I am thrilled to launch a new walking tour of the place I call home. Montmartre also happens to be one of Paris’ most compelling neighborhoods.
I moved to Montmartre a little over two years ago. Before that, the neighborhood seemed quaint to me – a bucolic little patch of Paris with the Sacre Coeur Basilica shining down like Oz from above. When it became my home, I set out to uncover its secrets, leaving no street untrod.
If Montmartre seems quaint, its history is anything but. In my exploration I met people with unparalleled pluck, from St Denis, the 3rd-century bishop of Paris martyred on this hill, to Louise Michel, a 19th-century school teacher-turned-anarchist who personally offered to assassinate the President during the heady days of the Paris Commune. I was joining the ranks of quite a crew of characters.
My goal in designing a walking tour was to trace out a route that is both picturesque and chock-full of clues that give us a peek into Paris’ past. Montmartre is a feast for the eyes as much as a feast for the brain. What do the steep slopes of the cobblestone streets tell us about what lurks beneath this hill? What do Montmartre street names reveal about its illustrious residents? Where did artists such as Renoir, Pissarro and Picasso live and work, and did they really party in windmills? Why is Sacre Coeur basilica such a controversial building even to this day? These questions led to surprising discoveries and opened doors whole new chapters in Paris’ history.
The more one gets to know Montmartre, the more one thinks of it as apart from Paris – a special place with its own unique personality. The neighborhood is a fascinating subject of study in and of itself, and a true denizen would never say “I’m Parisian” but rather, “I’m Montmartois.” The neighborhood takes great pride in being a refuge for artists and freethinkers, a haven from the sprawling city below, into which it was not incorporated until 1860. When that happened, one journalist wrote, “They are sewing rags onto the dress of a queen!”, which tells you something about the working class status of the hill’s original population. Today, Montmartre boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the City of Light and it’s easy to understand why.
Join us as we continue to explore this mount of marvels.