"" Writer's Wanderings: Montmarte, The Canal and Ooh La La!

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Montmarte, The Canal and Ooh La La!


 Since we'd done the one thing on Bob's list for Paris, walking the Champs Elysee, it was my turn to decide on something. I always loved visiting Montmarte so off we went after a Starbuck's breakfast. We got turned around somehow as we were looking for the funicular that takes you to the Sacre Coeur basilica. Even with the funicular there is a still a little climb and some steps to get inside. All of a sudden we met a little tour train that we found out later was a free ride up. Ours had cost us a Metro ticket.

As with every place we'd been in Paris, it was crowded even at nine in the morning. At first I thought they were now charging to get into the church but it turned out the line was forming for security to check bags. Inside, we could freely move around the perimeter of the church but the center was reserved for those who'd come to pray. I'm not sure if they were actually having a service. It wasn't apparent but it was Sunday. 


There are lots of interesting things to see, some which we don't understand at times since we are not Catholic but Bob did find a spot where you could scan a QR code and order candles to be lit for you for a year. Beautiful stained glass windows let us know that the sun was truly shining once again outside. The colors were richly lit with the sun's light. Several statues were said to be made of solid silver. 

One of the statues saddened me when I read the information about it. "The Sacred Heart. Statue in solid silver made by Eugene Benet, who wanted to translate something of the immense sadness of 'this Heart which has so loved men and in return I received from most of them only ingratitude.'" We need to be kinder people.


The views outside on the front steps of the church are spectacular and give you a feeling for just how large a city Paris truly is. Through the trees, we could see in the distance the Eiffel Tower.

Behind the Sacre Coeur basilica is an even older structure, the Church of St. Peter. It was built some time in the 12th century where the basilica is dated in the mid 19th century. It was next on the list for our GPS My City walk for Montmarte but we couldn't get in because this one was not open to visitors before noon due to services.


I didn't remember Montmarte being so hilly as we began our walk. We found the Place du Tertre which is a square surrounded by shops and restaurants and full of artists, their easels set up and their artwork on display and for sale. We have a piece we bought years ago from one of them. Now there seemed to be a lot more who were eager to do a portrait of you quickly in a pencil or charcoal sketch. 


Something we had not seen before that was on my walk/tour was the Lapin Agile. It is a quaint building that was a cabaret established in the 1850s. If you are a Picasso fan you might know, as one of his favorite spots to hang out, he painted a famous canvas called At The Lapin Agile. 


Having to walk down a steep slope and then back up again, we decided to pass on several of the other spots listed. On our way to Picasso's old studio, we happened upon the Moulin de la Galette, a windmill that sits above a restaurant. The mill was built in 1622 and the restaurant that came to be later was a special hangout for more artists. Renoir made this one famous in one of his paintings.


We made it to Picasso's old studio. All that is left of the original is the entrance fa├žade. He lived there from 1904 to 1912 and it became a gathering place for other artists of the time as well as some writers. It was here that he first voiced the idea of cubism. 

On to Van Gogh's apartment marked by two deep blue double doors. He lived there with his brother for two years in the 1880s but grew tired of city life and moved out to the countryside.



We passed on visiting the cemetery and the Moulin Rouge. We'd be visiting that later--the Moulin Rouge not the cemetery although our legs were about to die on us after all the up and down. 

Before we headed off for our next adventure, a cruise on the St. Michael Canal and Seine River, we stopped for lunch. The restaurant we found on Tripadvisor was very crowded but the little pub next to it wasn't. I'm glad. We had the best lunch. I ordered salmon tartare with avacado and bread and Bob ordered what turned out to be a beef stew of sorts. Both were delicious and the best part was working out what the menu meant in English as our waitress enlisted some of the men in the pub to help. I think this was a gathering place for locals from the comradery they all seemed to have.


Our two and a half hour tour started with quite a walk from the Metro station through a park that was a combination of playground and amusement rides so we were glad when we found the boat and were able to sit for most of the trip. There were nine locks that took a long time to get through on the St. Michael canal that led to the Seine. A bit boring until we got to a huge tunnel. The tunnel is nearly two miles long dating back to the early 1899s and was built to save the waterway when roads were needed to span the canal. There are a few lights and then spots that are open to the surface in several places. 



Once out on the Seine, the boat picked up speed and we sailed past several historical spots (most in Paris are) including Notre Dame. Sadly the historical church stands out not because of its spire that is now gone but because of the construction crane posed above it as reconstruction continues after the 2019 fire. It is said to be done in 2024 but I wouldn't hold my breath.


By the time we found our way to the Metro station from where our boat dropped us off on the Seine, we had to quickly grab a bite to eat from the corner bakery (a great turkey sandwich on baquette) and dress for our night at the Moulin Rouge. We've done the show before which has changed quite a bit with different acts and costumes and staging. Make that scant costumes. The place is always crowded and the show well received. Our favorite--there was a couple who roller skated on a rink no larger than a backyard trampoline and did amazing stunts.


We didn't get back to our hotel until after eleven and as we passed the Eiffel, I looked at Bob and said, "The little lights aren't twinkling, Clark." The night before we'd stood in the cold and waited for the tower to light and then give off the sparkling light show we'd seen in the past. We gave up waiting on it and went to bed. We weren't going to try it again. 

The lights aren't twinkling, Clark


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