It was the bohemian chic-ness that attracted me to Montmartre, part of the 18th arrondissement – suburb – of Paris. My interest was piqued as to why a number of world-famous artists such as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh as well as a host of other writers and artists lived upon Paris’s lone hill.
My friends have raved about the area, telling me that it’s a must visit and that I’d fall in love with the area; this only led me to be skeptical that Montmartre would be a let down after the buildup. So with some level of trepidation I spent half a day exploring Montmartre from its art to its Place du Tertre, the town centre filled with cafes and vendors selling artwork; I even discovered just how tasty a Nutella crêpe was on a cold winter day and had my soul saved – not once but twice – when I accidentally attended Catholic services at both of the churches of Montmartre.
But I discovered the best way to explore Montmartre was to simply walk.
With the exception of the stairs to get up and down the hill, Montmartre is an easy place to walk around. Even if you take the stairs to the top of the hill – something I recommend you do – you’ll be entertained with an array of street art adorning the walls. Be sure to look out for a stuffed robber escaping through one of the windows, stuffed animal heads displayed like trophies, and a series of more romantic sticker art.
Montmartre’s art is scattered across the arrondissement, from the stairs to the side alleys. Whilst exploring the street art you may find that you are in need of some ‘sweet art’ instead and find these cute dolls made from different candy, shaped as either girls or boys.
Walking through Montmartre I found the area emanating an aura of romanticism; perhaps it was the beautiful views over Paris, the Bohemian nature or the village feel of the area – but perhaps it was because I kept running into loved-up couples canoodling together in the streets.
I’d found love locks in other areas of Paris, but was surprised to see quite a number atop the hill. My favourite love lock was chained to the railing of the main staircase leading up to Montmartre, where hundreds of people would walk past it every day and only a handful would take notice of it. Romance also came in the form of the Au Clair de La Lune, a hotel-cum-restaurant on Poulbot; priding itself for the romanticism that the restaurant inspires the restaurants interior is bathed in blue and white to represent the moonlight.
But it’s the churches of Montmartre that really appealed to me. With their intricate designs like the one opposite the metro station, or the vaulted ceilings and with the sun streaming through the stained glass windows of Saint Pierre de Montmartre, or the grandeur and symbolism of the Sacre Coeur. Photos inside the Sacre Coeur are forbidden, but I managed to take a few cheeky shots with my iPhone.
Walking around Montmartre leaves your legs exhausted and I sat on the pews among others relaxing or praying when a nun thrust a piece of paper into my hands with hymns written on it in French. Thinking nothing of it I thanked her and she continued handing out the pieces of paper. Another nun must have noticed my confusion as she came over to me and begun speaking to me, in sweet French, asking if I would like to pray with her, after stuttering words at her in broken French she finally asked if I spoke French, to which I shook my head and held up my fingers indicating I only spoke a few words. She smiled and shook her head; I asked if she spoke English. Taking my hands she grasped them tightly and said something in French before turning on her heel and walking to the front of the church where the other nuns were coming together to say prayers. Stunned, I couldn’t move and sat through half-an-hour of the service wondering if I’d go to hell for being in a Catholic church or if my soul was saved.
Wandering outside I came to a shady spot overlooking the Sacre Coeur and Paris slowly waiting, watching as the sun began to set on Paris. Who’d have thought this was where my feet had taken me on this walk in Montmartre?