Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Paris in July 2016 -- Montmartre Redux

I recently completed a pretty badly written book titled "Suzanne of Love and Art," a sort-of biography of artist Suzanne Valadon and by extension, her son, Maurice Utrillo. The history seemed well researched and interesting but let's just say that the author wrote the most tedious dialogue I've ever read and I found myself scanning every dialogue passage by about the first third of the book, concentrating instead on the sections regarding the artists, their art, lives and techniques.

But one thing I found fascinating was the depiction of life in the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre during this period of great creativity, creativity that revealed great masters of Impressionism including Degas, Monet, Renoir, Lautrec, Utrillo and many others, along with some of the composers of the period.

I was so glad that during my two trips to Paris I visited this area, first in 2009 with my friend Jerry and then again with Rick and my blog friend Peter (best guide ever -- just saying!) in 2012.

I thought as part of the annual blogging event, Paris In July, I would revisit bits of both of those trips in photos to share with you.

The two visits and my guides were very different and it was wonderful to experience both. On my first visit, we went up the Butte via the funicular and the first things we noted were the magnificent views of Paris below.

From there, on a gorgeous sunny day, we first ventured into the legendary Sacre Coeur, built between 1875 and 1914. It is considered a monument of political and cultural significans -- a nantional penance for the Frace's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 and the crowning of the most rebellious neighborhood of the socialist Paris Commune (1871(, It is considered an embodiment of conservative moral order and is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

We journeyed on, stopping in Place de Tertre to observe artists at work -- along with every other tourist in Paris!

I have to confess, it may be touristy as all get out and the art may or may not be spectacular, but I loved this part of our walk!


We wandered on past the famous Lapin Agile (and I have still never been inside!) where the great artists drank (a lot) and paid off their bills in paintings. This was a location often mentioned in Suzanne, and it was nice when reading to have the vision in my mind.

Jerry and I wandered the streets, eventually ending back on the steps of Sacre Coeur, where we enjoyed a dusky picnic. A bottle of wine, bread, almonds, dried fruit, cheese. A perfect people watching site.

Then back to catch the Metro as darkness fell and the Moulin Rouge came alive with light.

My day with Peter and Rick, three years later, was less sunny. In fact, it was pretty gloomy and by the time we departed, umbrellas were out!

We met Peter at the Abbesses metro and our first sight was the famous "I Love You" wall, with the phrase written in hundreds of languages.

Peter was wonderful about explaining the architecture, the street sculpture and he knew where everyone lived!

As I did before, we wandered the streets, approaching things from different directions, seeing things in a different light.


We stepped into churches, including the smaller but lovely St. Pierre de Montmartre.

I marveled at the bounty of wisteria.

Peter and Rick shared stories of music and admired -- yes, bicycles.

We passed by one of the residences where Suzanne Valdon had lived -- Suzanne and a host of other well known names, including one of her many lovers, Eric Satie.

The site now houses the Montmartre museum. We didn't go in -- not enough time -- but I suspect I would find it fascinating.

We passed by familiar buildings seen in paintings since the Impressionists times (including, of course, Utrillo) and who knows, probably before.

We passed by Clos Montmartre, the remaining vineyard of Montmartre. The area hosts an annual wine festival.

Our day included a delightful lunch and champagne was a special treat!

We passed by the Moulin Rouge on the way to one of my favorite spots, the Montmartre Cemetery. The cemetery itself was filled with famous names, including one of Rick's favorite composers, Couperin, Degas, Hector Berlioz, Jacques Offenbach, Nijinsky, and many others. The sculpture on the monuments was often tremendously poignant.

And of course, we saw the famous cemetery cats. Take a good look at this one, hiding out from the rain.

Four months later, The Marmelade Gypsy (who looked like the Montmartre cat in the photo below and was never far from my heart) would be up in the heavyside layer and Lizzie Cosette, a dead ringer for the one above, would have her new home.

I confess, my feelings about Montmartre as a Parisian spot to visit changed because of visiting twice. The first time it was fun. It was enjoyable to watch the artists at work of course.


And I loved our picnic and getting a feel for this part of Paris. But by and large, it felt like a touristy part of the city, almost not real.

But by the second visit, I had read much more. And Peter, who volunteers as a guide in Paris, was so knowledgeable about every nook and corner, that I felt I learned more and would love to continue that learning.

Certainly reading the book, despite the lousiest dialogue I have ever read in a historical novel, gave me an insight into life in this part of Paris during the Belle Epoch. So it felt more meaningful.

Walking through Montmartre is indeed walking back in time a bit. Let your mind wander, do your homework -- and call Peter's Paris Greeters, the guide service he volunteers for, and ask for him! It will be a walk to remember.

(And don't forget to stop and enjoy the view!)

Paris fans! Don't forget to stop by Thyme for Tea and check out the other  French-themed posts that include travel, film and literature! Feel free to share your Paris links, too!


Lisbeth Ekelof said...

Thanks for sharing. Makes me want to visit NOW,lovely photos, you have really been able to share the atmosphere.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

This is a city that has to be seen, READ, tasted, felt, heard. When we arrived in this fantastic part of Paris, we were one day away from departing back to the US. We were tired. We could barely walk, after 3 months of touring Italy and France. But the impressions from this place stayed with me, and I AM GOING BACK, one day.

Savor it all!

La Table De Nana said...

Hey..I've been there:)!
I bet every time we go we see different things indeed..a blog friend emailed me to let me know she has an appartment there for rent..had I known:)

I do love Montmartre..
And who you are with when visiting does make a big difference..
You might enjoy a bog I love..Mais qu'est-ce qu'on mange ce soir a Cannes? Hélènes' blog..all French many beautiful photos..they live in Cannes..and travel travel travel..she grew up in Paris.
Love her..go peek:)

My name is Erika. said...

