I have recently had the pleasure of getting to know Christine, better known ’round the Internets as Miss Expatria. She writes the blog of the same name, as well as the hilarious blog, Unfortunate Hotels, which is a collection of the worst hotels on the web.
For me, it was love at first read, because she loves travel (check), France (check) and Italy (checkmate). She actually divides her time between France and Italy. We haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person, yet, but that will all be changing, because as luck would have it we will both be in Rome at the end of May. So, be afraid Rome, be very afraid!!
Christine has written a book, cleverly titled Miss Expatria, about her experiences leading up to and living in Italy and she was gracious enough to agree to an interview and give away a free copy of said book here on My Mélange- cause that’s what we do here.
And let me just say, that I think you should all run out and buy a copy of this book! Now. For those of you who don’t want to wait, you can buy a copy of Miss Expatria in my Amazon Store.
Without further ado, here is our interview:
MM: Give us a brief synopsis of the book, if you would.
ME: You know, I am a professional writer and this is the one thing I find so hard to summarize, because it’s about ME. Let’s give it a shot: In 2002 I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years, and moved to Italy two days later. Miss Expatria chronicles my time spent first in an empty palazzo by the sea, where I got my act together; and then in Rome, where I met the Gay Mafia; dated a Count; ate the most incredible food and lost 60 pounds; and fell in love with a writer who lived in the South of France and whom I met up with in Barcelona, Venice and Paris, among other places. Then I lost my job, and was forced into exile in New York for a year. The book ends not only with my triumphant return to the Continent, but the epiphany I had upon stepping on Roman soil again about what is important in life.
MM: How did the name Miss Expatria come about?
ME: From my boyfriend, the aforementioned writer from the South of France. He’s a master of brainstorming. I wanted to call the book Cambio Change Wechsel, both because of the prevalence of the signs in popular tourist destinations and my addiction to changing everything from the layout of my bedroom to the course of my life. But, the name has come to personify for me who I want to be, who I am at my happiest moments, and who people that do not live the life I live perceive me to be.
MM: Why do you refer to yourself as a travel guru? Why do you love travel so much?
ME: Travel guru – that’s just on my LinkedIn profile! To use an ever-so-charming British term, I was taking the piss. I’m not good at being serious. I prefer the tagline on my blog – The Internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction – because I have the awesome power to make people make rash, fabulous travel decisions, and I am totally and completely drunk with that power.
Why do I love travel so much? I’m not sure why. I was on the move from every three days to every six weeks or so during a significant portion of my childhood, when I was in two national touring companies of Annie; and then I didn’t travel anywhere until I went to Paris when I worked for Ralph Lauren in my mid-20s. To me, being able to travel where I want, when I want and for how long I want is a huge, huge part of being a grown-up, while being strongly connected to the part of me that as a child fell in love with travel.
MM: Why Italy? What made you want to move and live there?
ME: I first went to Rome in 1999, and it felt like home. I left determined to move there. But you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that! Cheeky, I am.
MM: If you could give one piece of advice to expats, what would it be?
ME: Learn the language. Whether you’re more comfortable assimilating or joining the expat community, it’s absolutely essential you learn the language of your new home country.
MM: What surprised you about living in Italy? How does the real thing differ from what you had expected?
ME: I had researched the hell out of living in Italy so nothing surprised me too much, nor did it differ greatly from what I was expecting. However, if I had to name something, I would say the thing that continues to surprise and delight me is the utter kindness of the people I’ve met there. It stops me dead in my tracks and humbles me in a way nothing else ever has.
MM: You happen to divide your time between the two places on earth I am passionate about – France and Italy. Could you tell me one thing you like and dislike about each of them?
ME: Italy: I love the people. I’ve met exactly one Italian I didn’t care for. LITERALLY, ONE. The thing I don’t like about Italy, which has nothing to do with the country per se but is more the result of my being an ex-New Yorker, is the lack of 24-hour bodegas that sell everything you could ever need.
France: Love the bakeries. The only thing I can’t stand about France that includes the entire country (Paris is perfect, and therefore normally excluded) would be the open contempt sales people have for their customers, whether in a store or on a customer service phone line.
MM: Espresso or cappuccino?
ME: Ha! Neither! I’m actually not a coffee drinker. But I do go through phases where I MUST HAVE a latte macchiato in the morning – a tall glass of steamed milk with a shot of espresso, and enough sugar to kill a horse.
MM: Wine, beer or cocktail?
ME: Never beer; can’t stand it. Wine, wine, wine or Veuve. But I do love me a good cocktail.
MM: Favorite pasta?
ME: My favorite pasta dish, hands down, is cacio e pepe. It’s the chicken soup for my soul. I’ve had a lot of fancy and ridiculously good pasta dishes in my time, but cacio e pepe is the one I could eat every day for the rest of my life. I usually have to make someone take it away from me, because I’ll eat it until it’s gone – no matter how much of it there is.
MM: What places are on your list to visit that so far have eluded you?
ME: That crazy blue of Alaskan glaciers looks so fake in pictures that it’s something I will have to see with my own eyes to believe. I want to stay in one of those cottages that stick out over the water in the South Pacific. I want my friend Anu, who understands the complexities of my Golden Days of the Raj obsession, to show me India.
Three big things on my list – Sicily, the Italian lakes region and the lavender fields of Provence – I’m visiting this summer!
MM: What one website or blog (other than mine of course) do you have to visit everyday and why? You know, the one you would die without?
ME: I absolutely cannot live without Free Will Astrology. I’ve been reading it every Wednesday since before the Internet was invented, back when it was printed in the Village Voice. Rob does away with the “You’ll fall in love next Thursday” crap and instead feeds my constant need for inspiration.
Contest has ended.
Now for the deets on the contest.
All you need to do is leave a comment on this post between now and midnight on April 1st! I will select a winner using the Random Number Generator on April 2nd. The winner’s copy of Miss Expatria, with its sexy black cover and hot pink text will be on its way shortly after!
Thanks to Miss Expatria for the interview and the book- and good luck to you all!! Now get commenting!