It’s never too late to apologize
An American girl falling in love with a smoking hot guy in Paris should have all the makings of a clichéd romance. If only the guy wasn’t a rocket scientist. And only if the girl didn’t dump his sexy French ass on a platform at Gare de Lyon, not apologizing to him until twenty years later. Long story short, the girl’s Frenchman accepted her very delayed apology, they got married, and she moved to Toulouse last year.
My name is Samantha Vérant and my love affair with all things French started in high school. While the other kids opted for Spanish, I was lured by the image of Paris. Paris was culture, sophistication and style, the language an aria to my ears. Of course, when I spoke French it sounded more like Ebonics, but I didn’t care. One day – hell or high water – I was going to navigate the city’s historical streets and its language. People, I thought, would be able to understand me.
That day would come in 1989. My family lived in London, my father having taken a position at a big advertising agency. So my best friend and I decided to take advantage of this most fortunate situation and we made plans to see Europe together – the whole euro-rail thing. I worked all summer waitressing at a hamburger place to save up the pounds (British sterling, not weight gain) for the trip. First city on the list: Paris.
Lucky for us, the only hell we’d encountered were the high waters of a rocky boat trip from England to France, and once we kicked the seasickness overboard, we hit the ground running – literally. From visiting The Louvre or Musée de L’Orangerie, taking a famed Bateaux Mouches down the Seine past Notre Dame and under the distant shadow of Le Tour Eiffel, to simply eating a flaky baguette spread with a creamy paté, we fell in love with a whole lot more than just the two French guys we met. Forget about San Francisco, when we left three days later, it seemed I’d left a piece of my heart in Paris.
But as I now know, there is so much more to France than just Paris. The city, while a morsel of incredible creamy goodness, is only a small slice of the rich culture found in France. What I absolutely adore about living here is the fact I can drive a few hours in any direction and the landscape changes so dramatically that you’d think you were in another country. In the South, bordering Spain, the quaint seaside village of Collioure awaits on the Mediterranean Sea. North of Toulouse, the historical village of Rocamadour is built into towering cliffs. To the West, I can traipse through the wine region of Bordeaux or make my way to Biarritz and the Atlantic. To the East, and just four hours away, I’m able to visit my husband’s family in Provence or even ski in the Alps over Christmas. Really, with an adventure awaiting around every bend, it’s no wonder why so many French vacation in their own country.
As for the people, here in the South, there is a fresh baked warmness, softening even the crustiest of croissants. From my elderly neighbors bringing over fresh tomatoes from their garden, to the two strangers pulling over their cars to give me assistance after I wiped out on a bicycle (the French healthcare system really is as good as they say it is), I’ve been completely blown away by kindness and generosity. So while I may have a left a small piece of my heart in Paris, the rest can be found in a small town just South of Toulouse. Vive la France!