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1. Café des 2 Moulins
At 9:30 on a Sunday morning a group of VT members met here at the Café des 2 Moulins at the suggestion of Paul (pfsmalo), who used this as the starting point for a walking tour of Montmartre.
Anyone who has seen the film Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain, starring Audrey Tautou, will recognize this café, because it was here that Amélie worked as a waitress.
I rode over from the Latin Quarter on Vélib’ bikes, changing bikes once on the way, and actually arrived more or less on time (within what the Germans call the “academic quarter hour”), even though I had warned Paul that 9:30 a.m. was not my usual time to be anywhere. But the ride went really fast, since there is hardly any traffic in Paris on Sunday mornings.
Second photo: VirtualTourist members having breakfast at Amélie’s café.
From left to right: Kirsty (KShezz), Paul (pfsmalo), Catherine (Paul’s wife), Sonja (yumyum), Bernd (Bernd_L), Valerie ( BorneoGrrl) and Helena (longsanborn).
Third photo: In a small display case at the entrance to the toilets there are some props, photos and other memorabilia from the film.
Fourth photo: Inside the café, where Amélie worked as a waitress in the film.
Fifth photo: Me with my Vélib’ bike when I arrived at Amélie’s café. Thanks to Sonja (yumyum) for the photo.
Update: Thanks to Blake of the VT staff for choosing this tip as the Tip of the Day for March 15, 2012.
Address: 15 Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
Directions: Vélib' 18114
GPS 48°53'5.77" North; 2°20'1.44" East
Phone: 01 42 54 90 50
1. Saint Preux bakery and pastry shop
I took the first three photos from the same spot, on the corner in front of the Café des 2 Moulins on Rue Lepic.
All of these shops were open on Sunday morning, and there was lots of coming and going, with people from the neighborhood buying their baguettes and groceries for the day.
I’m not quite sure if the bakery is called Saint Preux or Saint Dreux – perhaps some local person can tell me?
Saint-Preux was a character in the novel Julie ou la Nouvelle Héloïse by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, published in 1761. For more on this novel, which was the absolutely best-selling novel of the entire 18th century, please see my tip/review on the Rousseau Museum and Garden in Montmorency.
There is also a French composer (born around 1950) who goes by the pseudonym of Saint-Preux. But there is also a French photographer, film-maker and author called Anne Saint Dreux, so both names definitely exist.
Update: Thanks to Paul (pfsmalo) for confirming that the bakery is called Saint Preux with a P. He looked it up in the yellow pages for me.
Second photo: The fruit and vegetable shop (greengrocer’s, I suppose the British would call it) across the street (opposite, to you) from Amélie’s café
Third photo: A cheese shop (under the scaffold), a honey shop and a butcher’s shop on Rue Lepic.
Fourth photo: Me with my Vélib' bike in front of these same shops. Thanks to Sonja (yumyum) for the photo.
Address: Rue Lepic, 75018 Paris
Directions: Vélib' 18114
GPS 48°53'5.77" North; 2°20'1.44" East
1. VT group in Montmartre
Starting from Amélie’s café in Rue Lepic, a group of VT members took a walk through Montmartre “up to the Sacré Coeur using backstreets that miss the general run of tourists”, as Paul (pfsmalo) had promised in his invitation.
So we had a leisurely walk through some picturesque streets such as rue Cauchois, rue Véron, rue Germain Pilon, rue des Abbesses, rue Ravignan, rue d’Orchampt, rue Giradon, rue Norvins, avenue Junot and rue des Saules, which gradually led us up to the top of the hill.
Second photo: A slightly embellished No Entry sign.
Third photo: A quiet walkway in Montmartre.
Fourth photo: One of the two remaining windmills on Montmartre.
Fifth photo: The shop called Zut!, which sells “industrial antiques” such as clocks, globes, lamps and old-time filmmaking equipment at 9 rue Ravignan.
1. VT group at the wall
In the Square Jehan Rictus at the Place des Abbesses there is a blue tiled wall with the words “I love you” written in more than 250 languages and dialects.
These were collected by a French musician and artist named Frederic Baron, who “began his project in 1992 by wandering the streets of Paris and asking people to write these words in their mother tongue. Baron feels he has toured the world without ever leaving Paris.”
At first I thought the German sentence was grammatically incorrect, but that turned out to be some other language entirely, and I found a correct German sentence in the bottom right corner.
Second photo: Above the blue-tiled “I love you” wall there is a painting (added later by someone else, I believe) of a woman in a long blue dress saying: aimer c’est du désordre… alors aimons! Which means “Loving is disorder… so let’s love.”
