Falling for France - My Family Travels

Falling for France

By Kensie Smith

The summer of 2007 I fell in love; I began a passionate affair with France. This was my first “real” trip and at age sixteen, I was ready to take on the world. The trip was through my school’s language department and in a group of nine other kids, I became an international jetsetter, (in other words a tourist), in the land of baguettes and berets. This was a trip of firsts and my first international flight was not helped by the anxieties the girl hyperventilating, in the neighboring seat, but fortunately, the flight suffered nothing worse than layovers. Once we landed in the Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris, our group was on a mission to find our joint touring group, whom had apparently left without us! After finally finding our tour bus, with puke orange seats I might add, we sped off to Monet’s Gardens. Our bus driver looked like he had popped out of a movie. He was in his twenties, with his ear pierced, and chest hair poking out from under his gold chains and 1970’s shirt. Whoosh! Goodness that man could drive fast! There were times where we were just inches from the sides of buildings and roundabouts were an adventure in themselves.

Dinner on the port town of Honfleur, with white clouds striking colorful sailboat sails, was like an image out of a watercolor painting. The most terrifying and interesting part of the trip was next, the family stay- dun dun duhhhhhh. I found my “family” and traveled to their home in Rennes. My host sister was a picture of excitement and embraced her role as hostess. One the most important lessons I learned from this experience was that human nature is universal. My sister, Florence, had problems with boys, worried about school, laughed with friends, and loved shopping. It was a credit card match made in heaven! My host parents did their best to show me around the area of Bretagne. For anyone planning on staying with a French family I would suggest learning the most French you can. In the touristy areas of France almost everything is in English also, but in the residential areas it would be beneficial to comprehend the native language. The French popular culture is heavily infiltrated with Americanisms. It was common to hear American singers, watch American shows, and run into a McDonalds.

One of the most inspiring sites of the trip also happened to be of American influence, the D-Day cemetery. At the breathtaking site of tragedy, thousands of bright white crosses and Stars of David were lined in startling symmetry. Looking over the cliffs onto the beaches, one could almost picture the pure heroic struggle. Such spectacular beauty was also found in the glittering iron of the “Tour de Eiffel.” On most nights, on the hour, the tower lights up and twinkles its reflection on the Seine River. A river boat tour was the best way to view this and other sites such as the outside of the Louve and the miniature statue of Liberty. While Paris was pleasant it was the smaller towns, like St. Malo, Angers, and Giverny, that gave an authentic view of France. I learned most French myths are untrue- they DO shower, women DO shave their legs, and there not many mimes running around in berets.

Standing on the top of Sacre Coeur, overlooking the city an overwhelming sense of life significance found me. While small, it is up to the people of the world to come together. Embrace others. Live the way someone else does for a change. In France, do as the French do- sip coffee at the café, take a long lunch, and find the beauty in the world around you.


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