I’ve been struggling for a phrase that captures my time in France besides, “a dream come true.” The words I seek are more eloquent, less trite, and—if I can truly have my literary way—include alliteration.

Eiffel Tower NightI’ve consulted a thesaurus, deleted dozens of sentences, and poured myself an extra glass of wine. I’ve gone for a run to clear my mind (that was before the wine) and read a few phrases from some of my favorite authors for inspiration.

Eiffel Tower ReflectionNo matter where I take myself mentally or physically, however, I arrive back where I began: Our trip to France was a dream come true.

Notre Dame at nightHaving a dream come true is a rare, beautiful, and bittersweet thing. I dreamed about spending an extended period of time traveling through France since the day I left study abroad, eight years ago. That dream not only came true—it happened within the same decade, and I shared it with my best friend.

Lunch in Monmartre at La Cremiere 1900

And my family too.

L'Atlas-RD; Lizzy

La Palette

I can’t say that I deserved it, only that I am blessed.

St. Chapelle

Yes, we saw some of the greatest works of art at some of the greatest museums in the world—and some of the quirkiest.

Natural History MuseumMaking friends at the Paris Natural History Museum

We visited historical sights and sipped wine at cafes frequented by some of the greatest authors, artists, and philosophers of the 20th century. We even ate dinner at a restaurant beloved by Ben Franklin.

Cafe Le Precop - BoysJames and Ben at Le Procope, the longest-running restaurant in Paris, a favorite of Ben Franklin (that’s his portrait in the background), and one of our best meals of the trip.

When I look back on our trip, however, the moments that shine the brightest are not seeing the Mona Lisa or sipping a kir royale at a historical café.

Mona Lisa OnslaughtA moment with Mona—and several hundred of her closest friends.

Instead, my mind is peppered with memories of a different kind: driving through gorgeous countryside with no agenda except to pull over whenever we felt like taking a photo; spending hours talking with my host family and realizing how much, yet how little, has changed; discovering that the ability to speak French—a ridiculously complex language that I love—still resides within my scattered brain; going for morning runs past the Louvre and Eiffel Tower; eating, eating, EATING the best food I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Escargots at la RotisserieEscargots at La Rotisserie

Roasted Lamb at Les Papilles

Roasted Lamb at Les Papilles

Food; language; people; scenery. These are my memories of France.

Seine at NightThe past week and a half at home has been filled with more funny adjustments than I anticipated.

  • I corrected the barista when she handed me my latte, because I had ordered the small, and the cup she gave me was mammoth. The mistake was mine—that drink was the small. I’d become accustomed to the shot glass-sized espressos I ordered in Paris cafes whenever we needed a bathroom, wifi, or a place to read.

Monmartre 2 hour lunch

  • The night we arrived home in Madison, we promptly went to dinner at our favorite neighborhood restaurant (for these—what else?). When the waitress brought us our bill without my asking, I felt a bit affronted. What did she want to do? Kick us out? Could we not stay three hours if we felt like it?
  • The sound of a TV. The one in our Paris apartment didn’t work, so we simply went without it. I liked it that way, and I’ve hardly turned ours on since we returned.
  • Frequent, easy access to water fountains; people politely making room on the sidewalk; large roads: All nice things about being back in Wisconsin.

I brought a few souvenirs from France home with me, most of the edible variety. I’ve been enjoying Poilane bread for breakfast, neatly polished off my macarons, and had a box of salted caramels from Brittany waiting for me when the macaron supply was depleted. I suppose I could have splurged on a bottle of Chanel perfume, but it would have had to compete with a bottle of wine we picked up in Provence for the prized space at the center of my checked luggage . The thought was too horrific to bear.Winery Visit-after Font Vert

Sorry Chanel—I prefer the bottle above.

I want to thank you all for sharing a piece of this dream with me. It was such a joy to be able to post photos and memories here, as well as Facebook and Instagram, throughout our trip. I’m incredibly grateful for your support and for your words of encouragement to make the most of our time abroad. I am elated to say that we did.

Notre Dame Picnic

Sacre Coeur-Me at TopI don’t know when we will be back to France—my bucket list of places to travel is forever growing longer—only that we will.  The country has stolen a piece of my heart. I’m happy to allow it to stay, so as long as I can come visit it every now and then.

Eiffel Tower Heart

No goodbyes for this girl. Instead, I say, adieu.


Love France? Susceptible to wanderlust? Need a mental vacation? Don’t miss these travel posts:

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Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. What a heart filled post! Loved following along your journey and ‘living in your shoes’ while you sipped, drove and eat your way through France! It is on my bucket list for sure!

  2. So happy you feel this way about your trip! I lived vicariously through you and can only imagine how much fun it really was. I’d love to see a complete list of places you ate (bakeries, everything!). We plan on going back to Paris for our 5 year anniversary and then traveling after that. sigh.

    1. Bri, I am working on a MASSIVE foodie recap. Stay tuned! Also, Paris for a 5 year would be INCREDIBLE. Maybe we should do that for ours too ;-)

  3. That trip really did seem like a dream! It’s amazing, the opportunity that you had, and I’m so glad to hear how much you enjoyed it. I haven’t been to France in 7 years but now I’m dying to get back!

    1. Thank you so much Lauren!!! Even after 8 years, France was even more incredible than I remembered it, so I’m sure it would be for you too!

