When I was 20 years old, I had the extreme privilege of spending six months in Nancy, France. Located in the north-east corner, in the region of Alsace-Lorraine (Nancy is in Lorraine), Nancy was a small town with a long history. It took me about two months to really adjust to life in France. In the meantime, I was busy being homesick and mooning over my boyfriend back in the States. Things went from bad to worse when I broke up with the boyfriend back home and then swung completely the opposite way when I started dating an American who was teaching English in Nancy. France was suddenly glorious. (It helped that it finally stopped raining and things started blooming – Nancy in January was very gray.)
I look back my time in France as just the sweetest gift. Not just because of the American-in-France boyfriend, but also because I shared it with my best friend in college, Roze. I learned to love everything from the fresh baked bread bought at the gas station to the way that all the shops closed on Sunday, leaving you free to sit in the place and sip a coffee while doing some amazing people watching. I loved train trips to the neighboring towns, like Metz, Strasbourg, and Colmar, as well as longer journeys to Paris, St. Malo, and the coast. I debated philosophy in the park with the cute boyfriend, went to the opera with Brad, who came to visit, and viewed the city of Paris from the Eiffel Tower just as the lights on Sacre Coeur turned on. Mostly, I loved being young, somewhat irresponsible (lets just say I didn’t do much studying), in love with life, with a sweet boy, with a whole country.
I was doubly lucky then to return to France several years later with my sister, who is the world’s greatest traveling partner (she shares the same values – eat as many pastries as possible, go shopping for cute clothes, maybe see a museum, but instead probably have more pastries). It was great to take Meghan to a country I had known so well (even if I had lost most of the language) and to see new things – like the chateaux of the Loire Valley. We were there for one wonderful, hot week (following our amazing trip to Ireland with our dad) and it remains one of the most special times in my life – it was just me and my sister, before husbands, before babies, before our thirties.
Tonight I am making Quiche Lorraine, one of the dishes my host father always used to make. It isn’t fancy French food, but it’s authentic, rustic, and wonderful, much like so much of France itself.
Some photos from the first time around (actually photos of photos since 12 years ago digital cameras weren’t exactly common.)
And some photos from our trip in 2006.