View from Montparnasse Tower (2013)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Day 4

Today was bright and sunny with some clouds, so I risked leaving my umbrella at home -- didn't need it.

We batted around a few ideas about where to go and finally settled on Montmartre.  I looked at my maps to figure out the best way of getting there - The "Plan 2" map, which is available from Metro stations and free is a great planning tool.  Metro on one side and bus on the other, and big enough to read!  We caught the #29 a block from the apartment and transferred to the #67, which took us right to Place Pigalle where we caught the Montmartrebus.  The Montmartrebus takes a loop around Montmartre with Sacre Coeur at the center. This is the highest point in Paris and the streets are very steep with many staircases going up from one street to another.  I was very grateful to be able to ride up those hills.

The bus went up Rue Lepic, where many famous artists lived at various times, including Van Gogh.  We passed one of the few remaining windmills (there were once several on the hill), and the only vineyard in Paris, as well as the Agile Lapin cabaret.  We didn't see the Moulin Rouge this time.

At one time Montmartre was was a village outside of Paris and it has retained much of its village flavor despite the hoards of tourists that flock there.  We knew it would be crowded on a Saturday, but also knew that just about every place in Paris would be crowded today.  We got off the Montmartrebus at Place du Tertre, which is a small square, not far from Sacre Coeur, that for many people represents the area.  It is surrounded by cafes and shops, with covered dining in the middle.  Artists ply their work throughout the square, many of them actually painting.  There are also artists doing on site portraits.  It was extremely crowded as this is tourist-central on Montmartre.

We walked over to Sacre Coeur without having to use the funicular or go up any steps.  Again, it was crowded with people, but less so than it was when we went by on the bus later.  When you are up there, Paris lies spread out beneath you.  It is quite a view.  We didn't go into the church as both of us had been in before and it was very crowded.

One group of Paris' many scam artists infamously work around Sacre Coeur - the "bracelet guys." These guys come up to someone, grab their arm and tie a string bracelet around their wrist. Then insist that they be paid for it.  Apparently, they are not as numerous as they have been in the past and we didn't see any of them; however, I think they stay away from the immediate area around the basilica in favor of working the streets approaching it from down the hill.  Anyway, we were glad we didn't have to deal with them.

We walked back to Place du Tertre and each of us bought a watercolor we had seen during our first circumnavigation of the square.  We also stopped in a shop selling different French products, mostly herbs, salt, candy, etc., in decorated tins.  I bought of few of those.

We took the Montmartrebus down off the hill behind Sacre Coeur into a less crowded neighborhood where we had lunch at Cafe de Halte on Rue Custine.  I had a salad with foie gras, gizzards, and smoked duck.  It was really good, but then I like that sort of thing.  Kathy had a cheeseburger and fries.  It was very peaceful eating outside in a relatively quiet neighborhood after being in big crowds of people.

Taking the #67 back, we weren't able to get off where we needed to in order to transfer to the #29 - I guess no one else wanted off there and I didn't push the button soon enough.  Anyway, we got off at the next stop across from the Palais Royal.  Since we hadn't been there before, we took the opportunity to walk through it.  This was never a "royal palace," but rather an arcade of shops and restaurants dating back to the 18th century.  There is a colonnade and garden and it is a large public space where many Parisians took advantage of today's sunshine to be outdoors.

We had to walk a couple of blocks over to Place des Victories where we could catch the #29 and got off on Rue Beaubourg so we could go to Picard to get tonight's dinner.  It was about 4:30 and they were still open. We got four individual-size frozen dinners (some for tomorrow night, too) and some ice cream for less that 15 euros.  After taking a short nap, we fixed the chicken with shell pasta and a mushroom sauce, and it was really good with a fresh baguette and some crudites.  I think we may be getting more of these for our dinners. By the way, we had Normandy butter on our baguette.  I don't know why we had never gotten it before when in France.  It is delicious - butter with crystals of sea salt.  The saltiness crunches as you eat it. Yummy.

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