Category: Paris 1

Montmartre is a lot more than just a hill

Montmartre, a 130 metre hill in the northern section of Paris, France is one of the best known attractions in the City of Light.

Crowned by the striking white-domed Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur and offering undoubtedly the best views in Paris (except from the top of the Eiffel Tower) Montmartre is part of the Right Bank in the city’s 18th arrondissement.

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The summit usually attracts big crowds of people who have either walked up more than 300 steps or taken the automatic funicular railway from the streets below.

As well as gathering around the Sacre-Coeur basilica, the crowds spill into the adjoining Place du Tertre, where portrait sketchers and caricaturists compete for space.

However, there are some wonderful experiences to be gained by leaving the crowds behind and simply wandering among the cobbled streets of one of the most historic and fascinating neighbourhoods of Paris.

Montmarte vineyard

We started in Barbes-Rochechouart, to the east of the base of Montmartre.

This is a vibrant shopping area and street market, which runs down to the famous Moulin Rouge club.

After meandering among the stalls and exploring both tiny shops and big discount stores alike, we headed for the Rue de Steinkerque, which we had been told was a quaint and lively shortcut to the terraced gardens and grassy slopes beneath the basilica.

The Rue certainly lived up to its reputation. Its shops were busy with locals, but there appeared to be few visitors.

We opted to walk to the top of the hill and went looking for the Rue Foyatier, one of the most famous street in Paris, where steps carry you directly to the summit.

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Have no doubt, Montemarte is steep and the ascent can be tough going.

But on the positive side, this is Paris – and even its stone steps are a work of art. These ones are lined by attractive lamps, handrails, trees and occasional seating.

Montemarte oozes history and many of the buildings are glorious. There are also lovely private gardens and the sight of grape vines growing on the slopes at Rue Saint-Vincent was intriguing.

Locals explained that the Clos Montmartre Vinyard still produces a few hundred litres of wine each year. Naturally, the drop is keenly sought after.

As we walked from the Sacre-Coeur through the Place du Terte, with its lines of modern artists, it was easy to visualise that the likes of Salvador Dalí, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh had either operated studios or worked in or around Montmartre.Sue in Paris

If ever there was a place to feed creativity and inspiration, this is it.

Avoiding the popular restaurants around the summit, we explored the older, church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, before heading back into the surrounding suburb – content that we had visited an outstanding attraction, but also experienced the Montmartre that many of the tourists never see.

Aussie music in Paris

The didgeridoo makes a distinctive sound all its own. You don’t easily confuse it with other musical instruments.

But you automatically associate the deep, earthy growl of the didgeridoo with outback Australia or with buskers in Sydney, Brisbane or Perth – certainly not glamorous Paris, France.

Imagine our surprise then as we came face to face with didgeridoo music swirling around the butte Montmartre, mingling with the chatter of tourists outside the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.IMG_0900 We love Paris and, like most people, much of our passion is for the glamour, chic and carefree atmosphere of the City of Light.

With its secluded parks, artists’ studios, cafes and restaurants, Paris exudes romance like no other city we have ever experienced. We soaked it up – the delightful sound of the French language; the early morning smell of coffee and freshly-baked bread; and the colours of the artists and easels on Montmartre – the highest point in the city.

The romanticism of Paris couldn’t get much better. But then, as we paused to admire Sacre-Coeur, the drone of didgeridoo music took us completely by surprise.Sacre-coeur-interior Don’t get us wrong: it wasn’t offensive or overwhelming and didgeridoo music has long been a world sound – certainly not restricted to Australia.

It was just totally unexpected.

Here we were, a world away from ‘down under’, revelling in Parisian art and architecture, cityscape and riverbanks as we had earlier strolled along the Champs-Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée – and ascended the Eiffel Tower. But suddenly, our homeland caught up amid our new-found bohemia.

image010We looked at each other and collapsed in laughter. The didgeridoo music – coming from somewhere below Montmartre – seemed so out-of-place echoing through narrow streets that had changed little since the 1800’s. In fact, when we thought about it, the situation was probably rather apt, given that the didgeridoo is an ancient instrument, possibly as much as 1,500 years old.

This incident made our visit to Sacre-Coeur all the more memorable. The Basilica is certainly stunning. We never tire of this marvellous icon in a city that also boasts wonders like the Palais Garnier opera house; Notre Dame Cathedral; the Louvre museum; and the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.

Credit for photograph of Sacre-Coeur interior:   Nave, apse and altar of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Paris, France. Date 9 May 2006 Source Own work Author Matthew Clemente