mon premier voyage

My love for all things French may have started long before my first trip abroad but was undoubtedly confirmed during a school trip in the spring of 2003. Twenty something students, three teachers, ten days... absolutely amazing! I honestly didn't want to come home and at sixteen, decided that I had to live there one day. 

In our whirlwind trip, we stayed with host families in Eaubonne, a nearby suburb of Paris, spent two nights at the Hotel Best Western Nautica in Nice, and spent a beautiful afternoon in Monaco. We experienced a lot but not nearly enough. I could go on about many of the things we saw, said, or did - but I'll limit it to my top five, unranked favorites:

1. Part of the time spent in Paris, we were paired with this awkward group of students from Virginia. Not to say that our French accents were great but theirs were AWFUL! Not to mention, we really just didn't like them. We thought it was hilarious how poorly they spoke French so we made up a joke... Q: "Why did the Virginian cross the road?" A: "Because they forgot their 'bonne accent' (said with a thick drawl)."

Jesse and I before La Tour Eiffel 

2. J'aime le Château Versailles. It's opulent, over the top, and absolutely amazing. If you're ever in Paris, you must go. The Hall of Mirrors, the Gardens of Versailles.... It's got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Le Château Versailles

3. We were only able to spend a few hours at La Musée du Louvre and I can't wait to spend more. We elbowed through the crowd to witness the Mona Lisa. It's small and really not that impress in person. See it to say you saw it and leave it at that. What shouldn't you miss? Victory of Samothrace. It's breath-taking, life-changing and I'm pretty confident that it left me speechless. Also, while walking through one of the exhibits, one of my classmates kept repeating "that's propaganda... that's propaganda..." with a long, nasally "a" sound.

Jesse and I on the Deuxième Etage de la Tour Eiffel 

4. We went shopping at Le Forum Des Halles while some went to Nôtre Dame - bad choice, I know. But Les Halles was this amazing outdoor, underground mall, metro station and the only chance we were going to have to shop! The boutiques were cute but what I remember most vividly was the centuries old church at the edge of the mall. You literally go from the last boutique into this modest and unassuming old church that began construction in the 1300's. It was open so we went in and were awestruck by it's understated beauty. Sure, it pales in comparison to many others but amazing in it's own right.

Jesse and I while shopping at Le Fourm Des Halles

5. The hotel we stayed at in Nice had a dinner prepared for us our first night. Save for a brave few guys, most of us deemed our freshly caught meal inedible. I dipped a tine of my fork in the sauce and washed the awful taste out with water. Now, we'd all been told that we weren't to eat at "McDo", but after our plates were cleared, we ALL walked down to McDonalds for dinner. They were having a "Quick Draw McGraw" themed special, so my cheeseburger and bun were shaped like a sheriff's star. Verdict? Not bad but not worth my Euros.

The port in Nice
6. On the first day, we were all so exhausted from hours of travel that flowed right into our first day touring the city. The first monument we saw was La Colonne de Juillet at La Place de la Bastille, which commemorates the storming of La Bastille in the July Revolution. We celebrate our freedoms on the 4th of July, they celebrate Bastille Day on July 14th. History lesson aside, what was more memorable that day was what we didn't see. Exhausted as we were, we fell asleep in the tou bus that was taking us to meet our host families in Eaubonne. While the cool kids were sleeping in the back of the bus, our driver took a detour due to a huge traffic accident and we missed passing Le Moulin rouge because no one woke us up! That'll teach you a lesson not to sleep!
La Colonne de Juillet

7. In the area called Monmartre, I fell in love with la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur. Lit up at night, it's stunning. We went inside right before Mass. Wow, it's beautiful. Monmarte is a wonderful hill with little shops and restaurants. Have you seen the movie Amélie? The small grocery store she visits in the movie is located there and we were all so excited to get to see it! At the bottom of the hill, though, there were these African men that would grab your wrist and start making a bracelet on it before you could stop it. Then you kind of have to buy it because it's on your wrist. A little scary but memorable. Thanks for the bracelet, Jesse!

8. La Tour Eiffel is as amazing as you'd think. The view from La Deuxième Etage is breathtaking and cannot be missed. If you're afraid of heights, get over it for a minute to experience it. Be aware that there are some sketchy people around who may or may not try to pick-pocket you. Clearly a group of teenage tourists was a target, so the guys in the group manned up and protected us. Arm in arm, pretending to be our boyfriends did the trick and we were left alone. Then, I swore I saw my Papa. Nope, definitely wasn't him. Oh yeah, and we had crêpes from a stand across the street. Divine.

9. The Monte Carlo. Enough said? Actually all of Monaco, the tiny principality in the south of France is pretty perfect. No litter, all the taxis are Mercedes sedans, the smell of pastisse while passing by cafés, an incredibly beautiful underground mall. Wow.

10. The entire trip was amazing. The aforementioned memories are just a glimpse of my amazing first trip. On top of that, I ate some incredible food, stayed with a wonderful host family, laughed my ass off with my roommates, took a boat tour down the Seine, took the TGV, slept on the marble floor of Charles de Gaulle...


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