I’ve been struggling for a phrase that captures my time in France besides, “a dream come true.” The words I seek are more eloquent, less trite, and—if I can truly have my literary way—include alliteration.
I’ve consulted a thesaurus, deleted dozens of sentences, and poured myself an extra glass of wine. I’ve gone for a run to clear my mind (that was before the wine) and read a few phrases from some of my favorite authors for inspiration.
No matter where I take myself mentally or physically, however, I arrive back where I began: Our trip to France was a dream come true.
Having a dream come true is a rare, beautiful, and bittersweet thing. I dreamed about spending an extended period of time traveling through France since the day I left study abroad, eight years ago. That dream not only came true—it happened within the same decade, and I shared it with my best friend.
And my family too.
I can’t say that I deserved it, only that I am blessed.
Yes, we saw some of the greatest works of art at some of the greatest museums in the world—and some of the quirkiest.
Making friends at the Paris Natural History Museum
We visited historical sights and sipped wine at cafes frequented by some of the greatest authors, artists, and philosophers of the 20th century. We even ate dinner at a restaurant beloved by Ben Franklin.
James and Ben at Le Procope, the longest-running restaurant in Paris, a favorite of Ben Franklin (that’s his portrait in the background), and one of our best meals of the trip.
When I look back on our trip, however, the moments that shine the brightest are not seeing the Mona Lisa or sipping a kir royale at a historical café.
A moment with Mona—and several hundred of her closest friends.
Instead, my mind is peppered with memories of a different kind: driving through gorgeous countryside with no agenda except to pull over whenever we felt like taking a photo; spending hours talking with my host family and realizing how much, yet how little, has changed; discovering that the ability to speak French—a ridiculously complex language that I love—still resides within my scattered brain; going for morning runs past the Louvre and Eiffel Tower; eating, eating, EATING the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Escargots at La Rotisserie
Roasted Lamb at Les Papilles
Food; language; people; scenery. These are my memories of France.
The past week and a half at home has been filled with more funny adjustments than I anticipated.
- I corrected the barista when she handed me my latte, because I had ordered the small, and the cup she gave me was mammoth. The mistake was mine—that drink was the small. I’d become accustomed to the shot glass-sized espressos I ordered in Paris cafes whenever we needed a bathroom, wifi, or a place to read.
- The night we arrived home in Madison, we promptly went to dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant (for these—what else?). When the waitress brought us our bill without my asking, I felt a bit affronted. What did she want to do? Kick us out? Could we not stay three hours if we felt like it?
- The sound of a TV. The one in our Paris apartment didn’t work, so we simply went without it. I liked it that way, and I’ve hardly turned ours on since we returned.
- Frequent, easy access to water fountains; people politely making room on the sidewalk; large roads: All nice things about being back in Wisconsin.
I brought a few souvenirs from France home with me, most of the edible variety. I’ve been enjoying Poilane bread for breakfast, neatly polished off my macarons, and had a box of salted caramels from Brittany waiting for me when the macaron supply was depleted. I suppose I could have splurged on a bottle of Chanel perfume, but it would have had to compete with a bottle of wine we picked up in Provence for the prized space at the center of my checked luggage . The thought was too horrific to bear.
Sorry Chanel—I prefer the bottle above.
I want to thank you all for sharing a piece of this dream with me. It was such a joy to be able to post photos and memories here, as well as Facebook and Instagram, throughout our trip. I’m incredibly grateful for your support and for your words of encouragement to make the most of our time abroad. I am elated to say that we did.
I don’t know when we will be back to France—my bucket list of places to travel is forever growing longer—only that we will. The country has stolen a piece of my heart. I’m happy to allow it to stay, so as long as I can come visit it every now and then.
No goodbyes for this girl. Instead, I say, adieu.
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