Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Day in Montmartre

Imagine story-book worthy apartments, winding streets that sometimes seem stretch right up into the air, and the whirring spins of windmills by day and can-can dancers by night, all topped by a cathedral on the top of the highest peak that looks like it's spun out of the white froth from your cappuccino.  This my friend is Montmartre, the most La Boheme neighborhood in Paris.

Montemartre is forever tied to the Belle Epoque artists that called this area home -- Dali, Picasso, Monet, and Van Goh all had studios or painted here at some point in there careers. You can still find artists in the area; many line up on the streets near the Sacre Coeur to sketch caricatures of tourists.
One of only 3 remaining windmills in Montemartre, you can see the Moulin Radet peeking above the tree line from the steep climb up Rue Lepic.

Sacre Coeur peaks out between apartment buildings as you wind your way up Montmartre's rolling hillside roads

I'm smiling because we are finally walking downhill again.

Nothing says France like a vineyard, a scooter, and imperfectly picturesque homes covered in vines.

Sacre Coeur is like the wedding cake topper of Paris' skyline, visible even well within the city since it is situated atop "the mountain" of Montemartre.  It's not Paris' oldest church by any means -- it was finished in 1914-- but it is a very popular tourist destination.  Expect a crowded view and lots of street performers, many of whom are singing church hymns or playing songs like "My Heart Will Go On" on a harp (yes, I know that is totally random, but it happened, and encores were asked for by the crowd!).  Montemartre itself is steeped in a highly religious history.  The name translates to Mountain of the Martyr, and this is the site where St. Denis, who was the first Catholic bishop of Paris, was beheaded during a purge of Christians around 250 AD.  You can see a statue of St. Denis holding his head in one hand atop one of the portal gates of Notre Dame. 

You can get a great view of Paris from the steps of the cathedral

Maybe it's in poor taste to change from the church to the other popular tourist stops in Montemartre, the cabarets.  But you will pass many of them on your way to the Sacre Coeur, and can't miss seeing the real Moulin Rouge on your way back down into Paris proper.  It looks a little tacky during the daytime, but I'm sure lit up at night it calls back plenty of memories of those grand times when the can can was born and soirees with elephants were featured acts.   Le Chat Noir, cabaret of the famed vintage black cat poster you likely have hanging in your home somewhere, is no longer open as a cabaret, but it's now a boutique hotel if you're wanting to stay overnight in the area.  

You know you've seen this poster, but did you know it was an advertisement for the famous cabaret show in Montemartre? via

Where to Eat:
One of our best meals in Paris was at Le Coq Rico on Rue Lepic.  You can't miss it; it's right across from the windmill Blute-Fin on Rue Lepic.  The wait-staff is super friendly and if you sit at the bar you can watch meals being made with a focus to detail that is oh-so Parisian.  The menu has plenty of winners to choose from, but don't miss your chance to get something with chicken here.  It may make you decide to live here permanently in your own little Amelie-esque apartment.  


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