Gary Lee Kraut is the editor and principle journalist of the web magazine France Revisited, www.francerevisited.com. He is the author of five travel guides to France and Paris as well as numerous articles, essays, short stories, and op-ed pieces concerning travel, culture, cross-culture, and expatriate life.
In 2016 he was elected Secretary General of the Association des Journalistes du Patrimoine, France’s heritage journalist association. He was awarded the North American Travel Journalists Association’s Gold Prize Award for best Culinary Travel article written for the internet in 2013. France Revisited itself has received the NATJA’s Silver Prize Award in the Online Travel Magazine category of 2014.
He has lectured in the United States and France, using stories and insights from his travel, touring, and expatriate experiences to reveal how our most rewarding travel experiences are ones in which we find a personal connection with our route or destination. He kindly answered some questions for us.
When, where and how did you find your first FUSAC?
I first came across FUSAC in 1988, probably at the American Church or some such place where newly arrived Americans went looking for information back in the day.
When and why did you come to France?
I traveled in France several times in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1988 I left my job as a cub reporter for weekly newspapers in suburban New York City for a prolonged stay in Paris to visit my sister, who was in the middle of a 2-year work assignment here. I’d bought a one-way ticket thinking that I’d stay for a few months.
What was your first job in France?
I never really had a job in France, I’ve just found things to do or been asked to do things in exchange for payment (or not). As they say, do what you love and you’ll never work a day.
Where do you come from?
Trenton, New Jersey, USA.
What languages do you speak ?
English and French.
How did you become a travel writer?
After my sister left in 1989, I decided to stay “a bit” longer and soon learned that an American publisher was looking to create a guidebook to France. I sent a proposal, got the contract and one thing led to the next as I made Paris my home base and became a writer and journalist specialized on travel, touring, and culture in France. Over the years my expertise has also led me to give lectures, teach writing classes, write speeches, create and conduct customized tours, organize tastings and encounters with specialists of all kind, consult for travel agencies, etc., now all under the umbrella of my business.
What is particular about your web magazine France Revisited?
France Revisited allows readers to discover or rediscover people, places, gastronomy and much else from a tourism/travel/culture point of view. It’s especially written for savvy readers and curious travelers or residents.
What’s your approach in the articles you publish?
There’s no single approach other than that I believe the best travel writing combines information, observation and experience, a combination that also makes for the most rewarding travels. As a writer, editor and traveler I seek out variety.
What is the most satisfying thing about giving or creating tours?
Enabling travelers to experience or understanding something in a personal way rather than as a generic tourist, whether it’s a view of the Arc de Triomphe or a chocolate or wine tasting or an encounter with a business owner, chef, artisan, etc. Happy travelers, happy guide.
Are all of your clients American?
Most but not all. I’ve had clients from Commonwealth countries as well as Mexicans, Israelis, Dutch and Koreans.
What is the oddest request a client or tourist has made?
My work with tourists is highly personalized. That means not only that the tours are customized but that I encourage travelers to let me know what kind of experiences or encounters or knowledge or insights interest them so as to truly get them to the right place, the right people, the right food and drink, the right experience. I’ve been asked to advise a couple on swingers clubs, to create a tour related to medical- and hospital-related sights and history, to arrange an encounter with a Yiddish specialist, to plan a tour for a family with a mentally handicapped child. I wouldn’t call any of those requests odd, just specific.
What did/do you parents do?
My father was an orthodontist, my mother a tennis pro.
Sisters or brothers?
4 of each.
I don’t have favorites, but I recently came across a quote by the author Albert Cohen at an exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Art and History that I though was pretty great:
Ne pas haïr importe plus que l’illusoire amour du prochain.
Not hating is more important than the illusory love of one’s neighbor.
A talented person who should be better known?
Some of the writers in my Paris Vignettes workshop would fit that description.
An animal that fascinates you?
A good reason to like Americans ?
What was your last « fou-rire »?
Happens often with certain friends or family.
Where is the place that you want to go the most?
Sometimes when I’m away I most want to go home, and sometimes when I’m home I most want to go away.
Who would you invite to the ideal dinner party?
That would be the dinner party I had last week with a few close friends.
What do you do to evacuate your stress?
Sports, sex, laughter and sometimes writing, in no particular order.
What was the first museum you ever visited?
Probably the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
What is your favorite gift to give?
What do you bring back from vacation?
A historic place that stops you in your tracks?
Paris, one reason why I’m still here.
What clothing detail irks you?
Who is your hero?
No single hero but I admire many people who confront great difficulty for themselves or their loved ones or who struggle for a cause and do so without hate.
Who incarnates the United States?
I suppose that would be Donald Trump right now.
Who incarnates France?
We’ll see in May. Until then, Marianne.
How do you use the social networks Twitter, Facebook?
I use Facebook to communicate about my work, to share good writing by others, to see posts and pictures of close friends and relatives, to read articles shared by friends who know what real journalism is and to watch animal videos. I find the France Revisited and I Drink Paris pages to be highly likable. I just created the @FranceRevisited Twitter account but haven’t been tweeting. Looking forward to the day when I can hire a social media manager.
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Roll over for more sleep.
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla for ice cream and macaroons, chocolate for the rest
Your dream vacation spot? It’s the people that matter to me.
Book or movie? Book.
Favorite author? I wouldn’t necessarily call them favorites but the authors who marked my early 20s were Camus, Wolfe, Dostoyevsky. Chekhov and the like.
Romance or comedy? Comedy.
Night owl or morning person? Night owl, hence my After Midnight Paris tours.
What is your next project?
Keeping it fun, interesting, convivial and varied is the overall project.
On the writing front I’ve always got plenty of projects underway, both for France Revisited and for other publications. I’m pleased to be able to increase the pay rate to contributors to France Revisited this year so hopefully I’ll be to publish notable work from contributors
On the touring front I’m continuing my customized approach to touring, including various forms of what I call travel therapy, while also developing some specific small-group and private tours and tastings. For example, I’ve recently hooked up with some fashion and design folk for a new tour about the history of luxury shopping in Paris; my food tour for families that includes a chocolate tasting, a cheese tasting and a few surprises is off to a great start; I’m leading some unique bar-hopping tours; I’ve created a new daytrip about champagne and war, and more.