Third photo: Ed (Kaspian) pointing to the sentence in English.
Fourth photo: Ilse (MATIM) getting her camera ready to take a picture of the Dutch sentence: “ik hou van je”.
Fifth photo: VT group in the rain at Square Jehan Rictus. The square was named after an anarchist poet (1867-1933) who used the pseudonym Jehan-Rictus and belonged to the chaotic Bohemian poetic scene in Montmartre starting in the 1880s.
Métro Abbesses, line 12
GPS 48°53'5.60" North; 2°20'19.07" East
At this address there used to be a collection of flimsy, run-down buildings where dozens of famous or soon-to-be-famous artists lived and worked starting in the 1890s. Among the residents were Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Maurice Utrillo.
The original buildings burned down in 1970 and have been replaced, but in the window at the front there is an interesting display about the artists who once lived and worked here.
Address: Place Émile-Goudeau, 13 Rue Ravignan, 75018 Paris
Directions: Vélib’ 18004
GPS 48°53'9.38" North; 2°20'15.62" East
Aerial view and photo of Le Bateau Lavoir on monumentum.fr
1. Busking in the rain
The British and Australians have a nice word for street musicians -- buskers.
You can find buskers busking at lots of places in Paris, for instance at the Place des Abbesses in Montmartre.
I was surprised to find these guys playing in the rain, since most musicians I know are very careful not to let their instruments get wet and pack up at the first sign of a shower.
Address Place des Abbesses, 75018 Paris
Directions: Vélib' 18004
Métro Abbesses, line 12
Aerial view and photo of Métro station Abbesses on monumentum.fr
GPS 48°53'5.60" North; 2°20'19.07" East
1. Bust of Dalida with VT members
The singer and actress Dalida (Yolanda Gigliotti) lived in Montmartre for the last twenty-five years of her life. Ten years after her death a little square at the corner of rue Girardon and rue Abreuvoir was named Place Dalida, and a life-size bronze bust of her was set up. The bust was made by the sculptor Aslan (Alain Aslan, born 1930), who also made a statue of Dalida for her grave in Montmartre cemetery.
Dalida publically supported François Mitterrand during the French presidential election campaign in 1981. Inevitably there were rumors (probably true) that Dalida and Mitterrand were having an affair during the two years prior to his election.
In my first photo -- with VT members in the rain including Maaike (VonDutch) on the right -- you can see that Dalida’s breasts on the bust are a much lighter color than the rest of her. This is because touching her breasts is supposed to bring good luck and/or fertility, just like touching the breasts of the statue of Juliet beneath her (fake) balcony at her (perhaps real) house not far from Romeo’s house in Verona.
Second photo: Plaque on the statue: “Yolanda Gigliotti called Dalida, singer, actress, 1933-1987.”
Third photo: Sign at Place Dalida.
Fourth photo: Dalida’s house in Montmartre. François Mitterrand supposedly came here to visit quite often in the evenings from 1979 until he was elected president in 1981.
Fifth photo: Plaque on the wall by her house: “DALIDA lived in this house from 1962 to 1987. Her friends in Montmartre will not forget her.”
Address: Place Dalida
GPS 48°53'18.45" North; 2°20'17.44" East
1. Sculpture at Place Marcel Aymé
At Place Marcel Aymé, just off of rue Norvins, there is a statue by sculptor Jean Marais called Le passe-muraille, based on a short story by the French author Marcel Aymé (1902–1967), who lived here in Montmartre for many years.
In this story a quiet middle-aged office worker named Dutilleul suddenly discovers that he has “the unusual ability to pass through walls without inconvenience”. His doctor discovers the cause, un durcissement hélicoïdal de la paroi strangulaire du corps thyroïde (which I won’t attempt to translate), and prescribes "le surmenage intensif“ (intensive overwork) and some packets of medicine.
Since there is no way he can be overworked in his quiet office job, and since he neglects to take the medicine, he retains his unique ability and gradually finds some uses for it, first to frighten his new boss, then to rob banks and jewelry shops and finally to have an affair with a frustrated housewife who lives nearby.
By accident he takes some of the medicine, and his affair with the frustrated housewife provides him with some unaccustomed and very intensive exercise -- so he loses his ability just as he is in the middle of a wall, where he remains stuck for ever.
The statue shows him stuck in the wall. This is close to where Dutilleul lived in the story (75 bis de la rue d'Orchampt).
Second photo: VT member Maaike (VonDutch) holding hands with the statue of the man who could walk through walls.
Third photo: Signs at Place Marcel Aymé.
