Waking up later than expected, in my planning I had thought that getting up at 8 am to enjoy the Bastille market would be not out of the question….wow was I wrong. I woke up to my alarm and said “no way” which ended up giving me only 30 minutes at the market which I thought would not be enough. Once again, I was wrong, the market which is only offered on Thursday and Sunday mornings was very disappointing. It was listed as an open air market and I had visions of something similar to a Central American market with fresh fruit and breakfast places, food carts and authentic crafts and gifts. At first glance the market looked fantastic with scarfs and crafts, but up close everything had a “made in China” stamp and it was very cheap in both price and quality. The market also had random bins filled with underwear and socks, bras and just random articles of clothing, it was very strange, it reminded me of a flee market more than a open air market.
(I know looks amazing and beautiful, but they were very thin, not from anywhere close to Paris, already starting to unravel and very cheap, sadly)
Since I was now right on schedule (since I was skipping the market) I started to head to the Moulin Rouge where my walking tour of Montmartre was to start. It was 3 miles away and since I had a busy day I decided not to walk and the only other option for me was a taxi, I am terrified of the metro, since I never grew up with public transportation and since Seattle does not have much (really just the bus and that took me over a year to try) I just have always had a fear of getting on and going the wrong way on public transit. I started to walk, which turned out to take longer as well, the streets are not labeled (that is what I thought, after going on my tour I realized they are labeled but labeled on the buildings off to the side of the road)…
Also the streets twist and turn and it is impossible to go in a straight line or one know where one street starts and the other ends. Looking at a map can be more confusing than not and the GPS is somewhat helpful but takes a lot of effort and double or sometimes triple checking. The other amazing thing about Paris is walking, you cannot go more than a couple steps without seeing something that “looks interesting” everything looks like it is a famous or historic landmark. The buildings are also all connected which makes for smaller looking streets and a very intimate feel.
As I walked, I decided I should get a taxi, but non were stopping for me. I later learned that the taxi system is extremely corrupt and that they are rarely used. As the time ticked away and it was now less than an hour until my tour, I decided to call an Uber. 5 minutes later, I was in a Mercedes Benz and on my way…or so I thought. The traffic was horrendous … Apparently driving in Paris is the worst and it takes just as long to drive as walk. There were motorcycles zooming in and out and bikes everywhere with delivery trucks stopping in front of us and no one following lights. Something I just realized as I am writing this, I do not think they have stop signs here. I should have looked at the traffic but I did not even think about it as it was 3 miles – how long can it take?? Here is a screen shot of the traffic today around the same time at another part of town…all red, with construction and accidents and you also get a taste of the roads with this image and how complex they are….
Well I left an hour and I’m glad I did as I hooped out of the Uber a couple blocks from the Moulin Rouge and ran to the meeting spot…arriving right at 10:30. Our tour included a French tour guide who spoke good English and a couple from Australia (every tour I have done has included someone from Australia…Paris must be a popular destination). The couple laughed when I told them I took an Uber, they then told me how easy the Metro system was and that they had come from the same location and spent $3 for both of them (I had spent close to $40) and than they made it there in 15 minutes tops. Most important lesson of the trip thus far: BUCK UP AND LEARN THE METRO SYSTEM. I later did learn the system, it took me 5xs longer than anyone I am sure as I double and then tripled checked everything…but after the second and third time it was a breeze and I felt very proud of myself and cursed myself for not looking into it before the trip as I wasted $40 and gave myself added stress of traffic (something I was not missing from home), oh well, lesson learned for future travels.
The walking tour was in a part of town called Montmartre ( more on Montmarte here ). But it is basically where the impressionist lived (Monte and Van Gogh) and was the place of sin back in the old days. There is much more history but it took 2 hours to cover it on the tour so I will not bore you, but it was very interesting, the evolution of the neighborhood and how influential the Moulin Rouge was. This tour also included a pass to the Musee d’Orsay and access through section C, which meant skipping the line!
funny thing about this picture, I was walking to the Metro after the tour and these two young women asked me to take their picture…they then went in front of the Mouin Rogue and as I took their picture it did this short video thing and they were dancing…I felt like I was 60 when I handed back their phone and said I have no idea what happened…they laughed and looked at it and said it was perfect. I figured I should finally get a picture of me since I had to be embarrassed that I had no idea how to work a camera, so I gave them my REAL camera, which they did have to ask what button was the button they should push. One of the girls took the picture (actually she took 15) and then said they thought I was going to be French since I looked the part. It was a fun and interesting encounter and I got a good laugh out of it, and I am sure they laughed at me as well…too bad I cannot blame the poor technology skills on being French, but I appreciated the complement!
