A Bohemian Escapade: A Day in Dublin and a Day in Paris.

I lovingly refer to this trip as my bohemian escapade, because on a whim, my boyfriend and I decided to book a two-day trip to Europe, with only a week to plan.

We frequently peruse Kayak.com for deals on flights, so when we found a round-trip ticket to Paris, with a day layover in Dublin for only $600, we couldn’t pass it up.

We boarded our flight towards Dublin in the evening on Thanksgiving, and we were fortunate to book our flight with Aer Lingus, because they are the best airline for international travel! Guests on Aer Lingus flights can expect wonderful meals, a tasteful selection of free movies to watch, and friendly flight attendants. 

We ate a delicious chicken and rice meal, and we watched two Wes Anderson films: The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Once we arrived in Dublin, we went through the border control line, and then found the large stretch of rental car companies on the third floor. We were helped by a very friendly worker at Avis named Bart. He gave us a great deal and supplied us with maps and suggestions for our journey.

After picking up the rental car, we drove a little north of Dublin to Malahide Castle and Gardens. We toured the castle and then the surrounding gardens. It was a lovely experience, and the café inside the gift shop is amazing! Seriously, do yourself a favor and get some of their cinnamon-berry scones with fresh cream. My mouth waters just thinking about that decadent dessert!

We underestimated how quickly the sun would go down in Ireland, so as we attempted to drive south toward the Wicklow Mountains National Park, we realized we were running out of daylight. Although we were pretty bummed initially, we quickly decided to make the most of our remaining hours in Ireland, so we pulled over at a nearby apartment complex and searched for options.

We decided to explore Bray Beach. We pulled up to the seafront, and ventured out to face the brisk, ass-bitingly-cold winds. It was oddly romantic, standing there beside my boyfriend, as I lost all feeling in my face and fingers. I looked out at the horizon, across the waves, and realized that we were in Ireland, on a shoreline that is near England. I was proud of us for being crazy enough to book this trip.

We spent the rest of our night walking around the crowded, fascinating streets of Dublin. And we finished our night off with a delicious meal of fish n’ chips.

Our connecting flight to Paris left brutally early the next morning, so with tired eyes and crazy hair, I fumbled through my hotel room, preparing for my day in Paris.

We decided to take a taxi to our hotel from the airport in Paris. It was pricey, but we justified the lavish expense by the time and stress we saved. Taking the train from the airport is way cheaper, but it can take up to an hour, at least to the area we typically stay, outside the École Militaire metro stop.

Our taxi driver was super nice, and he drove us past the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. It was the best way to enter Paris. I felt my knees buckle with excitement as we passed these historic relics.

We stayed at Hotel Le Walt, and they were gracious enough to provide us with a map of Paris and allowed us to store our luggage there before our check-in time, which freed us up to set off towards our next Parisian adventure.

We visited the Eiffel Tower first, and then we took the Metro to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Thankfully, the line outside the cathedral was quite short, so we were able to explore this gothic treasure earlier than we expected.

The Notre Dame is truly gorgeous. I am so glad that I somehow never saw detailed pictures of what it looked like inside, because the vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and candlelit corners captivated my soul. I am not even a religious person, but there is something about the majestic beauty inside the Notre Dame that took my breath away.

After visiting the Notre Dame, I spotted the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I had so much fun inside this store, because the atmosphere is wonderfully bohemian. The staff are super friendly, there’s an adorable cat to pet, and there are so many literary treasures lining the walls.

We walked down a quaint street behind the bookstore, and then we started feeling hungry, so we began an aimless search for a place to eat. We walked around until we became desperate, so we plopped down in the nearest restaurant that smelled good.

I realized rather quickly that I would have preferred another place, but I was too hungry and cozy to change my mind, so I ordered some quiche with a salad. For a dessert, we ordered two crêpes.

Our next stop on the agenda was visiting Oscar Wilde’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. We walked down the street until we found a metro station, and then we plotted a way to connect from the Notre Dame stop to a train that would take us to the Gambetta stop.

When we arrived, I quickly searched for a flower shop, so I could adorn Oscar’s grave with some dandy, purple flowers. 

My stop at the flower shop through me off, though, so I ended up doing a lot of unnecessary walking. My feet were killing me by this point, especially as I climbed up these archaic, steep pathways, hoping to find the entrance to the cemetery.

