Questions/Réponses with Mme Lawber

4 Apr

Since I have not yet been to France–and Macaron Hoarder is a francophile blog–it makes sense to seek out someone who has been to the country and learn about their experience.

I have spoken to several people so far and every person has a different story to tell. I hope to post all of the Questions et Réponses (Q&R/ aka Q&A) interviews over time.

Today’s Q&A features my French professor Dr. Katharine Lawber of Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. In addition to teaching French, Dr. Lawber helps coordinate the Newport French Film Festival and raises awareness of French culture among university students. Here’s what she had to say about studying in Paris as a student, visiting different regions in France, and le joie de vivre:

Media Credit:

Media Credit:

Q: What inspired you to study French? 

R: I actually started college as a Math major, but I liked a lot of different subjects, really.  I had some great courses and professors in French, thinking that this would be the end–just what I needed to fulfill the language requirement–but after a couple of semesters, I was hooked!

Q: How long have you been visiting France? What changes have you seen since you first came to France versus now?

R: I spent my junior year in college in Paris living with a family and studying at the Sorbonne, and I’ve been returning regularly ever since.  The changes in technology are similar to what they are here.  There have also been a lot of changes on a cultural level as the dynamics of the average family have changed and evolved…more women in the work force and so fewer at home on a daily basis; the divorce rate is higher, so there are more blended families, that sort of thing.

Q: What regions/cities have you visited? Are there cities you have not yet visited but would like to in the future?

R: I have visited most of the country’s different regions.  As I mentioned earlier, I spent a year studying in Paris and then returned to spend a second year as a graduate student at the Université de Nice.  I have spent the least amount of time in the southwest region, so I would like to spend more time there at some point.

Q: When you visit Paris, what are your favorite places to visit? (Museum/Monument/Restaurant/Shop/etc.)

R: Paris is truly like a second home for me; I love being there, and although we always try to find something new, we always gravitate toward our favorite spots…the gardens at the Palais Royal; the Marais district and the Place des Vosges;  the tiny Ile Saint Louis tucked behind Notre Dame; the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood, where I spent five wonderful summers in a little apartment not too far from the Seine; Montparnasse with its wonderful cafes; the Cluny Museum; the Jardin des Plantes; and the Pont des Arts, of course, where my husband proposed!  There are lots of favorite restaurants, too.  We love Chez Cecile (great food and a live jazz band on Thursday nights; the Coupe Choux in the Latin Quarter; l’Heure Gourmande just off the rue Dauphine in the 5th…to name just a few.

Q: There are plenty of differences between French and American cultures, but what do you think makes the French culture special?

A: Their indefatigable JOIE DE VIVRE!

Q: What is your favorite French pastry?

A: It is way too hard to narrow it down to ONE!  But I love mille-feuilles, religieuses (a big, gooey cream puff), Paris-Brest, and anything with chantilly (French whipped cream)!


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