I nervously wait on the plane to meet my new family. All I know is that I will be staying with them for 9 days in the town of Muret, near Toulouse (about 300 miles from Paris). I came to France through “Vistas in Education,” or VIE, along with three friends and our French teacher. Through VIE, students stay with a French family, dive into French language, and learn more about the French way of life. The trip cost around $3000 but the experience was priceless.
I finally get through the hassle of the airport and step onto a bus to the train station. The scenery of the famed city passes by me; I am in awe of its beauty. We get onto a train where we sit for seven grueling hours, waiting stop after stop, to reach Toulouse. When we finally arrive, a large group of people awaits us. My friends find their families but I am alone at first. Then a woman approaches me, short in stature, her teeth yellowed, her skin like a paper bag, and her dried voice rough but soothing. This is Madame Mateos, mother of Maxime and Michael Mateos. The three of them make my stay in France an amazing one.
Over the next 9 days I tour the city of Toulouse where my mouth meets the grease of French McDonalds. Though attractive aesthetically, the food is far from French delicacy. I visit the exotic Toulouse Museum of National History, as well as the ancient castle of Carcassone, where I step into the medieval era and experience one of my favorite pieces of French architecture. My taste for music comes alive at a concert in Toulouse at Le Capitole, where I also learn the craziness of the Toulouse nightlife. As my family stay comes to end, though, I long for the brighter lights of Paris.
We reach Paris, rushing through the city to get to the Hotel Val Girard, an eloquent hotel in the middle of Paris. We get dressed to eat dinner atop the brilliant Eiffel Tower at Le 58 Tour Eiffel. We visit the sparkling Palace of Versailles and feel the wind of the explicit Moulin Rouge cabaret house. We are tempted by the colors and grandeur of French creativity at the “artist’s corner” and I light a candle in the reverent Notre Dam cathedral. We overlook the city at the hill of Montmatre and gape at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The grand MusÃ©e de Orsay provides glittering architecture and familiar paintings. On our one free night, we dine at the Hard Rock CafÃ©: Paris and later visited “Crepes a Gogo,” a delectable Crepe restaurant. I taste fine French wines and even shop the Paris fashion scene in stores like Celio. I walk the Champs-ElysÃ©es and stand under the Arc de Triumph.
My trip to France was and is still one of the best experiences of my life. Maxime and I are still in touch, and I will always remember being a part of his family. When it was finally time to go after the four short days in Paris, I only wished I didn’t have to say “au revoir.”
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