You’ll probably think I’m slightly bonkers when you read this. But I knew I was a francophile before I knew what a francophile was.
Mmhmm. I know. That makes no sense at all.
I was in my late twenties and, at the time, working in retail banking. An elegant woman had sauntered into our Williamstown branch and was speaking with my manager. My manager called me into her office, and asked me to arrange some travel insurance for this particular customer. You don’t get a prize for guessing where she was off to. Yes, France. And she was pretty blooming excited about it, despite the fact that she’d travelled there many times before.
I remember quizzing her on her love of France, asking her why she always travelled to the same country. With the blessing of hindsight, I’m tipping my face was covered with the same curious expression I see in others when they learn how many times we’ve visited France in the last 13 years.
Even after all this time, I’m still not sure what it was. She certainly made France sound like the absolute centre of sophistication and glamour. Maybe it was her deep passion for something that seemed so exotic to me. At the time, I didn’t have any passions beyond caring for my family and building my corporate career. (It would take me another decade and the skills of a very good coach for me to uncover my passions, but that’s a story for another day).
A Confirmed Francophile
Anyhow, when this woman shared with me that she was a ‘confirmed francophile’, I remember my intuition quietly but clearly stating ‘you could be one of those’.
Now, let’s be clear. It wasn’t like I was surrounded with all things French in suburban Melbourne. When I reflect back now, I didn’t have the slightest clue about anything to do with France. I had no idea about the geography, culture or language. Back then, I knew two humans who’d travelled to France, but I’m not sure their Contiki tour had given them the deepest insights into the country.
And it wasn’t like we were seasoned international travellers. Scotty and I hadn’t been outside Australia together. In fact, the furthest either of us had been was Singapore – I’d taken a trip there with my parents when I was 16 years old. Aussie road trips were far more our thing, especially because Scotty was scared of flying. (I can’t tell you how glad I am that he got over that.)
Yet I knew in that moment, in a too bright office with crinkled Venetian blinds, that I was one those – a francophile. And I decided I’d better go and work out what that meant.
Do you remember when you first considered yourself a francophile? Did you fall in love with France before you actually travelled there? I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir xx