...my first trip to France. I remember stepping off the train in Strasbourg, gazing out over the huge piazza outside the station. I remember the walk along le Boulevard du President Wilson to the youth hostel, taking in the splendid architecture and seeing the French drivers whizzing by in their Peugeot's and Renault's. I remember crossing the small river into the old, historic center and stumbling onto an outdoor market selling everything from antiques to fresh fruits and vegetables. I remember strolling through the old town and feeling the warm French sunshine on my face. I remember going into the little French shop to get a some water and seeing all the newspapers with headlines screaming about the World Cup quarterfinal between the home team and the hated Italians. I remember walking around listening to all the conversations in French and thinking to myself "I finally made it". I remember walking down a small side street and finding a fountain with a huge head sticking halfway out of the water as if some stone giant was emerging from the depths. I remember approaching the massive Gothic cathedral and looking straight up at it, thinking I've never seen anything so big and majestic in my life. I remember the stone sculptures of saints and demons covering the side of the cathedral, the intricate detail of them. I remember climbing over 300 steps to reach the top and actually feeling a fear of heights for the first time in my life as I looked down at the city below. I remember the Place Kleber, seeing all the trendy shops and the business people dressed immaculately, hastily conducting their affairs. I remember watching the young people in their European fashions hanging out with their friends and thinking how different they are from their American counterparts. I remember the cosmopolitan feeling of it all. I remember walking through the warm evening air with the Scottish guy from the youth hostel on our way to L'Academie de Bieres for a few pints of Guinness. I remember eating my first tarte flambee. I remember going back to L'Academie de Bieres the next morning with a fistful of post cards and sipping a morning cappuccino as I wrote back to my friends and family back home. I remember finding the little bar next to the cathedral and watching the match between France and Italy. I remember how the bar got more crowded as the match went along and how, by the end of the match, the bar was full and people were stacked up five deep at the windows trying to get a glimpse. I remember how the entire city exploded like fireworks when France won the match on penalty kicks. I remember all the cars driving around the city blowing their horns with people hanging out the windows waving French flags. I remember spending the evening celebrating with all the locals and tourists alike, as if we had all known each other forever. I remember stumbling back to the youth hostel at two in the morning and getting propositioned by a bald black man in a small red car. I remember the sadness as I checked out of the hostel the next morning and walked back to the train station. I remember pulling into the station in Kitzingen and the feeling that I was somehow not the same person I was three days before.
I remember it all so vividly.