Halloween 2013. Zack and I were flying home (to Nashville) from our honeymoon with a group of friendly, cat-ear-wearing flight attendants. Two years later, I have a nap-fighting toddler who finally fell asleep, and I just raided the Halloween candy stash for a Reese's -- the only candy I like/love/regret.
If you missed part one of my honeymoon reminiscing, you can read here where I talked about the crazy ways we ended up having a free trip!
The title of this post is misleading, because I'm not really experienced enough to tell you "how to" do the best European honeymoon by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, I'm just going to recall all that we were able to squeeze into a week and a half without going over our Honeymoon Budget. So who knows, maybe it will help someone as you plan some adventuring. And if you are just here for the outlined itinerary without the stories... scroll down! :)
a good friend will drive you to the airport.
Day 1. Our friends Ashley and Logan picked us up to drive us to the airport, and Ashley and I were wearing the same, matching cardigan (thus further confirming we are bosom buddies).
We were still running on post-wedding adrenaline, and we definitely didn't feel as tired as we looked. haha! We checked in before 2pm, left Nashville after 3, and arrived at JFK before 7! So far we were still just scrolling through our wedding hashtag and being giddy about life.
At nearly 10pm, we hopped on that plane to Dublin, and had some sleeps on the flight... Then woke up to breakfast on the plane and landed in Ireland!
you do not want the manual car.
Day 2. The first order of business was to get our first left-side-of-the-road rental car! And when I say "our" I mean Zack, because I refused to drive. Keep on readin' for the drama that ensued and confirmed my decision. The man at the rental counter found out we were honeymooners (from us chattering on about it, of course) and we got upgraded from the manual that Zack wanted to an automatic. Woo hoo! And we were strongly encouraged to add on insurance (very key).
We then drove into Dublin and found a car park, --which was somewhere around 10 euro I think-- walked and shopped at Grafton Street, saw the swan whisperer at St. Stephen's Green, and got coffee and lunch at Bewley's. Then Zack realized he had superhuman strength when he touched our french press and the glass crumbled in his hands. We still don't know what voodoo happened.
We planned to go ahead and drive to our hotel in Ennis after lunch, but we were still running on adrenaline and decided to first walk over to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells -- since we didn't get to see that on our last Dublin trip. Then drove by St. Patrick's and hit the open road...
This is where our trip would've fit in a painful scene of a rom-com... As I sat in the "American driver's seat" aka the passenger's seat, I could see every time Zack wasn't perfectly centered in his lane. Z, You are drifting!!! Too close!!! DRIFTING!!!!!!
Finally --five panic attacks later--, we arrived in Ennis where we checked into The Old Ground Hotel and also had dinner at the restaurant there.. OH! But let's not forget that just before dinner, I reached in a bag where Zack's pristinely sharp razor was and sliced up my finger in the craziest way! The sweet front desk ladies were very helpful in helping to patch my gushing wound. This honeymoon is sounding so romantic so far, isn't it?!
don't fall off the cliffs of moher.
DAY 3. We woke up and hit the road again! -- oh but first, coffee -- We walked to a cafe called Zest, in the perfectly-Irish rain (umbrellas? duh, check!) and got breakfast, coffee, and some snacks for the road. Then we drove to the Cliffs of Moher.
At the cliffs, we saw my favorite, little Irish flute player again (actually he's an older rugged-looking man, but I prefer you picture a hobbit-like fellow.) , but then he left as the mist/rain rolled in again. In person, the mist was still very mysssstical even though the pictures don't do it justice. We saw a Russian lady completely bust her tush in some slippery mud, and of course Zack crossed the "do not stand here like the 941 people who have died" line, and I nearly had my sixth panic attack.
After some fish 'n chips, shepherd's pie, and Guinness at Gus O'Conner's in Doolin, we continued up the west coast towards Clifden. We stopped to see some castles along the way, my favorite being Dunguaire. Somehow, we arrived there right at sunset when a family of swans was swimming nearby. It was a flippin' dream!
Back to reality... we got back in our teensy Euro car to finish the drive to our favorite B&B. I was finally starting to relax in my passenger seat post, and in the country it wasn't as stressful since there were not even any curbs or traffic to avoid. Until there was... CURB!!! DRIF-- *BOOM!* We stopped and surveyed the damage, which was only a dented rim, but did we get the insurance? If you paid attention earlier, you KNOW WE DID! *whew*.
We continued on to Clifden, now avoiding the road-side sheep, and checked in with Sheila at the Sea Mist House before our amazing seafood-platter dinner at Mitchell's. We seriously love that town.
when your GPS fails you.
