This post was most recently updated on July 23rd, 2020
Once upon a time I went to France. It all started with a question. My husband turned to me and asked “What if, instead of buying a second car right now, we went to France?” And the crazy thing was, that less than a year from this random, but oh so life-changing conversation, I found myself in France. Now I can say I’ve left the country. I’ve been to Europe!
I am attempting to summarize my first international experience in writing. Why? Because in passing, people say things like “So…tell me about your trip?” There is no way I can do my trip justice in a five-minute conversation.
How was my trip to France?
I loved it, and want to go to France again someday. However, it was not easy and not always fun. I was pushed out of my comfort zone a lot. I didn’t speak the language, which wasn’t so crazy, seeing as my husband is a fluent french speaker and given context, I could catch what most conversations were about. I missed my girls terribly. I loved the food and had a blast! Oh you have to go? Ok, glad I could tell you about my trip. Bye.
It would take me maybe a year or more to find the time to write everything about my trip. Lucky me, my Mother-in-law came with us, and she’s a travel blogger, so I’ll just try and summarize my 10 days in France and let you read all of her posts to fill in specifics.
The thing about being somewhere you might not see again is that you want to do as much as you can in as little time as possible. Plane tickets are not cheap (in fact, we spent more on the plane tickets then we did on everything else, including shopping, lodging, and everything we did and ate for 10 days) so you want to make the most of it. Thus it was go-go-go! We were constantly going from one thing to the next. It was exhausting and sometimes I wished I could have slowed down and just enjoyed a vacation. I sometimes felt sucked into an attitude of “how much more can we get pictures of?” instead of soaking up being in France. I assume there is a balance but I haven’t found it yet. Maybe next time I’ll get closer to the balance between vacation and sightseeing I crave.
We walked a lot everyday which I’m thankful for since I lost a few pounds instead of gaining weight on this trip, while still eating lots and lots of amazing food. France really does have amazing breads and cheese! After coming back from France, I have a renewed love of my home and the simple pleasures I enjoy in America. One of those that may seem silly to most, but I deem worth mentioning is drinking a big glass of milk every day with breakfast. Of course on the other hand, I really miss how cheap and easy it was to get some super delicious cheeses.
As a mother of two adorable little girls, our 10-day trip without them was too long. At about day 5 and definitely by day 6, I missed my kids more then I enjoyed being in France. My husband would laugh at me when he would find me taking a picture of a playground right next to an ancient Roman ruin (true story). I’ve included a collage of pictures only a mom who misses her kids would take while in a foreign country.
Don’t get me wrong. Looking back I would not undo any of it, but in the future, I don’t think I’ll plan a trip away from my little ones that long again. My next international trip the kiddos will most likely tag along. We left them with my parents and they had a blast. And it could have been my imagination, but both of them were a lot more cuddly for a few days after we got back.
Yes, I said “my next international trip.” Who knew that traveling could be so contagious and addicting? I have always liked the idea of travel, of seeing other cultures and eating new foods. But until my husband communicated to me just how high a priority it was to him, I hadn’t much thought about a real life international trip. I’ve learned it’s not about how much money you have, but how you choose to spend it. Travel was placed high on my priority list by my husband, but I have to admit it will stay there because of this trip. “Our next trip to France” is in the someday column for now, but I can see us making the necessary sacrifices to take our children to France when they are old enough to understand, learn from, and appreciate the experience.
Now to highlight a few of my favorite places:
I loved seeing a real castle, and I’m not talking about the wartime fortresses Abbey Montmajour and Château de Baux that my husband loved so much, which are amazing in their own way. My favorite castle was Château de Chenonceau, which is more of a Princess Castle or fancy estate for Lords and Ladies like the ones I’ve read about in the regency fiction I love so much. During our next trip I plan to spend more time in the Loire Valley. This time around, we only had time for one castle and I do think we chose our one castle well.
I also loved Normandy. There was an amazing feeling there that I cannot do justice to in words–the awe and wonder of history coming to life. The love and respect that France and America share because of what happened there. It did help my homesick heart to see a French and American flag waving side by side. No matter how many differences we have, at Normandy I could feel the love and respect we should have for each other as fellow human beings. I fell in love with France a little bit more by visiting Utah Beach and Pointe du Hoc. My husband wrote about our visit to Normandy, so you can get a better picture by reading his thoughts as well.
-I loved the history that is everywhere; one example was seeing a statue of Julius Caesar in Nîmes.
-It was fun to walk around Arles and watch Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings come to life.
-Entering a European cathedral for the first time took my breath away, and it wasn’t even Notre Dame — just some church we passed on our adventures.
-Checking out all the fun foods and colorful displays at the Forville Market in Cannes.
Running into a fountain every time we turned around in Aix-en-Provence and stumbling into an adorable children’s section of the library there
-Wondering what the connection was between The Odyssey and this beautiful park in Nice.
-And Paris did not disappoint either.
As I write this and think more about the trip, I find myself wanting to plan the next one. I want to learn more of France history so when I go back I’ll be able to appreciate it all the more. I could go on I suppose, but I’ll leave it at this and tell you to keep coming back to this blog to see more of what Tami has to say about the trip.
Guest post by BrookeLynne Wilcox (my daughter-in-law). This is her first guest post on Postcards & Passports, and I was happy to have her share her insights and feelings as a first-time international traveler and young mother. She adds a fresh perspective…
Thank you, BrookeLynne!
Please feel free to add your comments below about your first international trip…or your experiences traveling with or without your young children.
It was wonderful to read your daughter-in-laws perspective. I understand what she means when she writes about visiting a place you might never get the chance to see again and all you want to do is see as much as you can but how that doesn’t leave you to be in the moment and enjoy that you’re actually there.
Yes, it’s a difficult balance to achieve. I wish we could always travel slow and deliberately.
We find ourselves always walking, walking, walking too. Jo says we are like the Energizer Bunny on steroids. And, we have been to France several times together, and usually for a month or so. I can not even imagine visiting for 2 weeks, and, WOW, to go from Normandy to Provence. But, I know not everybody has the luxury of time as we do.
With families to get back to, time was crucial, but we will always cherish what we were able to do and see!
This was an awesome perspective! I especially liked hearing the first person account of a mother who is missing her children while traveling; I’ll be in her shoes in just a few weeks when I leave my son for a week-long vacation. Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy myself and soak it all in.
Thanks for sharing about your trip, BrookeLynne! I loved all the fresh markets in France, and Aix-en-Provence is one of my favorite places! What an awesome and spontaneous thing– to choose travel over a second car! Keep traveling!
What a beautiful time spent in France!The statue of Julius Caesar in Nîmes looks great too!
Thanks, Eric! France has so much to offer!
Good to see that you didn’t just explore Paris and went a little more afield. I grew up in Paris so it’s always nice to read someone else’s perspective.
I’m so glad you choose to travel rather than buying a car. We all own too many physical things. My boyfriend and I have a deal. We gift each other trips for our birthdays.
Life is all about choices. Traveling sure brings great memories that stay with you for a lifetime.
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I think BrookLynne really captured the excitement of a first trip to Europe incredibly well. I look forward to reading more of her reflections and experiences. Who needs another car anyway?