I am leaving tracks all over France as I travel across the country in these high-speed trains. This time it was to retrace my steps for some closure. The way I left was so abrupt so I needed a few last days with them in order to turn the page.
And so I left last Tuesday, early in the morning, for Paris Gare de Lyon. I walked in the dark to the metro station. Dragging my suitcase behind me with help from my temporary host sister, who takes the train to school every morning. I had to wait for the ticket booth to open because I didn’t have enough cash to buy a ticket from the machine that doesn't take American credit cards! Luckily it opened and I got my ticket in time. When we reached the platform my temporary host sister met up with a group of friends but there wasn’t much time for introductions as a crowded train roared in a few seconds later. I quickly realized that it was far too full for me to push my way on with a suitcase. So I watched as my host sister and her friends were swept away in the rush hour crowd and I stepped back to wait for the next train.
In which time I decided to check my train ticket, what a smart idea right? Except I was a little late in doing so as I read that my train was 40 minutes earlier than I had somehow invented in my head. Which means it was leaving Gare de Lyon then, as I waited for the metro 20 minutes away.
As much as I may have liked to I didn’t really have the time to sit down in a corner and cry so, I made a plan. I didn’t have credit on my phone to call and cancel my ticket so I focused on first getting myself to the station, that's really all I could do after all.
Since it was early in the morning I didn’t have to wait long for the next train. Once on, I told myself that at that point there was nothing I could do, no speeding up the train or going back in time, so I sent messages to my friend who was to pick me up in Valence and scolded myself over and over again for not having thought to check the time of my train.
I got to Gare de Lyon with plenty of time to make the train that I had invented in my head but a solid 40 minutes after my actual train had left. Luckily the SNCF worker found this funny and we laughed about it as he generously booked me a ticket for the next train to Valence. I had to pay a small fee but got the choice between a window or aisle seat. (window seat please!!!)
At this point just about everything that could go wrong had, so I didn’t get too frustrated when I saw that my train had a 40 minute delay. Instead I used the time to get an overpriced-train station-breakfast (5 euros for a croissant and hot chocolate) and bought boxes of chocolate for my two friends with whom I would be staying.
When my train at last, pulled in to the station I boarded and had to ask the man sitting in my seat to move in order to claim my much deserved window seat. (The views of France were well worth the cold shoulder I got for two hours.)
With the thin layer of snow that had fallen my train ended up having a 2 hour and 40 minute delay. Which made everyone around me yell and pound on the train’s tables, and made me feel terrible for my friend whose family was waiting for me at the station in Valence!
We had planned to go skiing the afternoon of my arrival but getting there 3 hours later than expected changed that. After a movie scene run and hug and kiss each other moment with my friends we headed back to her house.
It was truly a weird feeling to see Tournon again, you would think I had been gone for much more than three weeks. It felt like the feeling I expect to get when I see my home in July.
The second I saw the Chapoutier wooden sign on the mountainside and smelled the chocolate from the Valrhona factory down the street, I felt, safe. It was all familiar and what I had come to love.
I spent the afternoon catching up with two good friends. It’s amazing what one can miss in just three weeks away from high school! The next day we went bowling, something I hadn’t done in years and am not very good at. Leaving me in last place behind my friend’s ten year old brother…
|At the bowling ally!|
We went to a party that night at a classmates house where I got to see a good amount of people from my class. We talked and danced until morning. But somehow managed to get up the next day, with just a few hours of sleep on the hard ground, and go skiing.
Remember back in October I wrote about an AFS weekend in Vercors? I tried to put the beauty of the mountains and cave into words and describe it to you all (an impossible task). But I’m going to try again because that’s where we went to ski! The water that I had seen gushing out of the mountainside was now frozen and enormous icicles overlooked the cliffs. Giant chunks of ice lay on the thin windy road and served as proof that the road had become even more of a threat.
Now I would like to think that I’m not a terrible skier. I mean there was that time when my mom urged me to go up a level and I ended up sitting down at the top and crying… but other than that I think I get by okay!
I was however definitely a little (a lot) nervous about skiing in Europe. I mean these are mountains. I'm from Maryland and they just don't come like this back there. But I was offered the opportunity to go and I wasn’t about to turn it down! Luckily I was with a very good friend who was extremely patient with me and just wanted have a good time. So we started with the easiest slope, which ended up being absolutely stunning.
Where I ski back home you can typically see the bottom from the top of the mountain, and it’s a straight descent with a bunch of other skiers. While this was a one-man path that swerved around the mountain. It was easy to the point that I only fell once (of course right after speeding up and thinking about how well I was doing). The feeling of solitude between those trees was really special.
We kept going for a few hours, and stole her little brother’s sled to slide down the mountain once. On the way home we stopped for a much deserved hot chocolate.
The friend that I had been staying with left to visit family on Friday so I spent my last couple days with another friend. I wrote about going to her house for a sleepover back in September, because I was so impressed with her house up in the mountains.
And I was no less impressed this time around. The long windy road to reach her house is well worth it to live in such a beautiful area.
We spent hours relaxing and lounging around in front of her fireplace. The temperature here had been below freezing so we went out to check if her horses could still drink from the lake. While there, I had a sort of revelation. I am a mountain girl and I want (maybe need) to live in the mountains of Ardeche.
|My friend's yard|
We went to another party that night, this one much bigger and for the celebration of a boy’s 18th birthday. Staying up even later this time around, I only got about two hours of sleep. And it was on the floor of a rented out party room… When we got back home I took the most appreciated shower of my life, ate a delicious lunch of lasagna and then my friend and I took a 6 hour nap.
I was in Tournon for six days and loved every second of being back with my friends!