Let’s play a little game. Here we go. I say “France.” You say what? “Paris”? “The Eiffel Tower”?
I find it so funny to hear what other people think of automatically when they hear the word “France.” It was interesting to see how many people back home used the words “France” and “Paris” interchangeably. “Have fun living in Paris for a year,” they would say. After living here for two months, however, I have come to realize that they couldn’t have been more wrong. There is so much more that this beautiful country has to offer than just the city of Paris.
Paris is absolutely beautiful, don’t get me wrong. I was able to experience it firsthand at the end of September when I was fortunate enough to travel there for a weekend with all of the other exchange students in my Rotary district. Beautiful, ancient and breathtaking; it was everything I had ever imagined. As I climbed the 1,665 stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower, got my picture taken next to the mysterious Mona Lisa and rode on the top of a boat floating down the middle of the Seine, admiring the “City of Lights,” I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people from all over the world had done the same. I reminded myself how lucky I really was to be different from all the rest though, because unlike them, I wasn’t going to be getting back on a plane in a few days, ending my vacation and have to head back into reality. This was my reality.
Just last weekend I traveled to the Normandy region in the northern part of France. Normandy is filled with quaint seaside towns, beautiful beaches and remarkable history. Standing on the coast of France with my eyes on the Atlantic Ocean was one of my favorite moments so far in France. I closed my eyes and told myself that home was on the other side, and that if I focused my eyes hard enough on the horizon, I’d be able to see it. I visited the site of D-Day, a day that played such a huge role in the history of our nation, as well as the cemetery dedicated to the men and women who risked their lives for our country. I had never been more proud to be an American in my life.
I was also able to learn a little more about the history of France as I paid a visit to Le Mont Saint Michel, a beautiful cathedral located on its own little island. With each and every turn, I was presented with more beautiful architecture, beautiful artwork and beautiful landscaping. I’ve come to learn that that’s just France, though. Everything here is beautiful.
France is so easy to fall in love with. It’s so diverse and holds a little piece of its own special magic for all who are fortunate enough to pay a visit. From its beautiful beaches, sleepy little towns, flourishing farmlands, ancient cathedrals and bustling cities, France has so much more to offer than just what may come first to mind. With each day, France is becoming more and more of a second home to me.
Ashley Bliss is a Cooperstown Rotary exchange student. Follow her adventures on her blog at www.ablissfulbonjour.wordpress.com