Mary and I enjoyed Mother’s Day exploring Montmartre, a vibrant, charming neighborhood in the north of Paris. Until 1860, it was outside the city limits, so rents, booze, and adult entertainment were cheap. That attracted poor artists like Picasso who could rent a live-in studio for 50 cents a month.
It’s not cheap now but is still a center for artists, creatives, and wannabes drawn to its bohemian atmosphere and stunning city views.
Our Uber dropped us off at the foot of Montmartre at Pigalle, known for its nightlife, many sex shops, and the iconic Moulin Rouge. It’s not a neighborhood for the whole family.
Led by our free walking tour guide, we climbed hill after hill to the top, crowned by the Sacré-Cœur, an amazing white stone basilica that overlooks panoramic views of the city. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, although a lot of locals wish it had never been built. It’s a French thing. Still, it was packed on this rare sunny day.
Along the way, past charming restaurants, cafes, galleries, and boutiques, we learned about Montmartre’s rich history as a haven for artists. Leading impressionists including Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh called it home in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, Montmartre attracted the avant-garde, with artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Amedeo Modigliani living and working and living there.
Walking Montmartre is not for the faint of heart. The narrow roads are steep, but we zigzagged up and stopped frequently at points of historic interest. I was very proud of myself for reaching the top. It was a lot easier going down, but little did I know our restaurant for dinner was back toward the top and we would be making the climb again!
After the tour, we found a cafe for a Mother’s Day toast with rose wine for me and an Aperol Spritz for Mary. Her son’s birthday earlier in the week marked 55 years of motherhood for her. Of course, I’d drink to that.