Alas, I soon realized I had walked away from the Gambatta stop, so I had to trek through the entire cemetery to reach Oscar Wilde’s grave. The graves were gorgeous, though. Many are made in the shape of phone booths, and appear to operate as a little chapel, just big enough for loved ones to mourn. Each one was personalized with a small, stained glass window and an iron gate.

After I walked up one of the steeper hillsides in the cemetery, I had the pleasure of seeing a beautiful Parisian sunset. And in the center of the horizon stood the Eiffel Tower. The sun was shining right behind it.

I stood there in awe behind another tourist, as he attempted to capture it with his camera. I quickly tried to do the same thing, but I knew the cemetery was about to close, and I was determined to visit Oscar Wilde’s grave.

The sky quickly dimmed into a purplish-gray, and I was starting to feel stressed. I closed my eyes and beckoned Oscar Wilde to help me find where he was, a little odd to some I’m sure, but as soon as I turned a corner, an older Frenchman, who was invested in a conversation, turned around and asked me if I needed help. I asked him where I could find Oscar Wilde’s grave, and he gestured broadly off into the distance.

I was appreciative for his help, but I still didn’t feel like I was going the right way. I closed my eyes again, trying to block out the sharp pains in my heels, and I asked Oscar for help again.

And as soon as I opened my eyes, I saw a beautiful white feather, aligned perfectly in front of my left foot. I stopped, turned my head to the left, and then I heard my boyfriend callout, “I think I found it!”

I followed the path, and then I saw it in the distance on the left. My heart fluttered. There were quite a few people around his grave, so I sat on a nearby curb.

 I opened my copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I read, waiting to have a moment alone, because I was too shy to talk to a grave in front of other people.

After what felt like fifteen minutes of waiting, I had a window without anyone around. I was a ball of jangled nerves by this point, though, so I only quickly thanked Oscar for his work and for making me laugh on the days that I feel most depressed.

And right as I began to talk to his grave, I heard a group of people walking towards me, so I embarrassingly chucked the purple bouquet of flowers I brought him over the ridiculous glass barrier that surrounds his grave, which is placed there to prevent admirers from kissing his grave, a tradition that is now against the rules. Lame!

As I sheepishly walked away from his grave, feeling an awkward mix of gratitude and disappointment, I heard this boisterous woman chuckle and say, “I bet you enjoyed that, didn’t you?!”

I turned around and realized she was talking to Oscar Wilde’s grave. She attempted to place flowers over the glass barrier, too, but she also failed to place them on his actual grave, so she laughed as they crashed to the ground beside his grave, and she carried on, walking joyously towards the exit.

And just as I thought I would have another window alone at the grave, an angry French woman pulled up in a van. She yelled in French first and then in English, “The cemetery is closing. You need to leave!”

She noticed my hesitance, so she yelled again. I know she was just doing her job, but I still felt annoyed.

I waited for her to drive a little further up the road, and then I asked my boyfriend to snap a few pictures of me with the grave. He only took a few before we both realized that the guard had parked and was yelling at us to leave. I turned around and blew Oscar a kiss.

The sun was about to set, so we decided to board the metro towards the next place on our itinerary: L'Éclair de Génie.

We got off at the Hôtel de Ville metro stop, and we walked in various circles, trying to figure out which direction we needed to take. My feet were screaming by this point, but I hobbled along like a Dicken’s character, with only one thing on my mind: a vanille framboise éclair.

It took us quite a while to find the shop, but I was thrilled and a little overwhelmed once we did. There were so many colorful options. I wanted to take all of them, but I selected two.

I knew our day was coming to an end, because we had an early flight to catch the next day, so I had my mind set on a picnic by the Seine.

The blistery winds made me crave a warm beverage, so when we passed a bakery, I decided to walk back and look at the menu. They served an array of caffeinated beverages, pastries, and bread. My mouth began to water, so I stepped inside.

The man at the counter greeted me with a warm smile, and he asked what I wanted. I ordered a café crème with a croissant.

After leaving the bakery, we walked in yet another circle, but then we found the Seine. We strolled down a set of stone steps until we were able to walk right along the river. The Seine always takes my breath away, especially at night.

We found a spacious, wooden table, embellished with a chess board. I placed all my treats in the middle of the table, admiring their beauty before I took a single bite.

I started with the éclairs. They were the best éclairs I had ever had. I paused to take a few long sips of my café crème, and then I experienced the highlight of that night: a flaky and rich croissant, which was still perfectly warm and doughy on the inside.