Love your view of Montmartre. When I was in Paris in 2009, we didn't make it up there- but next trip, it is on my list, especially after seeing those photos. Makes me feel in a rush to go back. Ha-ha. I'm off to Iceland in 1 1/2 weeks so that will have to suffice. Ha-ha again. Oh well. Enjoyed your post, too bad the book wasn't as good as it sounded like it might be. Hugs-Erika

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

First off, Happy Bastille Day! I'll be enjoying some macarons today!

I visited the Montmartre on my last trip to Paris. I did a walking tour through Paris walks and it was so interesting. I saw a lot of the same things you did. There were some touristy areas, but I really enjoyed the more 'off the beaten path' part of the tour and seeing the places where various artists worked and lived. I love doing walking tours as you learn so much about the area and it's nice to have company while walking. I always try to do a couple of walking tours on each trip. Next time I am in Paris I will have to go on one with Peter!

~*~Patty S said...

As the famous quote says "Paris is always a good idea"!!!
Fun to see your photos of such a special city Jeanie.
We only toured Montmartre from the top of the touristy Big Bus when we visited this April.
We actually like those bus tours and took our first one in San Francisco. We keep saying when tourist season dies down a bit we will take one of Wash DC where we've lived since forever LOL
It was a way to get some highlights and cover some ground and you can hop on and hop off.
Our impression of Montmartre (quite different from when I visited way back when) was that it was seedy there and dirty. Sex shops and harsh graffiti everywhere.
Sacre Coeur is on our list to visit when we return to Paris.
So much to see and enjoy in that fair city.
Your tour guide sounds like a great way to go.
Thanks again for a nice dose of Paris.
We miss France and still talk about our trip every day...

~*~Patty S said...

Had to go back and click on all of your lovely pix for a closer look.
Merci beaucoup!

Joyful said...

Loved your tour! this is somewhere I must get too. It never seems to come together for me but I'm sure at some point the timing will work out. x

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh I remember walking here not that long ago. If you ever go again for sure go to the museum. I totally loved it.

Shelia said...

Oh, I just loved your post! I've been to Paris three times and would go again in a heartbeat! So much to see and do! Thanks for popping in to see me.
be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I'm amazed at the various perceptions you had of Montmartre from visit to visit and Patty's perception of it from this year. I think having a native tour guide would be great, because your friend sounds like he's both knowledgeable and friendly.

The cemetery cats were spooky, and the idea that the Marmelade Gypsy was soon replaced with Lizzie not long after you photographed these cats sent chills down my spine. I DID enjoy the tour, though.

shoreacres said...

I'm glad you've had the chance to enjoy Paris, jeanie. I'm not particularly sanguine about how things will be there in another few years, unless changes are made. There are forces abroad in the world who would prefer to destroy everything you've shown us here. Pretending otherwise isn't going to be possible much longer -- if it is now. Of course the events in Nice are clouding my vision. On the other hand, perhaps those events will clarify some things.

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Oh what a lovely post of one of my favorites neighborhoods in Paris. Perfection!

Maggie said...

On the day when the whole of France is reeling from the terrible events in Nice on Bastille day, yesterday, it was soothing to see your pictures of Paris in happier times.

Bella Rum said...

Your photos are beautiful and I can feel the love you have for this beautiful country. So sad what is happening there.

Mae Travels said...

You make Monmartre feel very appealing. In all my trips and long stays in Paris I have never really explored that neighborhood -- we may have visited the Sacre Coeur once, and had dinner with friends who lived nearby once in the 1980s. I guess we are hopelessly left bank aficionados.

Like everyone who loves Paris and France, I'm devastated by last night's events. One of our close friends in Paris lost his twenty-something niece and her partner at Bataclan. Hearing about it really made it vivid, and now I fear whether someone I know is suffering similarly today. Also fear for all those I don't know, of course.

best... mae at

Arti said...

The more I look at these pictures, the more I'm saddened. How a beautiful city can be destroyed, lives taken, horrific mass murder committed. How we need a Being much higher than our mortal coil and petty psyche to lift us out of this mess! We will continue to live, but our lives will be marred and changed, hopefully more conscientious to sow the seeds of peace and harmony, love and beauty. Jeannie, thanks for your artistry and often uplifting posts.

Sandra Cox said...

Gorgeous pictures and what lovely visits.

Esme said...

Great photos, I love the one with the flowers in the vineyard. It looks like you had a wonderful time on both of your visits. I need to get your box of books in the mail. My neighborhood post office is the worse and I just cannot get up the energy to get over there. Have a great day.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Although I have not been to Paris, I certainly do enjoy the photos and information that you share with us Jeanie. You have such a natural gift of presenting facts and history with the fun and the joy of the trip!
So enjoyed this post.
Hope the beginning of the new week is going wonderfully well!

Tamara said...

Not only does this bring back memories of one of our visits, and a beautiful few days in MM, you've introduced new things to learn next time. Always enjoy your photos and the images you capture. Thanks. On another note, it has been good just reading your comments here... everyones own take on MM.

Tamara said...

I have memories of a rainy day at MM also. On our visit, we were trying to retrace the steps of Amelie (the movie). Many of your images are similar to ours. We have also enjoyed a visit to the cemetery on more than one occassion. We love this part of town. Still, i learn new things when I read your posts. Thanks for taking us back to MM & le sacre ceour for Paris in July.

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