Posts tagged France
Posts tagged France
I have green permanent marker on my wrist and a young group with drinks raised are singing what I presume to be “Happy Birthday” in Italian- it’s the right tune at least. I’m twenty-one and this is Europe.
When I first began planning my Eurotrip travel, I lamented a few times, mostly when at the birthdays of others, that turning twenty-one in Europe where I would already be able to drink legally meant “no one was going to care” about what is a behemoth of an American anniversary. To this my friends appropriately told me “shut up” because, after all, traveling in Europe trumps drunken debauchery stateside, but I’ve also found that, although drinking ages flux across the globe, birthdays and birthday drinks are universal.
The entire affair began on the 6th in Juan Les Pins (the South of France) which felt like cheating the system because I was surrounded by friends from my university who were there studying abroad. Boxed wine was transfered to empty water bottles and then transfered to the beach where we all congregated sand-side to laugh and yell and be young (I still have heaps of sand in my purse and shoes I wore that night). At midnight my friend Grafton announced the arrival of my birthday and the whole group cheered and sang Happy Birthday to me over the sounds of the waves of the Mediterranean. From there we migrated to a Mexican bar downtown (How else would I celebrate a birthday in France?) where I kept being handed mojitos. At this point I began talking about my travel blog (hey, is that what this is!?) and it made sense to me and the European boys I had met to write its URL on their arms in a green permanent marker I had in my purse so they wouldn’t forget it. This escalated to further face and arm drawings, most of which were still intact the next morning as people sat suffering from headaches in the lobby the next morning (one guy on my friend’s study abroad went through customs with the French mustache I penned on him). It was a perfectly celebratory and silly night.
And then I caught an 8:30 a.m. train to Italy. That was where my hangover headache struck.
The nice thing about trains is that once you manage to get yourself on one, you’re pretty much set in terms of getting to your destination, so a few hours of stolen rest later when Alex and I arrived in Florence, I was nearly recovered for all my introductions at the hostel: “Hi, my name is Maura, I’m from the United States. Where are you from? Oh cool! It’s my 21st birthday today!”
We ended up collecting a group of fifteen to celebrate at an outdoor concert in a Florence Piazza and ducked into an attached bar to order drinks from a menu we couldn’t read, exchanging travel stories and asking questions about one another’s countries and lives. A birthday shot appeared and my second round of “Happy Birthday” singing commenced. Every person in the bar whipped around but, rather than thumb their noses at the immense group of obnoxious English speakers (I felt just like I was with my friends back home!) everyone joined in, singing a second round in Italian as well and raising their glasses to cheers. And, as silly as it sounds, coming back from the bars to a Facebook full of happy birthday notifications from everyone I love and miss at home really did top my night.
So I spent my twenty-first in Europe and a lot of people cared, here and in the states. It was utterly unforgettable and I send a most sincere thanks to all of you who made it so.
With my ears submerged, the quiet is deafening. My back is arched and I am floating in the Mediterranean, transfixed by the stars and the nearly full moon and the stillness. The stillness is stirring within me.
Moments ago I was on a dark beach surrounded by people and words and wine until I looked at the girl next to me and we stripped down to our underthings, running screaming and smiling into the sea as its tides calmly lapped the shore. Others joined. I dove under and pushed hard off the sandy bottom to propel myself back up, gasping for air. Life felt palpable. My head felt clear.
"Where are you going?" a boy from the UK via Botswana asked me, "To the boats?"
I glanced to the horizon and the glowing gold lights of cruise ships a mile ahead of where I tread.
"I’m going to the boats!" I screamed in the the black of the night before diving again under the black of the sea. I didn’t mean it, but I think I scared him.
I leaned back and submerged my ears to escape further small talk, but I immediately fell into myself. Hard. The stillness and illumination of the sky took my breath away and I felt so small, cradled by waves. Alone, exposed, shaken: I lay confronted with myself and myself alone for the first time in a long time.
I don’t know myself or what I want. I don’t know what or who I love. I turn twenty-one tonight and I don’t know when I’ll be confident in my directions and decisions-for now that ideal seems light years beyond the ships in the water.
One last deep breath and I pull myself back up. One last deep breath and I take everything left off, holding my bra and panties above my head in the water. Others do the same. We’re laughing.
My heart is yearning desperately for something, but how can I find it if I don’t know what it is?
In Juan Les Pins a street cafe sells a sandwich it’s deemed “The American”- and I can’t even lie like it wasn’t delicious. The American is hamburger patties, cheese, fries, mayo and ketchup all on a baguette. C’est magnifique.
Three people had an eating contest to see who could finish one the fastest. Cory came in first with an impressive minute thirty to down the whole thing.
In France I fell in love. With the Mediterranean Sea.
Colorful structures in Cannes.
These are the two studs who let us crash on their futons at their study abroad in Juan Les Pins- my friends Grafton and Cory. I knew them both before the trip and they were randomly assigned to live together and I think they like each other better than they like me now. Bromance doesn’t begin to describe it.
It was so great hanging out with these two and their group- brought a much needed slice of home to Europe for me.
Cannes is just two train stops over from Juan Les Pins so we hopped over for a few hours. The film festival has been over for a little now, but plenty of remnants remained. I definitely did not feel well dressed enough to be bouncing around the town, though. Now I know where people wear resort wear.
The first thing one needs to know about Juan Les Pins is that there’s a beach. In fact, it’s mostly beach and those beautiful tides were our first stop on our first full day.
Although I just caught up all my blog posts from my time in Paris, tomorrow morning I leave Juan Les Pins (the PCB of France as my friend Cory affectionately calls it) for Florence, Italy. There, Internet Gods willing, I’ll post about my experiences here (spoiler alert: it mostly involves my friends, sand, and the Mediterranean) while experiencing experiences there. Meta delay.
In the meantime, I turn twenty-one at midnight tonight and it’s the last night of the study abroad program the friends I’ve been staying with are on, so none of us are going down without a fight tonight. This is my third birthday in a row away from the East Coast and most (I don’t say “all” because I’m still paranoid about our train travel) signs point to it being the best. Two countries, one birthday- I really do know how lucky I am, I promise.
Words cannot do my last night in Paris justice. We went to the Eiffel Tower to watch it light up and got caught in the rain, so we took shelter under a tree with a bottle of wine and met some strangers doing the same thing. Within ten minutes of rain though, we had the park, and the tower, all to ourselves. Paris in the rain is magical.
Quiet moments in Paris.
Flea market-ing in Paris. I bought a cashmere scarf priced at fifteen Euro for eight. You would’ve been proud of my bargaining, Lily Price.
Although to me it seems more like the Champs d’Capitalism (so many stores, too many American stores) the walk was still a nice one.
Parisians are some of the nicest people I’ve met. No, really. I have no idea where the bad reputation comes from because everyone has been more than helpful and kind to us in Paris. Between helping us navigate streets and the metro or just starting a casual conversation, I’ve felt so welcome in this city.
Different angles at the Louvre