  4. Beautiful post! I have similar feelings about Italy. Loved following along one your trip. I know you two will cherish the memories and photos forever!

  5. Sounds like an incredible experience!! Traveling to other countries gives you so much perspective. My bucket list is growing by the day it seems like. I really enjoyed following your journey!

  6. It truly was a dream come true and I’m glad you left it with that. I am so happy for you and that you got to go back! What an incredible experience. All those beautiful places! Haha, I had to laugh at your barista experience :) I would get used to the small shot glasses as well, with as much wifi as I use haha!

  7. I’m just glad you guys got to do something so amazing after the years of hard work with law school…and what better way to start a whole new chapter! My dream is travel through Europe, a large part of it in France, and I was living vicariously through you the whole time!

    1. Heather, I totally believe it will happen to for you some day (and hopefully sooner than later!). Thanks so much for your kind words and support. It means more than I can say.

  8. What a great trip and all of your food looks amazing, especially those escargots. So glad that you got to escape the states for a month and live out your dreams.

  9. AhhErin – such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing your dream with us!

  10. Wow! Must feel so surreal. You are blessed! What an amazing place to visit. Hope to go someday.
    So glad your dreams came true!
    Have a great day!

  11. SO happy for you that you took the trip of a lifetime. . what a trip!!! and that you were able to share it with your husband and family. . how awesome is that?! What a great post, Erin . . you’re making us all want to visit Paris soon!!

    1. Alice, thank you so so much. I seriously can’t believe how blessed I am. Also, you need to go back to Paris yourself and relive your honeymoon!!!

  12. I so enjoyed this recap, Erin. You are a beautiful person inside and out, and you definitely deserve to have your dreams come true. Mwah!

    1. <3
      This comment makes my day. Thank you SO much Lauren! (and thanks again for guest posting too!!!!!!!!)

  13. Erin, I have LOVED vicariously living your French adventure on Instagram. What a beautiful experience and a lifelong memory to cherish. I hope you will try to recreate some of your French meals for us!

  14. I love that post!! It made me so nostalgic for my time in Paris. I feel like I want to jump on a plane right now! I’m so glad that you guys had an amazing time. I think a dream come true describes it perfectly. :)

    1. I can’t thank you enough for all of your recommendations! I’m working on putting a food recap together (NO small task) and you will definitely recognize a few places :) And um, BUTTER AT L’AVANT COMPTOIR. My life will never be the same.

      1. Can’t wait to see the recap. OMG I still dream about that butter!! I’m pretty sure I ate a whole brick. :)

  15. I know exactly what you mean when you say you’re looking for words that don’t sound trite or cliched, but still capture your emotion perfectly. I’ve thought the same thing to myself many times these past couple weeks, and keep coming back to the fact that I am simply falling in love with Kauai. Love and miss you, and can’t wait for you to come visit!

    1. SEE YOU IN FEBRUARY! For real. And I’m so so soooo happy to hear that you are in such a wonderful place. Can’t wait to experience it first hand! Love you!

  16. I loved following your wonderful trip! My niece was in Paris during the time you were there so I was able to send her your posts with recommendations for her to see/do. I had just returned from exploring the Languedoc and several days in Paris and you made me feel I was right there with you. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    1. Paula, I would LOVE to visit Languedoc! It was just too far from Paris for us to make it there easily, but it’s one of the regions I absolutely want to visit if I go back. Thanks so much!!

  17. Looks like you had such an amazing time on your trip! I loved seeing your photos on instagram and seeing all of the beautiful places you got to visit. I hope to get visit France one day! I’ve never been anywhere in Europe but it is definitely a dream of mine. Thank you for sharing your trip with us!

  18. This is such a beautiful post Erin. I loved seeing your IG updates and reading your recap of your trip – thank you so much for taking us along with you :) I’m so glad you guys had such an incredible experience and that your dreams came true :)

  19. I enjoyed every day you spent in France! You gave me a window into a life I can only dream of. Thank you, Erin!

    1. Diane, it was SUCH a pleasure to share moments of my trip with you here. Thanks so much for following along!!!

  20. Am I total weirdo that I cried a little reading this?! Probably. But I just loved this post! I <3 France, and you, and dreams coming true, and that photo of the escargot that made my mouth waaaater. Plus, you and the mister are too cute! Just love it all! Now, I need to book a trip to France asap!

    1. Awwww, Ashley now I am tearing up!!! You are such a doll. And you definitely deserve a trip to France (or wherever your heart desires!)

  21. Looks like an amazing trip! Love your pictures they are all so beautiful. I wanna be there myself :D

  22. What a adventure, love all the pictures. I especially love the last picture. I only visited Paris by airport where I got my picture in front of a mini hot pink Eiffel Tower, hehe… one day!

  23. Oh yay! Thats wonderful and inspiring too. I love hearing stories like this, its a good reminder to follow your heart and dreams. Love your pics, you kids are adorable.

  24. Congrats on an awe-inspiring trip. I always think coming home is so difficult….a homesickness of sorts, longing for that adventure again. But then you start to dream of your next trip which helps. So hard to come home! Regular life. But glad you enjoyed your trip.

  25. What a lovely post! A dream come true indeed.. I loved following your journey on Instagram!

  26. Ah, looks like you had an AMAZING time! So happy for you both. It certainly looked like a trip of a lifetime! And Les Papilles… love that place! My wife and I had such a great lunch there while we were in Paris on our honeymoon :)