Thursday, October 1, 2009

12 Days in Paris: Montmartre

We put on our hiking shoes (figuratively) and headed out for the highest part of Paris - Montmartre. Now, this neighborhood atop a 130m hill in the 18th district, is always bustling and crowded (even more so on weekends). Oui, it is touristy. Oui, it is crowded. Oui, it is a feast for the eyes and imagination.

Here you will find Lapin Agile (22, Rue des Saules, 18e), a Montmartre cabaret made famous by its raucous past and by Pablo Picasso's 1905 oil painting At the Lapin Agile. Across the street is the only vineyard inside the city of Paris. Not far away is the Cabaret Moulin Rouge (82, Boulevard de Clichy, 18e), famous for the can-can and subject of so many posters by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.Up the hill a bit more is the extremley busy Place du Tertre. This is Paris tourist heaven! Artists on the square, restaurants for people watching and souvenir stores all selling the same things! Have some fun. Grab a street-side table, have lunch and take in the sites and absorb the energy. Then move on to the Basilica Sacre Coeur at the top of the hill.The Byzantine-style Basilica Sacre Coeur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is visible from many parts of Paris and the surrounding community. Its bright white surface sparkles in the sun and at night when it is lit up. Construction began in 1875 and was completed in 1914, although consecration of the basilica was delayed until after WWI. It's a gorgeous church, both inside and out.We entered the basilica while mass was being celebrated. The stained glass windows, the glow of candles at the side alters and the quiet sounds while the eucharist was being delivered were such a contrast to the hustle and cacophony of the Place du Tertre. Then, like the sound of angels, the nuns in the sacristy sung the rest of the mass. Their voices were beautiful; the music soothing and uplifting.I spotted this little bar on the way down with the sign le Tire-Bouchon (the corkscrew!). Being a corkscrew collector, I had to check this out. To my surprise, this little bar had not a corkscrew in site! Oh well ...
Tips:
1. A great way to start your visit is the take the Metro to the Lamarck-Coulaincourt station. The climb up the spiral staircase of the Metro is taxing (use the elevator if you prefer). The walk up the hill through the Place Dalida and rue Abreuvoir is quite scenic. This route will also take you past the Lapine Agile and the Musee Montmartre.
2. Return by descending the opposite side of the hill and walk down to the Metro Abbbesees station, where one of the last two of the original Metropolitain signs still arches over the entrance.

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