My first Throwback Thursday, as you can probably tell from the title, is going to be a reflection on the most wonderful place I've ever been: France.
|La Tour Eiffel|
The earliest I can remember being in love with France was in third grade when, for an activity in a workbook, I wrote that I wanted to be a French teacher. (Ha!) My aunt is a retired French teacher, my grandmother spoke French, and both my mom and dad took French when they were in high school. I did take a French summer school course (for fun) when I was younger, but I couldn't wait until I was in high school so that I could start learning properly.
Which is exactly what I did. I signed up for French 1 my freshman year of high school, and I continued through the first college level, French 205, when I was a senior. Unfortunately, our high school French program wasn't very strong, and when I was in French 3, one of our beloved French teachers passed away. (RIP Mme. Fox) Despite this, I have always been good with language, and I caught on as best as I could. Although I'm certainly not fluent whatsoever, I still love the language, the culture, and the country.
Through my high school, then, I was able to fundraise for a two week tour of France! I had been looking forward to this moment for years, and finally my dream was about to come true. In the summer of 2014, I left America and set foot on European soil for the very first time.
We began our trip in Paris, and sadly, the weather was abysmal. It was colder than expected, and while we did have some sunny moments, it rained for most of the time. However, that didn't take away from the excitement I felt while being there. It was so surreal - it was hard for me to actually comprehend that I was in the City of Lights, the City of Love! We visited Musée Rodin, Les Invalides, took a river boat tour on the Seine, climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited Musée du Louvre and Notre Dame de Paris, and shopped on the Champs Élysées, just to name a few activities!
|Notre Dame de Paris from afar|
We left Paris and traveled to Giverny, where Monet lived. We spent the day exploring his beautiful gardens that inspired so many of his artwork, and then continued on our journey. Since a lot of the tour consisted of driving, we took many pit stops (ranging from hour-long to overnights), which, to tell you the truth, were the most beautiful and exciting pit stops I've ever taken. Within the two weeks, we pit stopped in Rouen, where Saint Joan of Arc was burned at the stake; Caen, which served as our overnight before heading to the Normandy Beaches; Saint-Malo, a breathtakingly charming fortified city; Tours, from where we explored the Chateaus of the Loire Valley; and Paris again for just one night, as we needed to catch a plane the next day to take us to the French Riviera.
|Basically Monet's backyard|
|A morning walk on the fortified walls of Saint-Malo|
As mentioned above, these places were merely the pit-stops on our journey. The main events were equally as exciting and just as beautiful. I had the opportunity to visit two of the Normandy Beaches, Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc (which isn't technically a beach). It was a moving and inspirational day.
|The vast Omaha beach|
|The cliffs surrounding Pointe du Hoc, which Texas Rangers scaled on D-Day|
We also visited Mont Saint-Michel, an island in Normandy that houses a Benedictine monastery, as well as 44 residents. It was here that I bought my brother his birthday present (because his name is Michael), and more importantly, it was here that I discovered the best tasting butter cookies in the entire world. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
|Mont Saint-Michel...with lovely scaffolding decorating its front.|
One of my favorite parts of the trip was exploring the Chateaus of the Loire Valley. We visited Chateau de Chenonceau, the Chateau that belonged to King Henry II's mistress Diane de Poitiers, and later to his wife Catherine de Medici (any Reign fans?). The gardens were absolutely breathtaking. I could've spent the whole day, just exploring the gardens themselves. We also visited Chateau d'Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci is supposedly buried.
|Chenonceau from afar|
|Da Vinci's tomb|
|Side view of Amboise|
Last but not least, we spend the last three days of our trip in paradise! That is, the South of France which is the French Riviera. We stayed in Nice, and the weather was hot and sunny! We spent time swimming in the salty Mediterranean, buying ice cream, relaxing, and even took a day trip to Monaco, a principality nestled between France and Italy, and visited the quaint village of Èze, where we explored a cactus garden!
|Yacht shopping in Monaco|
|A view from the cactus gardens|
Now this is going to sound corny, but my heart actually aches a bit looking back on these pictures. I had the time of my life on this trip, learning French history, eating French food, and experiencing French culture. I remember I wasn't homesick once. The day we left, I was extremely and pitifully sad. It all feels like a dream now, but in the best way possible. I'm so glad I was able to travel to France and create these memories, and I can't wait to go back someday.
I hope you enjoyed my first ever Throwback Thursday! I sure enjoyed writing it. Leave a comment if you've ever been to France, or leave a comment sharing your favorite vacation destination - I'd love to hear from you!