Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 4 - Montmartre

Late start today, and the first sunshine since I arrived. Still cold, but at least there is sun! Had booked a free tour with this group called Cityfree Tours. They had rave reviews, so considering it was free, I was in. We met at the Metro Blanche for our first stop – the Moulin Rouge. It’s incredibly small, and the windmill itself has never worked as a windmill. Since it’s inception it has been a place for ‘showgirls’, however the early courtesans have been replaced by highly trained dancers. Each show runs for approximately 10 years, simply to cover the cost of putting it together. The current show, Feerie, has been running for two years, and just the costumes in this show cost over 2 million euro. Would love to see a show, but it’s rather expensive. Maybe when I return in January.

Oh, most of the others on the tour were Aussie! Such a small world…

Our next stop was a little café, called Café des 2 Moulins, but better known as Amelie’s café, from the movie. Each time the café is sold, there is a clause stating the owner cannot change the interior, and it looks just like it does in the movie. Montmartre itself was beautiful. Very different from the streets of Paris I have seen for the last few days. The roads are cobblestone and the houses are beautiful with their little balconies. One of these houses was that of Vincent Van Gough and his brother. The further up Montmartre hill we climbed, the more exquisite the views looking back over Paris. It’s no wonder the houses up there are very very expensive.

Next stop was the two remaining windmills in Montmartre – Moulin De La Galette, which is soon to start restoration. Unlike Moulin Rouge, these windmills used to work, and are now very worn down. As we wandered the streets we also noticed some street art – in the form of little mosaics placed on building walls. These started a few years ago, and all carry the theme of Space Invaders. There are now around 2000 in Paris, and have been replicated around the world. They are actually illegal, part of Paris’ way of keeping the streets clean, but the prevalence and popularity of them has meant the city council now recognises them as art and wont remove them.

From here we saw a few interesting statues. The first was of the man stuck in the wall, from a story from a Parisian writer. A very random piece of art, but very popular, and many come to rub his hands for good luck. The next was of Saint Denis, bishop of Paris who converted the small town to Christianity. Late in his preaching’s though, the Parisians thought he was going to far and took him to Montmartre to be beheaded. Legend has it, he picked up his head and continued walking for six days, and the statue shows him holding his own head. The children with us were a little freaked out.

We also visited the very last vineyard in Montmartre. The last vineyard in Paris for that matter. It still produces wine, and in October every year they have a festival to celebrate. Chris, our guide, told us the wine is widely known as the worst and most expensive in the world. 

Our last stop on the tour was the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. Another of Paris’ beautiful churches, but the Parisians don’t like it. It was huge and very busy on such a sunny day. It’s also incredibly white, due to, I believe, the calcium in the stones that cleanses itself. There is also a hidden garden, reserved solely for those who work there and cannot be seen by the public.

This was our last stop, and we were left to tour Montmartre on our own. I headed to the Place du Tertre for lunch, a place where budding artists come to sell there wares, now a place where all the paintings are of the sights of Paris and sold to the many tourists that come here. I had lunch like a Parisian further down the hill, on the terrace of a little café overlooking Paris – Crepes with Grand Marnier. Delicious!

Home for a quick change before heading back to the Champs Elysees for my last night in Paris. I had dinner at a little restaurant called Alsace. Entrée of French Onion Soup, main of chicken and clafoutis for dessert.  Great last meal in Paris. I’d say the soup was the best I’ve tasted, but I don’t remember the last time I had it so I’m going to stick with it being excellent.

After dinner, wandered through the stalls of the Christmas market. Mainly food, which was a let down seeing as I’d just eaten, but I did get to try ‘vin chaud’ – hot, spiced wine. And it was delicious! I’ve never had anything like it and it was great on a cold night. Will definitely be going for that again. More incredible views made for a wonderful final night in Paris.

Off to Vichy tomorrow. Fortunate enough to have a first class ticket so should be a relatively comfortable train ride. Will update when I arrive!


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