Monday, August 9, 2010

Tim's Blog: The Final Week/Epilogue (Carpe Diem)

And live for the moment now

-The Spill Canvas The Tide

There's no place like home
There's no place like home

There's no place like home

-The Receiving End Of Sirens Pale Blue Dot

If this is your first time viewing this blog, I strongly suggest going to my first blog and begin there. But to make a long story short, France was the best experience I've ever had/will ever have in my entire life.

I can barely put into words what this trip meant to me. Every single day was some new experience; something unique. I know the experiences I've had in this country will never be replicable and the time I have spent has been priceless. The only way anyone would ever be able to experience the freedom, the culture, the love and the fun that I've experienced in France would be to live and study there for at least a month.

There were many miniature excursions that our group went on that I didn't cover that happened at the University. On some of the days that we didn't have to go on a bus to some distant town or beach, we would return to the University later in the evening for some kind of program or activity. On one of these nights, we learned the traditional dances of southern France. And on another night one of our tour guides, Jeremy, played a plethora of common french songs. There have been barbecues and movies as well as games of soccer (football), volleyball, basketball and ping pong tournaments.

We spent the last week of school finishing up our lessons and bidding farewell to our friends and professors. The classes have been an amazing experience and all of the professors have been very helpful. They've taught us a lot in the month that we've been here, and these classes have made me fully convinced that the only way someone will learn a foreign language effectively is to study abroad in that country.

On the 25th of July, we visited Penzenas, Plage Colcanique (a volcanic beach), Canal Midi, and Beziers. Penzenas is a small village, nicknamed the Versailles of Languedoc, and is famous for its french play writer/actor, Moliere. Afterwards we visited a volcanic beach, which in my humble opinion was the highlight for this particular excursion. Though the water was freezing, the sun was hot and we were able to lie on the rocky beach comfortably. I was able to scale along the cliffs on the sides of the beach and look over the entire area from the top. We soon left the beach to visit the Canal du Midi, which is a channel connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. After the quick stop, we finished our excursion with a visit a Gothic Cathedral that was rebuilt in 1209 after the crusade against the Cathers. Even in daylight the interior of the cathedral seemed gloomy and foreboding, but the panoramic view from its top was breathtaking.

For 27th of July, I made a reservation at my favorite restaurant in all of France, "Les Jardins de la Babote" for our group. There were fresh salmon and deliciously tender steak, raw meat and wine, and a lot of laughs and pictures. Everyone had a good time at our last meal together. Something I'll miss most about France is the food. Every single meal I've had was better than the last, and I know I'll rarely come across something so fresh and exquisite in America as I have here. A funny thing I've noticed about France is that the harder it is to locate their restaurant, the better their food is.

On the final night of France, we all went to the Montpellier Wine Festival located at la Comedie. More specifically, it takes place in the Jardin du Champ de Mars. The location of this jardin is more or less in the same spot as the plaza of la Comedie. At this festival, over 40 different wine producers gather at la Comedie to give out tastings of their wine and vendors from all over bring out their wide assortment of local produce, candy, books, clothing, pottery, and everything in between. I would average about a thousand people being at this festival at any given time, and it grows exponentially as the night progresses. At the end of the long line of little boutiques is a large area where, if I would guesstimate, roughly 65% of the crowd is at all times. In this large area, live music (mostly, if not all, American music) is being played and people are gathered around the stage drinking, eating and socializing. Our group hung out there for the remainder of the night listening to the music, drinking and conversing. When the festival ended, we took the tram back to our dorms and slept until the next morning when we all had to leave France for good.

We left early the next morning; those who were staying behind in Europe woke up to say goodbye to us before the bus departed. The ride from Montpellier back to Marsielle was smooth. We were able to get to the airport, check our luggage and get on our flight with only a few minor hitches. When the plane arrived in Amsterdam, we departed and immidiately boarded our plane back to JFK. The flight back to the States was very pleasant on AirFrance. After arriving at JFK, we all met up after departing the plane, went through customs together and claimed our bags. We left the baggage claim and met our families, and it was here that we said our goodbyes to each other. As sad as the moment was, there was comfort in knowing that most of us would see each other in only a month or two, and that plans were already made for those who didn't go to Stony Brook to come and visit for a weekend before the end of the year.

It was sad leaving everyone at the airport. It was also very unreal to be back in the United States. I gave out my hugs, said my goodbyes, gathered my bags and headed back to reality.


It's been a little over a week now since I've been back from France, and I must admit that I miss it more and more with each passing day. The entire program was an absolute wake up call to what I've been missing in life, and I've never imagined I'd have so much fun on a trip. All of us in the group still keep in constant contact with each other, and plans have been made for the first few weeks of the semester to meet up with each other, maybe grab a drink or a bite to eat.

In my opinion, the best parts about the trip were the people I've met (ranging from Ireland to Turkey, Germany to Spain, as well as the people from my group) and the food I've eaten. I did have plenty of pictures of the food I ate on the trip, but silly, clumsy me dropped my phone somewhere in France, and all of the food pictures are lost. Regardless, the food of France was unparalleled; probably because it's so fresh (most of the ingredients they get are local, and they don't use nearly as many chemicals in their food (especially the meats) as America does). Another thing I'll miss is playing soccer (football) against all of my foreign friends. You won't realize how seriously Europe takes soccer (football), until you go over and see it for yourself, but I was there during FIFA 2010, and let me tell you, soccer (football) is more popular over there than the NFL Superbowl and the MLB World Series combined.

What I've learned from this trip is that memories are forever, and if you're in a spot where you can make a few, then give it everything you've got and have the time of your life. Learn as much as you can from where you are, take nothing for granted, and most importantly, Carpe Diem! Seize the day, because yesterday's history and tomorrow's a mystery. I've had an amazing time, and I do not regret a single experience from the four week trip.

In many ways, France was too amazing to believe to have actually happened.

It was the best. trip. ever.

Montpellier, France 2010!
*This photo is excluding Brittany =(