Peta Mathias tells Trip Notes how to live the life you long for, writes Juliette Sivertsen

In the new season of Travel podcast Trip Notes, chef, writer and presenter Peta Mathias shares how she fell in love with Paris, why India is still one of her favourite countries to lead a tour, and tales of love and heartache across the world.

The Eat Your Heart Out author speaks with Travel editor Stephanie Holmes and Travel deputy-editor Maggie Wicks.

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Peta Mathias claims to have always had a restless soul. Travel became part of her life at an early age and has continued to play a major role throughout her career as a chef and culinary author, leading her to live and work overseas.


Peta, 70, lived in Paris for 10 years and ran her restaurant Rose Blues. There was something about the intellectuality of the people who lived there, and the sensuality of Paris that struck her.

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"The conversations you had with people were so interesting, people were knowledgeable, people didn't ask what you did, they asked who you were," she says.

And she didn't hate all the "outrageous" flirting, either.

"The French are very good at flirting, and it doesn't feel as if it's inappropriate. It just feels healthy and happy and that's what we're all meant to be doing with each other," Peta says.

"French men are very charming and suave and very good at that sort of thing, without being creepy."

While living in Paris, Peta did marry a Frenchman, although admits it was for visa reasons, not love.

"I married him so I could stay in France," she says. Somewhat unsurprisingly, for a woman known for her vibrant style, Peta avoided traditional colours on the day and wore a black dress with a red veil.


"It turns out after the wedding...the French government announced an amnesty for illegal foreign workers, so I could have got papers anyway. But I ended up with a husband and that was okay too."

Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes (left) with culinary author Peta Mathias and Deputy Editor Maggie Wicks. Photo / Supplied
Travel Editor Stephanie Holmes (left) with culinary author Peta Mathias and Deputy Editor Maggie Wicks. Photo / Supplied

Apart from all the outrageous flirting and romance, it was the intelligent conversations Peta had with others that also had a lasting impact.

"You don't come to Paris to study dance or theatre or fashion if you're an average person. You come because it's the best place to come and you have to work to get there," she explains.

And what of the French women and their style?

"A Parisian woman wouldn't even go to the supermarket without dressing properly and putting make-up on. They have a sense of pride," she says, while describing New Zealand women as very casual dressers.

So what is it that gives French women that certain je ne sais quoi?


"You could have a boring old pair of jeans on and an oversize jumper and feel frumpy, and they'll just say roll your jeans up, tuck a bit of your jumper into your pants, put a great big oversized scarf on, earrings, high heels - you've got a look," Peta explains.

As if it were that easy.

Peta now leads tours to Portugal, India, Morocco, Italy, Vietnam, France, and our Destination of the Week - Spain.

"Spain has really good food, probably better than French food," Peta says. "I reckon Italian and Spanish food are better than French."

She recommends the Basque country as the place where you can find the very best food in the whole of Spain, and thinks it's a great place for Kiwi travellers to visit.

It's easy to be envious of Peta, who now seems to have the dream life sorted - living six months of the year in the south of France, and the remaining six months in New Zealand. She makes it seem so easy.


"You should turn what you love doing into a job, and then you'll never have to work again. And fortunately I figured that out a while ago. And fortunately I'm able to travel - not everyone is able to have the life I have."

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Listen to the Trip Notes podcast to hear more about Peta Mathias' travels, tales of heartbreak and romance, and culinary highlights around the world.

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Peta Mathias' latest book Eat Your Heart Out is out now.