This weekend's trip to the Cote d'Azur felt like a sort of homecoming for me. While not originally from the south of France, I have spent a lot of time living, studying, working, and soaking up the sun along the Mediterranean coast and have come to really feel comfortable in that part of the country. When most people think of France they think of Paris; of monuments and museums and the metro. When I think of France my thoughts go directly to the south; to beaches, palm trees and endless sunshine.
Everything along the Cote d'Azur feels familiar to me: The way the air smells like the sea and the breeze is always warm. The way the Spanish and Italian influenced buildings are painted using all different kinds of bright colors. The olive trees and flowering plants that decorate the southern countryside. The boat-filled ports and the palm tree-lined wide promenades that hug the coast. The hillsides dotted with vineyards and vacation homes. The old city centers with their narrow, maze-like streets designed to shelter residents from the sun and heat. After growing up in lovely but cold Minnesota, spending time along the tropical French Riviera is like a dream come true.
Unlike the south, everything in Paris is new and unfamiliar. As a travel addict, I relish the discovery of new and unfamiliar things, but as a human I also appreciate that which is known and predictable. It felt good to recognize things I've seen before and to not feel entirely like a foreigner. Leaving wasn't easy, but I know I'll be back. Waking up today in Paris with the rain and the cold and an endless sea of unknowns, I'm already looking forward to my next trip home.