[This is the third installment in an series of interviews. Read more here.]
Today's interview is with Monique Allan, an insurance agent and financial advisor that I got to know while handling her company's incentive travel programs. I helped Monique plan her recent trip to Paris, including a three-day excursion to London and a day trip to a town called Voiron, south of Paris. Monique travelled with her partner Lonnie and two daughters.
Hi Monique. Tell me about yourself!
I am an insurance agent/financial representative. I've had my business for 21 years. I have two daughters, ages 17 and 18. One is attending ASU studying pre-law, the other is a senior in high school. We have had a lot of fun traveling together ever since they've been very young.
Why did you choose Paris and London for your recent family trip?
This trip was emotional for me. My mother was born and raised in France. Ironically, I was born on France's Independence Day (Bastille Day). My mother promised me someday we would go to France for Independence Day. She talked about it a lot because she knew how amazing France is on that day. She passed away before we could go. I've been to France several times but never on Bastille Day. It had been on my bucket list, and I wanted to make that trip happen with my daughters since my mother was gone. I knew I needed help making it special.
What were your favorite experiences or moments in each city?
My favorite experiences were watching my daughters experience the culture of their grandmother, who they never got to meet. I wanted them to see why they were raised a little differently than the average American family. I never really felt completely American due to my childhood being so French influenced. I passed a little of that on to my girls.
What was your favorite food or meal on the trip?
My favorite food is and always has been cheese in a baguette. I crave it in the US, but can't ever find a decently made baguette. France is full of perfectly made baguettes. Fondue is another favorite of ours. Americans consider fondue an appetizer - the French consider it a meal. Most of our dinners were fondue.
Was this a first trip to Europe for your two teenage daughters? How did they enjoy it? What were the highlights for them?
This was the first European trip for both of my daughters. They embraced the culture but not as much as I do. They loved seeing the Mona Lisa, the Statue of Liberty, the Buckingham Palace, and many more. Teenagers......they actually took a "selfie" with a Buckingham guard. We really had a lot of fun! Of course, what teenage girl doesn't want to shop in Europe? They would probably tell you that was their highlight.
Reading menus in another language was particularly fun. We weren't sure what we were going to get served but it always ended up perfect.
The most embarrassing moment for them was in a restaurant in London, I insisted on asking the waiter in an English accent if they had any grey poupon. We laughed until we cried. So there's our most wacky moment.
What was it like working with a travel consultant to help plan your trip?
I couldn't have planned a special trip like this myself. Safety was my number one concern when it came to my girls. A great experience was also important due to the nature of this particular trip. Kevin was amazing - he had excellent ideas on what to see, where to go and how to get there. Kevin put his heart into my trip - he contacted me quite frequently with ideas as he was planning my trip and thought of things I hadn't even thought about. I felt like I had a best friend at my side. I felt that Kevin considered this trip as important for him as it was for me.
In London I booked you at one of the Red Carnation hotels - how did you enjoy it?
The hotel was beautiful! It was right across from Buckingham Palace, walking distance to everything. The staff treated us like we were royalty. It was a perfect choice.
I know you visited the city of Voiron. This is not a place usually visited by Americans. Can you tell me why you went there and what it was like?
Voiron is a small town on the side of the Alps, and a suburb of Lyon. My mother was born and raised there. I already knew we would have a language barrier before visiting which I thought would be fun as they don't speak English in this town. It's tricky to get there, but Kevin thought a train trip would be best. Kevin planned all of the train connections for us and our day trip ended up perfectly. What a defining moment to be standing at the church I had seen so many times in my mother's childhood pictures. The next best thing to having my mom there at that moment was having my daughters there.
Where do you want to go next?
I've been to many countries but never Italy. I think that's going to be next.
Last question: Your birthday is on Bastille Day - what was Bastille Day in Paris like? How did you spend the day?
Just wanted fondue and being in Paris. It was perfect.