Whirlwind Tour of France - My Family Travels

             Less than a week after school, the world moved beneath me. I could see banks of clouds and fast moving earth and water as I pondered my position and destination: France. The Eiffel Tower. Paris, Nice, Mediterranean beaches, Normandy. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the sensation of being in France.

            The plane landed in Paris and we headed straight to our first tourist destination: Sacrée Coeur, Sacred Heart. Excitement mounted as we entered the public transit toward the old chapel. Stepping into the sun, I looked up and beheld the first of an overwhelming number of the breath-taking structures in France. The church’s green steeples rose toward the sky atop the white walls and towers of the building resting on a grassy hill as though its beauty were connected with the purity of being placed above the common ground yet connected to the world by the noble staircase leading directly to the sidewalks of Paris. My friends and I had experienced the brilliant rush of a foreign city.

            I was among a flock of about twenty students with various levels of basic French, all of us excited for the experience, if not the actual pronunciation of French words. We moved into an unknown nouveau world of old, beautiful buildings and a people speaking a language we claimed to know, yet of which we understood very little.

            We raced about the country discovering history and beauty at every turn and uncovering our true identities as we each faced novel situations in which we had to choose whom to be. Choices ranged from going topless on the beach to having a glass of wine. Some felt strong trying wild new experiences while I discovered my own strength in being myself with my top on.

            Every day held fresh adventures from jogging the Louvre for lack of time, to sauntering through star-lit Paris to find ice cream prepared in the shapes of roses, to laughing at the antics of an enthusiastic goat farmer in Normandy. In an old Normandy town, we studied the massive gothic cathedral whose walls were art and stories, and were left in awe on the outskirts of Paris when the upstairs of a small and seemingly insignificant church turned out to be filled with tall windows of the most beautiful stained glass. I could not think a structure insignificant again. Rather, I felt the very small size that I possess as I stood in the shadow of La Tour Eiffel and realized its tremendous size, or watched from the ramparts as the tide came in surrounding the castle of Mont Sainte Michel, giving it the appearance of floating, indifferent to the laws of nature, or the breath-taking opera house with its marble and gold, l’Arc de Triomphe and all it represents, the proud citizens of Brittany in their impenetrable fortress, the never-ending tombstones on the cliffs of Normandy, the tomb of Napoleon in all its grandeur, Versailles filled with history meaning and beauty, and finally the natural beauties of France: the Riviera, La Seine, the fields of Normandy and the ocean’s waves crashing against the cliffs.

            During the thirteen hour flight home, I slept and talked, marveling over the unforgettable sixteen days that had just flown by. I thought of the confidence I gained and the experiences I enjoyed, of all the people I missed, and would now miss. I knew so much more of what held true importance to me and what I was willing to stand up for in my life. I also learned about friendship, about fun and I even learned a little French.

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