montmartre eiffel tower

I've been to Paris many times.  And each time I try to see a new aspect of the city.  But on my last visit, I was traveling with my son Jack who would be seeing one of my favorite cities for the first time.   So I built an old school itinerary that would allow him to see Paris as I saw it 35 years ago when I visited for the first time.   

As always, Paris had some surprises for us. 

Hotel Voltaire Paris

We based ourselves at Hotel Voltaire, the perfect new, but old school, Parisian hotel with just a few rooms, and impeccable service. 

Our rooms were ready, but we had just missed lunch so I popped down to the dining room to see if they had some basics for us:  cheese, bread, butter, radishes, ham.  The concierge assessed my order and said "Are you trying to make a sandwich?  I can make you a sandwich."  So we settled ourselves in the empty dining room for an impromptu picnic. I had forgotten how nice it is to discover one of those simple French dishes with just a few really high quality ingredients.  But seeing Jack experience his first Sandwich Parisien brought it back for me.  

hotel voltaire bar

Our evening started in the hotel bar, a candle lit, art deco room that made us feel like we had stepped back in time.  The menu was a short list of classic cocktails served in typical Parisian style with a very small silver bowl of potato chips.  I do love a good hotel bar.  And Jack shares my habit of starting the evening in the bar.  Even if we're just having a glass of tonic, we love to settle into a booth and talk about the night ahead or the day behind us.  

eiffel tower

For our first night, we decided to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and spent several hours waiting in line, laughing, chatting and admiring the structure from outside, below, and inside.  When we finally reached the top, the tower was sparkling and the city was laid out at her feet in a beautiful array of twinkling lights.  It was the perfect introduction to the city of lights.  

When we spilled back out onto the street at 1am, filled with excitement, and starving, a crepe stand magically appeared in our path and we ate hot crepes with jam spilling down our arms as we walked along the Seine.  

candlelight dinner paris

We determined that we would just go to bed and wake up starving the next day.  But again, a small miracle - an Italian bistro across the street with music and patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk - was open until 3am.  We walked in with no reservation and no expectations and had one of the best meals I've had in Paris.  

It wasn't our intent to stay out all night, but what better city for that? 

retro cars in Paris

The next day was spent sleeping in, roaming Montmartre and Pigalle, taking pictures, drinking champagne at a sidewalk cafe, and buying funny postcards from tourist shops and sampling escargot at Brasserie Lipp.  

I typically visit Paris looking for new inspiration with a list of new shops, galleries and bistros to try.  But seeing my favorite city as if for the first time reminded me - Paris' history and tradition can be just as inspiring.  

Read more on Paris

City Guide | Paris 2

City Guide | Paris 1

Elsie's Edit | Paris Edition

Laurie Furber
Tagged: travel journal