10 Questions For (6): Miss Expatria

Happy to introduce Miss Expatria to you.

Who is Miss Expatria?
Who is Miss Expatria?

1) Who Are you?
Why, I’m Miss Expatria, the Internet’s leading enabler of travel addiction! But my real name is Christine, and I grew up on the Jersey Shore. I spent a couple years of my childhood traveling around the U.S. with two national touring companies of Annie, and was a union card-carrying actor and singer until my early twenties.

I moved to New York at 17, and graduated from NYU. Various jobs followed: Running an experimental school project in the South Bronx; being the leather and suede expert for a Famous American Designer; and working at an ad agency, where I kept track of the money and logistics necessary to mail half a billion credit card offers a year. (Yes, that was me. Sorry!)

In late 1999, I took a trip to Rome and decided I had to live there. I came home, convinced my bosses to let me do my job virtually, and moved to Rome in 2002. In 2004 I met Paris-born, Jersey-raised Bartolomew (“Cal” on my blog), where he lives in Montpellier, France; now I kind of live here, too. We are both freelance writers.

I say I  kind of live here because I spend a significant portion of each year living my œrea life in Rome; I hope to return there permanently, soon, with Bart. Or maybe we’ll move somewhere else. Who knows?

Rome is Home

I’m obsessed with travel, being near the sea, fabulous hotels, delicious food, wine, writing and language in any combination, and preferably all at once.

2) What do you like about what you do?

I like getting enough sleep. I like not having to commute, sit through meetings or witness stunning acts of injustice in the name of office policy. I like that I am solely responsible for what I produce.

But my favorite thing is being paid for doing what I love. I’ve had a lot of fascinating jobs in my life, but I was meant to write.

3) What don’t you like about what you do?

I don’t like the inconsistent income. I’m much better at budgeting and long-term planning when I know the money situation well in advance. Another thing I don’t like – although I hope one day this will change – is that taking an “unplugged” vacation is not an option. Lastly, writer’s block is very real and very, very annoying.

Writer’s block

4) Please tell us all about your blog and your aims with it.

From a business perspective, I can show Miss Expatria to prospective clients who want me to write about Europe. But on a personal level, writing as Miss Expatria gives me the chance to explore what it means for me to live the way I do, and what it is in others that makes them want to pack a bag and go – whether i’s for a week or a lifetime. I’m obsessed with discovering the root of that desire.

Technically, I have a lot of work to do on my blog – I’ve linked my Miss Expatria to my Tumblr, my Tumblr to my Twitter, and my Twitter to my Facebook and everything to my Flickr account – but I have to get a domain name, monetize it, seek sponsorship. I’m such an Internet dilettante!

My ultimate career goal, of which the Miss Expatria blog is an integral part, is to make a living writing about travel from my own perspective in a way that inspires others to follow their dreams to the arrivals gate at their favorite destination.

5) Your top 3 destination experiences you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

Venice. It’s like a city from my childhood dreams. If New York is my first love and Rome is my soul mate, Venice is the crush tha’s way out of my league. I’s almost too perfect for me.

Barcelona. Once I leave Las Ramblas, the city comes alive for me. I feel devastatingly hip and fabulous every moment I’m in Barcelona. I love the architecture, the people, the food, the wine, the vibe, and being in a major city that has a beach at the end of the street.

The Disney Institute. My grandparents won a fair sum in the lottery and took the whole family on a vacation to the Disney Institute, where we each did exactly and only what we wanted. My mom, cousin and I took classes at the Institute, which were fascinating. I also had an excellent massage, and an entire pool to myself one afternoon while everyone else went to the park. It was while floating in that pool that I decided to do whatever I could to make my life be more like a vacation.

6) Your top 3 accommodations you’ve ever stayed to date and why?

La Casa sul Mare, Procida, Italy. A wonderful hotel on an underrated island. Each room has its own terrace with deck chairs, eating space and an amazing view. Room service breakfast is enormous, delicious and costs a euro. The bathroom was immaculate and featured a large shower with great water pressure. There was nothing about this hotel I didn’t like.

