Re-discovering Montmartre

Montmartre needs no introduction. Anyone who has been to Paris, has undoubtedly trekked up the hill to see the beautiful Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur. Known for its artsy vibe, night clubs (read cabarets) and myriad cafes, this bustling village in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, providing sweeping views of the city, seems stuck in time.

Taking advantage of Paris sans its tourists, I decided to take yet another walk in the area to re-discover it. And rediscover I did. For the first time, I could take my time and wander down the beautiful cobbled streets, stop outside the many famous cafes – currently looking a little forlorn and lonely but not for long! I hear that from June 2, restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to open their terraces (outside seating).

I decided to walk up the hill not from the front of the Basilica, but from the side. From Pigalle, up Rue Ravignan, Rue Lepic and towards Rue Saint-Rustique. Located between Rue Saint-Rustique and Rue Norvins is the famous Le Consulat, a cafe that was a favourite haunt of acclaimed artists such as Monet, Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec and Utrillo.

Rue de l’Abreuvoir

Nest stop was of course La Maison Rose, one of the most photographed cafes in Montmartre and the prettiest in my opinion. Rue de l’Abreuvoir, on which this cafe is located, is a beautiful cobbled street with ivy-lined houses.

Since Montmartre is located atop a hill, one of the delightful things here are the many staircases that connect various streets. Some of them are so narrow and tucked away, that you might actually just walk past if you didn’t know they were there. They make for beautiful photo ops.

Rue Girardon

At the end of Rue de l’Abreuvoir, you can take one such staircase down Rue Girardon and walk down Rue Saint-Vinvent towards Montmartre’s own vineyard and the only one in the city of Paris.

Clos Montmartre, as the vineyard is called, was created by the city of Paris in 1933 to curb the real estate expansion in the area. While public access to this vineyard is restricted, it does open for a few weeks every year in autumn and during the Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre. Wine produced here is sold at auctions.

A favourite spot for struggling artists and writers, including Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire, Roman Greco and Utrillo

Another beautiful street and one of the most expensive in the city, is the Villa Léandre. It’s a short street that comes to a dead-end but not before transporting you across the channel to England! The street, lined with beautiful brick houses with slanted roofs and colourful windows even has its own 10 Downing Street!

Given its arty nature, the streets of Montmartre are lined with beautiful murals and graffiti. As I took an unhurried walk here today, I noticed a few for the first time.

I also happened to chance upon a street that had undergone a makeover! I think it was for a shoot of some kind because the building fronts were being dressed up (or down!) to recreate some old world charm.

Getting a makeover

Passage Cottin is one of those staircases that if you don’t know about, you are most likely to miss. Tucked between quaint residences, these stairs connect the hill to Rue Ramey below.

On my way back, I decided to stop by Rue Cyrano de Bergerac, named after the French writer Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac to take pictures of yet another staircase! However, the most cherished of these remains the photo I took of the steps at the Lamark-Caulaincourt metro station in one of my initial walkabouts in the area.

(click on images to view gallery)

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