Montmartre was the destination for my third day of Parisian tourism. Montmartre is an old hilly district of Paris that somehow survived Haussmann’s renovation and thus still sports the old narrow streets. The place has a lot of historical and cultural relevance due to the fact that it was the artistic hub of France in the early twentieth century. Many artists had apartments or studios in Montmartre, including the likes of Picasso, Dali, Monet and Van Gogh.
The skyline of the area is dominated by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which I decided to visit first. Aside from some fairly aggressive con-artists/thieves, Sacré-Cœur is lovely. The best thing about it though, is that you can (for a small fee) climb a 300 step spiral tower and go right to the top. The Basilica is already situated at the top of what is (as far as I can tell) the biggest hill in Paris, so climbing it gives you an excellent aerial view of the city.
I spent the rest of the day wandering around the district and visiting some of it’s famous spaces. I also decided to celebrate my Stugan acceptance with a fancy French lunch. Feeling the need to sample the famous local cuisine, I had escargot followed by crepe flambe. The former is pretty tasty, but has a rather unsettling texture. It’s rubbery and feels exactly what you would imagine eating a snail feels like. The latter was soaked in alcohol and set alight extravagantly by the waiter as he exclaimed “Monsieur! Crepe flambe!” with as much French panache as he could muster. I wasn’t quite sure how to eat it until the flames died down.
Montmartre is also home to Paris’s red-light district. I must have walked past a dozen sex shops with greasy old French men stationed outside trying to lure me in. Which is of course, the least effective way to ever convince anyone to visit your establishment. It was the middle of the day too.
The highlight of Montmartre however, was the Place du Tertre, a small square packed with artists sketching, painting and selling their work. If you wanted a self portrait, you could sit down and get one from any of the 20 or excellent artists who were there to capture the likenesses of tourists (in exchange for Euros, of course). It was really inspiring to see so many talented artists gathered together in one place. I just kept thinking “Man! I have to get as good as all these people. Everyone here is amazing!”
The next day was a travel/recovery day. I spent the morning scrambling to organise a climbing trip before catching the train to Fontainebleau in the afternoon.