The tour was good, it was nice to have a French speaking person giving the tour in English, we got more culture and flavor. He pointed out a ton about the area that had nothing to do with Impressionist … Like corner cafes do not have to try that hard since they are on the corner and if a restaurant in Paris has something in the name that is “grand” like “the best Italian restaurant” or “Perfect Irish food” to avoid it, he said if they were good they would not need to advertise they are good.
He also brought up another point, “do not eat anywhere near a main tourist attraction” he said that they typically cater to tourists who do not know any better, put up fancy flags and make it seem authentic but in reality it is over priced and not good. An example of this is purchasing water. I had purchased a couple different times bottled water for 1 euro, it was a small water bottle. Then I went to the grouch store (store name) and purchased a bottle 2-3 times the size for .2 Euros…
The tour went by Vincent Van Gouge’s house which was my favorite part. Vincent is near and dear to my heart, I love his earlier “darker” work and feel my style is more like his…without the ear cutting and such…
Later his works would be my favorite at the Musee d’Orsay. We walked around Montmartre and then ended at Basilique of the Sacré Cœur. Luckily there was a tour guide as the streets do twist and turn everywhere. Here were some of the highlights of the tour…
A painting of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was a famous impressionist painter and has been featured in many movies (especially famous for Mid-Night in Paris) More on his life here
Cafe des 2 Moulins (Moulins means Windmills) was featured in the movie Amélie (actually this is where she lived) which is beloved movie by Parisians and our tour guide said that many people come here to take pictures.
This cafe (Le Grenier a Pain) won the award for best baguette in Paris in 2015 and 2010. These awards (pictured above left) are MASSIVE in France. The winner is flooded with business and supplies baguettes to the president all year. This award was actually judged by our Paris by Mouth tour guide this year! More on that below
Another location for Amélie – this is where she worked
Le Bateau-Lavoir (“The Boat Wash-house”) is the nickname for a building in the Montmartre district of the 18th arrondissement of Paris that is famous in art history as the residence and meeting place for a group of outstanding early 20th-century artists, men of letters, theater people, and art dealers. It is located at No. 13 Rue Ravignan at Place Emile Goudeau, just below the Place du Tertre. More on Le Bateau-Lavvior here
While residing in the Bateau-Lavoir Picasso painted one of his most noted works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, considered by art historians as a proto-Cubist painting (the precursor of a movement that became known as Cubism in 1911) (pictured above)
Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti (17 January 1933 – 3 May 1987), better known as Dalida, was an Egyptian-born Italian-French singer and actress who performed and recorded in more than 10 languages, including Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, French, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish. She is infamous in Paris and many come to see her home above. She had a tragic (typical movie star live) and killed herself in 1987. It is said you are cursed with 7 years of bad luck if you pass by her house….however keep walking and in a couple blocks you will come to her statue, rub her boobies and it breaks the crush (seriously) that is why there is so much rubbed off her breasts (below)
more beautiful architecture and sites, like I mentioned, everything looks important and that it should have a story behind it. The La Maison Rose is in a famous impressionist painting as well.
We walked up the hill in Montmartre (reminded me of Queen Ann hill) and when we got to the top, we could see the entire city!
Ending at Basilique of the Sacré Cœur our guide told us the history of the Basilique of the Sacré Cœur ( click here to read more on wikipedia ) but basically it is not something all Parisians are proud of and is a sore topic. It is also (after being inside understand) not “Paris-ish” huge gold statues and such, much more Rome than Paris.
