Visiting France has been a life long dream of mine. When I was a little girl I wanted to live in the Eiffel Tower (I mean who doesn’t right? Seemed like a logical dream). There is a certain romance associated with France that I feel puts stars in people’s eyes and creates a desire to travel there. At least that is how it was for me. Although traveling to France had been my number one on my bucketlist I hadn’t planned to go when I did. I stumbled upon cheap flights while searching Skyscanner and daydreaming one day, called up a friend and we decided to go. We watched the flights for a couple of weeks and one day she called me while I was driving and told me they had dropped significantly. So, I pulled into a gas station and booked my plane ticket to Paris (the person I was meeting was not even a bit surprised that this was the reason I was late for our meeting). I was going to France. My first trip to Europe, a trip I had dreamed of my whole life. This was happening. And it changed my life
Being a passionate traveler and adventure goer, I knew that this trip was going to have an impact on me. Every trip does. I leave my heart in pieces all over the world. I also learn something about myself, about the world, and about life with every trip I take. After reflecting, journaling, going through pictures and the post trip depression I have narrowed down a few things I learned from traveling to France.
1. It’s ok to slow down. We live in such a busy society in the U.S. The push to be a workaholic, always on the go, and the constant pressure to be productive leaves us drained, overstimulated, burned out and unable to slow down without some sense of worry or guilt. In France it was very common for restaurants not to be open in the afternoon and for people to be casually strolling or sitting for afternoon coffee. Lunch was usually two hours long. People had a slower more relaxed pace. Talking with locals I learned that taking holidays and time off was valued by the people of this country. In Paris, many locals would leave work during the day to take a stroll or have a shorter work week. Meals were a time to spend with family and friends and enjoying the time together and eating lunch at your desk during the work day was unheard of. And so, I slowed down. I enjoyed afternoon coffee and wine and cheese and bread. I watched people as they walked by. I strolled in the rain. I lived in the moment.
2. Castles are even more awesome than you would think. I toured Carcassonne Castle in Southern France and my goodness was it amazing. Of course thinking of visiting a castle you know you will be awe-struck but to actually be standing in one is unlike anything you will experience. I walked from beautiful room to beautiful room unable to take it all in. The history, the architecture, the energy that encompasses a castle is unreal. Your mind thinks of all the stories that are part of that structure and it leaves you speechless. And when you leave you become part of the history.
3. Transportation in France is exceptional. We traveled between three cities in France: Paris, Bordeaux, and Toulouse. Between these cities we used buses, high speed trains, the metro, Uber, and of course walking. The high speed train was smooth, quiet and made the trip from Bordeaux to Paris a relaxing and very affordable experience. In Bordeaux and Paris we walked everywhere. The buildings and city streets are beautiful and easy to navigate. Paris has a lot of traffic so it was often more convenient and faster to walk where we needed to go. If the walk was too long of a trek the metro was an easy to use alternative and also very cheap. In Toulouse the Metro was 5 Euros for the entire day for up to 6 people. Not a bad option at all. And when in doubt, Uber is always an good choice.
4. No matter how many times you see a picture of something, it never prepares you for the real thing. I cannot stress this point enough. I had looked at a million pictures of the Eiffel Tower. I researched the crap out of Paris. But the moment I stepped out of the train station and saw my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower it brought me to tears. I spent 5 days walking the streets of Paris, exploring museums and cathedrals I had only read about, and taking a million pictures of monuments that the world dreams about. But nothing ever prepared me for living the experience. For seeing with my own eyes the lights of Paris. The Eiffel Tower at night is something I will never ever forget. It was a dream come true.
Although there are a million things I could write about on my trip to France these were the few things that really stuck with me. What has been a life changing trip for you and what did you learn? Stay wild friends.