I gazed across the Seine, and my throat began to burn from the sadness of the inevitable truth: like Cinderella, I only had a few hours left before this fairytale-like day would end, and I would have to return to reality.

We took the metro back to our hotel, with an advantageous plan to nap, and then go back out to the Café Flore. After all, it was only 8:00 p.m.

But we were weak after the long airplane ride to Dublin, our early morning flight to Paris, and an entire day walking all over the city, so our quick nap turned into a three-hour slumber.

I woke up distraught, gazing out at the Eiffel Tower, which I could see from our bedroom window. I wanted to explore the city for a little longer, but my boyfriend disagreed with this plan.

 He was worried that we would miss our plane back home if we stayed out any later, so I tried my best not to wallow in grief.

I tried to sleep, but I was restless, so I opened up the latch on our bathroom window, and gazed out at the Eiffel Tower, watching it sparkle off in the distance.

 I knew it was unwise to navigate Paris on my own at nearly midnight, especially without a charged phone, so I sat there bracing the chilly air, just so I could breathe Paris in a little longer.

I stayed up until about 2:00 a.m. The exhaustion of the day slowly caressed my restless mind, and I climbed into bed.

We woke up at around 4:15 a.m. I shuffled through our hotel room, attempting to pack my things neatly, and then I stood by the window for one last view of the city, and I blew it a kiss, too.

I know it sounds cliché, but I my heart will always miss Paris. I have moved around a lot in my life, and Paris is one of the first places that ever felt like home to me. I really hope I get the chance to live there one day, even if it’s just for a month.

Until I return, I will daydream about the Seine, and the way the city lights always create this impressionistic masterpiece against the water.

I will long for a succulent pastry and a walk down a winding, cobblestone street, blissfully unaware of where I am or where I will end up, because I know around a corner, I will find another small café or a friendly Parisian cat to pet.

Yes, I will always long for another day in Paris.

My First Trip to Europe: August 2015

I will never forget my first trip to Europe. I waited nearly twenty-four years before I got the chance to travel abroad. I went to France, England, and Amsterdam. Needless to say, it was a bit hectic, but it was still one of the most romantic, dreamlike trips I have been on.

My boyfriend and I flew to Dublin from Orlando, Florida on August 13, 2015, a few days shy of my twenty-forth birthday. We transferred from Dublin with a direct flight to Paris: the city of love, art, and succulent desserts.

We took a train from the Charles de Gaulle Airport to the École Militaire metro stop, and we stayed at Hôtel Kensington.

 We spent the bulk of our first night in Paris walking around aimlessly in the pouring rain. I viewed many of the iconic Parisian sights that night, drenched, with only a flimsy, black umbrella to shield me from the downpour. But I will always miss that night, because aside from the occasional passerby, I felt like I had Paris to myself. The city lights danced across the Seine, and the bridges beamed with this ambient glow. 

We spent our second day in Paris at the Palace of Versailles. I am a huge fan of everything Sofia Coppola has done, especially Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, so I stood in awe the moment I saw the golden gates outside Versailles.

Touring the inside of the palace was one of the most visually stimulating experiences of my life thus far, but it was a little claustrophobic at times.  Some of the rooms, particularly the bedroom of Marie Antoinette, were packed with tourists. I remember feeling a little overwhelmed at times when I was trying to take pictures, only to end up squashed into a corner, being jabbed by elbows and other cameras as I tried to frame my shot.

The gardens outside Versailles are divine, though. I felt as regal as Marie Antoinette when I strolled along the garden, admiring the carefully designed bushes, trees, and flowers, and, of course, the palace itself.

I spent my last day in Paris exploring the Louvre, eating all the decadent desserts I could find, and strolling along the Seine. I knew on that last night in Paris how much I would miss it. Paris will always be my favorite city.

We traveled to London on the fourth day of our trip, which was my twenty-forth birthday. In London, we explored Big Ben, the famous Abbey Road Crossing, and walked around aimlessly, which is one of my favorite things to do when I travel.

At the end of the night, we had a delicious meal of fish n’ chips by the River Thames.

I enjoyed London, especially riding the Tube and people watching. However, I preferred my stay in the English countryside more.

On the fifth day of our trip, we got a rental car and drove down to Dorset. We explored Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast. This beach was filled with so many smooth, beautiful rocks. The water was freezing, but the sight of that coastline was worth it. The surrounding area near this beach was also very picturesque, for there are many quaint, thatched cottages.

