In The Heart of Montmartre
CHEERY BLOSSOMS AGAINST A PAINTED BLUE SKY, WISTERIAS IN BLOOM HANGING OFF INTRICATE IRON GATES AND SOUND OF AN ACCORDION PLAYING IN THE DISTANCE - THAT’S HOW I REMEMBERED MONTMARTRE WHEN I FIRST SET FOOT IN HER 9 YEARS AGO.
I’m here today and nothing has changed except for perhaps the influx of tourist. Spring I would say is the best time to visit Paris, and Montmartre is one of my favourite places to come to. Artist out in the square painting, while the hustle and bustle of tourist and locals alike sit out to enjoy a glass of wine in spring’s perfect weather is absolute bliss! Montmartre is the second highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. From the top, one can view the skyline of Paris and a perfect location to watch the lights display of the Eiffel Tower at night. It is home to the famous white-domed church, Basilica of Sacré Coeur, as well as the old church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre. It is said that artists such as Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and even Salvador Dali had studios and worked in and around here. The Basilique du Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) is a beautiful Romanesque-Byzantine styled architecture with its white domes, is a sight that can’t be missed. It is the first thing you’d spot when you get to this area. It’s a rather young church compared to the other churches around as it was built about a century ago. It has a beautiful mosaic wall on the inside, which is worth the visit plus admission is free. But there is a fee for those wanting to
get to the dome’s viewing deck. Mind you there is no lift to be prepared to climb 300 steps to the top! It is worth the walk up but the view from the front doors of Sacré
Coeur is stunning regardless therefore walking up 300 steps is not a-must-do. As I sat at the top of the steps and amidst barrels of languages, I could hear the wistful accordion playing in the distance, the vigorous applause for a street performer hanging on the lamppost while balancing a football, the vivacious clicks of cameras, to the endless vendors taking the opportunity to sell chilled beer – it was a sweet harmonious sync of chaos. It wouldn’t be a right of passage to Montmartre if one didn’t experience all of this. But for a bit more history visit the old church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre. It’s just next to Sacré Coeur and it can be easily missed if you are not looking for it. It is much older than Sacré Coeur. It was founded in the 3rd century by Saint Denis and still contains some of its original Gallo-Roman columns. The antic marbled columns believed to originate from the Roman Temple of Mars that was erected here some 2000 years ago from which Montmartre took its name. This church has gone through wars and been rebuilt to what it is now. Its interior is modest, may not be as impressive as its younger rival but it does hold that aura of grandeur like a fine glass of aged wine. After visiting the churches, one should follow the crowd onto the cobbled stoned streets as it would eventually lead to Place du Tertre (artist square is what I’d call it) where you’d find water-coloured paintings, portrait sketchers and caricaturists selling their wares. This square was once the hub where art legends of the 20th century used to roam. As you walk around the square you’d find little plaques mentioning which artist visit, worked or lived in that building. Tourist and tour groups would eventually thin out as you move