Two weeks after receiving my high school diploma, I began the transition to being an adult with an adventure. Even though I had visited many countries with my parents, it was the first time I was going to cross the Atlantic Ocean without them. I visited England and France with a group of thirty students and five English teachers from my school. This trip was a graduation present, and I will value the memories I made forever. All of the experiences during this adventure were like a dream, but I have never had as much fun as the time that we went to the grand palace of Versailles.
We traveled in and between London and Paris for a total of nine days to visit various cities, which were beautiful and full of culture and stories. It was all fun, but after nine days with so many noisy and enthusiastic students I didn’t have much energy left. Each day began very early with our alarm clock ringing at 6:30 in the morning. During the day, we saw new things, took too many photos, tried new foods, ran through train stations and tried to not become separated from the rest of the group in the middle of large cities. Each night, we were mentally and physically exhausted. But even though my legs and head were aching, I loved chatting with my friends in our hotel room each night. As a result, we were very tired. On top of that, we didn’t have much patience with anyone, especially when the other students weren’t listening to our leaders or were always late.
On the second to last day of the trip, we had to choose an activity for the next day. It didn’t matter too much to us, but ultimately, we decided to choose the option with the least students. Then, without further discussion, we decided to visit Versailles even though it was the most expensive option. The rest of the group decided to visit places closer to Paris and go shopping, but we couldn’t imagine spending another day with the big loud group. Because of this, we were excited; not excited to see the great palace, but to spend time with only five students and my favorite teacher.
We got up early as always, but the day began in a less than ideal way. One student felt ill and our leader changed because the other needed to stay in the hotel with the sick student. I was disappointed that a teacher that I didn’t know very well was going to accompany us. Not only that, but he didn’t know much about the transportation in France, and the directions he received were on a hotel napkin with a pen running out of ink. From that moment, I realized that this day would be an adventure like no other. After reorganizing the groups, we finally left at 9, later than we had planned. Due to this, we arrived at the train station during rush hour with all the workers commuting to the suburbs of Paris. We took three different trains, and it was difficult to navigate the tunnels in unknown parts of France with millions of other people. We appeared very much like tourists carrying our maps and looking at all the signs in French with much confusion. When we were changing trains, we turned and suddenly encountered the police at the side of the platform. There was fluorescent yellow caution tape that impeded our path. We saw about five policemen taking notes with serious expressions, and someone thought they saw a puddle of blood on the ground. But we didn’t have much time to find another route to the next train, and we left before investigating what happened. Instead of complaining about the inconvenience of leaving the hotel late, we were thankful. If we had left the hotel earlier, we could have died in that fatal accident. With this new state of mind, we continued with laughter and more patience.
Eventually, we arrived at Versailles after a long walk with a crowd of tourists visiting the distinguished palace as well. At eleven, we arrived at the famous home of royalty. There was a large plaza at the entrance with many security officers and tourists everywhere. Behind the golden fence sat the symmetric palace. It was larger and more magnificent than any building I had ever seen. To compare it, the White House of the President of the United States seemed tiny and boring. Finally, we were excited to see this great famous place. I couldn’t imagine all of the luxury inside its fantastic walls. We got in line to buy tickets, which cost a lot of money. But it was one of the last days of our visit to Europe, and we know that the cost didn’t matter very much. We were very excited to finally see the palace. As we returned outside, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The line of people was longer than any line I’ve ever seen, and I bet that I will never see a line that long in the future. It was like a giant serpent guarding its treasure, wound many times around the plaza so that all the people could fit. But after the difficult challenges we had already faced that morning, it was not an option to return to Paris without seeing the palace.
Normally, I hate lines, but that day was even more horrible. It was hotter than any other day of the trip, and we didn’t bring very much water. The center of the plaza was like a desert without shade to escape the sun’s rays. One of my friends brought an umbrella, and although we had teased her for being too prepared earlier because there weren’t any clouds, we were now thankful. Instead of protecting us from the rain, the umbrella relieved us from the burning sun.
I liked our traveling group, and the conversations were enjoyable and humorous. But after the first forty minutes, the morale of the group waned. We were bored and couldn’t do anything to accelerate the entering process. We waited in the line for two hours, moving only a few steps once in awhile. Finally, we passed through the gates that we had been studying for the past two hours.
Everything should have been perfect once we finally entered, but this was not the case. We needed to leave at three in the afternoon to return to Paris in time for dinner. Because of this, we could only spend two hours at Versailles to see everything. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and this unfortunate day, we acted as if we were a sports team. The goal of the game? To see everything that we could. To motivate ourselves, we made a group motto: Push! We didn’t care about the experience of the other tourists because this probably would be our only visit to Versailles in the rest of our lives. We came up with some agreements. We didn’t take the time to eat, go to the bathroom, or even read the signs about the rooms and their history. We began inside the palace. To save time, we didn’t look at anything. We only walked, pushed, and took pictures of anything and everything. We decided to enjoy the pretty furnishings later when we had more time. Even though this may not seem like an enjoyable experience, it was very fun, and felt like a competition. It didn’t matter to me that we probably looked ridiculous as we took pictures without looking at anything.
We finished inside the palace in record time and continued to the gardens. They were gigantic and there wasn’t enough time to see everything. We stayed close to the palace to enjoy the impressive views of the plants, pathways, fountains, and artistic sculptures. It didn’t seem real; the organized land and precise decorations extended into the distance, to the point where we couldn’t see it anymore. The land was just how I would imagine the Garden of Eden. I couldn’t understand how the royal family constructed these magnificent buildings or the ideal land. What’s more, I didn’t have any idea how the owners were able to maintain the garden in its pristine condition.
After walking so quickly, we had time to relax and really appreciate the splendor. We laughed about our adventures inside the palace, looked at all the strange tourists, heard voices of languages from all over the world, saw the flowers and trees and touched the old walls.
Even though it felt like we had just arrived, it was time to leave. It was almost three, and we still hadn’t eaten lunch. We went to McDonald’s, and I tried my first Big Mac. Even though I normally don’t like McDonald’s, it was one of the most satisfying meals of the trip. I was so hungry, and the flavor and smell of the delicious hamburger made me content. Not only because I experienced its delicious flavor, but it contained the flavor and scent of the success of a good day with fun people.
Even though this experience was not completely easy and some parts were far from a perfect vacation, seeing the grandness of Versailles was an immeasurable experience. I appreciated a day with fewer students and after everything we went through, our “team” was very close. I learned a lot more about these people, and the new teacher is one of my favorites now with his calm yet comical attitude. Upon seeing the pictures from inside the palace, we discovered that they were of poor quality. Nevertheless, we had fun seeing the things we had only glimpsed in our speed. Our group talked about this adventure for the rest of the trip, and we decided to return to Paris and Versailles together in the future to enjoy it with more time. I will never forget anything about this day, and since then, I now understand that sometimes the most unexpected and imperfect events can be the most memorable and fun.