During one of my last summers of college I lived and studied in Paris, France. My roommate and I were lucky enough to have been placed with a host family that consisted of a retired husband and wife couple who loved two things: cooking, and storytelling. They lived in the ever-chic 16th arrondissement, which is within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower (in fact, my roommate and I shared a bedroom in their apartment that had not only a private terrace but a view of the Eiffel Tower—our first night included a walk to the iconic site and a late-night snack at a local cafe where my love of all things French was reaffirmed when I received a baguette sandwich that came with mayonnaise without asking). Needless to say, I hit the jackpot with those two.
I spent a great deal of time walking the streets of Paris and making new discoveries and memories on a daily basis. As part of my study abroad program, my group took lots of excursions outside of Paris—Versailles and Marie Antoinette’s digs, Chateaux of The Loire Valley, and Giverny, for example. My roommate and I were also lucky enough to also enjoy a long weekend in the south of France, where we not only bonded with her extended family but also had the incredible and freeing experience of driving around the countryside in our (4-door!) Smart Car, stopping to visit hundreds-year-old small towns and take in the endless horizon.
France and French culture holds a dear place in my heart. I studied French literature in college—perhaps where I first realized my love of storytelling and, through the Romantic period, knew I was a sucker for honest, albeit affectionately exaggerated, stories rife with heartache—and the cultural way of life to slow down and enjoy each other’s company over food and good drink, is, well, southern—is it not?