Life around the world

Tuesday, 18 February, 2014 - 17:00

Stepping outside of your comfort zone

by NatalieH

This weekend I went on a day trip to the French region of Champagne. I have always enjoyed a glass of this luxurious drink. It fascinates me that a glass of Champagne in Paris can often cost the same as a glass of wine. Whereas in the UK, it is unheard of to buy Champagne by the glass, it can only be bought by the bottle.
 My friend and I were all set for the trip, however, on Thursday evening she fell ill with the flu and was suffering from such a high fever that she decided it was best to rest at home for the weekend. Initially I felt really sorry for her, it is the start of our half term holiday here and she has just fallen ill, what bad luck! I was also feeling a little bit apprehensive about going on the trip alone. I wouldn’t know anybody and would be forced to communicate in French, not being able to hide behind my English girlfriends.
Saturday arrived and I found myself ready to board the coach to start our ninety minute journey to Champagne. I found a seat next to a girl studying at the Sorbonne (a university in Paris) and we quickly got talking about student living in France’s capital city. It was really good fun to chat away with someone who was experiencing life abroad for the first time, like me. This girl was on the trip with two other of her Sorbonne friends and we all quickly formed a group, having a lot in common as students on our year’s abroad!
An hour and a half later we arrived at Chateau-Thierry; an ancient medieval castle that has known the presence of legendary figures such as Joan of Arc. The view from the top of the castle over the whole town was breath-taking, I really felt as if I was in rural France with all the green hilltops in the distance and the coloured roofs of the little houses huddled together in the valley below. It was very different from the mass of roof tops and roads one can see from great heights in Paris. We also made the most of the bakery in the nearby town and treated ourselves to some morning croissants, we felt very French!
After this little excursion we made our way towards the town of Reims. Reims had a famous cathedral which we visited and the little town was very quaint; with lots of cute boutiques lining the pavements as well as some incredible looking cake shops. We explored Reims altogether, taking lots of pictures and marvelling at the delicious looking pastries and sweet treats. Then it was time for lunch in a quiet brasserie before our trip to the caves of Champagne.
I had no idea that the caves in Champagne cover one hundred kilometres! Each brand of Champagne is made in a different section of these vast caves and thus, this is why each brand of Champagne is said to taste slightly different from the other. 
We made our way into the Pommery caves. This champagne is brewed by the Pommery family and the main advocate of this champagne house was Louise Pommery or ‘Madame Pommery’ as the French like to refer to her. We were led down a steep staircase into the depths of the chalk caves. Our tour consisted of walking through these huge and damp caves, whilst being informed (in French of course) of the history of these famous caves and this prestigious champagne house. 
We saw row upon row of champagne bottles and it was very interesting to see numerous tunnels labelled with cities such as; Berlin or Edinburgh. These labels represented where the champagne bottles filling the caves were destined for.
After our informative tour we were each given a glass of Pommery champagne to enjoy. The caves were very damp and so we were all very grateful of a drink to quench our thirsts at the end. We all took lots of pictures and had fun marvelling at the remarkable history of this famous drink.
After this it was time to head back to Paris and we all caught up on some sleep after such a busy day. Back in Paris I exchanged my details with the girls and we all promised to meet up again soon. It was a great experience to meet some new friends and to make some fun memories with them. I guess this is what a year abroad is all about, stepping outside of your comfort zone and then relishing the success of each challenge. Next time, I won’t be so apprehensive!

When have you ever had to 'step outside of your comfort zone' and face a challenge? 

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