“I have to go see about a girl…”

I have to go see about a girl.” Do you remember Matt Damon’s line at the end of Good Will Hunting? This week, I get to be in the movie. Like Will Hunting, I have to go see about a girl. The girl’s name is New York City. In the French language, all cities are girls, “la ville,” but even if they weren’t, I would have still thought of New York as female. A complex, colorful, and resilient girl. Always surprising. Exciting. Unforgettable.

New York City and I have been friends for a really long time. In 1981, a wide-eyed 18-year old French girl flew in from Greensboro, NC, with her American host family. What a high school graduation trip that was! Three weeks in the United States, including field trips to Washington, D.C. and New York City. My American pen pal and I wrote for three years before I came over. Once we met on this side of the pond, we did not get along. I was disappointed, but it did not really matter. Her parents and siblings could not have been more welcoming. I owe them big time. Moore family, Greensboro, N.C. Merci, wherever you are! A lifelong habit of building international friendships started that summer. One of the highlights of the New York trip was my first Broadway show, Pirates of Penzance, with the original cast, Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt and Estelle Parsons. What a rollicking good time we had! There would be many more special moments in New York over the following 30 years.

Fast forward a few years. I returned during the summer of 1987, after completing part of my college education in Atlanta GA in 1984-1985, where more friendships were born. By 1987, I was back in Paris, working on my Master’s Thesis and, as an English Major, had elected to research a popular American novelist, John Irving. Mr Irving had gained international acclaim with The World According to Garp, his fourth novel, published in 1978.

By 1987, he had added two more bestsellers to his growing body of work, the Hotel New Hampshire (1981) and the Cider House Rules (1985.) When I started taking a closer look at his novels, he had become a household name. It was said that the author could have pursued an acting career thanks to his good looks and charismatic personality.

The famous Time magazine cover:
John Irving enters the Big Leagues in 1981

Irving did dabble in movies, and at least three of his books were adapted successfully to the big screen. In The Cider House Rules movie adaptation, Dr. Larch, magistrally interpreted by Michael Caine, remains my favorite Irving character. By the mid-1980s, Irving stood out in the literary world for being respected as a serious writer while being promoted “like a rock star.”  How? This begged further investigation.

Dr Larch to his orphans :
“Good night, you Princes of Maine; you Kings of New England!”

In January 1987, I contacted a good friend I had met in college in Atlanta. She had since graduated and worked in the fashion industry in Manhattan. I told her I intended to meet some of Mr Irving’s publishers and asked if I could stay with her for a few days. She agreed, and the days turned into three weeks. During that time, I was fortunate enough to land meetings with several publishing houses, including the prestigious Random House and Pocket Books. 

Random House, New York City
(Photo credit: Samantha Casalori)

I could not believe my luck: That summer, I lived (and commuted) like a New Yorker for several weeks. Every day, I left my friend’s apartment in New Jersey and took the train to Manhattan; met interesting people who had, at one point or another, worked with John Irving and had enjoyed the experience so much, they enthusiastically granted me access to their files and archives. Then I would grab a quick lunch; go over pages and pages of notes (no laptops in 1987) and, as my reward, spent long afternoons walking everywhere in Manhattan. I remember getting lost on purpose, riding the Subway and stepping off along the line to discover a new neighborhood.

Commuting in Paris or New York: same difference, to this French Girl!

I fell in love with New York City that summer and have not recovered since. If you read this, “Cui-Cui,” thank you. I have not forgotten what you did for me then. There were other trips, of course, the last one two or three years ago when I returned during a beautiful week in April with Junior. We hit many tourist spots. I was pleased to see Junior – who lives in American suburbia – embracing the big city as enthusiastically as I did, so many years ago. He is his mother’s son, after all.

“If I can make it [here], I can make it anywhere!”
Junior in Central Park

New York Subway? Paris Metro? No problem!

Yes, I have to go see about a girl, my old friend, New York City. This has been a rough 10 years. Battered and wounded, she is still standing, and I will be happy to see her again in a few days.

One incredible skyline

Oui, I am looking forward to seeing you, New York City. My bag is almost ready. It has been far too long.

A très bientôt, mon amie.

Junior et Maman in New York City, 2009
Travel Essentials, by French Girl in Seattle

Most photos in this post by Savoye Images.

To read more about this trip to New York City, visit this story, and this one too.

