Up and Down the Hills of Montmartre, Paris

rue Foyatier and Steps Parallel to Funicular, Montmartre

rue Foyatier and Steps Parallel to Funicular, Montmartre

Paris, late October

I often feel pulled in multiple directions when we’re in Paris, longing to spend extended time here but thus far limited by other priorities to a few precious days at a time.

We want and need some downtime, we want to go out and explore parts of the city with which we’re not overly familiar, we want to return to our favourite places, and we’d like to make at least some progress on things that need to be done in the apartment. This morning exploration won out, and we decided to go up to the 18th arrondissement, in the city’s north, to the village or quartier of Montmartre.

I don’t usually think of Paris as hilly, but walking around Parc des Buttes Chaumont one day and Montmartre the next reminded me that in some places, it is. We started at métro Pigalle, first walking on Blvd. Clichy, and finding, to our delight, rue Victor Massé, a street lined with musical instrument shops. Clive’s father, Jack, was a professional drummer in the Big Band era, and we wished he could have seen several shops we passed focused entirely on drums.

We were carrying a heavy-ish guidebook and kept pulling it out to look up neighbourhood information and historical anecdotes, saying, “we really need to make copies of relevant pages and only carry them when we go out like this.”

When we travel to Paris, Jack always asks, “are you going to see a show?” We haven’t yet been to the Moulin Rouge or the Lido, but as we started to walk up rue Steinkerk towards Sacré-Coeur, we did get Jack a cabaret print of can-can girls doing their kicks in tight red costumes and black high heels.

Moulin Rouge, Paris

Moulin Rouge, Paris

Around Sacré-Coeur

I’ve always found Sacré-Coeur a bit disconcerting, a relatively modern (~1919) Taj Mahal-like structure looming way up there at the top of the hill, or Butte, Montmartre. Yet at the same time, when friends ask us what they should do in Paris, I find it difficult to leave Sacré-Coeur off the list, if for no other reason than the view of the city from its steps is both outstanding and free.

It’s easy to walk directly up to Sacré-Coeur, but our guidebook walk took us on a zig-zag route through side streets around the western side of the hill. As with many great cities, it’s amazing how quiet it can be once you get only a few blocks away from the main tourist attractions.

Clive had never been to Sacré-Coeur, so we gradually worked our way back towards it, through Place du Tertre with its army of artists looking for portrait subjects. Over 21 years ago, my late husband Gary and I watched as a young man sketched a very good likeness of our 22-month old son.

Sacré-Coeur View, Montmartre

Sacré-Coeur View, Montmartre

The steps of Sacré-Coeur were filled as always with visitors of all ages, including a French group of six sharing a bottle of champagne at the main entrance to the Basilica. It used to seem wrong to me to see alcohol near a church, but in Australia I’ve become accustomed to Christmas carols on the beach, sponsored by local churches, with families enjoying picnic dinners and adults drinking wine and champagne while singing holy songs.

We walked through the inside of Sacré-Coeur and I lit a candle for Gary, then we found a small square just west of the church and a bench from which to admire the view. Clive said seeing a lot of white buildings and rooftops close together reminded him of Athens, and “I can see why people like living up here.”

A Wonderful Surprise

When we walked towards a structure that turned out to be the little Montmartre funicular building, I looked to my right and was thrilled to see rue Foyatier, the photo of which is at the top of this post. For me this was one of those magic Paris moments; I’ve seen these steps and streetlights photographed for years, but never knew exactly where they were. It was exciting and so much fun to discover them so unexpectedly.

The other most fun aspect of Montmartre for me today was finally to see the vineyard, a block of land in the middle of the village still devoted to wine. I wish we were going to be here for Beaujolais Nouveau on November 15; maybe next year.

Time for Technology

The weather kept changing, and our guidebook pages kept getting wet. When a persistent drizzle set in, we figured the best part of our walking was done for the day so we headed downhill on rue Lepic. It seemed a perfect opportunity to get a new printer/scanner for the apartment.

For some time, we’ve been talking about how best to get our Paris living space up to the technology standard we need to spend more time there. We’ve also been learning that when we travel for an extended time, we find ourselves wanting to scan documents or maps, and print current photographs to snail mail to parents who don’t use e-mail.

So in a way it’s thanks to today’s rain that we first went to BHV, where the selection was limited; to a Darty store near the apartment, where we wrote down information about different models; to the apartment to measure limited desk space; and back to Darty to make our purchase. Then Clive, bless him, carried our new printer/scanner home in the rain, and installed it.

Tomorrow we’ll copy a few pages, leave the guidebook at home, and explore another part of the city. We’ll also return to Montmartre sometime, if not for the wine, at least to admire the views and enjoy more of its residential atmosphere. It’s only one of many quartiers in Paris where you could spend a lifetime and always be learning something new about it. And it’s definitely a great place for a good walk up and down Parisian hills.

Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre

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One Response

  1. I was surprised to find Paris so hilly as well. It’s even uphill from Concorde to the Arch de Triumph. Have you been to Pere Lachase? Very hilly too-start at the Gambetta entrance.

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