Tour of France: Some Stories, and Some Advice
Dec 22, 2016Student Leadership Development Institute Blog
By Krissy Alfes
Now that the winter term is in full swing, most sophomores are going to be embarking on their trip to France, Bahamas, and Florida while the seniors are beginning to plan for their trip to England six months later. Check out the Tours here! I €™ve been asked by a handful of people, €œWhat was it like to go to France? €
Let me share some stories, and some advice.
It was the last week of January when I went on my trip to France with my graduating class, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Due to the crazy snow storm that hit the city that year, I was fortunate enough to get an extra day in Paris. After a restless flight, we poured into the city at one in the afternoon.
Disclaimer: This was my first trip abroad.
Getting to have a few hours to ourselves, my friends and I wondered the immediate area. Not only did we see beautiful architecture, but my two friends and I got swindled out of $10 each by hustlers. What happened? We were walking up to the Sacre Cour and there were a group of men who were traveling Europe from Nigeria. They were making bracelets and striking up conversations with obvious tourists, aka me. They wrapped the string around your wrist, and talk to you as they’re weaving the string and they don €™t let you go unless you give them money for their €œgift €.
Advice: If you see street performers, be wary. They €™re smarter than you think you are.
Okay, so I €™m out of $10, whatever. We get back on the move and head to Dizy, Champagne. I had the opportunity to stay on a beautiful vineyard; since it was winter, the vintners were preparing the fields for the end of the season. This is where they prune the branches of the vines and burn them on the field to keep the soil rich. The air was filled with the scent of red wine and there was nothing but mountains and wine fields for miles. The next day, we visit G. Brunt Champagne and we explore the little town. We had dinner at Le Cave de Champagne; we were seated in a private room, with red walls and a very romantic vibe. There was a three course dinner where Champagne was put in every dish. I don €™t think I can describe how delicious the Salmon with the champagne burre blanc was. That night, I also had the opportunity to saber a bottle of champagne before dessert (Saber: it was originally used in military ceremonies where someone takes a sword to cut the glass neck of the bottle with a ceremonious €œpop €).
Not going to lie, it took me three tries, and I managed to shoot the top of the bottle down the hallway of the restaurant into the front room €¦ At the end of the dinner, Chef came out for a little Q&A.
Here is his advice: €œThis is a hard industry, you must have passion, and you must work hard- to work hard at what you do, you must love it. €
A couple of days in, Mr. Simonis and Chef McManus took my group to Le Chaeau de Close du Vogoute. This is where the Tastvin society was founded. It was originally a group of monks who would make wine, then would hold meetings to taste and evaluate the wine for religious reasons. After looking at 18th century wine presses, we headed to Beaune for some late night shopping. I didn €™t shop, but I did sit down with Chef McManus over a cup of warm red wine and learned about her childhood, how she met her husband, and what made her come to the states and start Le Bus Bakery.
The next day, we had dinner in Burgundy at a family €™s winery that was so friendly we didn’t have an empty glass of wine all night. The food, oh the food, it was the definition of family style. Beef bourgeon that was so hearty it reminded me of home, escargot with an herb butter and red wine, and cassis sorbet. The bus ride back to the hotel was filled with everyone on the bus singing Bohemian Rhapsody, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and every 90 €™s song you could imagine. This was the moment we all were more than just students, or colleagues, but friends.
The rest of the trip followed the same turn of events: explore the city, drink some wine, and go to a restaurant. I have to say the market place in Dijon was the biggest store/market place I have ever walked through, the cathedrals in Axurre were the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever walked through, Pasqual €™s foie farm was the most decedent foie gras I have ever tasted, and after being lost in Paris for the day avoiding the cab riots, the Eiffel tower was stunning to see at night.
We ended our last dinner as a group at Hostellerie de Levemois where the dining floor manager gave us these parting words:
€œWhatever you do, do it with your heart. €
My advice to you:
Don €™t be afraid to explore – Plan your day, wonder around, you’ll never experience the country if you never leave your room. Just be aware of everything and everyone around you.
Ask questions €“ Everyone at the wineries, restaurants, and stores you visit know you’re a student and are looking to learn. They share your passion for food, its natural to want to talk.
Be humble – Yes the days are long, yes you will be learning and being tested on the daily, and moved around quite a bit; but before you allow the exhaustion to hinder your mood, realize where you are and the opportunity you are given.
Enjoy Yourself €“ It may not be a vacation, but it also doesn €™t have to be as stressful as if you are in school.
Explore, learn, and embrace the culture.