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What did you think about this article? Let me know in the comment section below, (I love reading your messages and reply to most.) Don’t be selfish and share with a friend! Merci. Véronique (French Girl in Seattle)


  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post for so many reasons. Of course I loved the photos of the amazing skyline. I’m a huge fan of skyscraper architecture – all the shapes and sizes are just as fascinating to me as old traditional buildings. Interesting to read about your visits to New York too – what an opportunity to actually live there for a while. You also made me think about my French pen pal’s family who welcomed me so many times. We instantly got on well and since then have become life-long friends. I’m so grateful to them (no wonder I became such a francophile!) and I really should organise a long overdue visit soon. I look forward to hearing about your trip – it’s going to be such fun I’m sure!

    • Hello miss b. I am discovering you and I have more and more things in common 🙂 I am planning to walk around Manhattan to take photos of the buildings. I love Art Deco architecture, and I know New York will be happy to oblige 🙂

  • Bonjour Véronique!

    J’ai découvert ton blog sur le blog de Connie- Snow in the Air – Ton blog est très intéressant – Je suis une nouvelle fan de ton blog! Jettes un coup d’oeil au mien –

    Ariane x

  • Ooh, have a wonderful time! I worked in NYC for a year in the early 80’s, and have since been back for business a few times, and once en vacances. Always love it!!

  • Ahhh, I don’t know if you knew that I was a NYer before moving to France? Trust me, it took my honey to pull me away from my beloved Big Apple–I still think it is the best town in the world–sorry, Paris! So happy to hear that you love it like I do. Enjoy your time there, I know you will! And it is good to think that you are helping to revive a battered economy by going–bravo!
    Bon Voyage…

    • Bonjour Heather. I did remember you were once a New York girl since you recently posted about your “fashion-conscious years” there… I will do my UTMOST to revive the local economy, you can count on that! 🙂

    • The pen pal sounded nice enough while we exchanged letters for years, but I guess these things happen. Small correction: NEW YORK is my friend recently hit by a hard time 🙂 New York will be fine, though. New York is always fine. Oh, and no, it is not Carol I am having lunch with…

  • Veronique, how lovely to find out a bit more about you. I too love NYC but it’s been a long time since I last visited…too long, every December I dream about going Christmas Shopping there but I have not quite managed to pull it off, maybe next year. My Sister is flying out there this evening for a few days and I am green with envy! I know you are going to have a wonderful time…enjoy

    • I would love Christmas shopping in New York, Dash. That is something I have yet to do myself. I would also love bringing my son here to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. One day, one day… Your sister in one lucky lady– as am I 🙂

  • ok, wow. first of all..i need to know where you went to school in greensboro. it wouldn’t be the day school there by chance? secondly, john irving was a major crush of mine. i read and re- read garp. i always thought he was a hottie. 🙂 lastly, as an expat american i obviously love nyc. however, when i’m IN the states…it’s boston for me. tell me you’ve been? i don’t see it on your side bar 🙂
    can’t wait to hear about your trip when you return. it sounds amazing. is that a zara leopard blouse i spy?
    bon voyage!

    • Bonjour Pam. I was not a student in Greensboro during that first trip to the US. I just stayed with my penpal’s family – who treated me royally – for several weeks. A few years later, I was a college student in Atlanta though, thanks to a full scholarship awarded by the Georgia Rotary Club.

      As for Boston, yes, I have been, but briefly, and loved it. But I need to go back, and I am certain I will be adding Boston to my list of favorite cities after that trip 🙂

  • I also lived in New York during the 1980’s and even though I met lots of celebrities I never met John Irving! I hope you have a wonderful trip to New York, one of my very favorite towns in the world!

    • Bonjour Connie. I have never met a single celebrity in New York. In fact, come to think of it, I *almost* met John Irving. One of the assistants at Pocket Books had offered to introduce me during an upcoming meeting with Irving. Unfortunately, he was scheduled to fly into town THE DAY I left for Paris. Can you imagine?! It took me years to recover. 🙂

  • Ooh, the mysterious “French Girl in Seattle” is beginning to reveal her pre-Seattle life. How delicious! A propos duquel, j’attends avec impatience l’énorme plaisir de te rencontrer (enfin!!) et de passer un bon moment en ta charmante compagnie samedi.

    Eh bien, je me demande si un p’tit rendez-vous Chez Joséphine avec son fils J-C n’est pas sur ton programme? J’y ai passé un soir (jusqu’à la petite nuit) inoubliable il y a plusieurs années. C’est à ne pas manquer.

    • Dear Mariette. Yes, I have spent a lot of time in the USA. In fact, I visited every single summer after my college year in Atlanta in 1985… until le Husband and I finally moved to Seattle in 1996. I have always loved the East Coast, not just New York, and miss it dearly. Always a treat to fly back.

