I read a recent blog post from a friend about her trip to France and it got me reminiscing about my trip there back in 2009. That trip was so long ago but yet was worth a life time.
It started in May end of 2009, I was only 18 and was part of an exchange program called the YAP(Young Ambassadors Program) which was part of my parent’s social group ‘The Round Table’. Basically every year a group of guys and girls get sent to Europe from India and a group from Europe come here and get to travel around the country being home hosted.
I’m only writing about France because it was probably the most ‘de grande classe’ experience of my life. We visited Denmark, Germany and Belgium before reaching France but there’s something about France that evokes feelings of grandeur within you and makes you feel like an inspired artist suspended in a picturesque mystical, magical land. We hopped on a train from Belgium and reached our city of stay Lille. For some reason they separated the group so the girls went further up to the north of France while us guys stayed in Lille. Lille was a picture perfect city with it’s renaissance architecture and the narrow roadways with buildings compact and condensed – so close as if breathing close to each other – and barely leaving any space between them.
The two girls who hosted us Manoun and her sister Juliet were the nicest french girls I had ever met. We talked initially for a couple of hours about life in India and life in France before they took us around the city, incidentally our trip there coincided with the Fête de la Musique or Music Festival so the streets were filled with musicians and artists on every corner – a traveler’s paradise. I had never seen a city so full of life, vibrant and filled with musical notes emanating from every nook and corner. We stopped by at a busy centrally located stage and reveled the night away with the beer and wine flowing superfluously – as so often is the case in France. Lille’s population had taken to the streets to revel in the glorious musical spirit that had enchanted the little town – it was nothing short of a marvelous spectacle to behold.
After that amazing night the next day was spent visiting the outdoors and we were taken by our hosts to some sort of club or course or something like that with wide open spaces and greenery everywhere. We were then taken to the northern tip of France to a small town coastal town called Boulogne–sur-Mer or Boulogne where we went to the tip from where we could see England and there were WWII trenches adorning the coast like jewels made of stone and they certainly got me excited as I so intently felt the relics being transported back to WWII and imagining how it must have felt for a soldier fighting the war back then. I was always interested in WWII and the culture of Europe during those times and this day made me glad to finally get some sort of taste of how it must’ve been. After a few rounds of playing pool(snooker) we then spent the night there i as Varun -The Chef in our group – cooked some chicken for us all and we chatted, drank and enjoyed each others company. Nord-Pas-de-Calais wast the name of the house.
The next day we met the girls again at a Round Tabler’s house for barbeque and drinks it was rather a relief seeing the girls again as we had grown fond of each others company while I rather took a liking to one particular girl on the trip Ayesha and had asked her out in Belgium only to be separated in France(She’s the girl in red). So we chatted, drank and made merry that night while I played with the niece and nephew of Manoun & Juliet – Pedro and Anouck who were also with us so we ended up behaving like little children along with the little munchkins.
The last night was a rather quiet affair with Manoun and Juliet calling all their friends home for Pizza and Beer. I must say that French beer is rather different and slightly on the stronger side packed in its little medium sized pints. I was rather lost in translation at that house party but nonetheless enjoyed myself.
Here are pictures of the house party
The next stop was Champagne(the city) of Champagne(the drink) our host Louie Marie and his friends were having a barbeque party at their college so after getting ready we headed there to meet up with his friends. There we met people from Australia, Brazil, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc so it was a rather global affair. We spoke to each other about how different our cultures were and we even smoked some weed with the Brazilian guy who was the player of the group as he was always surrounded by gorgeous french women.
Me and Ayesha( the girl I liked) decided to date each other in Champagne and it was a wonderful feeling for me as I had liked her company throughout our time in Europe and although she said no at first, she came around by the end of the trip. So we were always together.
The next night we partied at another Round Tabler’s house and as it was our last night in Europe(or so we thought) we drank rather heavily and even danced to Soulja Boy’s ‘Crank That’ rap song -It was hilarious – We even made the old guys and their wives dance with us.
We then left for Paris and were set to leave Europe after having an absolute ball of a time in all the countries. Me,Ayesha and Rushil(the fair guy) were extremely hung over after drinking a lot in Champagne and were the last in the line to check in.
By the time we got to the boarding counter to check in- Air France threw at us the biggest gift of all – Air France’s flight back to Mumbai was over booked! And Ayesha, Rushil and I would get to spend another day in Paris and catch the flight the next day!
To add to our delight Air France refunded us 600 Euros each ! The same amount we used the entire trip! And gave us a place to stay in Paris!
After ditching the concerned old ladies who came to drop us. Ayesha, Rushil and I ventured into Paris armed with Rushil’s broken french! I still hadn’t kissed Ayesha and was dying to! We spent the day walking around The Avenue des Champs–Élysées a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. I love the concept of bars and cafes out on the street in Europe – a theme throughout – you don’t get to see that in India. Drifting through the streets we stopped at every cafe and bar on the street and sat there sipping our drinks. We shopped with our money, ate at the expensive restaurants, drank expensive wine and champagne and wandered around nonchalantly throughout the city as night came down on the majestic city of Paris.
There is something about Paris and its pathways that inspire you – I felt like a long lost Parisian returning to his home – That feeling has stayed with me by the way and I want to settle there at some point of my life. To add to that I was in love with a beautiful girl and we had finally gotten some time alone after the entire trip . Being in love in Paris – what more could I have asked for ? – It’s a cliche and all but I was experiencing it. Ayesha and I held hands and looked at each other’s eyes brimming with love, light, excitement and happiness and speaking to each other subtly in a language of love not spoken but only whispered.
We then bought 2 bottles of wine, one Rose’ and the other white and took those two bottles right to the little garden below the Eiffel Tower. We asked the cops there if we could drink in public(It’s not allowed in India) and started drinking right there underneath the Wonder of The World as it sparkled with lights shining brightly to all who laid eyes on it. I held Ayesha close to me as we drank and laughed and spoke about how amazing and unreal this day was- Easily one of the best days of my life. I watched her pretty face turn red after she got a little drunk and it was the cutest sight in the world. Could this be happening? I’m in love in Paris! I thought to myself.
Anyway we stayed there until late and got considerably drunk. We then cabbed it back to our hotel late in the night and I spent the night with Ayesha ! It was a beautiful end to an amazing trip.
The next morning is etched in my memory – After I woke up, I immediately went up to her and held her from the back in front of the mirror as we kissed and looked at each other’s eyes so deeply and full of love. It was perfect. We then bid our farewell to majestic France and the city of Paris ! And a night I would remember forever.
Sadly things did not work out with Ayesha and I although we dated each other for 2 years following 2009 and we haven’t spoken now for 4 years but to this day – that night with her remains the best ever night and experience I have had.
I will take her there again some day when we are older. So we can relive it.
Love doesn’t always work out. But it gives you memories to last a life time.
Vive Le France!