I was shocked by this history lesson and glad I now know this so I could be sensitive to it. I was surprised that I did not see anything on this while I was researching. I did however hear over and over that Basilique of the Sacré Cœur should be something that I definitely see and make time for. After going inside I did however decide to go to the top dome as our guide told us it has the best view of the city (and Derek had told me this as well). The view amazing, breathtaking and shocking, I had no idea Paris was so massive.
I had another upsetting experience inside the church (similar to Notre Dame – where people were being disrespectful) Inside Basilique of the Sacré Cœur it was marked everywhere that there is no talking and please to not take pictures…however, there was this man in his mid-thirties by himself who kept asking me to take his picture and he had the flash on and he would go over to a statue and do something stupid and want me to take a picture of it..like give a thumbs up or high five to the statue, or my favorite (sarcasm) stand in front of the church with his arms flexed…it was unbelievable, but I could not tell him “no” we did not speak the same language. From what I could tell he was middle eastern. I do not know if there was history there to be proud of the Basilique, but it was so unbelievably rude and I was upset I was part of something so disrespectful, Even more, people probably thought we were together. He kept running over to me and tapping me and saying “picture, you, picture, yes” Not really a question, but when I said “no, mercie” he didn’t understand, I thought “no” was universal? Hopefully he got the picture he wanted, I was mortified and tried to get away quickly…I guess there is something worse than a selfie.
The journey to the top of the Basilique of the Sacré Cœur made me dizzy and as I looked back my Fitbit said it was over 50 floors – all ccircled around tightly – definitively not “up to code” in the USA. Probably the coolest thing was the view of the futbol stadium that the championship will be played on Sunday!! (At the time I did not know) France will be in that championship….that would be like the Super Bowl being in Seattle if the Seahawks where playing.
After walking around the doom (which was well worth the 6 Euros) I took the advice of our guide and went another way back to Moulin Rouge. He mentioned that so many tourists just follow the crowd and miss some great sites of Montmartre. I stopped at the award winning Boulangerie Le Grenier a Pain, to order my first official baguette in Paris. It was huge! I could only eat half, but it was good and I felt so “Paris’ walking around Montmartre eating it. I stumbled into this park and I have no idea what it was but it seemed to be a point of interest…
After my tour and learning the metro I was on my way to my next tour, the tour I was most excited about, Paris By Mouth. When I was looking up food tours in Paris I stumbled upon this one and saw that one of my world traveler friends and colleagues has rated the tour very highly. Before the tour I had an hour and used it to cool down…stopping by my hotel to soak my feet I cold water and reapplying my mole skin to prevent my feet from getting blisters. The mole skin was so effective that the mole skin itself was raveled and torn, so that would have been my skin!
I meat the food tour at a cafe in the neighboring neighborhood, Marais. The neighborhoods here are like in Seattle, very small but yet very unique in their charm and flavor. Marais is known for being the up and coming neighborhood. It used to be very poor and cheap so young artists and chefs moved in as that was all they could afford. With the increased number of hard working chefs and artists the neighborhood exploded and now is “the place to be” amazing food and great community and luckily for those starving artists, rent control!!
One stop on the food tour (which was AMAZING and I HIGHLY recomment) was Bibovino at 35 rue Charlot, 75003
We tried these wines: Bandol AOC (Mourvèdre, Cinsault and Grenache), Bordeaux AOC (Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon), Touraine AOC (100% Gamay), Corbières AOC (Grenache and Carignan) and Cartagène (100% Grenache Noir)
The neat thing about BiboVino was they specialize (and were one of the first) to start putting wines in boxes in Paris (and they have now, after great effort, finally started to expand throughout France) This is something that saves a ton of money, you can put 4 bottles in one box and save over 30% because you are not using a bottle, and it keeps the wine longer. They are trying to expand to outside France but it has been difficult as many people think France wine is not “drinkable” and is more for saving and aging…this wine is very “fine” but it is also drinkable and is made to be drunk not aged. They do have one city in USA that has agreed to try out a store within the next year…..SEATTLE!!! YAY!! I took a picture to make sure I brag about being to the Flagship store in Paris when they arrive.
