June 3, Montmartre

Montmartre grew from a hill village surrounded by vinyards and orchards, by the 15th century as many as thirteen windmills ground grain, it was a commune in the 18 th , occupied by Russian soldiers in the 1814 Battle of Paris, the origin of the Paris Commune uprising in 1871, and it was an incubator of modern art in the Belle Époque (1872-1914). We set off to explore, with the weather bureau forecasting rain, we used the Metro to Barbes-Rochechouart station near the base of Montmartre. The rain came, but not heavy, and only intermittent so it was not too bad. Walking Boulevard de Rochechouart we passed department, hardware, discount clothing, and wedding stores, but as we turned onto rue de Steinkerque, towards Sacré-Coeur, souvenir and T-shirt shops proliferated. We abandoned the direct route and turned left to Place Dullin, an intimate, shaded square where the Theatre de Montemartre was founded in the early 19th century, then on to Place Abbesses, the heart of the local community where a carousel and the Art Nouveau Metro entrance give this quirky little square a special appeal. A winding climb to Basilica Sacré-Cœur took us along steep, sett paved streets, through quaint neighbourhoods, well supplied with tree shaded, intimate public squares and once the milieu of struggling artists, cheap restaurants, bars and dance halls, women of the evening, and sundry poor. My how things have changed, Montmartre still has its cobbled streets, stunning Basilica, and bistros, it still has artists, but if you are expecting to experience the Montmartre that inspired Renoir, Utrillo, Picasso, Modigliani or influenced the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Pierre Brissaud, Alfred Jarry, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Suzanne Valadon, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Théophile Steinlen, you will be disappointed. The neighbourhood is now trendy, the inexpensive restaurants and bars gone, replaced by overpriced, under-delivered tourist stops. Around the cathedral, a gauntlet of souvenir shops, portraitists, restaurants, bars, hawkers, shlock art shops, and masses of tourists. At Place du Tertre, modern artists set up their easels along side their work and paint from memory, perhaps of times past, portraitists approach, sketch sheet in hand to compliment your wonderful face, an inspiration that needs to be immortalized. Around the cathedral, hawkers lay out their wares on canvas or blankets, some assembling word trains of names or phrases like “I love Paris”, tourists jockey for positions to take photos, or sit under the awnings of street side bars sheltering from the rain with a coffee or glass of wine. La Belle Epoche is over, but Montmartre is still an experience to enjoy. The massive, white marble Basilica Sacré-Coeur sitting atop Montmartre is impressive, but the line of people waiting to enter was long and we opted instead for one of the overpriced under delivered meals so plentiful in the area. We paid 43 € ($63 cad) for a croque monsieur sandwich and a mushroom, cheese, and ham omelet with a half bottle of wine, and it was fortunate that it was a wet day and that the restaurant was not full. Jammed with tables, it would have felt like mealtime in economy class and we would have had to wait all afternoon instead of 30 minutes to use the single toilet. After lunch we completed our Michelin walk at the infamous Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, amidst a crowd of tourists, some standing on a ventilation grate above the Metro, trying to emulate the famous Marylin Monroe photo on the vent of a New York subway. Our route back to our Metro stop took us along a quiet, tree lined boulevard flanked by endless sex shops.
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© David E. Moon, 2019 All rights reserved

June 3, Montmartre

Montmartre grew from a hill village surrounded by vinyards and orchards, by the 15th century as many as thirteen windmills ground grain, it was a commune in the 18 th , occupied by Russian soldiers in the 1814 Battle of Paris, the origin of the Paris Commune uprising in 1871, and it was an incubator of modern art in the Belle Époque (1872-1914). We set off to explore, with the weather bureau forecasting rain, we used the Metro to Barbes-Rochechouart station near the base of Montmartre. The rain came, but not heavy, and only intermittent so it was not too bad. Walking Boulevard de Rochechouart we passed department, hardware, discount clothing, and wedding stores, but as we turned onto rue de Steinkerque, towards Sacré-Coeur, souvenir and T-shirt shops proliferated. We abandoned the direct route and turned left to Place Dullin, an intimate, shaded square where the Theatre de Montemartre was founded in the early 19th century, then on to Place Abbesses, the heart of the local community where a carousel and the Art Nouveau Metro entrance give this quirky little square a special appeal. A winding climb to Basilica Sacré- Cœur took us along steep, sett paved streets, through quaint neighbourhoods, well supplied with tree shaded, intimate public squares and once the milieu of struggling artists, cheap restaurants, bars and dance halls, women of the evening, and sundry poor. My how things have changed, Montmartre still has its cobbled streets, stunning Basilica, and bistros, it still has artists, but if you are expecting to experience the Montmartre that inspired Renoir, Utrillo, Picasso, Modigliani or influenced the likes of Vincent van Gogh, Pierre Brissaud, Alfred Jarry, Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Matisse, André Derain, Suzanne Valadon, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Théophile Steinlen, you will be disappointed. The neighbourhood is now trendy, the inexpensive restaurants and bars gone, replaced by overpriced, under-delivered tourist stops. Around the cathedral, a gauntlet of souvenir shops, portraitists, restaurants, bars, hawkers, shlock art shops, and masses of tourists. At Place du Tertre, modern artists set up their easels along side their work and paint from memory, perhaps of times past, portraitists approach, sketch sheet in hand to compliment your wonderful face, an inspiration that needs to be immortalized. Around the cathedral, hawkers lay out their wares on canvas or blankets, some assembling word trains of names or phrases like “I love Paris”, tourists jockey for positions to take photos, or sit under the awnings of street side bars sheltering from the rain with a coffee or glass of wine. La Belle Epoche is over, but Montmartre is still an experience to enjoy. The massive, white marble Basilica Sacré- Coeur sitting atop Montmartre is impressive, but the line of people waiting to enter was long and we opted instead for one of the overpriced under delivered meals so plentiful in the area. We paid 43 € ($63 cad) for a croque monsieur sandwich and a mushroom, cheese, and ham omelet with a half bottle of wine, and it was fortunate that it was a wet day and that the restaurant was not full. Jammed with tables, it would have felt like mealtime in economy class and we would have had to wait all afternoon instead of 30 minutes to use the single toilet. After lunch we completed our Michelin walk at the infamous Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, amidst a crowd of tourists, some standing on a ventilation grate above the Metro, trying to emulate the famous Marylin Monroe photo on the vent of a New York subway. Our route back to our Metro stop took us along a quiet, tree lined boulevard flanked by endless sex shops.
Tap/Click to begin slide show
© David E. Moon, 2014 All rights reserved