of the above! Have loved being back in France and that photo is indeed from Etratat from a few years back :)

  • camorose

    Excellent point–I do think I love France more in small doses, when I have to squeeze in all of my shower gel shopping and pain au chocolat eating into a limited time span! Still had SUCH a lovely time in Paris with you, Nice isn’t the same without you :( xxx

  • camorose

    I do think that I love France a bit more in small doses, when I have to squeeze in all of my shopping and eating and picnicing into a designated timeline. Some of the sparkle definitely fades when you live here. I can’t wait to talk to you about California though–sounds like you really loved it!

  • camorose

    Honestly, being so far away from France is one of Australia’s biggest downfalls for me! I don’t think I could live in France, but I love being able to visit it regularly.

  • camorose

    That’s a really fair point–France is definitely what started it all for me!

  • camorose

    Bahaha if ONLY I had a lovely French ex-boyfriend to chat about :) You better make it over here while you’re in Spain!

  • camorose

    Yes–I’ll be in Sedona/Santa Fe in mid-July!

    And there’s more than enough going on IN the metro train that you don’t even need to pop your head out :)

  • I totally think you can have THAT place but still travel far and wide, you know? While living here in Montreal, I’ve often wondered how I can split my time between Newfoundland and HERE, and still travel freely. It’s possible, I think. Maybe. C’est la vie! Now come practice your French in Canadian-French. 😉 

  • What a beautiful post! I LOVE that feeling of stepping back into a culture or country you adore, and feeling “home”. I’m dying to go back to Japan to feel just that.

    p.s. I’m currently in Nicaragua and your description of the French food just made my mouth water…all I have here are beans and rice!

  • I feel the EXACT same way about Shanghai. Every time I ride back into the city from the airport and see that skyline come into view, every time I stand at the Bund, every time I hear the accent, I get shivers; everything just feels…right. By the way, I’d love to see you do an expat stint in Vietnam!

  • I agree completely with all of your feelings for France…as I type this I am salivating over the thought of fresh baguettes or a pain au chocolate for breakfast…I think France is a love/hate sort of place.  People either seem to fall head over heels for it or they hate it, not usually in between.

  • I visited France when I was 16 and haven’t been back since. I spent 5 weeks and loved it all except Paris, I wonder if things would change now that I’m older.

  • camorose

    Believe me, totally considering it! Why do America and Canada have to be such frenemies when it comes to work visas though?

  • camorose

    Haha totally not convincing me to come to South America…I flew back to France early from Croatia because I like the food better here! Still think Australia probably feels more like home, but it’s lovely to be back somewhere familiar :)

  • camorose

    So now you know how I feel about Paris :) And yes–really need to sort out where I’m going next, totally fell in love with Saigon though!

  • camorose

    Very true–I think when you love it, though, it’s so hard to understand people who hate it!

  • camorose

    You never know! My problem is finding the time and effort to going back to places I’m “eh” about when there are so many new places to discover and so many places I already know I love!

  • I love this…I also fell in love with France before travel. I constantly worry about falling out of love with France, but it hasn’t happened yet! 😉

  • Is it hard? Hmm, never attempted…seems kinda ridic

  • camorose

    As long as they have cheese and wine, I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with France!

  • Having a cherry bier on the sidewalk outside the bistro, walking around Montmartre on a Saturday, (strangely) enjoying the cigarette smoke that seems to stagnate as you walk the side streets, piano accordion on the metro.

    Parisophile :)

    I’m interested in more of the ‘why you could never live permanently in France?”..

  • camorose

    Mmm I miss all of that! I could so go for a cafe creme on a sunny sidewalk cafe table.

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