After a few hours in Dorset, we drove to Dartmoor, attempting to see some ancient stone circles. Alas, we underestimated how difficult navigating a new country would be, especially with all of those crazy roundabouts!

We parked the car, and took a stroll through a part of Dartmoor. We didn’t see any stone circles, but we did get one hell of a view of an English sunset, as we passed a field of sheep that were grazing along the hillsides.

We returned to our rental car when the sun went down, and then attempted to make our way to Derbyshire. We had arranged two nights in a cottage within the Peak District through Airbnb. Our host, Elaine, quickly became one of my favorite people. We arrived much later than we had planned, because we got lost somewhere between Dartmoor and Elaine’s cottage in Derbyshire.

She greeted us with a generosity that I thought only existed in those PBS Masterpiece Classics I have always loved. She showed us our room, which was equipped with an adorable electric tea kettle, fresh cream, and packets of the best Earl Gray tea I’ve ever tasted.

She made us traditional English breakfasts in the morning, and praised us for wanting to travel the world. She told us tales of her excursions as a young woman, living in caves in Greece, and about her future plan for a prolonged stay in India. I am writing this a year later, and I hope she has made it to India by now. Few people are charismatic enough to instantly make strangers feel right at home.

During our stay in the Peak District, we visited the Chatsworth House and Castleton. I particularly enjoyed my visit to the Chatsworth House, because I am a huge fan of the 2005 rendition of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I found myself wishing dashing Mr. Darcy would be around one of the corners of the house or garden, waiting to profess how I had bewitched his body and soul, and that I was the love of his life.

Alas, he never appeared, but Chatsworth itself is worth a visit. The house is beautiful and the staff are lovely.

After Chatsworth, we were eager to see a castle, so we searched for nearby castles in our GPS, and we followed the directions to Peveril Castle, which is in Castleton.

Castleton is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. The stone cottages and the surrounding hills all made me feel like I had gone back in time.

One area in Castleton is especially breathtaking: the Cavedale Cave. It was closed by the time we passed by. But the surrounding view was too good to pass up, so I hopped the fence and took a few pictures. On the right side of the hills is Peveril Castle. It sits atop a steep hillside.

I considered hiking up to see the castle, but the sheep seemed somewhat annoyed by my presence, and my thin Converse shoes didn’t provide me with proper traction for such a climb, so I left after a few minutes.

I hope to return one day. I am still curious to see what that dilapidated castle looks like up-close.  

We spent our last day in England in the Lake District. We drove up from Derbyshire, hoping to hike through sections of the Lake District, but we seriously underestimated how long of a drive it would be, so we only saw a small fragment of it.

We explored Sizergh Castle on a whim, because we had only a few hours left before we had to reach the Manchester airport for our flight to Amsterdam.

The castle was lovely, and certainly made up for missing a chance to see Peveril Castle; however, we got stuck in some heavy traffic outside the airport in Manchester. And then to make matters worse, a really irate lady in the airport security line gave me a hard time about how many liquids I had in my carry-on.

 I stubbornly attempted to keep my items, but she urged me to throw them away. It was a learning experience, because as a result of my stubbornness, I missed my flight, and my poor boyfriend had to buy us the next flight to Amsterdam, which wouldn’t leave until the next morning. So we were stuck in the Manchester airport for the entire night.  

I feel it is important to note that traveling is always stressful, especially abroad. Navigating a new place and culture can lead to a lot of confusion, exhaustion, and failed plans. However, I have learned to appreciate even the hiccups during a trip. After all, traveling is meant to be an experience, one that pushes you outside your comfort zone and towards fresh perspectives. I typically gain the best lessons on my trips when something goes wrong.

Because we missed our evening flight to Amsterdam, we only had half a day to explore the city, so when we arrived late in the morning on the last day of our trip, we took quick showers and headed out to explore the city.

We visited the Anne Frank Annex, devoured some of the best burgers I have ever tasted at Burgermeester, explored the artsy flea markets, enjoyed a scrumptious apple strudel at Winkel 43, and strolled along the canals until our jetlag kicked in. 

This trip was full of beautiful scenery, lessons, and best of all, new experiences. I highly recommend a trip to Europe. Remember to plan your days well, but also give yourself space within your schedule to wander, too!

