During the fall of 2013, I was lucky enough to meet my dad during his business trip in Narbonne, France. I took off from work and spent a week in the small wine town. My first day in France was a long and tiring five hour train ride from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle to Narbonne. Why I didn’t fly to Béziers Cap d’Agde Airport, I really don’t know. It was not one of my smarter travel decisions.
However, when I finally arrived to Narbonne around midnight, I was greeted by the happiest man alive, my father. I finally got to see my dad after a year and a world apart. We took a short taxi ride from the station to the Novotel Narbonne Sud Hotel, which resides far enough outside of the town center to hail a cab rather than walk.
While my dad spent his days in meetings, I explored the town by myself. I felt completely out of my comfort zone wandering the streets alone. I was inexplicably nervous and shy, which doesn’t often happen when I travel with friends. I’m usually the one in charge, with a plan, and directing the path. It was very strange to feel the shift in behavior traveling abroad with family; as if I had reverted back to childhood. But that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy myself as I meekly wandered the medieval streets in Narbonne.
Narbonne’s history can be seen in the architecture of Archbishop’s Palace and the abbeys found in the rolling vineyard hillsides. I spent my first afternoon wandering the cathedral at the Archbishop’s Palace. With weak rays of sunlight peeking through the solemn stained glass windows, cold stone walls, and echoing ceilings, the solitude felt like a weight on my chest as I made my way along the bishops’ tombs and through the pews.
A step into the garden was like a rush of energy back into my veins. I decided to leave the dreary cathedral and lose myself in the winding streets. I was amazed by how tiny and compact the houses were, even after living an arm’s length from my neighbor in Tokyo. But it was much more lively in those houses than anything I had ever heard in my own neighborhood. I could hear a television drifting through the open window, people having a conversation to one another from an upstairs room, and children laughing as they ran out the door. My own street is quiet with traffic as the only sound.
After my urban exploring, I walked along the Canal de la Robine, where most shops and restaurants seemed to be located near. I found myself at Les Halles, an indoor market built from the 19th century. Inside were stalls with cold cut meats, gooey pastries, breads, cheeses, vegetables, and fruits. I admit that I was embarrassed by my cliche choice of a baguette, and hid it in my bag until I found a quiet spot along the canal to eat it.