FINDING ME IN FRANCE
A few years ago, I spontaneously decided to travel to Italy and live there for 4 months. I don’t know exactly what came over me, but I was determined to do it, and determined to do it alone. I spent four months travelling on my own – living mainly in Torino (northern Italy), and making my way to Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, the mountains, and even a trip to Lyon, France. Sure, it was lonely at times, but I don’t think I would change the experiences I had for anything else.
Prior to leaving for Italy, I loaded up my Kobo with a bunch of books to keep me preoccupied on my flight to London, England, and of course, throughout my stay in Italy.
I managed to visit Dante Alighieri’s house in Florence, and even saw the exact room, desk, and chair he used to write his infamous Dante’s Inferno – one of my favourite books of all time! It felt so surreal being around so much history.
Then, I made my way to Venice, and visited Harry’s Bar, where Ernest Hemingway spent a majority of his time writing – of course, I had to take a shot of espresso and work on writing of my own – Hemingway style.
With all of the travel, I still managed to find time to get reading done. Everyday I’d visit a new cafe in the streets of Italy, and read a book. One of the books that inspired me on my trip was Finding me in France by Bobbi French. This was a story about a Canadian woman who decided to let go of everything she knew in North America, and move to the country side of France with her husband.
I remember walking the streets of Florence with French’s book in hand – and I can’t think of a happier moment than that.
Luckily, Bobbi French graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions!
What is your favourite book? Oh my, that’s a tough one. I read well over a hundred books a year. I don’t think I could ever pick just one but The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields is up there as well as The History of Love and Middlesex. And I had a great time reading The Rules of Civility. I like so many, so it always depends on what I’m after in the moment.
Again, killer question. Maybe Carol Shields, her work is so arresting and real.
In your book, “Finding me in France”, you left a familiar, Westernized life to go live in the outskirts of France with your husband – what drew you to this decision?
Many things really—having lived such a structured life, college then med school then residency, straight into a big career in psychiatry with no real break to explore the world; an interest in other cultures and languages and a husband who had lived around the world; being in my early 40s, knowing that if I didn’t make a move, I’d turn around and fell like I’d missed the chance to do something interesting and unexpected and creative. So, all those factors worked together to lead me to decide to shake up my life and see what happened. It was quite an adventure.
Are you still living in france now?
No, I am back in Canada, have been for a while. For now, I’m in Halifax, Nova Scotia near my husband’s family and our friends, but who knows what lays ahead.
Of all the European countries you could’ve chosen to live in… why France?
Well, why not France, right? The wine alone is enough to draw anyone in. But really it was far less romantic and magical than it seems. My husband, Neil, and I had vacationed in Burgundy where we met some folks who were looking for help with their vacation property business ( and yes, I did work briefly as a cleaning woman). Neil spoke fluent French, the health care system is excellent, and so on. So, a beautiful place to start but also some practical benefits as well. The book details the decision pretty well I hope.
What is your favourite memory of living in France?
Oh, so many. A bonfire lunch with new friends in the countryside; a magical French and Russian candlelit poetry reading in a small bookstore in our village, Semur-en-Auxois; the smell of the chestnut fires in the fall; standing in the sun in the vineyards of Champagne; our neighbour’s small children calling over the fence for me to come play with them in the morning; wandering the streets of Paris at night. We have so many wonderful moments from our time there that it’s impossible to choose one over the others.
Are you working on another book?
Yes! I just finished a novel. I’ve never written fiction before, so I have no sense if it works or not. It has a similar voice to mine that’s found in Finding Me in France. Whether that works in fiction, well, we’ll see.
After publishing Finding me in France, did your writing process change at all?
Well, before Finding Me in France (the blog and the book), I’d never written anything apart from prescriptions, so I often have trouble seeing myself as a true writer. I’m more of a doodler and a storyteller, maybe it’s the same thing, I don’t know, so I’m not sure I’ve ever had a process. I can say that for both Finding Me in France and the novel, I simply sat at my laptop and tapped out whatever was in my head. Then I went back over it and picked away at it until I liked it or I felt I just couldn’t make it ay better. t do find that reading what I write out loud to someone, usually poor Neil, is incredibly helpful.
Do you have any advice for any young aspiring authors out there?
Hmm. Okay, maybe two things. One, read. Read anything and everything, different genres, books from different cultures and writers with vastly different perspectives. Get inspired and informed by the work of others, expose yourself to the full breadth of language and voice and style. And two, sit down and bang it out. If you start something, give it a middle and an end then revisit it. I always think just finishing something is a major achievement.
You can follow Bobbi’s adventures on her website at: http://www.findingmeinfrance.com