My First Trip to New York City: August 2011

Although I always wanted to travel from a young age, I grew up without the means to venture out that far from home, so I knew I met the love of my life when he proposed that we go to New York City three months after we started dating, to see a Sonic Youth concert in Williamsburg. Sadly, this was the last Sonic Youth concert in America, too, because the band split up later that year.

We stayed with his family in Bushwick, Brooklyn, but we spent the bulk of that week in August, 2011, exploring Manhattan.

For my first trip to New York City, I purchased a CityPass. Obtaining a Citypass is always a helpful and affordable option whenever you're traveling to a city for the first time. 

A  CityPass is an organized booklet full of discounted tickets for all the famous, albeit it touristy, sites. I typically purchase a Citypass the first time I visit a city, because it helps me save time and money. For instance, with a CityPass ticket, I can skip long lines at museums and fit more activities into my day. 

I also strongly recommend utilizing public transportation in the city. Driving a car in any city is nightmarish, but especially in New York City. And taking public transportation is a nice way to people watch, too, which is always fascinating in New York City!

During our trip, my boyfriend and I explored the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Modern Art Museum, Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Little Italy, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Bronx, and the New York City Public Library.

My first trip to New York City was a magical, life-altering experience. I came home from that trip wide-eyed and set on doing whatever it took to spend the rest of my life traveling the world. 

6 Things to Do on a Budget in Paris

Many people, myself once included, believe that they have to be rich to enjoy Paris, but there are many affordable ways to enjoy any city, especially Paris. Here are some of my favorite cheap activities to do in Paris:

Walking Inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral

I am not even a religious person, but walking inside the Notre Dame Cathedral took my breath away. The vaulted ceilings, carefully designed stained glass windows, and lit candles all made me feel like I had escaped modern society. The cathedral still operates as a church, so people walk silently through the cathedral; this provides one with an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. In addition, the cathedral offers free admission, so if you are traveling on a budget, this is a great place to visit.

 Shakespeare & Company Bookstore

This bookstore is one of my favorite places to visit in the world. It has served as a refuge for creative minds for decades, and it is one of the most charming places to walk through, because it has an impressive collection books, friendly staff, and a cute tabby cat to pet whilst you read. I was particularly happy to pet a cat during my last stay in Paris because I was missing my cat, Dorian, so much. Few things make me feel as at home as a library of books and a cat to pet.

The bookstore wishes for customers to avoid photographing the inside of the shop, but you can always snap a great shot on the outside of the store. And beside the shop is an excellent café, so you can enjoy a cup of coffee before or after you explore the various literary treasures that Shakespeare & Company has to offer.

Père Lachaise Cemetery

If you are traveling to Paris on a budget, and you have a penchant for all things gothic and Victorian, I highly recommend a visit to the Père Lachaise Cemetery. One of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde, is among the many notable people that have been buried there. Some honorable mentions are Frédéric Chopin, Jim Morrison, and Édith Piaf. If you do decide to visit the cemetery, I recommend taking the metro to the Gambetta stop, for this stop allows you to walk right towards the Oscar Wilde grave, and you will also spare your feet some unnecessary stress, because entering the cemetery from the main entrance means a lot of uphill walking on steep, slightly terrifying steps.  

People Watching

 There are many reasons that people watching is so fascinating in Paris: the mix of cultures from all over the world, the impeccable fashion sense nearly all Parisians have, and the plethora of artists you can see in the streets or in-between metro stops. Walking around Paris is, of course, free, and for a small fare, you can take the metro to any desired location.

 Walking along the Seine at Night

In my opinion, nothing compares with walking along the Seine at night. The city light’s dance and sparkle against the Seine, as the water elegantly twirls against the majestic bridges that line the city. And if your feet are tired from a day of walking, I highly recommend grabbing a fresh croissant from any nearby bakery and sitting down at any of the tables that are placed near the Seine. You will have a unique view of the city and a chance to reflect on everything you have done so far in Paris. In fact, that is my tradition. I always sit beside the Seine at the end of a trip to Paris, and reflect on the memories I have made, whilst feeling deeply grateful for yet another chance to roam the city of love.

Snapping a Picture with the Eiffel Tower

This is perhaps an obvious suggestion, and as trite and touristy as it may seem, having someone snap a picture of you, or you with your beloved, by the Eiffel tower is a real treat. The tower itself is fun to photograph; there’s something uniquely romantic about the Eiffel Tower, and it makes any picture pop, too.

There are several areas around the Eiffel Tower where you can capture it perfectly framed in the background, but my favorite spot is the Trocadéro.