Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, home to the iconic La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, but also the guardian of whimsical art, spectacular cityscape views and delightful scenes around each corner.
We enjoyed a month-long stay in a vacation rental at the foot of the Basilique. We seemed to wander every lane, every endless set up steps that wind their way up to the appealing summit. We never tired of finding our ideal, shaded spot on the Basilica’s sprawling lawn, where we could watch the visiting throngs of tourists and residents along the magnificent steps that spill down the hill. Musicians play Mozart’s “Air”. Living statues appear frozen in place, dressed as a jester, a sphinx or the Statue of Liberty. Though some exacting visitors would find the scene hectic, we enjoyed the lively mix of magnificent views and lively people.
The Place du Tertre is the bustling center at the top – yes, overrun often with tourists, but nonetheless another traditional “must see”, where artists gather to demonstrate their skill and sell their creations. We simply don’t accept the notion that the popularity (or notoriety, as the case might be) of a place makes it off limits, too mundane to bother with. In 20-degree weather, we have visited the square to enjoy a steaming bowl of onion soup, while watching over the chilled artists.
With our extended stay on Montmartre, we came to recognize the everyday humanity that is part of the fabric of any renowned attraction, the people who populated our ‘village’. The baker who greets each morning with the delightful aroma of fresh baked breads and a welcoming line of customers at the door. The many fabric storekeepers, who ready their displays in hopes of a prosperous day of business – even the sad old man, who sits on the bench with his half-empty bottle of wine. It is just another side of Paris that we relish.
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