Eight years of probably the most important period of my life has been spent being cultivated in the French culture and language. As a devout student of French missionary schools in Istanbul, I always had a biased admiration toward the country, much to the dislike of people around me. As a young teenager, I dreamt of living and studying in Paris.
I had the opportunity to first visit Paris when I was fifteen. It was cold, it was distant and it was grand. Yet, it had the romantic charm that only Paris could offer. In the summer of the same year, I participated in an international dance festival in Marseille as part of a Turkish dance troupe. Passion for travel was already so engraved in me that I had convinced the rest of the group to make visits to Aix-en-Provence and Monaco. I always believe that one should never postpone anything in life. You never know what’s going to come next.
I had a dreamy time in the South of France that summer. It was my first trip abroad without my parents and my first experience of dancing on stage professionally. It was simply wonderful to spend time with friends from various corners of the world. The shows we have done in small towns of the Provence was a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit those places.
When I was in Paris that year, more specifically in EuroDisney, I had received news that someone I care deeply about was also there. I had spent all my hours at Eurodisney searching around, hoping to come across that person without success.
Years later, I have found out that in the same summer, that same person was again in France at the same time as me. Fate had again not allowed to cross paths.
When I was at university, I jumped at the opportunity to do a study exchange programme for 6 months in Paris. It was my dream come true. During those 6 months, I have truly ate, breathed, lived Paris. There was nothing more I liked than simply walking in the streets of this beloved city. Yes it can be dirty, yes its habitants can be rude. But there is something about Paris. It is so easy to walk around and at each corner devour the gracefulness of the architecture, the layout of avenues, the bohemian charm of Montmartre, Le Marais and lose yourself in the richness and variety of the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay or even the Picasso Museum.
When I had to return to the US after my 6 months in Paris, I really missed being there. I dreamt of Paris almost every other night. I missed its elegance and way of life. And I wondered when and if I would ever be back.
Since then, I had the opportunity to go to Paris on various occasions for business trips. But most importantly, I went there to get engaged. The whole arrangement was of course a surprise for me…I have to say, life has been good to me.
When I was living in Paris, I also had the chance go back to South of France and re-visit Nice and Monaco. Who would have thought for a second time?
Bordeaux, Lille and Burgundy were also among my trips across the country. As a student in Istanbul, the only French TV channel we used to receive was TV5. On this channel, they used to show a drama series about a family running vineyard in Bordeaux. It’s funny how the name of the show escapes me considering I was an eager follower of every episode.
As soon as I moved to Paris, I practically forced a couple of American students to join me for a weekend trip to Bordeaux. Our tours around the different vineyards and mansions were wonderful. I remember going to a restaurant in the town centre where the waiter dropped the entire tray of food on me. Happy memories…
Whilst pretty, Lille is hard to differentiate from other European, especially Benelux cities. Burgundy on the other hand is a marvel.
The endless sun-kissed yellow mustard fields of Burgundy always reminded me of Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” This is where the Dijon mustard comes from. In Dijon, I still remember my enjoyment after a delightful wine tasting tour.
I had always wanted to see Saint Tropez as well but I was often discouraged to do so by friends who thought that it is a tacky place. But once the opportunity to visit Monaco one more time for a business trip arose, I did not want to miss the opportunity to make a quick trip to the town. After all, even though I would have never thought that I would go to Monaco for a third time, there is no guarantee in life that I would get another chance to go to Saint Tropez.
And I am glad I went. It was not tacky at all. Maybe I missed the extravagant party scene, which helped my impressions of Saint Tropez to be positive. The town itself is simply marvelous and cute. The villages, especially Grimaud, vineyards, beaches are absolutely gorgeous. It is exactly how I always imagined Provence to be like.
Saint Tropez is out of the way as there is no train link and it is easier to rent a car and drive but it is definitely worth the trip. I would say skip the soulless city of Nice and its pebbled beach. Rather spend time in Saint Tropez.
As for, Monaco and Monte Carlo…it is a lot in a small place. It is not beautiful by any means but sunshine and clear blue sea make everything look nice. I guess it’s appeal is all about the glamour, if that is the sort of thing you are into.