The first time I took a plane I was heading to France on a Grade 9 exchange trip: my family hosted a girl from France for two weeks in October 2005 and I made my way to stay with her family in March 2006. I recently found a box of travel souvenirs from the trip and was feeling very nostalgic to that first trip!
It was a great experience and I now appreciate how much time and organizing the teachers did to prepare 30 kids in high school to travel to Europe. I am getting overwhelmed finding time to prepare for my next trip and I’m planning it just for myself!
There are a few moments that I remember clearly and I thought I’d share them with you!
I wrote a travel journal for the trip and the first entry was explaining my day getting from Montreal, Canada to Strasbourg, France (where our sister school was at the time). I wrote down the times when I saw my first French tree, French car, took my first step on French soil, etc. (a typical 14 year old, right?). The other entries described each of the days and it was a great way to reminisce on my trip (much like this blog is to me!)
First Night Out
The first night in Strasbourg, a group of people from our high school and the sister school in France went to a bar – I was 14 at the time and the drinking age in Ontario is 19 so it was a totally new experience for me (and most of the other people we were out with). I’m not going to lie, I was totally out of my comfort zone and we ended up back at a house party where luckily there were other people from my high school. I ended up just hanging out with them for the night. Unfortunately, my exchange student ended up with alcohol poisoning and we were driven home by one of her friend’s parents!
Holocaust Concentration Camp
This is one experience I won’t ever forget. We went to the Natzweiler-Struthoff Concentration Camp which was up the side of a mountain. I don’t want to get in to details, because it is horrific what people can do to others, but you can read more about this camp here. We were unable to visit the rest of the camp, due to weather, but we spent more than enough time reading about the conditions of the camp in the main building and the gas chamber on the way up.
On a lighter note, I actually spent my birthday in France! On that day, we rented bikes and toured around Strasbourg. Everyone went home that night telling their parents about this story: I was at the back of the group with my friends and I somehow lost control of my bike and started heading towards a deep ditch on the side of the path. The rest of the group were on a bridge waiting for us to catch up and every. single. person. on the trip saw me fly off my bike into the ditch and crash into a bush. I ended up having to be pulled back up, after passing my bike up to someone, because I couldn’t pull myself out and had a huge hole in the seat of my pants. (Unfortunately this has not been a one-time occurrence and did the same thing the first time I went to Calgary.)
This was what I came for! We went to Paris for the last two nights of our trip and did a bus tour. We stopped at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, passed under the Arc de Triomphe AND I SLEPT THROUGH THE WHOLE THING. I was so sick those last two nights and I ended up sleeping on the bus, stepping of the bus for two pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower and then sleeping for the rest of the day. IT WAS AWFUL. I had been looking forward to that day the entire trip! Luckily, I now have a taste of travelling and plan to make it back in the next few years.