Thursday was our final day in Ireland and we were both so sad to go. To be honest, we wished we had skipped Dublin and gone right to Cork! Because I was sick, we didn’t get to see as much as we wanted to. But we did still see quite a bit! This has been my scouting mission for when I’m rich and famous (or just have a grown up job and can actually afford to travel).
So back to what we did see on our last day in the brilliant verdant hills of Ireland. We went on a bus tour to the cliffs of Moher, and stopped at all these little castles, famine house ruins, thatched houses, AND OH MY GOODNESS, SO MANY COWS. One of the coolest things was this Neolithic tomb called Poulnabrone Dolmen. It translates to “hole of sorrows”. Dating from somewhere between 4200 BCE and 2900 BCE, it served as a marker for 30 adults and children. I can’t even fathom people living that long ago.
We drove through the prettiest little towns and by farms and ah, I want to come back so badly! As we made our way to the coast, the hills grew rockier and mountains of gray rose out of the horizon. Parallel lines traversed their sides and our guide explained them to us. During the famine, people were given the jobs of piling the rocks on the mountains into stone walls. They had no purpose – the land is too harsh for farming or grazing – but they provided jobs so that people could be paid so they could eat. They’re known as famine walls. It’s terribly sad, but so interesting too. Everywhere you go is full of stories.
And the cliffs were… Well, they look like something out of a Tolkien storybook. We made friends with this friendly young man from South Africa and the three of us went right up to the edge! First there was the 100 ft drop… And then the 700 ft ones. One wrong step and we would’ve been sacrifices to the Druid gods. Just stepping so close to the edge made my stomach twist and my heart pound, but I’m glad I did it. The dark blue below against the jutting hard cliffs… It makes you appreciate the natural wonder of this planet and it’s ability to nourish and sustain us who linger so briefly on its surface.
Then today we woke up at a fun 4 in the morning to be ready for our 6 am flight to Paris. We got to the airport when it opened at 5 am. Right next to the boarding gate was a pub and of course, there were plenty of people inside with full pints of beer. Got to love the Irish.
And now… We’re in Paris! It’s a little overwhelming because I don’t want to be rude and assume people know English so I’ve been asking them “parlez vous anglais” and the ones that do speak English look at me like I’m a carnival monster for attempting French. Haha, oh well! I just am always aware that I’m a visitor in other countries and try to be as polite as possible. Not sure the Parisians appreciate the effort…
Anyway, what did we do? We went to the LOURVE! Surprisingly the way we came in through this back entrance, meant we waited on line for about 15 minutes. Usually you wait an hour… Or two. So we tore through that, loving and soaking up all the Greek, Roman, and Italian statues, which are my favorite. We saw Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. We walked through ornate rooms with ceilings that rivaled the paintings. It was beautiful. But there was so much to see. There always is, in museums. I want to spend some good time in our New York museums when we get back.
The next day, we did our third New Europe Tours in Paris. Our tour guide was a Dutch man who spoke perfect American – a result, he said, from studying at the feet of Optimus Prime, Captain Planet, and Pinky and the Brain. On this three and a half hour tour, we saw SO MUCH PARIS. Like, I can’t even list it all without losing its impact. Some highlights were this building that still is riddled with bullet holes from WWII and the Nazis, and a love lock bridge.
Love lock bridges are an increasingly common trend in Europe. They are slowing spreading to the US in spots like the Brooklyn Bridge. I will have to look when I get back home! Basically they stem from this book where the amorous couple takes a padlock and puts it on the fence of a bridge in Rome. They throw away the key and say their love is as eternal as the lock on the bridge. So of course this has really taken off in Paris, city of love!
After the tour, we weren’t far from the Arc de Triomphe. So we decided that our legs were still in good shape and headed to the middle of the 12 street roundabout to check it out. Then of course, we had to go to the top, which was over 300 steps to reach the top. But the view was so worth it!
We went back to our hotel for a catnap and had dinner and then went to the Eiffel Tower! Our legs and feet were pretty beat so we took the lift up to the second floor. It’s one thing to grow up seeing it in pictures and film and posters. It’s another thing to have it just suddenly there, standing in front of you. It’s real, solid, actually existing and not just some fairytale prop. The view from the second floor (43 stories high) was incredible, and more than enough for me – so I didn’t go in the little lift all the way up (81 stories!)
We came down (accidentally walked the 43 stories down) just as the lights were turning on all over the tower. We walked through the park in front of the Eiffel Tower by people taking pictures, couples sharing picnics and kisses, and strangers just staring up in quiet awe. Vendors walked by trying to sell us wine and champagne – yay for no open container laws here!
You would think we were done after that busy day, but there was more still to see in the city of lights. We went down to the piers on the Seine and took a river tour. The lights shined blue, yellow, orange, and white upon the river waters, shimmering across the waves we left behind. On the banks of the Seine, people of all ages dangled their legs over the edge and waved at us, cigarette smoke trailing from their fingers like a ephemeral salutation. Magical.
Paris is so many things… And as a New Yorker I have to maintain some pride and thus, a sort of nonchalance for all other cities. There is good and bad here, but it goes without saying that Paris breathes beauty, art, and love in every corner, every store, every street.