Hands down, I had the best 5 weeks of my entire life. I don't regret a single choice I made, place I saw, or penny I spent the entire time I was in France. (Then again, if I did, you would be completely in the right to call me crazy.)
My time started in Aix-en-Provence, the most charming town that I grew to call home over the first 3 weeks of my time in France. My mornings were spent studying, afternoons exploring, and evenings powering through exhaustion to go out.
Weekend trips took us to an assortment of cities and towns, big and small. We enjoyed star-sightings in Cannes for the film festival (Blake Lively!), sailing around the Calanques in Cassis, and the Sunday markets in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
It truly amazed me how quickly I adapted to French culture and how much of the French I studied for 5 years during high school came back to me just listening to it every day. Obviously, I was studying in school so a lot did come back because of my class, but learning how to speak in a conversational manner is crucial to getting by.
By the end of my three weeks, it was time to head out on my own, my first time making a big trip by myself! I spent the first four days of my two week holiday in Nice, a beautiful Mediterranean town that was perfect for lazy beach days after three weeks of non-stop activity.
My Airbnb was fantastic, and right by the Port, and a fast walk to the beach and shopping. It was a little strange to walk around by myself everywhere after living in a homestay and studying with fellow students , but after the first day, I adjusted to the silence.
A three day stay in Monaco was next, a place I've dreamed of visiting ever since the first time I was told about Grace Kelly, so being from Philadelphia, this was especially exciting for me.Following Grace's trail around the city, and staying right near the casino made for an exciting few days, despite sweltering heat.
My mom was in Monaco when she was 21 with her best friend who has since passed away, making this a bittersweet visit, reflecting on what my mom and Gina experienced together.
Paris. How do I even begin to explain how I feel about Paris? Words really can't describe how it was to spend a week alone in Paris. This is something I had dreamed of doing for as long as I can remember, and the fact that I got to experience Paris for the first time by myself was unbelievable. Everything was so exciting, fresh, and new, and what I dreamed of and 100 times more. After a miserable day of traveling thanks to a day-of canceled train and an overpriced flight, I made it, exhausted but intact.
Needless to say, I cried. Especially when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time through foggy skies thanks to floods that left the Seine rushing loud & proud for a majority of my trip. I ended up experiencing great weather the entire time, with not a drop of rain while I was in Paris, and I'd like to think that the skies cleared for me.
I took a day trip to Versailles, another place I had only dreamed of, and boy was it better than what I dreamed. The gilded gold, stunning fabrics and design left me speechless, and as I sat in the garden eating an overpriced salad, I couldn't believe that I was experiencing this.
If you can, travel alone. I've had three very different travel experiences in my life so far (Israel on birthright with 40 strangers in 2014, London with my sister in 2015), and I can't wait for what's to come in the future!