When the word vacation comes to mind, one typically thinks of an allotted time anywhere from a couple of days, to a few weeks. If the trip is successful, the travelers will often find themselves wishing to prologue their excursion just a while. This is the true story of such a wish being granted and exceeded – the longest vacation of my life.
At the start of my eight grade year, my father announced that my family would be temporarily relocating from Arlington, Texas, a city of nearly 400,000 inhabitants, to Sergy, France, a village on the French-Swiss border with a population of roughly 3,000. As a perfectly content American city-boy, I was none too thrilled when faced with the reality of having to move seven time zones away, to a country where all I knew how to say was bonjour, merci, and baguette. So, in order to ensure that my outlook on the journey was optimistic, my dad began making me refer to the trip as a long vacation.
My family flew out of DFW international airport the week after Christmas, and thus began our six month vacation. Around nightfall we landed in Genève Aéroport, a quaint little airport about twenty miles from the apartment that we had rented for the trip. Upon arrival we were notified that moving in would not be possible until the following morning, a complication we did not appreciate due to our fatigue. As a result of this last minute alteration to our plans, we had to scramble to find a nearby hotel with suitable accommodations – Les Baladins, or The Wanderers’ Inn (http://fr.federal-hotel.com/hotel). In hindsight, this hotel was probably the worst possible place to spend a first night in a foreign country. Although rated a preposterous three stars on its website, in my mind one would be generous. The dimly lit hallways, combined with a surplus of shady characters right out of a stereotypical depiction of a seedy motel in a murder-mystery novel, had me utterly convinced that I was not likely to make it through the night. Daylight miraculously greeted my eyes the following morning, however, and the view outside of my room’s window lifted my spirits permanently.
Having arrived after dark the previous night, I had not yet witnessed the majestic snow-capped mountains on both sides of the hotel. To the left rose the world famous Alps, which were approximately a two hour drive away from Sergy, but still easily succeeded in making all the manmade structures around appear dwarfish; to the right, only ten minutes away were the Jura, a range much less famous, but equally beautiful. As we left our mold-riddled rooms in search of breakfast food, a sweet aroma floated towards us. In the lobby awaited a feast better than any American continental breakfast I have ever encountered. Even in a low class hotel, the French’s pride in food became apparent. My first full day in France gave me a much more positive outlook because it illustrated the three main aspects which would make up the duration of my vacation, delicious food (crèpes, pain au chocolats, fois gras, etc.), breathtaking scenery (mountains, lakes, vineyards, etc.), and outside activities (tennis, skiing, lacrosse, etc.).
All in all, visiting France was a life changing experience. It taught me the ways of a new culture, and helped me learn not to judge situations too quickly. I would highly recommend vacationing to the French-Swiss border region, le Pays de Gex, even if one only has a couple weeks of spare time, instead of half a year.
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