Day 4. We awoke to our favorite B&B breakfast in the sunroom, and then packed up to continue our exploring. Sheila gave us a large box of chocolates, and we signed "Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey" for the first time in the visitors book.
We took Sky Road over to our castle -- I mean to Clifden Castle, explored, and reminisced. One amazing, new thing is that someone who shares that land now has some beautiful, white horses. Thanks for the fairytale moment. We are just going to move here right now, okay?
About 20 minutes down the road, we visited Kylemore Abbey for the first time. It's pretty touristy, but also "a savage beauty" as Oscar Wilde said. The history was also incredible, and one of the owners built the fairytale castle as a gift for his wife and then a miniature gothic cathedral in memory of her. There was so much to see there, we had to settle for lunch in the visitor center with some bleh-overpriced soup.
2 hours back to Dublin -- and this is where the day took a turn. First, we should've avoided driving through Galway, because their afternoon traffic was horrendous. Trying to move from the center lane of the roundabout to exit was SO FUN... really great for my car anxiety. SECOND EXIT! SECOND! EXIT!
We arrived in Dublin, and followed our GPS towards the Westbury Hotel where we were going to stay the night, 5-star-fancy style! Our GPS must've been Siri's idiotic, 50-years-outdated Irish cousin, because she kept telling us to turn RIGHT ONTO Grafton Street! Which if you didn't know, is a pedestrian/shopping street only! ABORT ABORT! That's Grafton! NoNONO! RECALCULATE! Ahhh... that's STILL Grafton!
Zack had to think on his feet and duck into an alley, which ended up being another one-way street only leading to Grafton. AWESOME. We backed out slowly and awkwardly and found an inconspicuous place to leave the car, while I took the GPS in hand and let it show me where the hotel was. Then I headed back to where Zack was sitting, and we somehow figured out another way. After all of that, I seriously just wanted to sit there and order room service, but Zack found a restaurant called Farm that was so so worth getting back out for dinner and a walk.
let's not die in dublin.
DAY 5. We woke up, and headed to the airport to return the car and fly to PARIS! YAY!
We were about 7 minutes away from the airport, and I couldn't be happier to get rid of that rental car. The freedom of having it was great, but I was tired of my anxiety.
AND THAT'S WHEN WE ACTUALLY ALMOST DIED.
Two lanes suddenly merged to one, and Irish buses must have the right-of-way because in one second flat Zack was left with the choice to A. let this giant bus crush us into the median rails, B. SLAM on the breaks and hope too many cars didn't hit us, or C. quickly swerve out of the bus's path, around the median railing, and INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC!
He chose C... and I'm not even sure if I screamed... I think I gasped and froze in the panic. A motorcyclist heading straight towards us wobbled and floundered out of the way. Then Zack was able to swerve back to the correct lane. ... ... ... JAYSIS, you put the heart crossway in me!!! (American translation: OH.EM.GEE!)
We were so happy to return our dented-rim, near-death car, and plop into our seats on that flight to Paris.
Oh, but this day wanted to keep being interesting... We had one tight connection to make, ONE! From our Dublin-to-Paris flight to our train to Strasbourg. Of COURSE our flight from Dublin was delayed, and of COURSE we missed our train to Strasbourg. But no worries, there was a quick walk to the Gare de l'Est train station, and we ate a snack there and just waited on the next train out. PTL there was a next train out!
In Strasbourg, we settled into our friends' unbelievably beautiful flat, and made dinner there.
"je ne parle pas..."
Day 6-10. These were our legitimate honeymoon-relaxation days, the ones that reading this post you may have been worried we didn't get! The funniest part of this section of the trip was our French, or pathetic lack-there-of. We have picked up conversational languages in multiple countries, and I even had French Rosetta Stone a few years ago, so we were NOT prepared for how intimidating French is in real life! Our first breakfast in our Strasbourg flat was spent practicing with French videos to each other, because we were so embarrassed about how silly our accents sounded.
"Je suis désolé, Je ne parle pas français" AGAIN. AGAIN!
Fast forward to us having lots of picnic lunches just so we could walk into markets and get what we wanted easily. Then after a while, we ventured out with our French apologies, only to (usually) find very helpful English speakers who would cut us off mid-phrase and say, "Oh it's okay, I speak English."
We only encountered one rude, annoyed server, and we started to hear a few more embarrassing/loud-slow-talking Americans order. "TARRRT FLAMBAAAAY. How BIG is the soup? How biiiiiiig is it? BIIIIIIG" *insert ridiculous hand motions"
Strasbourg was so heavenly we did not want to leave! We thought about venturing out to some nearby villages or possibly even across the Swiss border, but we could not!
