Salut, mes amis! I’m Betsy from Betsy Transatlantically – like Sara, I’m one half of a glamorous international couple! Except that my fiancé is English, not French, which means that any linguistic misunderstandings are really justembarrassing, and we lived together for three years in London, which isn’t exactly a petit village. (The glamour thing is indisputable, though. I mean, right?) So now that you know all of that, you’ll understand why Sara suggested that you might like to hear about an international relationship from a different angle than the one you usually get here in LPV. That’s why I’m going to tell you all about… my first kiss.
Hey, it happened in France! And it was with an Australian! How much more international can the story get?
Let’s start at the beginning. I was on a study abroad program through Concordia Language Villages; I’d spent two summers immersed in their French village in Minnesota and, the summer I turned 15, I went with their group to France for a month. (You’d think I liked studying French! I actually hated it until college, when I had an amazing professor freshman year who convinced me to minor in French, but that’s another story.) We were all high schoolers – I was the youngest of everyone – and it really was like something out of a novel: we played tourist for three days in Paris to start and then we were based in Saint Malo for two weeks of intensive language classes, after which everyone did a week of homestays (my family lived near Rennes) and we finished up with another two days in Paris.
Now, you have to appreciate how magical St. Malo is to understand how my first kiss could have happened there with an Australian. Pronounced sah-mah-loh, all as one word, it’s a walled port city in Brittany, in the northwest of France right on the English Channel. It was founded centuries ago and boasts some incredible medieval history – an 11th century love story I wrote a college paper on was based there and Jacques Cartier, one of the first Europeans to explore Canada, was born there in 1491 – as well as the dubious fame of being a notorious base for French piracy in the 18th century. Our youth hostelwas two blocks away from the beach, and in the evenings we’d either sit on the high stone promenade and watch the tide wash out miles down the shore or stroll into town to get ice cream. It was glorious.
On our first night in the youth hostel, I was giddy with France and the sea air and the adventure of it all. It was also the last night that a group from Australia was staying there, and we all gathered in the courtyard after dinner to compare stories. I ended up talking to a very cute boy who was a year older, and try as we might to sneak away… well, there were chaperones everywhere. So, caught up in the moment and the romance, we agreed to meet on the beach at sunrise the next morning an hour before his group’s bus left to take them back to Paris, the airport, and Australia.
We did, dear readers. At 6am, we met in the courtyard, snuck out of the gate, and scampered to the promenade overlooking the channel. After excruciatingly awkward small talk, he kissed me. The setting was perfect: waves crashed against the stone walls, rosy clouds flitted above the golden orb peaking above the horizon, seagulls called to one another over our heads… and the kiss was awful.
I mean, terrible. Of course I didn’t know that then, since I’d never been kissed before, but I can tell you now – twelve years and several (ahem) kisses later – that it was a horrible kiss. But it was blissful nonetheless. After all, I’d had my first kiss in France with an Australian! I was in heaven for the rest of the program, and my destiny to become part of an international couple was set.