I had grown very weary of the ugly, plain white walls that I have come to call my home these past three and a half months. I have to continue to call these ugly, plain white walls home for the next four months.
It is my way to collect maps in each city to which I travel, not only to navigate the cities but also to collect as mementos to allow myself to remember the exact places that I have visited, the things I have seen, and the people that I have met. Thus far, since being in Europe this second time around, I’ve collected eleven maps. These lovely treasures of mine were just sitting on my desk, taking up space, collecting dust. As I was cleaning my desk, making room for even more books (my collection has doubled in the past three and a half months. It’s a good thing that I didn’t bring more than I did), I stumbled upon my little treasures. Throwing them away is not an option. Putting them in a scrapbook, that I can’t yet do, but letting them just sit there collecting dust? Why, I could not bring myself to allow that to occur either. So, one question remained, what to do with them?
These plain, white walls scream at me every time I come home: “Cover me with your spirit! Leave your mark here before it’s too late and May is already here! Make this place your home!” So, up they went on those ugly, plain white walls, my paper treasures, my mementos.
Some may find it silly. I find it glorious. Up they went, all eleven of them, along with some postcards and other things that I had collected from each city. This is my expression of myself, my longing to travel and see this world, to meet its people, to discover its mysteries.
For my second week of my Christmas vacation, travel of course I did, continuing on my lifelong journey of traveling as far and wide as possible. I received a glorious visit from an amazing, dear friend of mine, my now boyfriend Joshua Alexander. Though he had seen Paris before, this time around was his first time truly seeing France, learning about its culture and its people, so we had a little adventure of our own throughout this beautiful country.
Joshua first came to this quaint city of Laval that I’ve come to call my home. I live here. I have come to familiarize myself with its places, its quirks, its own sub-culture. However, exploring throughout this small city with him made me realize again how truly beautiful and comforting it is. He had a fresh pair of eyes, basking in the wonderment of medieval architecture and European culture, to show me yet again how amazing of a place my current home is. His fresh pair of eyes also made me realize that no matter how well you know a place, I find you can never stop discovering it. Things will always change. New things will come along. Old things will go away. Some people will come in. Some people will leave. There are streets where I don’t normally trek that I still have yet to see. There are buildings that I have yet to look at. Being an adamant traveler, always aching to discover something new, his fresh pair of eyes made me realize that I will always be a traveler, a new way of defining what it truly means to be a traveler being someone always discovering something new in different places. The places themselves don’t necessarily have to be new. Being a traveler is something that you feel in your heart, the ache to understand a place, its people, and its stories. This is the kind of traveler that I want to be. This is the kind of traveler that I am becoming.
His fresh pair of eyes also served me well in Nantes, my original French home. Having talked about it multiple times with him, his heart ached to see this place that I’ve grown to love so much, to see what I see, to understand France the way that I had learned to understand it. The castle, the cathedral, its streets, its people, the cafés where I would eat all the time while I was studying, etc. were all made new with his fresh pair of eyes, and I became a renewed traveler in my French home. Not only were the places renewed in my mind but also the culture itself. Different nuances of the French culture have normalized in my mind, and I forget how different they can be to someone who is not use to them. Seeing these differences yet again due to his fresh perspective made me yet again the traveler that I aim to be.
After Nantes, we moved onward to Bordeaux, a city that I have been longing to see for quite some time. Bordeaux was a first for both of us, making its discovery that much more special, being able to discover it for the first time together.
Bordeaux was discovered to be a very touristy city but also a very beautiful city. Unfortunately, we were only there for a day, but in that one day we were able to venture into a wine house, tasting both whites and reds from the Bordeaux region, some of the best wine I’ve ever tasted, if I do say so myself.
We were able to venture into yet another beautiful cathedral. No matter how many places I have been nor how many cathedrals I’ve seen, my breath is always taken away at the beauty of such architecture. Architecture tells many stories, in addition to being absolutely beautiful, and I adore gazing among its details to listen to the stories it has to tell, the hundreds of years of stories that it has to share. Joshua can hear its stories too. He never failed to see the beauty that I see as well, understanding the amazement that I find in discovering the many stories and many subtleties in the different parts of any given culture or sub-culture, for this he is an amazing travel companion.
Our other adventures in Bordeaux included playtime in the Miroir d’eau, a reflecting pool across from Place de la Bourse. Our playtime occurred at dusk. Watching the reflection of the beautiful architecture in the pool while the sun was setting was an extremely magical moment, one that I enjoyed sharing with my favorite travel companion.
Our last grand adventure of the day was searching for a beer, as one must always do, and discovering and quenching such a thirst at an English pub, called The Houses of Parliament, in the heart of Bordeaux. The beer, usually always being quite a delight, was made better by the constant entertainment of a rather offensive (in the best way possible, in the way that is acceptable and quite fun) British bartender. It’s the characters that make a simple visit into a traveling adventure.
The next day, our adventures in France pushed us towards Grenoble, but not without first traveling by train for most of the day down and around to the other side of France. The unfortunate side of this day was that we were only able to spend half of the day in Grenoble. The beautiful side of this day was that we were able to catch a glimpse of the south of France from the windows of trains, and the view of the most breathtaking and only mountains that I’ve ever seen in my life hugging around the beautiful city of Grenoble was well worth the 7 hours of train rides that we had that day.
Our first step of adventure in Grenoble was taking the cable car to the top of one of the smaller mountains, affording us the most delightfully amazing and glorious view of the city nestled in the heart of the mountains. I really don’t feel as though words can fully capture the view and the feelings that rushed through me in the crisp, mountain air while I gazed upon the entire city with my favorite travel companion. It is a view that is forever burned into my mind and one that I am sure I will never, ever forget. It is views such as these that show me how beautiful and glorious the Creator and greatest Inventor is. Though my body was freezing, that view and the companionship of Joshua by my side enjoying it with me helped me to remember and to feel the warmth of His sweet, sweet love for me.
I would return to this place in a heart beat absolutely any day.
Our Grenoble adventure was a subtle one, but a walk around the city center in the crisp, cold mountain air with a view of the mountains from almost every angle as the sun was setting was more than sufficient. It truly felt magical, and no cares have I for such a cliché notion, for it’s true. Call me a romantic, and I won’t say that you are wrong. I have no shame in this.
Dinner passed at a café of sorts not unlike ones I’ve seen, but it was especially fantastic because our server was from the Caribbean, working in France while his girlfriend completed her studies. This I find quite lovely, the thought of knowing that everyone has their own story, their own personal journey. You can take a guess at where they are from and what they are doing with their lives just by looking at them, but you will never be 100% correct. People are such surprises. People are fascinating creatures. People are what make travel so important. As much as I enjoy seeing the different places, my joy and love for travel is solidified by the people that I meet and the different stories that I encounter. Alas, traveling is not really traveling without it.
So, the first half of my past week was a blessing, filled with complete joy and an abundance of new travel experiences.
These maps on my ugly, plain white walls may just be maps to some, but for me, they are a book, a book of experiences and stories that I will never forget. They are a book that reminds me why I travel far and wide. They are a book that reminds me that every day in my life I can be a traveler, for it’s not just about seeing places, but it’s about knowing places and the people that come with them.
This is what travel is for me. This is how I have come to understand it and know it.
What is travel for you? How would you define what being a true traveler is?
In my next post, I will account how I spent my New Years Eve and even more travel adventures, but until then…
A plus mes amis….