I arrived in Paris on June 21, 2012. I will say that images of Paris do not lie, it is always raining or about to rain in this spectacular city where the sun making an appearance should be covered by the paparazzi. The first day was exhausting, but thrilling. We walked around the city, we devoured some freshly baked baguettes and I climbed La Tour Eiffel!
I spent an amazing next few days in Paris. I truly fell in love with the city and being surrounded by these charming streets where countless artists and philosophers, as well as some more infamous people, had once walked was unreal. I even celebrated my twenty first birthday here with Professor Compan-Barnard treating us to some Parisian pastries on the Seine. What more could a jeune fille want!?
I thought I would miss Paris—the lights, the noise—but my adoration for France only grew when we arrived in Montpellier. In the beginning I was terribly nervous that I was going to commit a faux pas in front of my host family, but this was never the case. I think we all grew on each other. I still miss eating toasted baguette with butter and figue violette jam with Lilly, my host mom, and greeting Chica, the family’s cat as she would prance into the kitchen for some “needed” attention.
The other amazing thing about my family and their gorgeous house was the small apricot tree growing in the front yard. I had never had a fresh apricot before my travels in France nor had I ever seen one! But in the south of France, they surrounded me! I must have consumed several apricots per day and this is not including the apricot cake Lilly would make.
For the last week of my stay, the tree had stopped producing apricots and I was forced to purchase them at the grocer. Luckily, the local grocer was about a two-minute walk from my house, oh to the beauty of France and that there people actually use their legs! Everyday I was surprised by the affordability of the delicious fresh fruit options like nectarines and peaches which I constantly bought and snacked on between classes. However, nothing could be better than apricots in their various forms of cakes and jams that surrounded me each day.
The great experience I gained from my obsession with fruit was great conversations with various merchants. I would asked them which type they recommended, which ones were ready to eat and then I would get started on how I spent the summer in the south of France and the lovely little tree in my backyard where I had come to love these sweet, petit fruits. It was great to be able to strike up a conversation in a foreign language about something so simple that brought a smile to the merchant’s and my face.
When I returned home to New Jersey, it was definitely a bizarre experience to realize that the same time the day before, I had been in Paris. I felt as though my experience had in a sense been in a different life. One day when I came home after running errands, I went to the kitchen and in our fruit bowl were some fresh apricots my mom had found. She knew how much I connected them to my time in France and that I was going to quite soon have a French fruit withdrawal. While I love my home, I cannot wait until my next bite of a French abricot and once again be transported to my host family’s yard.
Alexis Higgins ’13 is majoring in French & Francophone Studies with a minor in European Studies. Hailing from New Jersey, she participated in the W&M 2012 Summer Montpellier Program.