Why Inge came to France

Adele Brookes - 22.04.13 3

“I can say that I have accomplished most of what I set out to do: join the Peace Corps, go to Africa, live in France and master a foreign language.” I don’t think many people of Inge’s age could say the same thing!

A New Yorker from Queens; Italian on her father’s side and Flemish on her mother’s, Inge went with her parents and four older siblings on holiday to Belgium every year.  “I HATED it… I didn’t speak Flemish and I hated being in linguistic exile.”

The determination to never find herself in that situation again led her to learn French and Italian – but not Flemish! After doing her degree in Classics and Art History, she worked in communications and marketing at Manuel Canovas in New York for two years. She then went to Benin with the American Peace Corps for another two years. Although she knew she wanted to live in Paris, she returned to New York first, where she found herself teaching French to get a bit of money behind her.

When she finally took the plunge and went to live in the City of Light in November 2001, using her Belgian passport for residency purposes, she taught English for a pittance. During that time, she chanced upon the church of St-Gervais-St Protais and became acquainted with a monastic order run by young monks and nuns called ‘Les Fraternités Monastiques de Jérusalem.

This took her to the beautiful town of Vézélay, which she knew from her undergraduate days in Canada. “I fell in love with the Romanesque Basilica, La Madeleine.” When she found out that the community had a house there and also offered year-long retreats, she asked to go.

Adele Brookes - 22.04.13

During her stay, she translated all the documents in the Basilica into English and gave guided tours in French for the community who  look after the organisational aspects of the Basilica. A professional guide who joined one of her tours was so impressed by her ability that she encouraged Inge to contact her employer, Paris Muse, if she ever went back to Paris.

Inge followed up the lead, with no response. She began teaching again but a year later, decided to try again. This time, she met with success, and joined the team. She also worked part-time for a translation agency. However, she wanted to improve her skills as a translator and sat the highly competitive entrance exam to ESIT, France’s Elite School of Interpretation and Translation.

She financed her two-year master’s degree with her work as a guide. Just after she graduated, when she was ready to begin translating on a freelance basis while continuing her work as a guide, Paris Muse asked her to become the director of the company. Her career suddenly took a new turn.

Today, Inge directs Paris Muse from her new apartment in Montmartre, freelances as a translator and gives private guided tours for both adults and children to Paris museums and monuments such as Notre Dame.

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One of Paris Muse’s most successful offers is a “family tour for young treasure hunters designed to give children from six to twelve an entertaining background to the history of art while sharpening their detective skills of observation.” What a wonderful way to encourage young people to appreciate art!

Inge is regularly looking for ‘guinea pigs’ to test new tour guides, so feel free to email her on the Paris Muse website to propose your services. She’s particularly looking for English-speaking 13-year-olds!

All images courtesy Paris Muse.

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Rosemary Kneipp

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