C’est un jardin extraordinaire
Loin des noire buildings et des passages cloutes
Y avait un bal qu’donnaient des primeveres
Dans un coin d’verdure deux petites grenouilles chantaient.
Une chanson pour saluer la lune
Des que celle-ci parut toute rose d’emotion
Elles entonnerent je crois la valse brune
Une vielle chouette me dit:”Quelle distinction!”
(Charles Trenet – Le Jardin Extraordinaire)
Years ago we visited Montmartre on a Sunday and aside from the Mass at Sacre Coeur which was wonderful, the visit was miserable on account of the sheer number of people also visiting that day.
Chris decided that we should try again, on a week day and let Sarah have an opportunity to see artists at work at Place du Tertre. Friends, I am ready to give it all up, purchase a paint case with those darling tubes of paints, brushes, a canvas and pretend that I know what I am doing.
I love Montmartre. I know its poor reputation of being an absolute tourist trap complete with travelling artists that fall on their knees and declare that they have never seen such astonishing beauty since Emma Hart as Circe. Then proceed to beg with panache to humbly sketch your face for 30 euros. When you raise your hand in the universal sign of no and back off, without missing a beat or batting an eye they hit a mom up where they know it hurts. “But your son madame, look at those eyes and that face, I will immortalize him for 20 euros?!” These guys are as much actors as they are artists and I have always been fond of a rogue.
Not all the street peddlers and artists are fun and games. There are those who are the tempermental sort of artist who will tear a strip off of you if they think you are about to take photograph of them working on their “art”. Please, in your mind say the word art in spifire angry french with a frenetic flurry of hand gestures and in a deep gallic accent.
The art sold at Place du Tertre runs from a mere 10 euros to a pricy 650 euros. I did purchase a small watercolour from a lovely gentleman who was humble, eager to chat and answer a few questions from Sarah. He agreed to be photographed and I felt blessed for having had the opportunity.
There must be some sort of space-time continuum that shadows and covers this area in Paris. The second your foot falls away from Place du Tertre and into the hilly village of Montmartre you are taken back in time to an age of the notoriously spirited Cabarets, Auguste Renoir and Maurice Utrillo. The ghosts of the past still haunt these small hidden passages and gardens.
We visited Musée de Montmartre and Jardins Renoir. These intimate museums and gardens are what make Paris so charming. This is without a doubt my favourite museum so far. This museum was home to Suzanne Valadon, Renoir’s favourite muse. Renoir painted a handful of his masterpieces, La Balancoire, Bal du moulin de la Galette and Rue Cortet Garden in the now restored gardens.
These hidden passageways reminded me so much of the Narnia tales by C.S. Lewis and I felt like the wind was whispering secrets of old trysts that forbidden lovers may have encountered in these pathways. A shiver of pleasure ran through me.
The children enjoyed this little piece of heaven on earth as we did.
In addition to all this ambience there is a vineyard that grows on the hill behind the musee on rue cortot. The vineyard produces a couple hundred bottles of wine each year.
We took a quick peak through The Sacred Heart of Jesus Basilica, more commonly known as Sarcre Coeur before leaving Montmartre. Construction began in 1875 and the church was consecrated in 1919. With over 300 stairs to climb and reaching a height of 83m it is the second highest vantage point in Paris. It’s vistas as well as the steps are breathtaking. My recollections of this basilica were completely incorrect. I remembered it being so light and airy and while not as dark as some of the other places of worship in Paris…it indeed was dark. Still, I have some joyful memories of the wonderful and kind nuns who entertained our children years ago at Mass. It was good to be back.
Dinner at Fauchon was the next order of business. They had moved their location a few doors down from where they were previously located and renovated their style to a hip, classy and upscale traiteur style. Our meal was outstanding.
It will be hard to top today