One of the highlights of studying abroad is the opportunity to travel on breaks and weekends. While I haven’t left France yet, I’ve had the opportunity to do two different trips around France the past couple weekends. To be really honest, neither of these trips has gone even close to smoothly. However, I like to think of these detours as learning experiences.
My first trip was to Reims, in the Champagne region of France, which I took with a few other girls from Notre Dame studying in Paris. It was supposed to be an easy starter trip - 15 euro tickets, 45 minute train ride, and bam - a tiny adorable town with a beautiful cathedral. What could possibly go wrong? After the ticket machine wouldn’t give us the tickets that we preordered online, we missed our train. We bought tickets for another train only to miss that one. The next set of tickets that we got was for a train which was coming late, so we would have missed our connection. After purchasing the fourth pair of tickets, we finally made it Reims. It turned out to still be a fun day - we got tea at a tiny tea parlor, visited the beautiful and historic cathedral, and even got to explore some champagne caves. And of course, I learned my lesson with trains - get there early and don’t use the ticket machine.
My second trip was to the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach in Normandy. I went with another friend from Notre Dame who is also studying in Paris. With my wisdom from the last trip, we got to the station early, booked tickets with enough time to get Starbucks and gracefully got on our train with time to spare- phew. However, when we got off at Caen, we quickly found out that we were at the wrong station to get to where we needed to go. We bought tickets for Bayeux and jumped back on the train. When we got off at Bayeux, we found out that the bus to the American Cemetery had just left moments before our train arrived. Frustrated, we weaved our way through the city of Bayeux (which is a very charming city, not that we appreciated it very much through our confusion) to find the Office of Tourism. It was just our luck that it was closed for lunch. Still determined, we decided to take a taxi to the American Cemetery. The cemetery itself was a very meaningful experience - somber and reflective. We had the opportunity to visit the graves of those who died there, go to a museum, and walk along Omaha Beach. It was a very humbling experience to understand the sacrifice that they made for our country. It made me eager to learn more about WWII. Once again, we definitely learned lessons here as well- know the bus schedule and perhaps plan our trip better than we did.
This Friday begins my winter break (one of my favorite inventions of France), and I am spending the week discovering Great Britain. I am hoping that my lessons learned from my last two day trips will turn out to be helpful for this trip. The most important lesson I learned though is that no matter how many road blocks you hit, you can always find a detour to get where you want to be.