A Parisian in America finds what she likes in three cities

December 26, 1993|By Kitty Morgan | Kitty Morgan,Orange County Register

When Martine Desaintjean arrived in Laguna Beach, Calif., to live in my house, she was a stranger from Paris. By the time she left almost two weeks later, she had seduced the neighborhood -- making friends with the locals and traveling with them up and down the coast.

A teacher of English, Ms. De- saintjean has traveled throughout Europe, often by exchanging her Paris apartment for a place in Italy or Britain.

"It is something that helps me know a country and meet very, very different people," Ms. De- saintjean says.

This summer, for her first trip to the United States, she set up exchanges with three couples -- in Boston, San Francisco and Laguna Beach -- for a total of eight weeks.

She arranged months in advance the arrival and departure dates for the Americans who would live in her apartment in succession, and tried to meet each couple before they left for France.

"I prefer that, to talk to people. That's part of the travel," she says.

"In Boston, I met many people from Harvard, a high level of culture. This part of the U.S. looks like Europe," she says. "I liked San Francisco very much -- it is a city with a heart, with life. I was in San Francisco like I was at home."

In Laguna Beach, Ms. De- saintjean aimed to relax -- walking the beach, sitting on the house's deck or listening to music.

"In California, my opinion is that its people are more free, natural. I prefer California because it is absolutely different from France."

In her eight weeks in the United States, Ms. Desaintjean also saw Chicago, New York City, Salt Lake City and Cheyenne -- the last two because they had been settings for several classic westerns.

But for Ms. Desaintjean, her sojourn in Laguna gave her a glimpse at an America of small towns and friendly neighbors.

L "For me, this is just a little taste," Ms. Desaintjean says.

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