Quick Strasbourg notes would be, go to La Petit France, Au Renard Prechant, see the cathedral and the clock, check out the oldest wine cellar, and we even really liked the Alsatian Museum! Also, the men's section of H&M had the cutest cardigans ever... no lie! Thanks, France! <3
don't be scared of the paris metro.
Day 10. We had a much easier train departure back to Paris after a leisurely morning and arrived in Paris midday. Book reading, train naps, scenery...
The best part of doing a big trip like this for our honeymoon, was that I couldn't plan every tiny detail and a lot of our days were just spent exploring on the fly. The worst part was that wedding planning took all of that precious time we could've spent practicing our French and researching Strasbourg and Paris a bit more.
Zack saw that we were less than a mile from our flat, and so that sounded like a walking scenario. What we did not know is 1. the metro is seriously very easy, and we could've taken a second to just figure it out. and 2. Montmartre seriously is all uphill and stairs.. Uphill with my backpack... uggghhh... Let's fast forward and just say that I was pissed, but we finally made it to our Air BnB flat after that (and the 5 flights of stairs in the building).
We went to the Sacre-Coeur at sunset, and then had dinner at La Marguerite (which is now Sacree Fleur I think). It was PERFECT!
the louvre is closed on tuesdays.
Day 11. We set out to the Louvre and love lock bridge... oh but wait, remember our lack of researching ? Oh yeah, it's Tuesday... the one day the Louvre is closed. Okay scratch that.
Thanks to our friends Kelly and Danny, we had a heads up about Coutume Cafe and had breakfast and coffee there. I'll never forget the American college-aged girl next to us who kept saying to her friend, "(deep nasal inhale) Ahhhhh, it is SUFJAN SEASON!" I don't even think Zack and I were talking to each other, because their conversation was so entertaining.
That day we saw Notre Dame, picked up food for a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, had a terrible language breakdown with a cab driver who barely even knew French, so two poor french accents combined resulted in quite the mess. We had to just get out of that cab before we ended up somewhere crazy, and got caught in the rain on the way to the Eiffel Tower.
Soaked but happy, we saw a DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY as we arrived.
We opted for a bench picnic, since everything was wet, and then we had a nice man ask if he could PLEASE take our picture and could we PLEASE pose to make our arms be a heart around the Eiffel Tower?!?! We were cracking up!!! But it may win my favorite honeymoon shot!
That night we went back to Montmartre and ate at La Belancoire. The food was perfect, they give you some kind of complimentary candy-infused vodka shot with your check, and we were sat next to and chatted with two Irish teachers! Also, Moulin Rouge and the "Amelie cafe" were just down the street, so we saw those on our night stroll.
seven miles around charles de gaulle.
Day 12. Our speed-visit of Paris was coming to a close, but not without trying to squeeze in a little bit more! Now finally understanding the metro system, we hopped over to the Louvre (literally ran around the museum like crazies), got crepes for brunch, picked up a box of macarons, and then set out towards the airport.
In all of our rushing around, we were still wanting to check-in two hours before out flight, but somehow misread a sign and took the shuttle/train the wrong direction. We realized our mistake almost immediately, but it was too late because the train had to go to the end of the line before returning. This ate up about 45 minutes of our time, so we did not arrive to the ticket desk until just a little over an hour until departure.
MINUTES before we walked up, the ticket-desk lady had just sold our flights! She went into a frenzy and started making calls and said she would get us back on our flight to Dublin. We followed her around the airport as she flashed her badge and tried talking to people. Then she led us through security and then back again as she checked around about what to do.
I think we walked in circles for miles in that airport.
At the gate, they tried to see if they could get us on the flight, but no one wanted a voucher for a later flight. On the upside, WE got a voucher worth about $600 and a free dinner (yay. airport restaurants.).
This made us miss our dinner reservation in Dublin, but since our dinner was now all free (plus free money), we were consoled.
That night we slept at the Clarion Hotel, which was pretty nice for an airport hotel... and the shuttle was easy and convenient.
home sweet home on halloween.
Day 13. We left Dublin late in the morning, arrived at JFK midday, and before 6pm we were back in Nashville!
No more funny stories, right?! WRONG. :)
The weather was very rainy and stormy, and turbulence on the flight from New York to Nashville was possibly the most intense either of us have experienced. Poor Zackie got a wave of motion sickness and had to make use of his barf bag. YIKES!
Then the bad weather + Nashville rush hour did not make for a quick drive for green-faced Zack. Luckily, we were staying in Nashville with family that night, had a great time hanging out with them, and then got a solid night's sleep.
The next day was Friday... we stopped at the the tree we took pictures of when we were first dating and carved our *new* initials, and then drove back to Birmingham...with the weekend to recover from any lingering jet lag and our hearts full of adventure!
See more photos: #zackandginger