Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week I’m talking to author Karen Bates about what France means to her.
Karen and her family lived in Normandy for over ten years and her first book Faking It In France is a fast paced, emotional read, but not your typical expat abroad book. You can read my review of it here.
First question, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?
Karen: I'm not sure if it's unique to France, but the laid back lifestyle is certainly appealing. I love the two hour lunch breaks and the shops not opening on Sundays and bank holidays. The French we met seemed to embrace family and are never afraid to roll out the huge tables in their gardens and celebrate national holidays and family occasions with gusto. I admire that they give such importance to loved ones and these occasions.
2) When you first arrived in France what was the best thing about being immersed in French life and the scariest thing?
Karen: To be honest the first few years were like being in love. No matter what adversities befell us we were just so happy and content, we didn't care what happened! We were in love with our adventure, and lifestyle, and had money!
3) You gave ‘life in France’ a go and it didn’t work out, but were you glad you gave it a try, or do you think dreams should stay just dreams?
Karen: We have no regrets, we all had an amazing time and learnt something about ourselves along the way. I learnt I am a sociable person who is not designed to live without friends and family around me. I do beleive everyone should follow their dreams, my mum said when we went 'you wont fall off the end of the earth.' She was right. We never however intended to say in France for the rest of our lives, my husband only agreed with my whim, on the understanding it was a ten year plan. I'm glad we were brave enough to have uprooted and moved to Normandy, it was one of the best things we have ever done, but I'm equally glad to be back in the UK.
4) Is there anything at all that you miss about living in France?
Karen: When we were moving back my son Ashley, who had spent 11 of his 19 years in France said I would become a food snob and he was right! I find myself in the supermarkets in the UK saying, 'Where is all the cheese, you call this a selection?'
5) What was your favourite thing to buy in a Boulangerie/Patisserie?
Karen: I miss popping to the local patisserie with their beautifully decorated shop windows, for freshly baked Almond Croissants.
6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?
Karen: Café Calva, in Normandy this was the local preferred morning tipple, a black coffee with a generous shot of Calvados.
7) Every region in France has it’s own culinary specialty, do you have a favourite regional dish?
Karen: Its not regional but we were all big fans of Raclette and even bought Raclette heated hot plates for a number of friends who had enjoyed this tradition with us in France.
8) Is there anything French you won’t eat?
Karen: Frogs legs, although my kids loved them!
9) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?
Karen: Creamy rich Camembert preferably melted in the oven shared with a fresh baguette.
10) Best French tipple, and yes I know there are many to choose from?
Karen: Rosé with Pamplemouse. We mix our own, but now you can buy it in bottles.
Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?
Karen: I am writing the sequel to Faking It In France, Making out in France, this is what happens next, we're still in France, but the second book is more about embracing France and finally fitting in.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.
Karen: It has been a pleasure I have enjoyed the questions although you have made me 'home sick' for France with all that reminiscing! Luckily we will be returning in the summer to visit my brother and stock up with wine and cheese!
You can follow Karen's blog here.