A Day in France - My Family Travels

It was another sweltering day. Yesterday had been 104°, it was a record heat streak. Today we’d taken a train from Paris to Versailles. The sun was shining brightly, and the lawn of sand in front of the Palace of Versailles looked like the Sahara Desert. Tourists sat in any available shade using their paper brochures as fans, attempting to get some cool air.

The crowd leaving the building slowly drifted apart as everyone went their separate ways.  My mom and I paused outside, I was holding a bag with a book and a few other souvenirs. We weaved out of the small crowd still standing near the doorway and stepped onto the street. As we walked along the sidewalk we looked down each street perpendicular to the Av De Paris. When the rest of the family; my dad, brother, and grandma, decided to head back to the hotel, my mom and I were confident that we would be able to find our way back to the train station and return to Paris. We passed street after street on our right, but none of them looked like the one we had arrived on. We continued walking, “It has to be the next one” I thought. “Or the next one”. Soon enough I realized we had walked too far. We turned around and began to walk back the way we had just come. All the streets began to look the same, I had no idea which one led to the train station.

Suddenly, walking on the sidewalk in front of us was an older couple. They were speaking french, so we decided that they were probably locals and would hopefully know how to get to the train station. My mom and I approached them with smiles. Neither of us knew any French, aside from the typical “Bonjour!” and “Merci”. We greeted them with “Bonjour” and they greeted us back in French. My mom made an attempt to see if they spoke any English. “Train station?” she asked. They shook their heads and smiled. She tried to imitate a train, using her hands. It looked nothing like a train, even to me. Finally she got a smart idea and pulled out our train tickets. They immediately knew what we were talking about and pointed down a street next to us. The woman motioned left with her hand, then right. We smiled and thanked them with a “Merci beaucoup”.

We turned down the street to our right and began to walk. It was a small one-way street and immediately looked familiar. We turned around to wave at the helpful couple and saw that they were following us. They pointed straight ahead and smiled. At the intersection we turned left as instructed and then turned right again at the next street. Straight ahead of us was the train station. My mom pulled our tickets out of her pocket as we approached it. We turned around one last time and saw the elderly couple standing a short distance away. They smiled at us, turned around, and walked away. Their small hunched shapes slowly got smaller and smaller as they retreated in the distance.

That was when we realized that they had simply followed us all the way to the station to make sure we made it safely and didn’t get lost. Often times, the small things in life are what make the biggest differences. It is the small and random acts of kindness which are the most memorable as we move on in our lives. 

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