Matt’s Chats with Christine Cantera

Over the years I’ve built a number of friendships entirely on the Internet.  Either by luck or coincidence, I’ve stumbled across some fascinating, funny, talented, amazing people and while the relationships are virtual, the friendships aren’t.  It’s really cool to get to know someone on the other side of the world without ever so much as shaking hands.  The Internet can be a place of faceless anonymity but real connections with real people can be made and I think it’s one of the best things about the Internet.  Well, that and the easy availability of the entirety of human knowledge.

I’d like to introduce you to some of these interesting people.  Please meet Christine Cantera, my friend from France and Italy, as she subjects herself to my battery of Ten Questions.

1) Who are you and what’s your deal?

My name is Christine. I grew up in NJ, lived in NYC for 14 years, and moved to Rome in 2002 after making my ad agency job a virtual one. Then I met a guy – also from NJ! – in Montpellier France, and eventually moved there. Now I split my time between Montpellier and Rome.

For the last eight years I’ve been a freelance writer, which after a lifetime of wildly varying careers, seems like my calling. I’ve worked for a wide variety of clients, but my primary focus is travel writing. I’ve also ghostwritten an alarming number of dating and relationship advice books. I also do my own writing under Miss Expatria, which is my blog and also the title of a book I wrote about my time in Rome. It’s on Amazon!

2) Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I don’t know, but they’d better be overweight, age-appropriate, and have a great laugh.

3) Everyone has some kind of a superpower.  What’s yours?

I don’t think I have one. The only thing I can think of is that people seem to find me extremely approachable. I could be on a crowded subway platform with headphones in and reading a book, and a perfect stranger will make a beeline for me to ask me directions or what time it is or whatever.

As for something a bit less passive, I think I’ve become a bit of an expert at getting people to indulge. Whenever I’m out with a friend or someone who’s visiting, they always wind up saying things like, “I never do this!” and they’re so delighted. I’m pretty proud of that.

4) What’s outside your window?

I’m at my friend’s house in Berlin right now, and the view from the kitchen table, where I am sitting right now, is of the Fernsehturm TV Tower in the distance and right across the street, a school gymnasium. At night grown-ups play basketball in there and they’re hilariously bad.

5) What can’t you live without?

Time alone. It’s almost a physical craving sometimes. I love nothing more than being in a house by myself. I dog-sit for a lady in central-eastern France a couple times a year; she has a big old farm house surrounded by a bunch of nothing. She picks me up at the train station, brings me to a supermarket so I can stock up, and then we go to her house and she leaves for her trips. I’m alone there for sometimes weeks at a time, and it’s bliss. But in a pinch, I’ll take a few hours in my own house while my boyfriend is out.

6) Where’s your favorite place to eat?

Ristorante Paradiso on Levanzo, a little island off of Sicily. As I believe is the case with many people, one of the reasons why it is my favorite is because I ate there purely by chance, in a day filled with spontaneity, so the whole experience is kind of bathed in an amber glow. But it was the perfect combination: covered, outdoor seating with a spectacular view; nearly empty; no menu; the freshest, most delicious seafood; cheap, and dreamy-slow.

7) What are your guilty pleasures?

Pleasure with guilt is no pleasure at all! That being said, there is one thing that I’m not particularly proud of: Whenever I’m in Paris, I really love going to the Chipotle that opened a couple years ago. Sometimes you just need a burrito the size of a newborn. And then I go to the Starbucks next door and get a ginormous iced coffee.

8) Beatles or Rolling Stones?

The Stones. I do love me some Beatles songs, but the dirty, sloppy, down-home music of the early Stones is irresistible.

9) You are the Queen of Everything for a day.  What do you do with your omnipotent authority?

I’d shut down the Internet, cancel all work and errand-running, let everyone on the planet sleep in, and then treat ’em all to a long, boozy lunch.

10) What’s the question you wish I had asked?

A lot of people tell me that my life seems like a permanent vacation, and in many ways it is. But for all of the traveling I’ve done, I haven’t gone on an actual vacation since early 2001. So I guess I’d like someone to ask me where my favorite vacation spot would be! And my answer is, one of those high-end, all-inclusive places in a tropical location. I want to lie on a sun bed under an umbrella and have food and drinks delivered to me and swim every once in a while and take epic naps and speak to no one.

Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he’s a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Janet says:

    Matt, good job again, and I think we all should take a page from Christine’s queenly edict. We can’t always shut down everything but once in awhile a long boozy lunch is doable.

    • Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

      I couldn’t agree more, we all need to take time to slow down, and a boozy lunch is good for the soul. All hail Queen Christine!

  2. Another delightful edition of Matt’s Chats. What a wonderful way to start the week. Thank you, Matt. And so nice to meet you, Christine. Welcome to

  3. AJacoby AJacoby says:

    Oh, I want to know Christine too!! That’s a sign of a good writer, Matt. You take us on a ride-a-long inside someone else’s life!
    Her response to favorite restaurant reminded me that one of my all time favorite restaurant’s in Italy is on the island of Ischia and we happened on it in exactly the same way. We were there, it was there and we were hungry. . . . also our favorite restaurant in Tuscany . . . also our favorite restaurant in Venice. Gee, guess I need to go back and research some more to see which one is REALLY my favorite!!

  4. Avatar Brian says:

    Great stories! I would really enjoy going and sitting at the house in France…how fun! Nice job with the Q & A again!

  5. Avatar Erika says:

    I love this! She sounds like someone I would love to know.

  6. Avatar Dawn Grigsby says:

    What an interesting life. I want to go and dog sit for her in France. I look forward to meeting more of your internet friends and hearing about their lives.
    Thanks Matt

  7. Deb Deb says:


    “Sometimes you just need a burrito the size of a newborn.” That made me sigh dreamily. Yes… yes I do think I could truly adore this lady 😀

  8. Avatar Shannon says:

    What a great interview! I totally want to house sit where she does. Then have lunch in Sicily where she does. Great interview Matt! And I want to know Christine…she sounds like my kind of person.

  9. Avatar Jeff says:

    Such an interesting person. And I love your last question you ask Matt. Genius!

  10. Avatar Ginny says:

    Great read……………Thanks!

  11. Avatar Debbie says:

    Interesting life Christine has! She lives in Rome part time and France the rest of the year, but she house sits in central eastern France and now she is in Berlin. I would love to live her life for a few years.