France | Paris Montmartre on foot
Think I’ve fallen in love. Montmartre has my heart.
We were looking for a change of pace from the hectic Parisian mayhem, If you are too, then head to Montmartre and grab an eagle’s view of September in Paris from the Sacré-Coeur. It’s calming and good for the soul.
At the top of the steps of the famous Sacré-Coeur (the Basilica of the Sacred Heart) you can see forever. Paris in all its splendour. What’s not to love about this truly beautiful city, age spots and all.
Monty and I have been to this same spot more than a couple of times over the past two decades, but this time it was different. Rather than checking out the views then heading off to a different arrondissement, we decided to stroll around this pretty part of Paris and soak up the local vibes.
We started our day with seriously big cups of milky coffee and fresh croissants at La Rimaudiere Café. The owners are a sweet elderly couple who make you feel very much part of the local scene. At 12,80€ for two it’s a steal for a French breakfast in Paris. Address: 2 Rue des Martyrs
To name everything that we saw would probably put you to a state of stupefaction, but here’s our top favourites:
The Basilica: Stepping inside the Sacré-Coeur still takes my breath away after all these years. Sure, it’s changed since I first experienced its spiritual pull way back in my late teens. Nowadays there are automated machines that can turn your euro into a treasured memento and candles cost 2 or 10 euro to light, but times are tough, even for the church. A couple of eye-catchers were the solid silver statue by Eugéne Benet, “who wanted to translate something of the immense sadness” felt by Jesus who loved mankind yet received ingratitude from so many; and the reproduction of the hauntingly beautiful Holy Face of the Shroud of Turin glowing on the Chapel of Saint-Benedict Joseph Labre’s wall.
Reaching the top of the Butte Montmartre where the Sacré-Coeur is located can be easy or a little tiring. You can take the funicular (about 1,90€) or walk. We chose the latter. We climbed about 8 flights of stairs (about 30 steps each flight) to the main level where the funicular stops. From there everyone must climb another 47 or so steps to reach the base of the church. Then there’s the steps into the church entry. For funicular prices check out Paris Guide Civitatis.com
Sinking house: Step outside the basilica. Look to your left and you’ll see a multi-story pinkish-red brick building. If you hold your camera on the right angle, you’ll capture the iconic image of ‘the sinking house’!
Artist Enclave: Head to Place du Tertre for refreshments. (Don’t go to the laneway behind the basilica. You’ll find an Irish Pub and souvenir sellers galore. Not very French!) The Place du Tertre, a public square in the 18th arrondissement, is a hive of activity. Artists plying their trade. Corner to corner bistros which snake around every corner. We stopped at Au Clairon des Chasseurs for moules which were quite satisfying but not as delightful as our charming waiter. Great service topped with a cheery smile certainly added to the experience.
The Pink House: Trundle off down the road to La Maison Rose. Made famous by the TV series Emily in Paris, this very Parisian pink building has been catching the eye of tourists for many years. It is, in fact, a cozy little local restaurant, also referred to as “La Petite Maison Rose”. Built around 1850, it was bought by Germaine and Ramon Pichot in 1905. They were inspired to paint the building its signature pink after they visited Catalonia, Spain with its brightly coloured homes. If you’re interested in learning about the history of The Pink House, check out discoverwalks.com “Top 15 Historical Facts about La Maison Rose”. Worth the read. Address: 2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir.
Curiosity Shop: Not far from La Maison Rose is a quirky, vintage shop L’Objet Qui Parle (the talking object) chock full of curious treasures, ceramics, drawings, even some bizarre objets d’art. It’s a tiny wall-to-ceiling treasure trove of wonders. Address: 86 Rue des Martyrs
As for the rest. Well, there’s plenty to see and do in Montmartre. Pockets of artisanal retailers. Sublime shoe boutiques. Tempting bistros. Authentic Parisian buildings. Yes, Montmartre is a very special place indeed.
Postscript: as we’ve been to Montmartre before we didn’t return to some places. However, if this is your first time then other highlights are:
The Wall of Love
Van Gogh’s House
The windmills (3mins walk from La Maison Rose) Commonly named Moulin de la Galatte – there are, in fact, two surviving windmills. Moulin Radet (circa 1717) and Moulin de Blute-Fin. The later, built in the mid-1600s, is also referred to as Blute-fin (bluter means sifting flour for the separation from bran). Blute-Fin Address: corner Rue Girardon and Rue Lepic. Le Moulin Radet is now a bistro. Address: 83 Rue Lepic. The birthplace of the can-can, the Moulin Rouge, was not a working windmill, it was a famous cabaret. It was burnt down and rebuilt in the early 1900s. Today’s Moulin Rouge and its sails are replicas. Address: 82 Bd de Clichy.