Then, I found myself with a little extra money, and a little extra time.
So I left for France for a week.
In terms of impulsive life decisions, this topped the list. I said to my friend Lyndsey, “I’ve never done something like this before,” and she responded, “All the more reason to do it.” I felt a (not so cheap) thrill buying the plane ticket, and the high didn’t wear off until a few days before I left. Then I was nervous- was I making the right choice? I was taking a week off from classes, traveling alone, and meeting a person I had only known for a few weeks.
But luckily, things turned out well for the most part. My teachers were understanding, I finally got to visit France during July, and got to know this new person better throughout the trip.
I’m still trying to make sense of it all, though. Something I’ve learned from traveling is that the plane ride home is the hardest. Not because you’re tired (which you inevitably are), or because you miss the place you just came from (unless it was horrible, you probably will). It’s because you still can’t make sense of everything. The experience is a puzzle piece in your life, and you don’t really know how it fits in yet.
But like every good trip, this one made me realize more about myself, and brought me clarity. I learned that while I love France, America will probably be my home for a while. I met people throughout my trip that made me realize that wherever you go, there are guardian angels. And the most important thing I realized is that when things don’t go exactly to plan, there’s a better plan out there, anyway.
The highlight of my trip was visiting Giverny. I’ve wanted to go to Monet’s gardens for as long as I can remember. I was so excited as I sat in the Gare Saint Lazare, waiting for the train to take me to Normandy. The French countryside is beautiful, and even while I appreciate the aesthetic value of Paris, nothing can compare with what I saw at Giverny.
The day after visiting Giverny, I went to L’Orangerie museum in Paris to see Monet’s paintings. I would recommend this to anyone who loves Monet, but maybe try to do it in reverse order: start with the museum, look at his paintings, and then go to Giverny. It’s amazing to compare the paintings with the gardens in real life.
Throughout my time at Giverny, I felt completely at peace. I was all alone, because my friend was busy with family for the day. But in the end, this ended up being exactly what I needed. I took a hike in the hills, I looked out over the town, and I experienced a part of France that I never have before.
And then, of course, there was the food…I ate a tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) almost everyday of the trip, and I tried a new pastry in the Marais called a “cigare.” It was rolled like a cigar and filled with nuts and honey. It tasted almost the same as baklava.
I still don’t know what the future holds, or what this trip means in the grander scheme of things. But as the French say, “c’est la vie.” And for now, that’s okay.