What happens when a pregnant girl, a ditzy heiress, an aspiring photographer, two “happy-go-lucky” best friends, a quiet guy, a boyfriend-obsessed girl, and an outspoken seventeen-year old boy spend their Spring Break in France together? It sounds like a new season of MTV’s “The Real World” to me. I spent my 17th birthday on a 14-hour plane ride to France. We stepped off the plane, and anticlimactically, into a seemingly traditional airport; kind of a let down. However, once we claimed our baggage and rode the moving sidewalks to the exit, France’s exceptionality was obvious. The significance of art in France’s culture was apparent with the sculptures and the antique architecture that surrounded us. Architecture’s one of the many unique qualities of France, even in the airport! The doorways, ceilings, everything was so perfectly and thoroughly constructed, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We definitely weren’t in Hawaii anymore!
Being from the small town of Hilo, where everything’s basically 5 minutes away by car, it was a fascinating experience to ride the metro, the main mode of transportation in France. The adrenaline rushed through my veins as the train sped from destination to destination, like a rollercoaster. Pickpockets are infamous in France (especially in the metros), however, I never thought that on my first trip to France, I’d be a victim! Fortunately, I caught them reaching into my pockets and was able to stop them and warn my fellow tourists. Although we hadn’t been lifelong friends, it was essential to help each other out in order to make this once-in-a-lifetime experience worthwhile.
Walking tours were on our agenda’s everyday, and they resulted in not only increasing our knowledge about the history of France, but also building strong relationships with each other. To survive the 30 degree weather that penetrated all five layers of clothing and froze us half to death, we linked arms and used one another’s body heat. It was a shock compared to Hawaii weather! Most of us aren’t used to doing much walking, so we were exhausted at the end of the day. We couldn’t wait for dinner, when we sat down, enjoyed French delicacies, and reminisced over the day’s events. We tasted several new foods, from crepes to quiche, and my personal favorite, gelato! Sometimes we shared stories about our personal lives, like our friends, families, and even romances from back home. The dinners were my favorite part because in addition to getting cultured we were able to learn more about each other; we had more in common than we imagined!
One night after dinner, we rode the elevator to the second floor of the Eiffel tower. Despite the freezing Antarctic winds and sketchy souvenir scalpers, it was a sight for sore eyes. The Eiffel Tower overlooked all of France; it felt like we were on top of the world! We journeyed to countless other museums and tourist attractions, such as the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, and Notre Dame. I was astounded by the unparalleled beauty and eccentricity that increased with each landmark, and I began to truly appreciate the opportunity I was given.
Back in the hotel, we congregated in one person’s room and laughed and gossiped until we fell asleep. They say that friendship in France is different than friendship in America. Friendship in France is a commitment, it’s not merely superficial; these ideals have become embedded in us. It’s funny how in spite of all of our differences, a country brought the 9 of us together. But then again, if any country could do such a glorious thing, it’d be France.
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