There is nothing like being home after a long journey.
On Sunday night, I finally arrived in Ashland after five weeks of traveling in France.
The first four weeks I spent under the guidance of Rotary International as part of a five-person group study exchange team. We traveled extensively in the Rhone-Alpes region visiting more than 12 cities and towns. The final week of my trip I spent exploring Paris with my husband, Carl.
It was my first trip to France and I fell in love with the country, its landscapes, history, culture and, of course, food. It was a whirlwind of experiences and new faces. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience I was sad to see come to a close.
But there is just something about being in your own house and country after so much time traveling in a foreign place. When I spotted the blue and green bridges from the highway Sunday night, my heart swelled. I was finally home!
I like unpacking after a long trip, particularly unwrapping all the carefully packaged souvenirs I’ve picked up and filling the dining room table with them. After five weeks, this may be the most loaded down it has ever been with items. It looks like a French market stand; every inch is covered.
There are jars of sweet fruit confiture, spicy French mustard and delicate lavender honey. Bottles of olive oil, a variety of regional liquors and, of course, French wines.
There are keychain trinkets of famous monuments, magnets and candies of all kinds. There is a pile of Parisian postcards and prints of old posters, two oil paintings and a handful of handmade Eiffel Tower sculptures. Then there are the T-shirts and hats, silken scarves, delicate French soaps and a jar full of small-denomination foreign coins.
It’s all on the table to be sorted for doling out to family, friends and coworkers or until the perfect spot is found for it in our home — or stomach. Each time I pass the table, I find myself picking up an item to ponder where the little slice of France should be directed.
The table of souvenirs has become a post-traveling tradition Carl and I love. We are so excited to share our trip with our loved ones, providing them a little taste of the places we visit in addition to our pictures.
It’s always our hope the gifts will inspire others to be curious about the world and perhaps spur them to discover more of it themselves.
Maybe they will catch the wanderlust bug, too.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653.