Two places in The Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris, France. It was established in the early 1600s and is located at 39 Rue de Bretagne in the Marais arrondissement.It means “the children in the red clothing” as when it was established there was a nearby orphanage where the children worn red.
Below is Jouannault cheese shop at 39 rue de Bretagne, 75003 (cheeses listed below)
I am not a “cheese” person, I hate “stinky” cheese and I was afraid that I would not like any off it, however I loved almost all of it and learned SO much about cheese!! Below are the cheese we tried…
Another stop: Tout Autour du Pain at 59 rue de Saintonge, 75003 (no website) – owned by Benjamin Turquier (baguette de tradition, croissants and chouquettes) Note that when a store labels itself as a Boulanger it has to made everything in that store, it cannot bring in anything!
Tout Autour du Pain won best Croissant and Baguette many times over. Our tour guide Jennifer (who was amazing) was a judge in 2015!!!
What a good croissant should look like on the inside, like honey comb. Jennifer made a great point. croissants and baguettes are so much better in Paris because of the butter however something to keep in mind, there are only a couple ingredients in these and they vary so much from store to store…shows you how timing of mixing and raising of the yest can make such a difference. I am ruined after having one of these croissants, I will never have one at Starbucks again. This one melted in my mouth and was define! Another interesting thing that has been happening, I have been eating SO much bread (Baguettes, Croissants, Creepes) but my blood sugar is not crashing! It could be due to all the walking and water, but it also could be that everything is made with no preservatives and is 100% “real”
Our last stop was: Jacques Genin chocolate shop at 133 rue de Turenne, 75003 (pâtes de fruits, tonka bean ganache dark chocolates, toasted nuts and lime zest milk chocolates and salt butter caramels). This stop was like a museum. It was hidden with no sign (something that I have seen as a trend when it is a 5-star place – they do not need to advertise) you walk by and you would miss it if you were looking for it, you might even miss it if you are looking for it. It is air conditioned (which is VERY rare in Paris) and it truly looks like a museum…the workers where white gloves when handing the chocolate and everything looks like a work of art. The owner Jacques Genin is very “particular” and has been noted that he is hard to work for. He calls his kitchen “The Lab” and makes everything to order. if you order a hot chocolate or pastry it takes over 30 min!!! It was a very interesting experience.
After purchasing my famous and snobby chocolate I ventured back to the hotel to soak my feet once more and get ready for a once in a life time event…watching France take on Germany in football!! To make it even more special, Anne and Nick, two of my Seattle friends happen to be in town and I got to join them to watch at Comptori Des Archives.
It was great to sit outside, however, be warned in Paris EVERYONE smokes! It is crazy!! (I think this is one of the reasons they stay so thin) After dinner even through we sat outside (if you sit outside in Paris you will have to deal with smoke) my hair smelled like it did after the bars in college, when you could smoke inside. I do have to say, I am anti-smoking and would never smoke, but the French make it look so sexy and like it is the thing to do in Paris…no wonder everyone does it – they see all these sexy, stylish people smoking their whole life. We wondered if there were any anti smoking campaigns and assumed there was not, we also wondered how much cigarettes were. More to come on what I find out there.
Paris is wonderful and I love it here, but it has been so nice to have a couple people to visit as dining alone in Paris is not like anywhere else, even in the States. I love dining by myself, but in Paris the meals are long and suppose to be hours so you can enjoy the company of others, so it does not work well by yourself – so meeting up with Anne and Nick was great fun! Not to mention that France won!! The city was alive, it was just like Seattle when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl-honking until all hours and yelling and signing in the streets, luckily I had experience in that area. After France won, Anne and Nick walked be back to my place (my mom thanks you) but we stopped for dessert (officially had my favorite dessert in France, creme brulee) and a of course Champagne at L’escurial.
I got back to my hotel (thank you again Nick and Anne), and you cannot make this up, I took a bubble bath while I drank the last of my red wine and ate my left over baguette and watched the lights of the Eiffel Tower! Since I have experience with the honking and the yelling I had no trouble drifting off to sleep at 2 am while the city celebrating the night away in anticipating of the match on Sunday.