How can you not love Paris? It’s a city I’d return to in a heartbeat although I must admit the recent terrorist incidents have made me wonder just how keen I’d be to return at the moment. Not to mention a lack of actual funds or time off.
I first visited Paris in 1989 with a couple of friends who were living in London. We picked a busy weekend (sporting event? soccer I think?) and when we arrived (I think we flew?) hotels were scarce. With my high school French we managed to find a hotel with three sagging beds with dodgy chenille bedspreads. We couldn’t risk not taking the room because there was a trail of tourists with the same idea following us.
Well, that could have been my first visit, or my second; I managed to visit Paris three times across a four or five week period during my first big European adventure in 1989. I had intended to visit with one of my best theatre friends but when I arrived in London she was broke.
So I ended up doing a Contiki tour that took me to Paris, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, Austria, and Amsterdam. We stayed in budget hotels, backpackers and even some chalets in the woods somewhere along the line.
The third trip was with my now less-broke friend, and I am pretty sure we flew. I have no idea where we stayed. We bought interesting brocade jackets and tunics. We went to Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen which I seem to recall had thoroughly appalling toilets.
Visit two was with my husband in 1998, en route to a wedding in Scotland. It was May and unseasonably hot. We picked a hotel that ended up being not far from Sacre Coeur but somewhat too close to the Sexodrome.
Our last visit, in 2007, was as a family en route to a wedding in Amsterdam. We arrived via Eurostar and spent a couple of days in Paris before heading to Disneyland Paris. We then returned for a final few days before taking a Thalys train to Amsterdam.
For the first few days we stayed at the Hotel Valadon. By the looks of the website it has had a serious makeover since then. We chose it due to the proximity of the Rue Cler markets which I had read about in a Rick Steves guidebook. I think that was the start of my habit of basing hotel locations on their proximity to restaurants and markets.
On our return we stayed at Residence Les Gobelins, the website for which doesn’t seem to be working at present but Gobelins seems to indicate it is still open. It was a budget hotel, close to the Rue Mouffetard markets and restaurants, and we had a family room with three beds. The breakfasts were simple – croissants and baguettes with coffee.
I remember painstakingly researching all of these hotels over and over – this was probably the early days of TripAdvisor from memory – and perhaps emailing inquiries to half a dozen about rates and room set ups…
In all of these visits I have never made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, given my fear of heights seems to get worse, not better with age. I think I made it to level two on my second visit. Last time, the family went to the top while I ate a baguette by myself on the first level.
It’s my aim to brush up on my now very rusty French and visit Paris and New York for my 50th. Watch this space (for a few more years!).