C'est la vie: An American Girl in Paris - My Family Travels

Between applying for a passport, going overboard in PRE-France shopping, and refreshing my French communication skills, the month of May flew by. The countless days of going to NETC's educational travel company website, watching the countdown of days diminish from hundreds to single digits since Christmas, were finally over! Flying out of Birmingham to Miami for our connecting flight to Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport, I had my family size bag of Sour Patch Kids, liter of Evian, and passport in hand. An eight hour flight later, Paris was in my horizon. 

â–º  quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

Arriving at Hotel Brescia was somewhat a dream; I describe the buildings as resembling New York City's Upper West Side—on steroids. Successfully triumphing over the possible jet-lag, it was the morning of my first full day in Paris, and I was in love after only being in the breakfast room for five minutes: freshly-baked croissants, the richest coffee I'd ever tasted, and the freshest, most unbelievable yogurt. After a two-hour sight-seeing bus tour, we had lunch in the famous Latin Quarter at a quaint cafe, rich with character. Afterwards, we visited Notre Dame, one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I had ever seen. Did I mention the endless pastry shops? That night, after my first legal glass of wine, I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. At that moment, I felt it: I was in France, in one of the most enchanting cities in the world, at the top of one of the most beautiful monuments. It was unbelievable, feeling on the top of the world and seeing the city divided by the Seine River. 

On a riverboat cruise the next afternoon, a family from Chicago couldn't believe that a group of high school students had the opportunity to embark on such an amazing experience. Honestly, I couldn't either. Some people wait their entire lives to get to travel to Europe and see the indescribable beauty. The experience of a different culture, to see a world beyond anything you could've ever imagined, is a gift. Thinking about endless possibilities, the mom said something I would never forget: "You are so lucky, and it's only just begun." Sometimes, I get so caught up in the present moment that I forget all of the opportunities ahead of me. That stranger's words hit home and I will remember them forever. 

I was seeing things I only ever dreamed of seeing in pictures. Although traveling to St. Malo, the Loire Valley and the city of Amboise, Provence, Montmartre, Nice, Monaco, Normandy, Bayeux, and Geneva, Switzerland, I feel as if Paris is where the magic happened. Spending a few days in each city and quite a few hours on a charter bus, it was the trip of a lifetime. There are several instances I will never forget: standing on the infamous Omaha Beach, being followed by a mariachi band in St. Malo, eating lavender ice cream on the rocky beach in Nice, standing in front of the royal palace in Monaco, napping by the Loire River, visiting chocolate and perfume factories, exploring a winery, shopping on the streets of Geneva, experiencing Versailles and the Mona Lisa displayed in the Louvre, and standing where Grace Kelly walked down the aisle. I feel as if we travel and go to foreign countries for the beauty, but we end up finding the beauty elsewhere, in places such as ourselves. It's when the unexpected happens. Traveling and experience expand your horizons, and one is able to see that he or she is indeed, part of a much bigger picture.

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