Sorry it’s taken me so long to post this. I’ve been going nonstop for weeks and I’ve finally got to a place where I have time to post this.My week in France was amazing! I visited the cities of Caen, Lille, and Paris while I was there and it was such a unique opportunity for me to visit with my old friends, make new ones, and practice my French, which is so much harder than I thought.
I’ll be the first to say that I loathe the Charles de Gaulle airport. It’s like a Hunger Games/Maze Runner situation, but you have no weapons and no training and you’re just trying not to die. It’s horribly confusing, exhausting, and there are no signs, and mind you, that’s coming from someone who reads and speaks BOTH English and French.
Once you get over that, France is amazing. I had a bit of trouble adjusting, for several reasons. It’s hard to switch languages so quickly and without much mental preparation. I missed my first train out of Paris into Caen and I didn’t have a way to contact the people that I was staying with. The stress of traveling alone in foreign countries for 2 months finally got to me. My journey was very different from studying abroad. I didn’t really have a permanent place to lay my head. My longest stay in a place was 6 weeks. Traveling is exhausting and I didn’t have much time to acclimate to a country that didn’t speak English.
Another reason for my trouble was my sadness. My aunt had been with me for my week in London but she had just left and I was leaving the UK finally. I was able to keep my feelings about leaving Lanark at bay while I was with her but in France, I was along with my thoughts and feelings and that was hard.
Caen, however, was amazing. There’s a big castle in the middle of the city and the couple I was staying with were so kind. They took me into downtown and then they took me to the Normandy beach for dinner. I had the most wonderful time and they were unbelievably generous and hospitable.
When I got to Lille, my dear friend, Pauline welcomed me into her home and I had so much fun. She had to work my first two days so I just wandered around Lille for 2 days and sat at a fountain in the middle of town and people watched. It was wonderful to have the peace and work through my emotions.
That weekend, Pauline and I went to Paris. We walked up the Eiffel Tour, taking the stairs (mostly by accident. We didn’t know which line we were in). We also saw Notre Dame, The Invalid, Grand Palais, Champ-Élysées, Moulin Rouge, Musee du Louvre, and Montmarte. It was a ridiculously packed weekend but it completely exceeded my expectations.
Back in Lille, we relaxed, ate dinner with her precious parents and brother, all of who reminded me of my own family, and visited Belgium, which I wasn’t expecting. We drove across the border into Brugge, Belgium. Brugge is in the Flemish part of Belgium so none of us could understand what the people were saying. But the buildings were magnificent. They looked like they were straight out of a travel magazine. I was incredibly fortunate to get to visit.
My last night, when I told them all goodbye, I lost my steely control over my emotions and sobbed like a child. Being with them reminded me that I did miss my family. But more than that, it signaled the end of my adventures and that by itself was enough to make me feel crushed.
France was a whole different experience; it made me appreciate exchange students from countries that don’t speak English. My brain was exhausted when I got back. Speaking French and thinking in French was so tiring but I worked hard and learned a lot.
Until next time