Leslie H speaks of her love of France and visiting old friends and making new friends.
In July, I flew to France and stayed in a home stay in a very small town called Saint Mont in the Gers region. There was no one involved in Servas there, but I located a Servas family in Cape Breton and they very kindly invited me to come and stay with them despite being extremely busy with family and wedding preparations. They were so gracious and included me in all their evening meals and breakfasts! They also helped me plan an itinerary so that I got the most out of my two-day stay! It was an especially beautiful location by the Atlantic. My hosts took me cycling by the ocean and out to a beautiful Basque male choir performance inside a very old and gorgeous stone church; a magical experience and I had tears in my eyes when I left my new-found friends in Cape Breton!
At the end of the month, I moved towards Colmar in Alsace. Along the way, I stopped in Paris for several days because I had been introduced to Evelyne, who belongs to Servas and is a friend of mine in Vancouver. Evelyne invited me to stay with her and took me everywhere in Paris that we had time to see! It was truly fabulous! She was my personal guide and had so much information to share. We saw the Père Lachaise Cemetery, walked beside the Seine and crossed so many bridges over the river, rode the Bateaux Mouches, ate in lovely bistros, sipped wine and coffee, visited the Latin Quarter … it goes on and on and on! Evelyne was very kind to me and made me feel like we had known each other for a long time. I felt as though I was experiencing the true Parisian life; remarkable. I felt so very fortunate to have been introduced to this sweet lady.
After several days, I continued on the train to Colmar. I had contacted several Servas members in the area and two lovely ladies responded to me saying we could get together. In fact, one of them, Marie, offered to meet me at the train station; it’s fantastic to be met at the train station, I can tell you! From that day forward, Marie and I met at least once each week. We went on hikes up the Voges mountains and saw ruined castles and monasteries, and WWII trenches and cemeteries, plus so much more. I was even invited to come for dinner where we cooked together. It was great fun and I felt as though I had met my sister on the other side of Earth!
In between those excursions with Marie, another lady, Christine, met me many times. We had lunch together and attended a film noire showing in the old town one evening. We also went to hear a Parisian choir that performed in Kaysersberg, birthplace of Albert Schweitzer. The grand finale with Christine was her invitation to a delicious French barbecue in the countryside, where I met many of Christine’s friends. She even lent me a pair of hiking boots to use; truly amazing.
Although I saw many beautiful pieces of art and gorgeous architecture, and tasted fabulous wine and food, the most outstanding experiences for me were to meet and get to know lovely French people who opened their homes and their lives to me! They were all so generous and giving. This trip was an experience I will always remember and treasure for my entire life! Servas is a remarkable organization; it truly fosters understanding and friendships that naturally lead to peace. I feel blessed and fortunate indeed to be a part of this organization!
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