  • I’ve lived and traveled all over the world…and I really love visiting NYC. I go each summer with my college roommate from 40 yrs ago–we still have a grand time! Eat a meal at Prune if you can.

  • oh my i am on the fly i have to reread this, disect every bit and comment again when will you be here-nyc that is -gosh so excited

  • I loved reading this and learning more about your life. That is so cool about your research on that author. I would love to have that experience: living in New York City for a few weeks. Long enough to get a taste of being a native, while short enough where you don’t get jaded. 🙂

    I hope you have fun in New York City! I’m a bit envious. I haven’t been since I was a kid. I’m hoping to get there in the next year or so, to visit my Jonny!

    • Well, it sounds to me you have the perfect excuse to fly to New York city soon: Your best friend – the great Jonny! – lives there. 🙂 New York is such an expensive city. I could not have stayed that long back then, without my friend’s hospitality…

  • Bon voyage! Have a great time back in the Big Apple. It has been quite a few years since I was there for anything but a quick meeting in and out and keep thinking about spending time in NYC for fun. With any luck we will do so before too long.

  • je me suis un peu perdue en route: tu vas donc à NY voir PAtricia Kaas chanter Piaf, c’est ça? Mais qu’est-il arrivé à John Irving au final?.. je me souviens du “monde selon Garp” et du scandale qui a entouré cette histoire aussi bien pour le livre que pour le film. Je me souviens aussi qu’effectivement, il etait celèbre et publiait beaucoup, qu’est-il devenu?
    J’espère que la NY que tu trouveras ne sera pas trop abimée après le passage de Sandy..Bon voyage en tous cas.
    moi aussi je repars, destination dévoilée seulement au retour! :o)
    Alors bises et à bientôt!

    • Oui, c’est bien ca. Concert unique et j’ai reussi a avoir un ticket. Face a la scene, 7e rang. Salle mythique ou Edith Piaf est passee elle-meme en 1957!

      Aux dernieres nouvelles, John Irving vit toujours au Canada. Il ecrit regulierement des romans, dont le dernier, In One Person, est sorti recemment. Longue et belle carriere donc, avec des sujets controverses, comme le dernier.

      Dis-moi quelle voyageuse tu fais! Tu ne t’arretes plus! Bises.

  • Love NY and try to visit every couple of years usually scheduling around NYC Ballet premiers or some special exhibitions not to be missed . Though it’s always something in NY not to be missed all year round 24/7, the city never sleeps. Please pass by the Bergdorf & Goodman windows, they are always unpredictable and fantastic, especially at near Christmas time.
    How much I’d love to hear Kaas live, loved so much her talented tandem with Jeremy Irons in ‘And now Ladies and Gentlemen’ but she is coming only to Montreal…alas …
    Have a wonderful trip and get togethers dear Veronique and keep us posted.

    • Bonsoir Natalie. Good call about the Bergdorf Goodman windows. I won’t get to see the Christmas window displays at le Printemps and les Galeries Layette this year, so that would be neat!

      Kaas is going to be great. I can hardly wait! Her tour is unique this time: She only performs in iconic locations, such as the Olympia, in Paris; the Royal Albert hall in London; and Carnegie Hall, bien sûr. I am glad I will be able to “catch her” in one of them!

      A bientôt.

  • What a spellbinding post, Veronique. Riveting for bibliophiles, film mavens, and Big Apple Lovers like me. My Californian son was an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence…and a grad student in Paris..becoming a French citizen and has lived in Europe ever since. So much back and forth between old friends. ‘Cider House’ did rule. LOVED that film. What a gutsy girl you were. You truly make the most of opportunities. So inspiring. Bon Voyage!

  • Veronique, I love NY too. My daughters took me there last December on a holiday trip for my birthday.
    This blog entry was amazing!!!! First of all you have to be very special to have received a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship….and from reading this…I would say that you are!

    The first time I saw your picture…I was shocked at how much you look like an exchange student we had over ten years ago…Yes, she was from France (Limoges) and she was a Rotary Exchange student. She came for a year, but I suspect you did the three week summer exchange on your first visit? I will post a picture of our Marina soon and come over and tell you so you can see!….Have a fabulous time in NY. I know that you will!…Janey

    • Eh bien merci beaucoup, Janey. 🙂 I was actually an exchange student for a whole year (1984-1985.) It was a special program handled by all Rotary Clubs in Georgia. At the time, they awarded about 50 scholarships a year to students worldwide. I was one of two French students chosen for the program, and I was very proud 🙂 It was a wonderful year. It changed everything, really. New York has been delivering so far… 🙂

  • I hope that you have a fabulous trip, how could you not?! I hope that you will discover new food adventures, new scenes, and many familiar old ones.