Bellevue Stratford, Philadelphia. Sadly, this hotel no longer exists. It was a grand dame of a place. Room service was served with linen and silver and domed covers that the staff removed with a flourish. And, I met the real Santa Claus in the lobby. But, that’s a story for another time.

Point Village, Negril, Jamaica. It wasn’t a particularly luxurious place, but it was very low-key for an all-inclusive resort – there were no mandatory kumbaya activities or sloppy-drunk spring breakers. I lived in a bathing suit, ate nothing but fresh fish and fruit, read about 47 books and never had to carry a purse. The rooms were simple, cleaned to within an inch of their lives – but with the sun, sea and swim-up bar awaiting me, I didn’t spend much time in the room.

La Casa sul Mare

7) Your top 3 most memorable food experiences to date and why?

New Year’s Eve 1993, The Quilted Giraffe, New York. (Old school New York foodies, holla!) In our early 20s, a dear friend and I went through most of New York Zagat’s Top 50 list on his dime. We had been to the QG several times before; but on this evening it was the last dinner service, as the space was being converted to what is now Sony Wonder. We toured the kitchen, and Mr. Wine let us eat the last of his famous caviar begga’s purses after midnight! We received a beautiful Tiffany plate commemorating the Last Supper, and Mrs. Wine treated us with respect even though it was obvious we really had no business being there. We felt like Truman Capote and Babe Paley. It was the most glamorous dinner I’ve ever attended.

August 2004, Procida, Italy. I don’t remember the name of the place. In fact, I don’t know if it even has a name, and I think we were their only customers. We had one of the most delicious meals of my entire life – giant bruschette with different toppings, and ridiculously buttery mussels over perfectly al dente linguine. We went back the next night and ordered the same meal, but with more wine, and it was awesome all over again.

May 2004, Tapas hopping in San Sebastian, Spain. We were five foodies who flew in from three countries. We pooled our money and set out to tapas-hop until we dropped. We had a lengthy succession of the tiniest, most perfect foods I’ve ever known. They were even better than the three-star Michelin dinner we had the next night. That city loves them some food, and it shows.

8) Your 3 worst destination/ accommodation /food experiences to date and why?

You know, the experiences that come to mind in response to this question I wouldn’t categorize as the worst, or even particularly bad; I would say instead that they were disappointing to me personally.

Although I had an amazing time during a much-needed vacation at a five-star beachfront resort, I was confused and disappointed by what seems to have become of Marbella, Spain. As an expat, I got a kick out of eating American food and speaking in English; but I couldn’t understand the appeal for the Americans, and I certainly can’t say I experienced Marbella. I could’ve been anywhere.

I was very uncomfortable with the assumption that guests should ignore the living conditions outside our compound’s walls in Negril while embracing the tourist-friendly aspects of the culture inside. As I said above, I had a great time; but seeing unimaginable poverty after having been a tan, well-fed, well-rested guest in their country, it felt like a lie.

When I lived in New York I once went to a Korean restaurant with a large group of friends, where I paid a hefty sum to cook my own food, one piece at a time, on a small grill. I failed to see the charm.

9) Can you offer the readers 3 travel/ food / accommodations / things to do tips about the city you are currently living in?

I don’t love Montpellier, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a great place to visit if you want a convenient base from which to travel around Southern France, and it’s four hours by train from Nice, Paris and Barcelona. The city’s sights are well documented, so I’ll just give you personal favorites:

1. Go to the beach! Rent a chaise longue and have people bring you frosty beverages all day; feast on fresh seafood all night. In Palavas-les-Flots is a bar that serves six oysters and a glass of chilled white wine for 5 euros for an aperitif. I highly recommend it.

2. Reserve an entire day for taking your very own achingly winsome photos of the painted shutters and tree-lined roads of Southern France.

3. Sip a cafe in the Place de la Comedie and watch the world go by for an afternoon. It’s the Frenchest thing to do ever, except go on strike.

Achingly Winsome Photo

10) Any Question(s) you’d expected me to ask that you would like to answer?

Nope! Thanks for asking me to play!

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