Madrid Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
At the age of sixteen my parents allowed me to go on a school trip to France and Spain with the French teacher and six of my classmates. What an opportunity this was! I honestly credit my love for travel and exploration to this adventure. Although I didn’t know my other travel mates all that well, I was exceptionally happy that my friends Melanie and Abby would be coming along. Between the three of us we knew maybe 10 French phrases and just enough Spanish to get us into trouble, which is pretty bad considering Abby is Mexican.
Nothing I could have done would have been able to prepare myself for this trip. Looking back this trip I realize how incredibly naïve and ignorant I was.
Instead, we were virtually on our own almost the entire time. Amazingly though, we did excellent at finding our way around. I come from a city without a metro system and none of us had even ridden in a taxi or taken a public bus so we had a lot to learn. We found navigating Paris was easy as could be (that can’t be said for my return trip to Paris 7 years later). The only mishap we had is one that I look back and laugh at even today. My friend and I had a bet about the metro system. I was convinced that the Metro was a complete circle and the train kept going round and round. My friend was on a mission to prove me wrong. So, we took to the metro to find out. I was wrong. Now the thing about the metro is, as long as you stay below ground you don’t need to buy another ticket. We didn’t do that. Instead, we walked above ground and found ourselves in a rough Parisian neighborhood. We went back down to the station and took a picture in a photobooth they had by the ticket boxes. Little did we know that we just spent the last of our francs on a picture that read “I love you with sweet and tender kisses.” A nice Frenchman bought our tickets for us when he overheard me talking on the phone to my dad asking him how the hell I get back to my hotel from there.
When our parents filled out the permission slips for us to be allowed to the leave the country, they also signed off on a sheet of paper letting us know that we were going to be going to countries where drinking at our age was acceptable and there was a chance that we might partake in it. Of course my parents have never had a problem with that so that didn’t affect me. Believe me, we did our fare share of drinking. I can recall being in the Montmarte district and visiting a deli at 9am to buy some Heineken to enjoy while we strolled around looking at artist’s easels.
More than anything this trip was a learning experience for me. Although I still saw all the necessities of Paris (plus Versailles), I still feel that I was unprepared for the trip. I’ve learned that I need to research where I’m going before I visit. Now, I probably overplan and overresearch but, eh, what can you do?