Posted by: reecejharley | January 10, 2010

Montmartre… of course!

On the way up

Del Montel

The little apartment I’m staying is about a five or ten minute walk south of Montmartre up Rue des Martyrs, which has a bunch of great little cafes and food shops all the way up it. Two patisseries in particular, have captured the hearts of Parisian’s in the 9th arrondissement and conveniently, are located opposite one another, Del Montel and the Rose Bakery (where i stopped for breakfast, and where everyone seemed to speak french with an American accent).

Bacon, eggs and tomatos at the Rose Bakery

Montmartre grew on a natural hill of gypsum rock which was quarried for centuries to construct many of the city’s finest monuments and buildings. Until the 1800s it was a semi-rural area renowned for its windmills (situated there because of the hill’s exposure to constant wind). As Montmartre was, at the time, outside the city’s boundaries (and therefore free from the oppressive taxation of the city), it became a popular drinking area.

The colourful atmosphere of Montmartre, its ladies of the night and its infamous dancing and drinking culture made it a magnet for artists. Toulouse Lautrec (resident artist of the Moulin Rouge), Degas, Renoir, and Van Gough (who lived at number 54 Rue Lepic) were all regulars in Montmatres bars and cabarets.

The steeps steps up to the Sacre Cour

The climb to the top of Montmartre is not for the faint-hearted, no, really… It’s steep! And on this particular morning, it was snowing and slippery.  From the top of the hill the view across Paris is Panoramic and truly breathtaking.

From the top

View from the top

Page 272 of Nagel’s guide provides this:

The butte Montmartre is 430 ft. in altitude, rising 343 ft. above the level of the Seine; it is the highest point of Paris. The basilica of the Sacre Cour, which stands on the top of the hill, above square Saint-Pierre, is a huge white building which overlooks all of Paris. From the parvis in front, the view of Paris, although less extensive than that seen from the dome, is nevertheless a splendid one in clear weather. (pge 272)

The Sacre Cour

Just around the corner from the Sacre Cour, along a few winding streets is the Place du Tetre, renowned for it’s art market and portrait painters. My tip? avoid these guys at all cost. Do you really want a caricature of yourself? do you really want to pay 25 euros for something you’ll end up shoving in a box a few months from now?

In the immediate vicinity of Place du Tetre (particularly on the northern slope of the hill) there still remains something of the old Montmartre. The series of winding and steep cobblestone streets running down the hill were home to Piccasso who was known to trade his paintings for entry into a cabaret and a few stiff drinks. One of these is Lapin Agile. Picasso’s famous Painting ‘At the Lapin Agile’ now hangs in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

Back up Rue des Saules is ‘Le Consulat’ another cabaret which has featured in many paintings, and a whole host of little cafes and creperies.

On the way down

No post on Montmartre would be complete without a few words about its most famous Cabaret, the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill). The building’s current incarnation is a sham, and its main clientele are distinctly foreign, though the reputation of its dancers is undoubtedly first class.

The Moulin Rouge is situated at the bottom of the hill on Boulevarde de Clichy. Its neighbours include ‘Quick’ a french version of McDonalds, and a host of other tourist shops peddling unnecessary accoutrements to daily life. Opposite the Moulin Rouge, a Starbucks. This really is Paris at its most showy and garish, but the setting nevertheless retains some of its charm.

Le Consulat

Montmartre scenery

Moulin Rouge


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