Thursday, November 15, 2012



Without missing a beat, as soon as my mom was off to the airport from the hotel to fly home, I boarded a train to the coast with a final destination of England! I arrived in Dieppe, about 2 hours from Paris, with a few hours to spare before my inaugural ferry arrived. So I spent my afternoon in true French fashion. Being May 1st, everyone, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, was celebrating Mary with flowers. I bought a tiny bouquet, enjoyed a glass of wine along the pier, popped into the local church to pray, and leisurely ambled around town and along the water until I finally spotted the boat!

my ferry, pulling into the harbor in france

a ferry with a view?

i had an extended sunset, as i was travelling west

The ferry ride took 4 hours and was mostly uneventful. It felt much more like a cruise ship than I expected (albeit the tiniest cruise ship around), as my only previous ferry experience consisted of crossing Lake Michigan to get to Washington Island. A journey of no more than 45 minutes. This ferry, on the other hand, included a full restaurant, a bar, a gift shop, an arcade, and ample, comfortable seating. I spent some time on the deck, but retreated inside for most of the trip because it was chilly on the open seas!

I arrived in Newhaven in the evening, after sunset. I did not see much of England itself on that first night, but was instead greeted, after going through customs, by a British nun and my French friend Anthony!

My whole purpose in England was to serve as an English teacher and spiritual leader for a middle school break trip! Because my mom was visiting, I showed up a day later than everyone else, but I quickly settled in with Anthony, Fr. Eric, and about 12 French middle schoolers in the English town of Seaford for a 5-day intensive English retreat!

Our days consisted of meals prepared together, prayer & Mass, English lessons, games, and excursions in the area. We visited the local parish for Mass one day and were able to pray the Stations of the Cross in English! On another afternoon, we set the kids loose in town to visit different shops and try out their English. They came back with One Direction posters, chocolate, and even a dog toy, and I could not have been prouder at their willingness to communicate somehow or another with the people around them.

english class with miss maura

The part of Southeast England that we were in has a beautiful landscape and coastline. Seaford is home to a chain of chalk cliffs named the Seven Sisters, and they are breathtaking. It is the first thing you see as you approach in the ferry and you can walk on them, play golf, or farm. We spent an afternoon walking all along the cliffs and spotted plenty of sheep!

the seven sisters

My quick jaunt in England was amusing and quite enjoyable. It was strange to be surrounded by English-speakers once again, especially since I realized the need to practice my native language before returning home! Overall, I tried my best to teach English to a bunch of kids who were in vacation mode, but most importantly, I got to share my culture and my faith with these middle schoolers who really took something away from the trip. I ended up seeing one of the girls, Marie, later in the summer when I was back in France. Her brother, Nico, was a fellow counselor of mine at Katorin and when his family (including Marie) came to visit for a day, his mother thanked me again for Speak & Spi. It was an unexpected gift months later that helped reaffirm for me the retreat's impact on these kids. It had obviously bore fruit. Fruit that will hopefully last.

pax christi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

return to the city of lights


The (a little more than) slightly delayed recap of my last weeks in France continues...with a return to Paris! After a tour of Western and Southern France, we took the train back from Avignon to Paris for a weekend stay before my mom's return to the States.

My mom had been to Paris once before (on my parent's honeymoon--quite some time ago...), but after all that time, the memories had understandably collected some dust. Though we visited many sites and monuments that I knew from old photos taken by my mother herself, most of what we saw seemed brand new to her. Thankfully, we did not have to fight too many tourists around the city since it was still not quite peak travel season. We enjoyed much of the beauty Paris has to offer with that wonderful, casual European pace I very willingly acquired.

arc de triomphe

maureen along the seine

inside notre dame

flower market on my favorite street :)

cheers! lunch at a great bistro along the river

not my favorite, but my mom loved seeing all the fish markets

Within a weekend, we made it up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for one of the best views of Paris, to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, to several of the city's lush gardens, to some of my favorite restaurants & cafes, and all along the river. We walked more than our feet wanted to take us, but it was worth it to see Paris above ground in the spring rather than from an underground tunnel. Especially at night. The City of Love easily rivals the City of Light.

It was definitely worth re-visiting these places that I know inside and out to view it all from my mom's excited, fresh perspective. Just as I was preparing to leave the country to which I had grown so accustomed and acclimated, it was like rediscovering it all over again. Exactly what I needed to engrave this most beautiful city in the world into my memory.

With that, my mom's trip to France came to a close and we headed our separate ways for only two more weeks. She braved Charles de Gaulle all by herself (!!!) to fly back to Chicago. And I hopped a train headed west towards the coast, off on one last adventure before my own homecoming!

pax christi.