There is an endless amount of things that one can learn while traveling throughout Europe, both about one’s self and the world we live in. One of the most useful and applicable things that I have discovered during my travels, is that the experience of traveling somewhere new is drastically improved when you are accompanied by someone who lives in or comes from the area you are visiting.
Last summer, I had the great fortune of growing closer to a wonderful friend of mine, Sophie, who is from France. Before I left for Germany, we made plans to spend time together over my Christmas break, while she would be in France visiting her family and friends.
I returned to Germany on January 1st, after a two-week visit from my mom that ended in London. The next day, I had re-packed my backpack and was off to Dijon, France, where Sophie met me at the train station for a joyful reunion. She and some of her friends from Uni took me around the city, showing me where they used to spend their free time during the semesters, and telling me about their city, sometimes referred to as “Little Paris.”
That evening, Sophie took me to a local bar, where we met up with dozens of her friends. We spent the evening talking and laughing over cocktails and beers, taking turns buying each other rounds and learning about each other’s cultures.
I don’t speak a word of French, so I listened with confused ears to the fluid language, marveling at the differences between French and German. Fortunately for me, most of the people there spoke English quite well, and they did a wonderful job of keeping me included in the conversation. As the night progressed and the alcohol continued to flow, my bond with Sophie’s group grew, and by the time the bar closed, we were all great friends. The shenanigans that ensued that night after we left the bar will never be forgotten…
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast at McDonalds, and then headed to Langres, where we met up with Sophie’s family. Langres is the largest village near Sophie’s home, Vitry-en-Montange. It is a walled city on the top of a hill, with a marvelous view of the surrounding countryside.
By the time we arrived in Vitry, the sun was close to setting, so we unfortunately did not have time to take a walk around the area. Sophie and I had a quiet evening together, and she cooked me a fabulous french meal of pasta and Quenelles, which is a lovely French word for cow intestines. It was surprisingly tasty (much unlike the sheep intestines I consumed in Istanbul), and I cleared my plate.
After our meal, we took part in a fun French tradition for the Epiphany (which is the 6th of June everywhere except for our world, where we do what we want). To celebrate the Epiphany, a special kind of cake called Galette des Rois is eaten, inside which a little prize known as a fève is hidden. Whoever gets the piece with the fève inside is the king or queen for the day, and is relieved of dishwashing duty after dinner. Sophie, the gem she is, ensured that I discovered the fève in my slice of cake.
Early the next morning, Sophie and I boarded a train for Paris. We arrived shortly after noon, and were greeted at the train station by another good friend of Sophie’s named Janyce. She treated us to lunch, and then took us to her parents’ home, about an hour’s train ride outside of Paris in a little village called Pommeuse.
I wish that I had had the sense to photograph more of Pommeuse. It is an adorable and oh-so-French village, and the cottage in which Janyce’s family lives is absolutely charming. On my first night there, I enjoyed champagne and appetizers with Sophie, Janyce, her sister Louise, and her parents. I tried Foie-Gras, which is goose liver, and also quite delicious. We had a great time talking and laughing, Sophie catching up with the family and I getting to know everyone and enjoying the atmosphere. After our fabulous dinner of roast chicken, we enjoyed another Galette du Rois, and this time Sophie was the queen of the day.
Spending the evening with the family next to the fire was, for me, perfect. Although I was able to spend Christmas with my mom, we spent most of the time traveling and BNB hopping, so I missed out on the close coziness that characterizes my favorite part of the holiday season. The Collombet family lovingly adopted me for a few days, making me feel included and special, which meant more to me than words can convey. I will never forget their love and generosity.
The next day, Janyce and Louise took us around Paris, showing us all that we could pack into my last day in France. We climbed up the Eiffel tower, crawled down into the Catacombs, checked out the Arc de Triomphe, stepped into the Notre Dame, and walked through the narrow Parisian streets, observing the differences between Paris and the rest of France.
Paris is massive and confusing, especially to someone who doesn’t speak any French. My experience in the city of lights was made immeasurably more enjoyable by my delightful French guides, who not only expertly navigated the underground, but also provided me with insider information about the city that I might not have otherwise gained. They truly made my experience in France incredible and unforgettable.
This visit was also my second trip for which I had to plan virtually nothing (Berlin being the first). I never realized how much work and stress is involved in planning a trip, be it to another country or within my state of Baden-Württemberg. My dear friend Sophie planned the entire thing herself, gathering all her friends together in Dijon, coordinating our stay with her parents and our train journeys around France, and working out the details of our stay in Paris. She did a fabulous job of making me feel pampered, and I am anxiously looking forward to the day I can return the honour. Friends are truly one of the most precious things that we can possess in this life, and I am blessed to have Sophie as such a close friend of mine.
More photos of my trip are in the slideshow below, for you to check out at your leisure. Have you been to France, and experienced exciting things, good or bad? I’d love to read about it! Let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading! Au revoir!