Jess en France: Journeying Outside of Paris

It’s been a few weeks since school has started and I’m eager to see more of France. Paris is wonderful but France is as beautiful as its regions are diverse in what they have to offer.  My university has a student association called Stop and Go, and they organized a group trip to the Champagne region of France, where we traveled between the towns of Reims, Ay, and Épernay. It’s a good opportunity to see more of France and experience its culture outside of the Parisian bubble.

We first travelled to Reims, which seemed deserted in relativity to Paris. I tend to forget that Paris is one of the more populated cities in Europe and attracts millions of tourists each year. So coming to the countryside brought me to the realization that I haven’t heard silence or seen smaller crowds of people in over a month. It was a much needed break that I didn’t know I needed. The lack of massive crowds made navigating the town and visiting tourist-attractions much easier. The first night I visited the Reims Cathedral, which is a High Gothic-style Roman Catholic church built in 1211. In 816, the first king of France, Louis I, was crowned at the cathedral, and almost every successive king since has held his coronation rituals there as well. I spent a few hours admiring its architectural and historical significance and felt almost in personal audience with the cathedral given how empty the town was.

The next day we made our way to Ay and then onto Épernay, where we walked alongside the undulating hills of wineries that seemed to stretch into every direction on the horizon. We followed a river for a while on our way to Chateau Thierry, and, of course, there were swans wading alongside us. At the chateau, our group had climbed to the top to get a better view of the valley, which, despite needing to climb what seemed like a mile of stairs, proved to be the highlight of my day. The sun was sitting above our heads, getting ready to set, and had lit up the extensive fields of grapes all across Épernay. The traditional French buildings of the city juxtaposed with the extensive fields of champagne grapes looked like a sliver of heaven.

This was my first excursion outside of Paris, and the trip was made awesome by the people who organized it. It was my first chance to test out of my language skills (although quite honestly I was a bit shy to say too much), and it was also a good opportunity to make some French friends. The next trip Stop and Go is planning is coming up soon, and I’ll be sure to document it if I join them in the coming days.

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