My journey began in Paris. After an arduous nine hour plane ride, I finally arrived at the St. Charles Hotel. Before even unpacking, our group was up on their feet, ready to see the city. Some of my favorite experiences were the simplest ones: strolling through the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, sipping on a cold glass of Evian, and snapping photos of the life around me. I looked at the vivacious city, and even though it was so fast-paced, sitting on the Champs made every second feel like a lifetime. I’m not quite sure why, but I felt a connection to this city like nothing else before.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Excusez-moi, how do I get to the Notre-Dame? From the bus to “le metro” to a Parisian street, then back to the metro again, we most definitely never stopped walking. But running on five to six hours of sleep a night, we never truly felt exhausted. With a delicious baguette, and a cup of coffee, I was ready for every beautiful day. I tried my hardest to blend in with the French culture around me, which I so greatly regarded. Nevertheless, my bright, red Sony camera gave me away as a tourist. A picture of the Gothic cathedral, a snapshot of the beautiful Versailles gates, the Siene River… I strived to make every moment seem longer by taking a picture of everything I experienced. The lit up Arc de Triomphe, the high tides at Mont St. Michel, and the small cafes on every city corner… I tried to convince myself that my short stay in France would never come to an end, but I was beyond ready to share my photos with my family and friends. My camera was a bridge between the beautiful new atmosphere and the familiarity that was awaiting me at home.
The Normandy Beaches were part of the trip itinerary. The immensity of that experience was indescribable. Reading about the battles, or even watching Private Ryan is one thing, but actually seeing the endless rows of white gravestones allowed me to truly embrace the past. I was actually standing on the very same ground where thousands of soldiers once stood and died. A beautiful view in front of me was once a bloody battlefield. The realization sunk in, and I was overwhelmed with the feelings of sadness, disbelief, and appreciation.
Those nine days went by fast. On the ride home, I was holding my camera, looking through the pictures, and reminiscing about the memories of a lifetime! And just like that, the camera vanished. Panic overwhelmed me as I crawled under every seat on the plane, until I finally saw a gaping hole in the floor under the seat near mine. At first, it seemed as if my entire life had just ended, as if everything I lived for on my trip was infinitely lost. Only a few days later did I realize the true meaning of my voyage. Yes, the images on my camera would never be restored; however, those images still lived in my heart. I could hear the laughter in the cafes, the tête-à-têtes nearby; I could see the smiles, and inhale the fresh aroma of the Versailles Gardens. Life always throws out unexpected situations, and I most certainly wish I never lost my camera. Nevertheless, I learned that the true bridge between France and home was not the camera, but my mind and heart. I learned to take in every moment as it comes, to keep my eyes open wide, and to embrace new adventures.
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