Zvi Chazanov (42) fell in love with french culture at the age of eight, whilst travelling with his parents to the Loire Valley.
On a wall in one of the castles they visited, Zvi spotted a portrait of a dead French king (who turned out to be King François I) which made Zvi wonder how the king died, yet no one around him knew the answer. Upon returning home to Jerusalem, Tzvi started exploring French history and culture. Back in the days of the mid 80’s no internet search was available, so Tzvi had to rely on “good old” history books to provide the information. Luckily for us, his search for information did not end in a quick Google search.
The French culture became his passion and hobby. In 2013 he started the “Francophiles Anonymous” Facebook Page, a page dedicated to the love of France. Soon enough Tzvi realised that a Facebook page may not be the suitable platform for storing all the information and sharing the knowledge he has acquired all those years and this is how the “Francophiles Anonymous” website came to life. Five years later with over 7,000 Facebook page likes and an average of 20,000 monthly website visits, Tzvi is still happy to find out he is not the only person with some excessive love for the land of the baguette.
The website combines information for those travelling to France whilst still maintaining its original flare by giving information about French history and culture in a fun sassy way.
We were lucky enough to have an up and close interview with Tzvi, where he told us about writing and sharing his passion for travel, what are his plans for the future and in conclusion he also shared with us some of his favourite “must” destinations in Paris and in France in general:
Tell us a bit about how you decide what to write about:
“When I first started with the blog I mostly wrote about the French history and culture, the two subjects which interested me the most. As the website started getting more attention and more visitors started becoming actively engaged by commenting and sharing, I realised I can actually make a living out of the website (and make an old dream come true), but in order to do so I might have to focus on other things. I started going online, exploring Facebook groups dedicated to France and Paris and I searched what questions were asked repeatedly, which questions were left unanswered and what information is missing when planning a trip to France. And so the website got a twist and shifted into becoming more “tourist oriented”.
In the last year or so I have been focusing on giving more information to tourists while still being true to what had started it all: my love to the French culture and history.
In your blog there are posts that were written by others. Who are your co-writers and how do you get to cooperate with others?
Some of the writers approached me, asking to write shortly after my website and Facebook page started getting noticed and were shared to different France enthusiasts groups. I was happy to give new writers who share my passion, a place to express their love and share their knowledge.
One of the leading writers on the website is Orna Liberman (Phd), a Bible, literature and culture researcher living in France. Orna is a wonderful writer, whom I have met by chance, she has been writing with me for sometime now and we have since become good friends.
Another principle writer is Yoel Temanlis, a Francophile who lives in Modi’in, Israel. in addition to being a journalist, Yoel is also a great photographer so he also contributes to the visuals on the website. Me and Yoel used to work together. Once we discovered our shared love of France, we mostly talked about that and got very little work done. There are many other writers all sharing with others their great love for what us Francophiles simply can’t get enough of.
Are you giving guided tours of Paris and France?
I do give tours when I find time to, but I have a different day job: I work as a marketing manager in the world of online media and online gaming, where I specialize in B2B and B2C marketing.
In September 2015, while I was in Paris, the phone rang and a “headhunter” gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse, which required me moving to the island of Guernsey. Since then I have moved again (for work) to Malta where I’m currently living.
Apart from Paris, what is your favourite destination in France?
I really love Île-de-France, the area surrounding Paris, I find that it is under-travelled and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Just an hour drive from Paris there is so much magic and beauty.
You can find gorgeous monasteries and châteaus – among which is one that the “The Puss in Boots” fairytale was inspired from, which has been turned into a boutique hotel.
The truth of the matter is that if I had the support of a travel agency, I would probably arrange tours of this beautiful area.
On my list of yet to be travelled destinations in France you can find Provence, which I last visited as a kid. I would mostly like to visit the small villages of Provence and to enjoy its unique cuisine. And I would love to travel to Périgord, I think there is so much to discover there and also to Bordeaux and Toulouse, the southwest area bordering Spain.
Let’s return to Paris – Tell us about your favourite place in the city
This one is a difficult one… It’s a bit like picking your favourite child… but if I really must choose… my favourite place in Paris is actually an area. I simply love the area of Le Marais.
There is no [other] district of Paris that has such a rich history. Unlike many of the neighbourhoods of Paris that has changed dramatically in the 19th century, after the city was re-designed and re-built by Haussmann and Napoleon, Le Marais wasn’t touched. You can walk through the streets of what is now a very fashionable district and get a real feel of what Paris was like in the old times. Le Marais offers a perfect combination of history, boutiques and restaurants, all the good that Paris has to offer. Still, I must say that the fact that I picked a favourite in no way indicates that I love the other parts of Paris in any lesser way.
We know France is your FAVOURITE. Tell us about your other favourite destinations around the world
First of all ROME! Second only to Paris, Rome is my favourite place on earth! I should go there soon… it’s been too long.
I am also always happy to go back to the islands of Thailand. I love the island of Ko Chang, it offers beautiful beaches, great parties and delicious food – all the things that make Thailand such an appealing destination. I always say that in my eyes visiting Thailand is an opportunity to visit heaven without actually passing away.
Another place I would love to visit is Vietnam. I am curious about the French culture blending in with local heritage and Vietnam seems to me like another “heaven on earth”.
The fire at Notre-Dame. How did you first learn of it and what are your thoughts and feelings about this tragedy?
My heart literally hurt when I watched the flames consuming the cathedral.
A person from Guernsey was the first to message me about the fire and I then went online to watch the videos. At first I had some hope that the firefighters will take control over the fire in no time… I know no lives were lost in the Notre-Dame fire, it was mostly the fall of a symbol.
Notre-Dame has always been there. The thing us humans are mostly afraid of is change, what there is now not existing tomorrow. The Notre Dame always being there gave the people of Paris and of France some sense of security, and the fact that such a symbol was almost totally gone is what triggered those emotions similar to how I felt, and others did after previous tragedies.
What’s next? Will your move to Malta change what you write about? Could you be changing the subject of your desire?
I will always continue writing about French culture. Since my move to Malta I was suggested by an occasional tourist I showed around to start giving tours of the island. I have been studying the history and culture of Malta for almost a year now. So it might just be a natural evolution…
I’m also thinking about publishing a book at some point. A different guide book of Paris, telling the exciting and juicy historical stories behind many iconic places in the city.
One last question… King François I, how did he actually die?
He died of complications of an STD he got from one of his mistresses(!!). Not something an intrigued 8 y.o boy in the mid 80’s could really understand…
If you have any Paris and France related questions, you can contact Tzvi via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos are taken from www.francophilesanonymes.com