Monday, December 5, 2011


The Moulin Rouge, Montmartre, Paris - by DGH

Walking in Paris is the best way to discover the charm of the city, from the cafés tucked into the Ile St. Louis, to the bridges that cross the Seine River. From pop-up stores to a hidden vineyard in Montmartre, from a graffiti wall to a bit of old Rome underground, something unique is waiting around every corner. Our daily walking on average was five to six miles with café breaks. Wear comfortable shoes, and watch the locals when crossing the streets then, do as they do.

Walking tour of Montmartre (a booked tour)

The Moulin Rouge sits across from a Starbucks in Montmartre and seems less glitzy by day. The big red windmill serves as a landmark, as does the wooden Moulin Galette further up the hill. Full scale dinner shows can be booked at the Moulin Rouge through tour agencies. We paused here to take a photo as we walked up the Rue Caulaincourt to meet the tour group of 12 people near the Blanche Metro station. After all, an icon is an icon.

Au Lapin Agile, an original cabaret /café from the past that in earlier times was known to allow the exchange of art as payment for food & drink. It helped the artists and gave the art more exposure.

Le Bateau Lavoir, the studio and sleeping quarters of many artists, including young Pablo Picasso, was one of the sights our tour guide stopped to talk about. At the height of the studio’s usage, beds were used in shifts in the shared accommodations so the artists struggling to make ends meet could stay in Paris.

Le Bateau Lavoir - Paris - by DG Hudson


The Wall Passer, a sculptural representation of a character from a local Paris story that tells of a man who could pass through walls; the work was commissioned to honour the local writer who lived in the area (Marcel Aymé).

The Wall-Passer, Montmartre, Paris - by DG Hudson


Sacré-Coeur Basilica sits majestically at the top of Montmartre, fronted by wide steps for relaxing and observing the city of Paris spread at your feet. You can visit the ever-white stone cathedral that has offered shelter for over a century, or you can begin the steep descent down the hill, past street buskers, petition hustlers and old style cafés.

Head East from the Marais. . .

The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is in the 20th Arrondisement; we walked from the 4th (the Marais) past the Place de la Bastille, and up to the Rue du Chemin Vert. The trip covered 2.5 kilometers, uphill but manageable.

This cemetery was the final home for some celebrities: Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Stephane Grappelli, Isadora Duncan, and Georges Bizet. There are many others. Maps of the layout are available to help you find your way through the streets of cobbled stone -- each one approximately 4 inches square -- reminiscent of the Versailles courtyard.

Oscar Wilde's monument before the cleaning - by DGH

 Some traditions we noticed from the locals and tourists: leaving a rose on Edith Piaf’s grave, leaving a pebble or other item on grave markers as if to say ‘I was here’, leaving a red kiss on Oscar Wilde’s monument -- BUT this last one is no longer allowed, now the bottom half has been encased in glass to prevent damage to the stone through two mediums: waterproof lipstick and graffiti pens.

Latin Quarter

The Church of St. Germaine des Pres, situated near Les Deux Magots is the oldest church in Paris, built in 542 AD, and it retains one of the original bell towers.

Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore

Two well-known cafés in the Latin Quarter are famous for their past lives as  gathering places for the Lost generation and the Existentialists (and a lot of writers were in those two camps) They have always enjoyed a friendly competition in vying for the students and the literary crowd.  Prices are higher here, according to a local insider. You go for the atmosphere and for the history, all the while hoping to absorb some of the literary magic that hangs in the air of these two cafés.  Think Midnight in Paris and go from there. . .

 Île de la Cité

Notre Dame Cathedral (Our Lady of Paris)

Visitors and locals lounge around the square facing Notre Dame enjoying the statue of Charlemagne, the people, and the pigeons.  Others, visibly identifiable as tourists, contemplate whether it's worth the climb of 400 steps or more for a photo opportunity.

This is the oldest spot in Paris. When the Romans arrived, the Parisii lived here.  A circle design embedded in the square facing the church identifies the exact Centre of Paris. It’s made of brass which is set into granite, then into concrete.  Most of the visitors missed seeing this important spot, simply because they were too busy looking at everything else.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris - by DG Hudson


Crypt Archeologique (Roman Ruins, and the Parisii)

This underground museum sits under the square fronting Notre Dame, protecting ruins of the Roman city of Lutetia, and the original settlement of the Parisii.  The lighting is designed to highlight the structures and information is available on each part of the exhibit.  A must-see if you’re a Roman history buff.

Roman excavation in the Crypte Archiologique - by DGH


Have you explored a city by walking through the streets?  If so, what city?

The Centre of Paris, Notre Dame Square by DGH