When Madame Lelong and her son, Baptiste, picked me up at the Eurail station in Valence, I noticed their surprise at the two oversized suitcases I had in tow. Ah, a typical American! I was worried I, an almost fifteen year old girl vacationing for a month in France without her parents, had made an awful first impression, but the family of Auria Lelong (an exchange student who had stayed with us 5 years before when my brothers and I attended a language-immersion elementary school) would prove to be more than gracious and wonderful hosts! However, as any world-traveler can attest, a certain loneliness tends to overcome a person when they cannot speak their own language. At the onset of my visit, I wrestled with these feelings quite a bit, as I so desperately wanted to engage in conversation and show that I did indeed have a personality! As a result of the Lelong’s patience in explaining their conversations and the God’s promises of His love, the language barrier ceased to hinder me from enjoying my trip there.
However, the most amazing part of my trip occurred during the latter half: I traveled with Auria’s two brothers to stay at their cousin’s house in the Pyrenees on the border of Spain for one week. I even got to go into Spain for a day, despite leaving my passport in Valence — an awful mistake I will never make again! We all spent our time hiking, playing cards and raucous games of “babyfoot” (fooseball), and cooking—Frenchmen really are better cooks and put young American girls to shame! After our stay there, Auria’s brothers and I traveled to the Cote d’Azur to camp along the coast in a small beach town called Le Lavandou to meet up with Auria and the rest of the family, as well as a close family friend, Emma, about my age. Our first night there, the teenagers snuck away from the campground and went swimming in the middle of the night. Imagine: the Mediterranean Sea, under the stars, having the time of your life—what could be more magical? The next week encompassed days eating tomato sandwiches with paté, swimming in the crystal-clear sea, and shopping in Saint Tropez. On our last evening at Le Lavandou, we celebrated Bastille Day seaside, during which I was jokingly made fun of for being so excited by the fireworks. Though my trip was coming to a close, I spent the last few days celebrating my fifteenth birthday and received perhaps the best present ever — Monsieur Lelong took me for a thrilling ride in his red Ferrari!
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