June 7th, 2015
On our second day in Paris, we ventured off to Montmartre, passing a charity run on the way.
YOU GO, GIRLS!
At the foot of Montmartre is an area called Pigalle, which has a reputation as Paris’s centre for sleaze or as our excellent tour-guide, Cass, put it ‘sleaze with trees,’ because the boulevard is lined with peep shows, sex shops and you guessed it…trees.
We also passed the Moulin Rouge, which was pretty cool!
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the area but it was hilarious hearing the gasps and giggles from the old people on the bus!
However, according to my savvy internet research, Pigalle is also joined by a younger, hipper and more wholesome group who frequent the cool music clubs in the area.
The word Montmartre is translated to mean “mountain of the martyr” and was derived from the martyrdom of Saint Denis – the bishop of Paris – who was decapitated on top of the hill in 250 AD.
Montmartre’s most recognizable landmark is the Basilica du Sacré-Coeur, which was constructed from 1876 to 1912.
The white dome of this Roman Catholic basilica sits at the highest point in the city, at the summit of the “butte Montmartre” and the church is visited by millions of tourists each year.
The views from the top were pretty incredible!
There’s even a musician up there, adding to the great atmosphere.
“Built to cure the country’s spiritual ills in the face of military defeat at the hands of Germany, the basilica expresses a singular faith in beauty’s power to move.”
As a designated historic area, little development is allowed in Montmartre so it has retained much of its character and village-like charm.
I adored the abundance of shop selling art prints and postcards…
The street art and Parisian cafes were pretty cool, too.
During the mid to late 1800s, artists began to call Montmartre home, such as Degas, Matisse and Picasso, to name a few!
The art lives on this area due to the upwardly-mobile film, music and media types that have moved in.
Our next stop was the popular Place du Tetre, located just a few blocks from the basilica. Artists set up their work here to tempt passers-by.
It’s interesting to think that some of the world’s best artists did the same and eventually forged a name for themselves in the world of art.
Many will also ask if they can paint your portrait.
As I was waiting for Nikki outside a shop, an artist asked if he could paint me because, “You have a very elegant face.” This is obviously a lie to get a few Euros from me because my face resembles more of a bread bun.
Nice try, mate.
You can even see the Eiffel Tower from Montmartre!
Van Gogh getting on it.
Oh, and we also popped into a chocolate shop that had the most incredible sculptures of Parisian landmarks and artwork.
They even had my favourite food in chocolate form 😉
After roaming around the shops, we headed back to the tour bus, where we got dropped off at The Avenue des Champs-Élysées to do a spot of shopping.
The name is French for the Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology – a pretty cool background for a name!
The French proudly nickname this world-famous avenue, “la plus belle avenue du monde” which translates as “the world’s most beautiful avenue”.
The boulevard is 1.2 miles long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located.
The Champs-Elysées is used for all the major celebrations, such as New Year’s Eve and military parades on 14th July to celebrate Bastille Day. Furthermore, historic national events, like the Liberation at the end of WW2 and the victory in the World Cup football are also celebrated here.
Street performers also embrace the space.
Before we could even think about shopping, we had lunch in a lovely Italian restaurant by the name of Le Carpaccio, where I went for my usual order of Spaghetti Marinara, which was yum!
Having fuelled up, we set off again.
At its western end, the street is lined with cinemas, theatres, cafes and luxury shops.
Although the street was beautiful and vast, the shops weren’t really my cuppa tea as they were mainly luxury shops with a disappointing HnM thrown in.
We left rather swiftly…
As it was a Sunday, there was also a food market on which looked and smelt delicious.
This was much more of my kinda thing!
However I was still full from lunch so I just admired the food from afar…
Near the Place de la Concorde, the street is bordered by the Jardins des Champs-Elysées, beautifully arranged gardens with fountains and some grand buildings including the Grand and Petit Palais.
I was instantly drawn to the contemporary art exhibition at the Grand Palais…
Although I do enjoy looking at contemporary art, I wish that there were descriptions to explain what some of them were about…
Roy Lichtenstein always reminds me of doing Pop Art for my GCSEs.
These paintings by Chuck Close were pretty incredible!
I do enjoy a bit of Andy Warhol.
Most Wanted Men No. 12, Frank B (1964)
As the exhibition was quite small, we decided to head over to Le Petit Palais, which was free entry.
The artwork on the ceiling is beautiful.
Here, we found much more traditional art in the form of statues, vases and paintings.
However the place is huge and after a while, the paintings started to blur into one so we popped to the café in the museum’s courtyard.
It was an excellent suntrap and a place for us to have an old cold beverage, rest our weary legs and check out each other’s photos.
Later on in the evening, we met up with my wonderful pal, Anna, who I hadn’t seen since our CELTA (an adult teaching course) days way back in 2012!
She had moved to Paris soon after the course ended, whereas I moved to Hong Kong. We reunited in Bastille and she took us to a classic French restaurant where she had found some kind of deal online – so savvy! 😉
Since I’d had duck for both of my dinners in Paris, I may as well continue the theme…
Also, where are the carbs?!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t as flavoursome or fall-off-the-bone delicious as the duck from the previous night, but it was still pretty good.
I loved the courgetti! 😀
For dessert, I opted for the lime cheesecake which was rather good, from my memory!
After dinner, Anna gave us an excellent tour of the area.
While walking through Le Marais, Anna taught us about the Bobo (Bourgeois-Boheme), which is basically the Parisian version of a hipster.
Nikki put it better than I could, “The general gist is, they’re wealthy, left-wing and idealistic, and the inconsistency between their lifestyles and values makes them subject to a spot of ridicule. They like cycling, quirky shops, art galleries… Oh, and gentrifying neighbourhoods.”
No hipster neighbourhood would be complete without a black and with photobooth, amirite?! 😉
Apologies for the terrible photo quality as I had left my camera at the hotel and had to make do with my iPhone 4
We passed the Centre Pompidou, which I really want to check out next time becuase it contains the largest museum for modern art in Europe. It also houses a vast public library and a centre for music and acoustic research.
We also passed the Hôtel de Ville, which is the building that houses the city’s local administration.
There was also a fire show going on outside the Notre Dame, which was pretty exciting!
Cheers for being an excellent tour guide, Anna ❤
This brings me to an end to our Parisian adventures!
I want to thank Nikki for organizing everything – I had such a great time and got to see so much of Paris in 2 days!
Let’s do it again sometime 😉