Wednesday, November 13, 2013
My Teenage European Vacation
I'm low on blogging ideas this week, so I checked out some daily prompts at The Daily Post. Today's topic is the furthest you've ever traveled from home. Well, the furthest I've ever traveled was to Europe in the summer of 1995 as a People to People Student Ambassador. Our group of about 20 teenagers from Memphis traveled with a similar group from Michigan for three weeks. This is Christine from Detroit with me in front of the Eiffel Tower. We still exchange Christmas cards. And yes, I do appear to be wearing a tablecloth.
Here are some snapshot memories of my trip to Europe, many years later:
♦ Staying with a kind elderly lady who spoke NO English in Salamanca, Spain. One of the Michigan girls was my roommate, and we totally exhausted my conversational Spanish, both with our host and in getting around town. I think it took us two hours to find the post office one afternoon.
♦ Our one-night stay in Barcelona and visit to the Olympic stadium. From the little I saw, it was a beautiful city and I'd love to go back and experience it for real.
♦ My homestay with a nice family in Toulouse, France. They lived out in the countryside, spoke English, and had a daughter about my age. I remember my few days with them as really peaceful and pleasant.
♦ The miles and miles and miles of sunflower fields in France. Think of how many cotton and bean fields there are in the South; now imagine they're all full of sunflowers. On our long bus rides, Christine and I wished we could pull over and run through the rows.
♦ Buying my first pair of Birkenstocks in Germany. I wore those shoes for years (it was the 90s!) and still have them.
♦ Taking a bus tour through the Black Forest in Germany, then stopping somewhere to eat authentic Black Forest cake. I wasn't super impressed at the time, but as an adult I've become a huge fan of Black Forest cake.
♦ Visiting a concentration camp. I think it was one of the smaller ones, not that that made it any easier to process emotionally. Before we got on the bus to leave, I somehow got some stinging nettle in my hand, which hurt for hours. I remember thinking that it was appropriate, a tiny empathy with the suffering that transpired there.
♦ Seeing ice sculptures and going down an Alpine slide in the French Alps. I've never liked roller coasters, but I loved that Alpine slide!
♦ I don't recall where, but late in the trip we stayed in a sports hotel for a few nights. Every major sport had a field or court on the grounds, which was really interesting. But the elevator was microscopic, so when we arrived, we all threw our luggage into the elevator, sent it up, and raced up the stairs to meet it. I've kept this good idea tucked away in case I'm ever in that situation again.
♦ Touring the United Nations in BEAUTIFUL Geneva, Switzerland. Another city I would love to see again.
♦ Paris was our last stop, and probably my favorite. Of course, we hiked up to Sacre Coeur, went to the Louvre and Notre Dame, and took a river cruise on the Seine. And everywhere we went, "Waterfalls" by TLC was playing, so that song is permanently associated with Paris for me.
♦ I bought two dresses in Paris, at what was probably their equivalent of Old Navy or the Gap. But I cherished them for years. I still have one, a denim dress that's in good shape and would actually sort of work with current trends. It still fits!
I'm very thankful that I had the opportunity to go on a trip like this, but I was young and didn't appreciate it as much as I would now. Also, I will forever regret not taking more pictures. Obviously this was before digital cameras, film was expensive, and you never knew for sure whether you got a good shot. So I only took two rolls of film in three weeks, and didn't have much that was frame-worthy in the end. The foolishness of youth.