This post will be about my travels from my second semestre here in France.
While in Europe, you meet lots of people and make alot of friends, and sometimes many opportunities appear in your life. While I have no regrets with anywhere I have gone, It would have been nice to accompany some of my newer friends on their excursions.
Most notably in late January a couple Norwegian friends asked me to go on a trip to Amsterdam with them because of a special mardi gras party that was happening there. I had planned to go there several weeks later with some of my other friends. I really didn’t want to cancel on my friends in Lyon but when these opportunities present themselves in such a way it makes me feel flustered from time to time.
In late February during our SECOND winter break, Neil (my friend) and I embarked on our excursion to Belgium & The Netherlands. It was a really beautiful corner of Europe, and is also known as the Low Countries (In French the name of the Netherlands is Le Pays Bas) because these countries contain the lowest altitudes on the continent. In Belgium we went on a beer binge, and were trying many of the countries locally brewed and distilled beers. We also tried a lot of the cuisine, and belgian waffles were to die for! Creamy melted fudge & chocolate on a sweet waffle topped with decorations of whipped cream (Creme Lentilly en Francais). We spent the rest of our time in Belgium checking out beautiful sights such as the Mannekin Pis and L’Atome (Atom in English). Neil and I were quite disappointed when we arrived at the Mannekin Pis as it was dressed in Latin American attire as apart of series of costumes. I was about to remove the clothes from the childlike statue, when my friend hastily stopped me. He said I would’ve caused an international crisis. Later when we did some research and it is actually the state that dresses the statue, and I would’ve in fact been in deep trouble had I acted so rash.
In the Netherlands the dynamic was slightly different. I can’t really explain it well in words. In whatever country you visit, the ambiance will always be slightly different. Dutch people were very nice and welcoming but also frank and honest. Traits that are quite a trend for many European countries. In Holland we spent an afternoon at the Van Gogh Museum, one of the biggest highlights of Amsterdam; being an art connaisseur I found it hard to resist the trinkets and goods at the gift shop. The Anne Frank Huis was also enjoyable. I still cannot believe how they have preseved Anne’s room as well as they did. All of the magazine covers and posters she put on her wall were all still in tact, some of their furniture and personal effects were also left behind. History hits us harder when he’s right in front of us. Neil, our french friend Paul, and I also spent a few evenings in the red-light district, but we won’t go into that…
I found it hard to travel in the months afterwards mostly because I had to dive deeper into my studies this semestre in order to pass. I continued to travel around the region during March & April, and developing friendships with some of my french friends. In April I realised I had some friends from my home uni studying in Holland and they were planning a trip to Paris. I just thought I couldn’t pass this opportunity up while we were both in the same country. In my opinion, Paris becomes more pleasant the more you spend with her, Once I found myself out of the tourist traffic the city became much more enjoyable. The first day I spent the afternoon in La Sarbonne neighbourhood (a university in France), and it was the most quaint place in Paris. Almost no signs of urban dirtiness and bustling crowds. When my friends arrived, It was so rewarding and enjoyable translating and interpreting for them. We went to Trocadero and L’Arc de Triomphe. We also went to the Palais de Versailles and I translated signs and captions for them. I felt so important, and it was a pleasure to help my friends out in that way. I don’t know if it was Paris or just how close we got, but I even started to develop some romantic feelings for one my friends that I reunited with on the other side of the world! Nights at Trocadero and around Notre Dame were the perfect catalysts for rekindling our friendship
Despite the exhausting haul back to Lyon, I would never trade my April in Paris for anything. I was so happy that week, as I got closer to my European and my American friends with whom I had reunited. Don’t ever take experiences like this for granted. This semestre of traveling and introspection will always have a place in the annals of my life!