A One-Way Ticket to France
“Like wildflowers: You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would.”
In May of 2001, I bought a one-way ticket to France. My friend, Benedicte, who had been an exchange student in my high school in central Wisconsin had always told me if I ever wanted to come to France, I was more than welcome. In that Wisconsin high school, I was always friends with the exchange students from other countries. Getting to know them was as if I was already traveling to their home countries. Takako, Japanese, Benedicte, French and Pauline, Polish were friends that I had so much patience with, as their English wasn’t perfect, but their enthusiasm to learn and see my world was inspiring.
I vowed to show them the joys of being a teenager in Wisconsin. Open mic nights at local coffee shops that were all ages, hosted local alternative bands and poetry events. Garage and yard sales had them so intrigued, you could buy peoples used stuff for so cheap, as this did not exist in their countries. We were always on the look for great cassette tapes of music. The musical “Hair” was a favorite, once we watched the VHS and it didn’t stop for months.
Singing the anthems “I got life mother, I got laughs sister, I got freedom brother, I got good times man.” Violent Femmes, with the famous song “I hate the TV”. Even at a young age, I knew that tv, politics and mind control were prominent and I made it quite clear I would not stay in that box to appease anyone.
These friends opened the door of my curiosity to get out of Wisconsin, and the United States to see the big world and all it had to offer.
Do you remember the Dr. Seuss book, “Are you, my mother?” Mine would be “Is this my place?”
Is this my place?”
After two years of studies in Madison WI for a fashion marketing associates degree, and an extra year of a lot of work (restaurant and retail) to save, save and save some more, as well as partying like crazy through the rave scene as a go-go dancer. I was to fly off, to choose a new life. I had no idea where it would lead me.
I packed, re-packed, and over-packed, was ready to leave the boyfriend, the family and the only world I ever knew for now. My family was very supportive of my choices. I always knew there was more to life than what I was born into and I was about to take off into it. In the back of my mind or maybe it was the front I knew I was on a search for “The Perfect Place”. In the moment of being twenty years old, I don’t think I realized that was my mission.
Growing up in that rural environment with my sewing class full of girls making patchwork quilts and embroidered tea towels, I knew this was not for me. I was busy re-creating handmade clothes to suit my style of the season. Whether the thought was there at the time I know as this book came together, I was searching for a place I would finally fit in.
We ate croissants, as you do upon arrival in France.
I arrived at the castle in Moirax. It was a whirlwind ever since I landed in Paris. Bene and her mom picked me up at the airport. We ate croissants, as you do upon arrival in France. After a quick nap and a rush through Paris traffic. Around and around the famous Arc de Triomphe round-about, gliding in between cars that seemed to have a mind of their own we made it to the train station. Missed our train, but even better got first-class coach seats on the next available train to Agen. The picturesque ride took three and a half hours. We chatted and talked as two giddy seven-year-olds onto the adventure of a lifetime staring out the window as I took in my new scenery of old stone buildings and small quaint villages as the TGV train raced up to 200 mph.
Bene’s father, Arnaud, met us in Agen with 2 kisses to each cheek as a traditional greeting in France et Comment ca va? He treated us to a long-drawn-out amazing dinner, my introduction to the significance of a meal in France. La menu du jour, Seafood soup to start, Roast Chicken with steamed fresh vegetables followed by mousse chocolate et un petit café. The conversation never tired as I got to know Arnaud, and taking in the French conversations around the restaurant, and I felt a little back in time in the old train station restaurant, with the black overstuffed booth benches and wood walls with marble columns around the room.
The castle, my new home the place was gigantic, majestic, all made of stone and marble, connected to the village church built back in the 1700s. With the typical sunflower fields all around the property and cherry fields (yes, oh my god, I love cherries). And here we are in the cherry world… how did I get so lucky?
Photo credit by Unsplash.