It had been four long years since my last visit to my home country
and I just could not believe that so much time had passed by, blurred by the lasting COVID situation worldwide.
This summer, however, I finally got to go back and rejoice seeing my family and friends for a too short two week-stint,
every day utilized to the max with food, drinks, laughter, story-sharing,
visits to as many bakeries as possible, and incessant croissants/baguettes/cheese/desserts-ingesting.
On this trip, I got to bring my youngest daughter,
a freshman in high school and seasoned traveler to Europe since
her infancy (and also a very “blasé” teenager).
My son was already waiting for us there as he has moved to France during the height of COVID in order to go to university for free
(it helps to hold dual citizenship!) and get a new perspective on life.
Along for the ride was also my Alaska-born boyfriend,
for whom it was the very first trip outside of the U.S.!
With that knowledge, I vowed to bring him to as many places (and countries) as possible in our short couple of weeks
(sort of a catch up on his international travels), and inoculate him with the European travel bug (it worked).
It also provided me with a brand new view of my
hometown and country and
gave me a renewed appreciation of my culture.
The whirlwind trip started with a trip from
Paris Charles de Gaulle to Lille,
my hometown in the North of France, via TGV (“high speed train”).
The first couple of days were spent reacquainting
myself with my family, with never-ending meals and talks.
We then crossed the English Channel via the Eurotunnel
in order to spend a few days in England, where my sister and
her family live.
My partner and I being into motorcycling,
as my sister and husband are, we got treated to motorcycling
all over London and the English countryside,
for a unique way of touring,
driving on the wrong side of the road the whole time.
Cambridge was a must on another day, to revel in the
beauty of its historic buildings and streets.
Upon our return to France, we proceeded with spending some time in Belgium, a short drive from the North of France, to spend the day at a popular Belgian amusement park.
The adults had just as much fun as the kids and we ended the day like any other day, with more food and drinks to share with the family until the wee hours of the morning…
Back in Lille, we spent a great deal of time going through the center of town, visiting the cool boutiques, enjoying the trendy cafes and restaurants, and admiring the impressive Flemish architecture that makes the North of France so different from the rest of France.
Oh, and the cobblestones!
A trip to France would not have been complete without the requisite day in Paris, where we zipped around for a full 11 hours
via the metro and our trusty feet to take in as many touristy twists and turns as possible, including the reborn
Notre Dame, le Jardin des Tuileries, le Marais
neighborhood, le cimetière du Père Lachaise
(where we made sure to check out Jim Morrison’s
tomb), and Montmartre for its hills and painters….
At the end of the day, we happily relaxed at
a café terrace while waiting for our train for a refreshing Belgian beer and a “jambon-beurre”
(the classic French sandwich made with crusty baguette, butter, ham and pickles; sometimes,“simple” is just right).
Back in the North of France again, we decided to go spend the day in Bruges, Belgium, aptly named “the Venice of the North” for its wonderful canals meandering throughout the charming city.
Buying Belgian chocolates was a must there of course, as was eating a freshly made Belgian waffle,
made with a sweet dough and fat sugar crystals,
melted into the dough while baking in the waffle maker (Heaven).
We ended our trip with one more visit to Lille,
with its green and lush woods
(le Bois de Boulogne), where the famous “Citadelle” lies, a masterpiece of fortification and military architecture built in the late 1600s.
The Bois de Boulogne is a magnificent wood park within the
City, and a paradise for nature lovers, joggers, family picnics,
and boat rides on the Deule river.
We added a Sunday visit to two of the best markets in Lille, full of alluring produce and lush flowers…. And more and more food…
Since all good things come to an end, we begrudgingly got back to the US, wishing we could spend another couple of weeks in France in order to get the opportunity to do more of everything, and take the time to go down to Provence, for a completely different French vibe.
One thing is sure, I won’t be waiting another 4 years to go back for more adventures. I will take this next year to shed the pounds added by all that