I dreamed of going to Europe. I could have never believed my team would get to represent the U.S. in an international competition. I was excited when our coach told us we were going to France. France! How many people ever get to say they represented the country to compete in France? The food, the bread, the culture, I would finally get to experience. I studied French since my freshmen year in high school and now I got to use it. The icing on the cake was I am the only one on my skating team who speaks French!
I counted down the days in my assignment notebook, while my teachers dreaded my week long absence approaching. The practices were grueling before we left, but I was too excited to be tired. When the plane finally was over France, it was beautiful. You could see the small villages dusted with snow. It was picturesque from the sky. The pictures from my French book were coming to life. Normally when our team goes on trips we don’t get to sightsee, but today was different. We were headed to the capital of it all, Paris.
The Louvre was the first place on our stop. It was bigger than I imagined. The major attraction was the Mona Lisa. She was on a concrete wall behind layers of bullet proof glass. There were so many Asian tourists in the gallery it was a maze to get through that one room to get a glimpse of her. After Louvre we went to lunch. My one teammate was afraid we would be served snails, but luckily she was wrong. One thing we had was a plate of French cheese. There were four of us at the table and four pieces of cheese; we dared each other to eat one. It didn’t look weird, but the smells of the cheeses were strange. One smelled like cat litter, and we all refused to try it. Another tasted normal till you kept chewing. After trying two pieces of cheese, we didn’t want to attempt to eat the other two.
Rouen is like a fairytale city from Beauty and the Beast. The cobblestones streets and cute shops are everywhere. Some of the streets are so tiny that the bus wouldn’t fit through and of course the road that our hotel was on of them. The sight of twenty five Americans pulling oversized suitcases and trunks must have been a spectacle for the French. The European roads obviously were not meant for American luggage.
An issue we encountered very early is that many people in Rouen do not speak English. I had never talked to anyone in French outside of my class at school. Everyone needed my help while shopping. The boutiques don’t have more than one of the same items, and it was hard to explain to my teammates why. The aroma of freshly baked croissants loomed in the air everywhere you went. It was heavenly. When we found a stand that sold any kind of sweets or bread, we stocked up and hid them in our rooms. When I returned home, I was disappointed when I tasted a croissant. It just wasn’t the same.
I was happy that I got to go to France. What was even better was coming home with a third place medal around my neck. We were so proud of ourselves. I learned trying different foods is a good thing. Next time I go to Europe I have to remember to have a smaller suitcase, and bring back more chocolate for my teachers and friends.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.