    Your chic travel attire convinces me that yes… you are a French girl! (You rock!)


    • Ha! Ha! Well, this French Girl forgot the essential rule of city travel: Get comfortable shoes. I walk 6 or 7 hours a day, and my feet are KILLING me when I return to my hotel at night… Mind you, any shoes would feel bad after that much walking… except sneakers, but I was determined not to wear any on this trip 🙂

    • Isn’t it ever, Jeanne! I can’t believe how lucky I am: It is cold, but the weather has been sunny every day since I arrived. How beautiful New York looks in the Fall. I am just amazed at how many trees have kept their fall colors in spite of Sandy the Superstorm!

  • I enjoyed looking at all your posts. You have nice photos of Nice – we had a great time there last month and perfect weather. I understand your love of New York – it is a vibrant town – we try to go there at least every other year but have been lucky to go there twice since last year. I’ll look forward to your photo and your tales on the Big Apple. Enjoy yourself and Bon voyage!

  • I wish you a wonderful trip, Véronique and a fun time with the your dear girl friend.
    Can’t believe you are going to see Patricia Kaas at Carnegie Hall. Have you seen the movie “Ladies and Gentlemen” (Claude Lelouch)? At the very beginning of the movie P Kass is singing a song where she pretends to be a star having a show at Carnegie Hall!!!
    Bisous à toi et à la grosse pomme 🙂
    Anne (Playing With Scarves)

  • Have a fabulous time! (Actually, by this time you are there and enjoying yourself immensely!) And you sure know how to travel in style! I love living on the Left Coast, but i miss visiting New York. A lot. I think a vacation there soon is in order for my husband and i as well! 🙂 Hope you’re enjoying all the delicious repast!

  • Your write wonderful posts. Pirates of Penzance, was the first G&S I saw when I was at school and I immediately became a G&S fan. Similarly with my daughter when she was 8 years old. She is now in her late 20’s and can still recite every word from this operetta! My mother fell in love with New York on her first visit. My brother lived there for 5 years and was heart broken when he had to relinquish its charm for life back in Australia. This amazing city still eludes me……..One day perhaps……..
    Apologies for not being more active in the blog world. I have been too flat to participate since returning from France. Most of the renovations to My French Folly have to taken out and redone, I had a head on car accident on our third day in Haute Marne, a few trips to the local French hospital and after 3 months, I am still waiting for the exact cost estimate from the huissier who confirmed in her report that the work done by A Piece of Burgundy was unprofessional and poor and has to be redone, which will possibly cost more than the purchase price of the house. Because A Piece of Burgundy were not operating with the correct siret number, chasing them for reimbursement has involved employing a lawyer….all too depressing! Enjoy NY. Bisous

    • Welcome back, Elizabeth.

      I just can’t believe the trouble you have been experiencing in France. First of all, sorry about the car accident. Did you get out of it relatively unscathed? I hope so… As for “That Piece of Burgundy” business, they certainly sound like a bunch of crooks! And now you are dealing with French lawyers to boot… from the other end of the world! I could not blame you if you decided to give up on your French folly altogether! You are one brave woman… I can barely deal with the contractors who live in town, let alone foreign ones…

    • You would think I would like cities since they are considered girls. But, truth be known, cities give me anxiety.lol Although for Miss Patricia Kass, I would totally go visit!;) You’re one lucky lady. Je suis tres jalouse. J’espère que tu t’amuseras pendant tu es là.=) I love all these photos. Your son looks like he is having a blast! Happy holidays V. xx

    • Beaucoup de choses. Des images d’Epinal, trimbalées dans de vieux films et séries TV, des bouquins lus à la Fac… Le premier voyage aux USA, c’est toujours spécial. Et puis la réalité s’installe, après quelques années, pour ceux d’entre nous qui ont choisi de s’y installer, pour un an, pour dix, ou pour plus longtemps. Il y a du bon. Il y a du moins bon. Mais certains endroits, comme New York, ne déçoivent jamais… Alors on y retourne toujours avec plaisir.

    • Justement, te voyais-tu à Seattle ? Moi, je rêvais plutôt de Californie, de Floride ou de New York, et je suis dans le Colorado (là où j’ai trouvé du travail quoi !).

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