Go Away With … Michèle Halberstadt

Michele Halberstadt x 640

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
April 12, 2016

Based out of a small village 40 minutes outside of Paris, French film producer Michèle Halberstadt says, “I live in a house that used to be an old farm. Although it’s close to the city, I’m surrounded by nature. I’m 60 years old and I’ve read from an Italian writer that 50 is the old age of youth, and 60 is the youth of old age. I like that.”

Also an author, Halberstadt’s latest novel is “Mon amie americaine” (Other Press, $14.95). Fans may follower her on Twitter, where she tweets predominantly in French.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. I was 5 years old. A cousin of my mother was getting married in London. So I took the plane for the first time, slept in a hotel for the first time, was dressed up as maid of honor for the first time and drank champagne for the first time. I never forgot that trip. That wedding did not last. But my memories are still vivid! Second trip was on a boat going to Israel. I got lost on the boat. When my father came to find me, after 30 minutes, I cried and asked him, “Why am I crying, although I’m so happy to see you?” That’s when I discovered you can cry out of happiness too.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. To be open to whatever happens. Traveling is an experience. You are going out of your boundaries. So enjoy it, instead of worrying about it. Anything can happen — a lost suitcase, a bad hotel room, a delayed flight, a change of plan, a change of heart, good encounters, bad encounters. Stay open about it. It’s an adventure. It’s an door open to the unexpected. Also, it’s a great opportunity to look at people who, again, are different from the ones you see every day. A look, a pair of glasses, a way of walking, a perfume. Traveling is an adventure. Whatever happens, it’s the stuff your memories will be made of, so enjoy it — have fun!

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?

A. Actually, yes. I was so much in love with Hong Kong that we ended up producing a film there. So, I got to spend many months there and I loved every second of it — the energy, the mix between modernity and tradition, the eagerness of the people, their kindness, their amazing cooking, (which was) the best food I ever had in my life — except for their coffee. They don’t know how to make a proper coffee, so make sure to find an espresso machine.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Cities are great for three-day weekends: London, New York, Rome, Amsterdam. If not, I love to just go to Normandy, near Deauville, where my sister has a house. It’s an hour and a half from my door to hers. So it means I have (access to) the sea in less than a two-hour drive from my home.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?

A. New Year’s in Hong Kong is an unforgettable experience. I also spent once Christmas in Sydney, Australia. So funny to have this warm weather and people in bathing suits and, at the same time, fake snow in the shop windows…

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. I have to say New York. I know it feels like a cliché, but I always feel like I’m at home when I’m in New York. I just love being there. I love everything — the sounds, the smells, the architecture, the cold, the heat. I’m addicted to that city. But, there’s nothing like Paris, of course.

Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?

A. Best: On holidays with husband and kids in Seychelles. Away for a day of fishing. My son caught a marlin on the day of his 12th birthday, with the help of the boat crew naturally.

Worst: Another holiday with husband and kids. My husband got bitten by a mosquito, it got infected, he had a huge fever for two long days and we were in the middle of nowhere. Then it turned out I had the right antibiotic and he got better. But those two days are my recurring travel nightmare.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. We have a house on a French island called Île d’Yeu. It’s across from Nantes and it’s the island the most away from the mainland in the whole country. It’s quite tiny – 40 km of surface.You can only get there by boat – or helicopter if you are in a hurry!. No bridges, so you cannot drive to get there, and there not so many cars on the island. You mostly go around with a bicycle. It’s my favorite place. For the summer,  we invite friends and my kids come with their friends and it’s just fun and cool and lazy. But I also like to go there to write. That’s where I most enjoy writing. It inspires me. It’s quiet, the sea is near. It’s an island. You feel it — that you are far away somewhere. I discovered that island 25 years ago and I just adore spending time there.

Q. To someone who was going there for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. Well, all you need is a bicycle and a map of the island. The beauty is that, from the north to the south, the landscape is extremely different. You have beautiful spots everywhere you look. The nature is amazing, beautiful flowers everywhere. There is a lot of hydrangea. We call it the little French Greece, with that blue sky and the houses painted in white. It’s amazingly beautiful as soon as the sun goes up. Of course, when it rains it’s less fun. But I just put on my boots and raincoat and go walking. The temperature of the sea is quite cold, the air is pure, the beaches are clean and long and pretty. It’s bliss! And you can buy the best fishes for delicious cooking.

Q. What would be your dream trip?
A. A week travelling through India on an old Orient Express train.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I would love to discover Japan. I would love to go back to India, where I’ve been only once, on the Northern part. I want to travel in the South now.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. In Paris: Le Duc, the best fish restaurant in the world. It’s an all-male staff.  They are all so sweet! In Nice: La petite Maison. For the food, the atmosphere, and the friendly owner Nicole. In Berlin: Pasternak: my favorite Russian restaurant.

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. In New York: Crosby Street Hotel. In London: Pelham hotel. In Rome: Hotel de Russie. In Berlin: Adlon. In Hong Kong: The Intercontinental has the best view! In Paris: The Lancaster.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. Eating club sandwiches.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I check the weather to make sure I pack accordingly. And I try and see the hotel website. Do they have iPod plug? Easy Wifi? etc.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. Either the Maldives or the Seychelles islands, or the Cuomo Lake, in Italy. Venice is, of course, quite amazing. I would also recommend Essaouira in Morocco. Another small sea town.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. I need my iPhone with my music; my favorite candles — usually feu de bois by Diptyque; my favorite cashmere scarf in dark shades of blue, bought years ago at the Rome airport; a violet silk robe that you can wrap and make as small as a handkerchief, but that keeps me warm in hotel rooms as I’m always cold; my travelling handbag, which is in brown leather, old and fat and a cheat, because it’s actually a second suitcase, but this one is on my back; and, of course, my iPad for reading scripts and my Kindle for reading books; and my computer for writing.

© 2016 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (1)

  1. Michele Halberstadt says:

Join the Discussion

Psssst! Your E-mail address will not be published.

Name *

E-mail *