Despite the threat of rain and dark clouds overhead, Viv and I made our way to the vibrant Montmartre district. Let me just first preface this entry by saying that Viv is an amazing travel mate. She was gracious enough to book our studio, and plan a lot of the day-to-day chores. Our days are full of spontaneity, and we still manage to tear the city apart. Thank you Viv for indulging my impulsive travel bug!
Montmartre is located north and is the highest point in Paris, notorious for its colorful personality and history. Known as the bohemian art district (residents include Amelie, Salvadore Dalí, Camille Pissaro, van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Langston Hughes, Pablo Picasso, etc) and for its wild cabaret scene (Moulin Rouge!), Montmartre has historically been a political hotbed, and rarely conforms to Parisian jurisdiction. At its pinnacle, the Basilique du Sacré Coeur or Basilica of the Sacred Heart pierces the sky and acts as Montmartre’s focal point. Unlike many of the other churches in Paris, the Sacré Coeur was only recently built in the 1800s, and so its architectural style was influenced by an array of artistic cultures and traditions. It is loosely Byzantium with tall round domes, but the rose windows characterize it as gothic – a visit inside is a must. If you have a chance, a walk to the top of the hill will give you a beautiful panoramic view of the Parisian skyline below, with only one obstruction – the Tour Eiffel – to the southwest.
The long walk up to the Sacred Heart makes for a hungry tummy, and we were lucky enough to enjoy our late lunch just at the foot of the basilica hill. Here, we ate and people-watched.
Pictured here, we had our usual café crème with a tomato and mozzarella Panini and a “super croque”, so named because it’s an improved version of the typical croque. Croque-monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese (gruyere or Swiss usually) sandwich often served in French bistros, while a croque-madame typically includes a fried (or sometimes poached) egg. Fancier versions often have Mornay or Hollandaise sauce dripping out from sides. My particular sunny-side up version, though filling, was nothing out of the ordinary, so I won’t spend much time dwelling on it. However, the Lavazza coffee was amazing, and nothing could beat the million dollar view.
After lunch, we meandered along the streets of Montmartre and stumbled upon many hidden gems, including a lighting store called La Case de cousin Paul.
La Case de cousin Paul
6 Rue Tardieu
Like fireflies, we were attracted by the bright lights and vibrant colors, and were suckered into buying nonessentials. The concept is simple. Choose 25-50 colored balls. Select the appropriate string of lights. Place colored balls over each light. Voila. Such a simple idea, but so cute! I can’t wait to decorate my apartment with these new lights!
La Cure Gourmand
8 rue Steinkerque
This quaint European chain has some of the best selections of cookies, biscuits, Nerlandises, Choupettes, chocolates and other confections in Paris. There are multiple locations throughout the city, but what makes it unique from other confectioners is the ample display that encourages sampling, and definitely buying. It’s a feast for the eyes – and without question, the tongue. The buttery shortbreads and chocolate chip cookies or cinnamon spice biscuits or chocolate covered nuts are delectable and perfect with afternoon tea (or late night movie marathon). Unfortunately, the high price and fat content makes it difficult to enjoy these for long. These cookies are not available in the states, but can be ordered online at the site above. The confections are handmade with the highest quality ingredients, and it shows in the final product. The shelves are packed with metal tins that can be filled with any combination of the biscuits and cookies. So much selection! So good!
The day ends with us eating a late meal at our neighborhood rue de Montorgueil, a cute street lined with lively bistros and bakeries. On a cold night like this, French onion soup and classic hamburger totally hit the spot.
What joys await tomorrow?