Citizen of the world, writer Francisca Mattéoli takes us around the world on the most extraordinary voyages tracing back some of travel’s most incredible advancements. From the debuts of the automobile and steam trains to the first zeppelin lift-offs and most spectacular ocean liners, Mattéoli delves into various modes of transport in Extraordinary Voyages, her latest book for Louis Vuitton, released in English this week.
Beautifully bound, like an antique copy of a Jules Verne adventure novel, it’s an anthology of the golden age of travel interspersed with archive photography illustrating how Louis Vuitton has adapted to changing travel trends over the centuries. In the preface, the author, whose own life was carved out by travel from a very early age, remembers the journey that changed her life: the voyage from her native Chile to France with her parents, who sought a more politically stable home for their two girls. Having continued to travel ever since, in her latest book Mattéoli rekindles our spirit for discovery by reminding us in true Voltairian fashion, that “The journey is the destination.” Marking the release of her book in English this week, I get to know the author a little bit better, as she tells us about her personal journey and the places that have stood out so far.
How did you start writing books?
Francisca Mattéoli: I was born and raised in Chile, my father is Chilean, my mother, Scottish. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to see the world and loved reading books about adventurers. I thought that it was great to be able to capture the imaginations and dreamed of writing for the National Geographic magazine. So one day, I went to see the editor of the France edition and asked if he would be interested in a story about Rwanda because I was leaving to join my husband, a plastic surgeon, who was part of a humanitarian mission there. It was extremely difficult to enter Rwanda at the time. I got the assignment and the story was published a few months later. It all started from there. After that, I contacted a publisher because my family and I lived in an hotel for years when we moved to France and it seemed a good idea for a book. That became Hotel Stories. The book was published in many languages and paved the way for my other books.
What inspired Extraordinary Voyages?
FM: I think I would say that it was a desire to celebrate unforgettable travel experiences and personal memories. The challenge was to celebrate the art of travel that adventurers and also my parents had experienced but I also wanted to create suspense, to imagine something that had not been done before.
How did you become involved with Louis Vuitton?
FM: The book I wrote called World Tour, inspired by their amazing collection of hotel labels and the years I spent living in a hotel with my family when we came to France. It was like a collection of short stories mixing adventure, graphics and souvenirs. That first book led to this one very naturally.
Personal travel signifier?
FM: It depends on the situation. Being raised by parents of different cultures has given me the capacity to adapt. I can be a real chameleon if necessary. I always try to blend in with my environment as much as possible. It’s much more exciting than always acting the same.
Preferred mode of transport when you travel?
FM: No preference because all represent an adventure, but maybe ships come first. I came to France with my family onboard an ocean liner Le Pasteur, and will always remember that experience more vividly than any other. There is a magic in all modes of transport but a departing ship is always very moving and special.
Favorite travel anecdote?
FM: A lot of my anecdotes have to do with my Chilean passport – as it was a very complicated passport some years ago. I never knew if I was going to be able to take the next plane. It was thrilling and scary at the same time, especially for my husband who was traveling with me on a French passport and had to suffer my problems! It was not uncommon for me to have to wait in airports to get permission to travel without knowing if I was going to be able to return home.
The three things you would never travel without?
FM: A Smythson notebook, a good book, Toblerone chocolate.
Closest place to home?
FM: I have been a foreigner most of my life so I would say that my home is where my loved ones are.
FM: At the age of four or five, in Chile, walking in the garden of our summer house in Zapallar. I can still remember the smell of the flowers and the eucalyptus surrounding the house.
Favorite comfort food?
FM: Empanadas and a good boeuf bourguignon with lots of sauce.
The meal you would jump on a plane for?
FM: A caesar salad at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel!
The book that was the most fun to write?
FM: My book on adventure. I took 25 different adventures in order to write the book -I went from New Mexico to Alaska, Patagonia, the Scottish Highlands… in less than a year. It was crazy and really fun.
What are you reading?
FM: Tom Wolfe, Maupassant, biographies of Hollywood directors such as Billy Wilder, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Christopher Buckley too – a much needed author nowadays.
Most inspiring Instagram account?
FM: I am very bad at Instagram and social media in general but I like to look at photos that show us how beautiful our world is and the work of photographers.
Film you could watch again and again?
FM: Some Like it Hot and The Apartment. I’m very found of Jack Lemmon.
Your next holiday destination?
FM: Spain, hidden from the world.
The hotel you never tire of?
FM: The Copacabana Palace in Rio because I love Rio, where I’ve lived, and I have a special connection with Brazil and the people who have the ability of being joyful even when things are bad. And also, my family has been going there since it opened in 1923.
A recent find?
FM: Hotel Dehesa de Alcuzcuz in Spain. A truly magical place.
The site that inspires you?
FM: The Atacama Desert in Chile and the Highlands in Scotland. Both wonderful and unique.
The last song you last listened to?
FM: Antônio Carlos Jobim’s Corcovado. Brazilian music always make me feel happy.
If you weren’t a writer, you would be…?
FM: A gardener… who writes.
FM: Excellent surprises I hope – and a new book!
“Extraordinary Voyages” is available now in English from most online book stores. Find out more about Francisca Mattéoli and her other travel books.