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.