I guess the “end of the semester crisis” thing is a world wide phenomenon. Today is Sunday- the calm before the storm, as it is commonly known. However this Sunday is the brink of a major Earth shattering storm because for the past two weeks I have not had a single thought of class on my mind. The past two weeks have been my Spring break and unlike the past 15 spring breaks I’ve had, this break had to be like none other. Being in Europe and having a two-week period to Rome (ha ha ha.. had to) around wherever is like a handing the car keys to a fifteen year old who just got her permit. It’s a free for all. My Spring break was divided into two divisions. There was the “Mom and Dad are visiting!” period, and then the “Kendra and I are leaving!” period. It’s a weird feeling leaving a vacation and returning home to another one. Because after all let’s be honest, studying abroad is just one long academic vacation.
Anyways, I am not sure how the Fall term works out, but I would assume there is a sort of a spring break equivalent included. Spring break here was amazing. Having my parents visit were equal parts stressful and golden. Seeing them for the first time in two months was relieving. After two months of skyping, emailing, dreaming of home, I could finally hug the two subjects I had been so anxious to see. We planned on meeting at their arrival gate so that I could help them with their luggage and their directions and just basically get more time with one another. Well coincidentally enough, by the time I actually got my butt on the RER, I realized it was going to take me at least another half hour to get to the airport, not knowing with shuttle exit I need to take, and I was already an hour late. I was feeling pretty lousy because I bought 4 RER tickets for us that cost like $60 and I would arrive with a sign that says “MOM & DAD” but there would be no mom and dad waiting there. OH, how some God was watching me that day because after I just winged it and stepped off the RER, I heard the sound of my name. And the source of the sound was my father. They had waited for me. How we found each other is a mystery slash miracle.
I put the rest of the RER tickets to good use and brought them to the center of Paris- Chatelet metro stop. Turns out they picked an apartment that was across from my favorite dancing-on-tables club and in the heart of Paris- close to the islands and the Latin quarter. The downside? We had to haul like 4 bags of luggage up 6 flights of stairs. My mom did the counting: 100 steps a few times a day. Weirdly enough, I chose to stay with them that entire week. Oh how I love my parents.
I said it is both stressful and golden because having your parents in the place where you suddenly “grow up” is quite the juxtaposition. For example, for two months I have worked really hard to play off as a French girl- the look, the language, you get the picture. Then when my parents showed up, all I had worked towards to blend in, quickly disappeared and I was back to square one. This left me quite short with them- to which now I regret how stressed out I was. However, it was a golden experience because it was my turn to take them around the city like they once took me when I was 8. It was golden because they admitted how proud they were of me that I could handle the metro so effortlessly, they applauded my knowledge on the city and how to get from Point A to Point B. It was golden because I got spend seven days with my hilarious parents traveling to places they had never been, even though it was third time to Paris. We went to Disney Paris, Mont St. Michel, and all my favorite restaurants I will have to leave behind come the end of May. My mom noted that everything I wanted to show them was coordinating with the place I wanted to take them to eat. But quite honestly, the best part of traveling is the food! And the people you get to spend your travels with, and being able to travel with your parents who are funding your Paris Vacation is extremely important. The only draw back? Having to say good-bye for the second time.
And on to part two. Kendra and I proved ourselves masters of travel. I don’t want to be braggy, but allow me to brag. With just the two of us, Kendra and I got ourselves through the south of France for six days while speaking French (although Kendra did most of the translating for me) from city to city, hotel to hostel to couch surfing, from bus to train to boat. Traveling on your own without the safety and wallet and luxury of your parents’ guidance is something I’m going to carry with me in pride. I kind of feel like Simba while he sings, “I just can’t wait to be king”. It’s only in my imaginary euphoric state that I’m dancing upon elephants and ostriches though.
My main destinations for traveling while in Europe was actually to spend most of my time in places I haven’t been to- which was the entirety of France, omit Paris of course. Therefore, I’ve just about hit every corner of France (Strasbourg, the east side- you’re next!). We traveled to Nice, Antibes, Cannes, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille in six days. Three nights at a hotel a block from the ocean were spent at Nice. We brought along a travel book on France with beautiful photos of the highlighted cities and upon seeing the architecture and landscape of a little medieval city called Antibes; we decided to find us a bus that would take us there. One of the greatest things about the trip was picking a place you’ve never heard of- like Antibes- out of a book based on the color of the ocean and actually finding a way to get there. It feels rewarding.
We traveled to Cannes for the night, where the famed film festival is held. We spread our hands out to fill the mold of the many greats who left their imprint on the ground- like Julie Andrews, the Cohen bros, Catherine Deneuve, John Travolta, Laura Dern, and Mickey Mouse. We had our own private film festival by going to a theater and watching a French movie in French without any help from our trusty friend, subtitles. Luckily, Kendra is a very good listener and patient with me when I realized facial expressions weren’t enough to get by with. The movie is called La Fille du Puisatier.
The next two nights we traveled to Aix and couch surfed. Dun dun dunnnn. We had an incredible experience. We were so lucky to have it as our first too, but I don’t think I’ll ever find as good a match as I did in Aix. The woman I was in contact with was n her 50s and she is married with 3 children. Which, by the photos and later in person, were beautiful people. Immediately, Kendra and I felt welcomed. They gave us her daughter’s room; they fed us both dinner and breakfast, and drove us to our required destinations. And the best part? This was all for free. They were almost too nice, Kendra and I wished they would just stop with all their up and beyond amazingness. Not to mention they had a 21-year-old son that made me wish I could spend the day helping him fixing their kitchen sink than out on the French island we were headed for the day. Seriously, we were living like Kate Middleton on her wedding day. Being treated like peasants to princesses.
All in all, we had a wonderful end to our experience in the south of France. I would recommend trying the works- hotel, hostel, couch surfing. Kendra and I found ourselves in the most difficult and awkward situations that I’m now convinced I can handle pretty much anything. Well probably not really, but once again I’m catching myself bragging.
Also, I apologize for the lack of luster in this last section. My beautiful baby of a camera was stolen during my overnight train ride to Nice. She couldn’t even see the light of day in Nice. Therefore, I had to resort to disposable cameras.
T minus 4 weeks. Let the bittersweet depression begin.