Now that I have officially reached the halfway point of the semester and my time here in Paris, I feel I can now more reasonably claim to have some semblance of familiarity with the city. Though I haven’t yet completely explored all of the arrondissements, I have discovered which areas I like the most.
Personally, one of my favourite – if not my favourite – quarters of Paris is Montmartre, where the Sacré-Coeur basilica is located. Its picturesque buildings and lovely ambiance just give the area a special something that you can’t quite find anywhere else. Though it is admittedly one of Paris’ many stereotypical tourist points, it is certainly something that shouldn’t be missed!
If you’ve ever seen the film Amélie (full French title: Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain), then one place you absolutely have to visit in Montmartre is the Café des 2 Moulins, where Amélie worked! Not only is this café a real restaurant in Montmartre, but it pays homage to the film with a giant poster of Audrey Tautou and various Polaroid photos of the movie’s familiar gnome strategically placed throughout the premises. Upon entering, you may notice that the restaurant does not include a tobacco bar as the movie version did. That is the only major difference though; the restaurant in real life is essentially identical to what you saw on-screen. As a bonus, the food is positively heavenly and fairly affordable as well. In other words: 10/10, would recommend. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Amélie and are wondering what I’m going on about, do yourselves a favour and watch it! It’s unlike any other movie you’ve ever seen: a little quirky and whimsical, but definitely worth viewing at least once.
Speaking of Montmartre in movies, another world-famous sight in this neighbourhood that appears on the big screen is the famous burlesque club, Moulin Rouge! As another side note, if you haven’t seen Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor, you’re missing out on a pretty fabulous musical. In any case, the real-life setting of the movie is iconic and, being large and bright red, cannot be missed as you walk along Boulevard de Clichy. If you’re interested in attending one of their shows, be aware that they can be quite pricey and that there is a strict no-cameras-permitted rule. The performances are, by all accounts, amazing though.
Another great advantage to visiting Montmartre is the view. As you make your way up to the Sacré-Coeur, you’ll notice – quite painstakingly, if you’re out of shape like me – that this district of Paris is located at the top of a hill. However, once you reach the top and turn around to face Paris, you’ll realize that the hike to the top was 100% worth it. I would compare this view to the one we have at the Mont-Royal observatory, but it’s difficult to compare the beauty of these two cities that are each so unique. In short, from this vantage point, you benefit from a priceless, absolutely gorgeous cityscape of Paris for no price at all.
Finally, arguably the best part of visiting Montmartre is just losing yourself in the narrow streets and small alleys. There’s just a certain distinctive charm about roaming the cobblestone streets with no specific destination planned. You may end up finding your way to the main town square, where artists and vendors sell their sketches and paintings of Paris and Montmartre, as well as other adorable souvenirs. The last time I explored Montmartre, I made my way over to a small, relatively unknown landmark in the area called Le mur des je t’aime, or “the wall of I love you,” which is a large wall with “I love you” written over and over in more languages than you can count. It’s extremely endearing and simply makes you want to declare, “Montmartre, je t’aime.” Or, alternatively, write an article all about how awesome Montmartre is!
Stay tuned for the next issue of Paris Periodical!
Photos are the author’s own.