Fourth photo: Since I had never read the story Le passe-muraille I bought a copy the next morning at the fnac bookshop at the Gare de l’Est (East Station), thinking to read it on the train. But the story turned out to be quite short and easy, so I read it in the café before even getting on the train. Fortunately the book includes nine more of his stories that I read later.
If you would like to read this story in English, click here for a translation by Karen Reshkin.
Or, if you would prefer to read it in the original French, cliquez ici for the complete text.
Address: Place Marcel Aymé
This is my nomination for the ugliest building in Paris.
Or at least the ugliest prominent building. Paris like all cities has numerous ugly buildings, but most of them are smaller and are tucked away in side streets where they only nauseate their immediate neighbors.
Sacré-Coeur, though, is certainly a prominent landmark, even for those of us who dislike the building and what it stands for. Looming above Paris from its position on a hilltop at the north end of the city, it can be seen from most places that have any sort of view at all, and it even serves a useful purpose for those who emerge disoriented from the Métro in some other part of the city and want to know which direction is north.
Like the Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which has a similarly dominating position on a hill above the French city of Lyon, the construction of the Basilica Sacré-Coeur on Montmartre was begun in the troubled period of the 1870s to celebrate (or at least assert) the triumph of reactionary "Christian values" over the socialist aspirations of the Paris and Lyon communes.
In the words of Bertrand Taithe, Professor of Cultural History at The University of Manchester: "The reaction to the communes of Paris and Lyon were triumphalist monuments, the Sacré-Coeur of Montmartre and the Basilica of Fourvière, dominating both cities. These buildings were erected using private funds, as gigantic ex-votos, thanking God for the victory over the socialists and in expiation of the sins of modern France." (From the book Citizenship and Wars: France in Turmoil, 1870-1871 by Bertrand Taithe.)
Second photo: Looking up at Sacré-Coeur.
Third photo: Sacré-Coeur from the bottom of the stairs.
Fourth photo: I took this photo from the roof of the Centre Georges Pompidou a.k.a. Beaubourg, which is about three kilometers south of Sacré-Coeur.
Fifth photo: I took this photo from the balcony on the 28th floor of the Chambord Tower at the far south end of Paris. From there it is possible to see both Notre Dame (3.6 kilometers away) and Sacré-Coeur (up on a hill at a distance of 7.4 kilometers) if you look north between the nearby buildings.
If you promise not to be offended I’ll tell you what the Basilica Sacré-Coeur reminds me of. – – –
What? You don’t promise not to be offended? In that case I won’t tell you, so you’ll never know.
(It wasn’t anything very nice, anyway.)
Address: 35, rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 75018 Paris
GPS 48°53'12.12" North; 2°20'34.83" East
Since Sacré-Coeur is at the top of a rather steep hill, there are no Vélib' stations close by. The nearest, I suppose, would be station 18002 at 25 rue de Clignancourt. Or station 18006 at Place Saint Pierre.
1. Opéra Bastille 2011
In September 2011 I paid all of five Euros and got the next-to-last standing room ticket for the premiere of the opera Salomé by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). This was the first performance of the 2011-2012 opera season.
The standing room tickets are not sold in advance, but go on sale an hour and a half before show time. I arrived twenty minutes before that, and there were already two or three dozen people waiting in line at the door labeled places debout – which literally means “places upright”. When they finally let us in we had to wait again until one of the two vending machines (second photo) was free. A distinguished-looking gentleman in an usher’s uniform organized this and also helped people operate the machines, which were a bit finicky.
The easiest and quickest way to coax a ticket out of one of the machines is to have five Euros in coins, which I didn’t have, so I had to use my bank card. The machines do not accept bank notes (not even five-euro notes) and do not give change.
There is one row of standing room on each side wall of the auditorium (third photo). I could see only about half the stage from there, but the acoustics were excellent. The house was nearly full, but not quite, so some of the people with standing room tickets managed to find seats that were not occupied.
Since Salomé is a relatively short opera it didn’t bother me to stand the whole time. It was a fine performance, with Angela Denoke in the title role. They sang the opera in the original German, not in the French version that I had seen in Liège, Belgium, three months before.
Second photo: The two ticket vending machines for standing room.
Third photo: Looking across from one row of standing room to the other.
Fourth photo: Looking down from standing room at the other (more expensive) seating categories.
Fifth photo: View from the top floor of the Opéra Bastille, with the Panthéon, Tour Montparnasse, Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
Address: Opéra Bastille, 120 rue de Lyon, 75012 Paris
Directions: Vélib' 12001, 4007 or 11001
48°51'6.34" North; 2°22'12.24" East.
Phone: 01 43 44 71 74
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