Welcome back! Sorry for the long pause, I just recently got back from the most amazing trip to France. When people say that internships will change your life, they are not kidding. It was an incredible experience, my trip was slightly different than a typical internship. I had won a scholarship, in the form of a trip abroad, a very expensive one if I may say. I went, along with seven other Culinary students, that allowed us to travel around many different regions of France and then we split up to go live with different french chefs and work in their restaurant. It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We arrived first in Paris, which, ahh, can I say is just how you would expect it to be. It was a beautiful city, full beautiful people and beautiful scenery. None of us slept on the plane ride there, which was about 9 hours, so the jet lag was real when we landed, but take my advice, just keep going because the minute you sit down you wont want to get up. We got to Paris about 8 am, so we just kept going anyway, there is so much to see you would be mad if you slept through it!
Being with a large group, who had made this trip for over 30 years, we had the inside scoop on many things, we got to tour places a typical tourist wouldn’t be able to, we got to eat at some of the most amazing Michelin star restaurants, we even got to eat in the champagne caves at Moet & Chandon. After sometime in Paris we went on to the Champagne region, which is also beautiful full of vineyards and amazing landscape. I was surprised at the amount of foliage they have in France compared to most of the United States.
After Champagne we went to Provence, which is exactly what you picture the French countryside would look like. Full of hills and cliffs, green everywhere and the most adorable french cottages were spread throughout. Our hotel in Provence was made of small cottages they have renovated and made into hotel rooms. It was like living in your very own french cottage, they were all secluded and so serene. We visited many cathedrals and more vineyards, even some olive oil factories. There is so much to see in France you could be there for months.
After Provence we went to Nice, which was the first time we had seen a body of water, Nice sits on the Mediterranean and it is some of the most beautiful, blue water I had ever seen. Paris was my favorite with the bustling city life and true French feeling, but Nice, with it’s incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea and old world architecture may have topped Paris. Europe just makes you feel some way, the US is such a new country, it doesn’t even compare to these old world countries.
After our weeks over traveling and being spoiled, and I mean spoiled, we really have first class treatment the whole time, the best hotel suites, the best private rooms at the best hotels, the best transportation, the best luggage porters and tour guides. It was now time for a reality check, it was time to show the talent that got us selected for this trip in the first place. It was time to meat the French Chef’s we would be living with. The Chef’s are part of an association of French chef’s who take American Students. Most of them Live in St. Etienne a city in east central France by Lyon and the Rhone-Alps.
First can I pause and tell you how beautiful the Rhone-Alps are, amazing views from any location, close to Switzerland and the Swiss Alps. A true Culinary Hub with amazing cuisine. I feel in love all over again here. We were going to take the TGV, the high speed train from Nice to St. Etienne, but per usual there were strikes on the trains so we had to find a charter bus to take. Everyone else apparently had the same idea because we got the very last bus available. We ended up with a 9 seat, Mercedes van, which sounds lovely but it’s not when you have eight students and a driver along with 8 very large suitcases and miscellaneous carry on’s. The trunk was packed to the top, and every inch of the rest of the car was stuffed with students. Not to mention if we would have taken the TGV it would have been a 3 hour train ride, but since we had to take a van it was a 7 hour drive. Good time to sleep!
Once we arrived to St. Etienne the 8 of us got split up with our Chef’s, and just like that the same people I had been with for the last month everyday, all day, rooming with, eating all my meals with, stumbling through french bars with, they were gone. Talk about Culture shock, not only was I in a foreign country but just like that I was with someone I didn’t know, surrounded by people who spoke a language I didn’t know, going to work in a kitchen I didn’t know, with a cuisine I didn’t know. It was a lot to take in all at once. But once I got settled in again it got better. This is what I mean when I say my internship was slightly different, not many times do you get split up like this on an internship. But it definitely made me stronger, as if working in the kitchen doesn’t already do that too you.
For the next two weeks I spent everyday in a kitchen full of french speaking people, working long hours in a non air conditioned kitchen with equipment and ingredients I had never used before. Not going to lie it was difficult, I was fresh out of Culinary school, eager to learn but with skills that still needed honing. It was isolating not being able to talk to your friends or family, not being around anyone who spoke your language. It was a long two weeks but we all made it and we were reunited at the end, it’s amazing how much you can miss a group of people.
So now that I am back to reality, living my boring, but safe life I still think about my trip everyday, I miss not getting up in the morning having espresso and bread, I miss not being able to walk through the french markets or being able to look at beautiful cathedrals and buildings. But I can only be thankful for the amazing experience I had the all the amazing things I learned along the way. An internship is truly the trip of a lifetime!