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Sunday walk at Montmartre

2013-10-03

montmartre-1.jpgA walk through quite places and narrow streets of Montmartre (with numerous stairs) in a company of a professional guide, historian and publicist, a Parisian expert, Michel Faul, starts at the exit of the metro station Abesses, after having climbed the winding staircase with 115 stairs. The name of the metro station comes from the abbots ("abesses" in French) from the nearby abbey of "Dames-de-Montmartre" and it is one of the three Parisian metro stations the entrance of which is covered with a glass roof of the "New Art" style, designed by Hector Guimard.

We find ourselves between the old-fashioned Parisian carousel and the cmontmartre-2.jpghurch „Saint-Jean de Montmartre“ built from the red bricks. Standing by the green fountain with a potable water, Michel Faul reminds us the history of these fountains which can be found all over Paris, built thanks to the rich Englishman Richard Wallace. Four ladies, "cariatides" as the French call them, representing four virtues: kindness, goodness, simplicity and soberness. Soberness may surprise, but these four green ladies have to promote drinking water from their fountain.

After several steps we are in front of the shop "épicerie Maison Colignon", that became famous thanks to the movie "Amelie from Montmartre". The owners of the shop bought over from the movie production the decorations from the movie, and so their shop attracts tourists from all over the world.

Under the patulous trees on the square "Place Emile Goudeau"“, looking at the man playing accordeon and the coffee place with red chairs, that wakes up their morning clients to the day, we learn from our guide that at the beginning of the 19th century there was a big pear tree, called "poirier sans pareil" (nonpareil pear tree). A tavern that was at this square had a special place for its guests, placed right in the trmontmartre-3.jpgee. Eating in the pear tree was one of the attractions, with a view on Paris, a special plan where to take an obedient child. This place is mentioned even in the book from 1816 "Promenades amusantes d’une jeune famille dans les environs de Paris" (Funny strolls of a young family in the surroundings of Paris).

In the square, where used to be a pear tree with a magical tree-top, there is a tiny facade with the inscription "Bateau Lavoir" (Boat wash-smontmartre-4.jpgink). Originally a factory for producing pianos was transformed in 1889 to several artistic workshops. The name comes from a sarcastic remark of Picasso’s friend, since there was only one sink. In 1904 Pablo Picasso created here his paintings inspired by his love to Fernanda Olivier and in 1907 his painting "Demoiselles d‘Avignon" was painted here, an omen of the cubism. Besides Picasso, at this place used to work also other famous artists, such as Modigliani or the poet Appolinaire. In 1970 the building got in fire and was destroyed. That’s why today there is only the facade with the inscription.

Till 1860 Montmartre was not a part of Paris, it was a suburb and since the life was here cheaper than in the city, many workers and artists got settled here. Montmartre had a nickname "le maquis" (underground), since it was a poor and dangerous part. By curved streets of Montmartre we get to the street, the dominant point of which is the fancy house of the singer and comedian Dalida, the montmartre-5.jpgartist of Egyptian origin. As it is confirmed by the commemorative plaque, she lived here from 1962 till 1987. In the same street the guide shows us a detail, a tiny drawing on the facade of a house, with the theme of a table placed in the tree-top.

Several streets further we stop by the bronze statue of Dalida, her breasts are worn and with their yellowish colour of bronze prove that many people reach to touch them.Of course, a tour of Montmartre can not be without stopping by the famous mill "Moulin de la Galette" from the 17th century or by the statue of a man walking through a wall, "Le Passe Muraille". "Le Passe Muraille" is the name of the short story of Marcel Aymé, from 1943. Mr Dutilleul was able to walk through walls and so experienced unbelievable adventures, till the moment when he got trapped in the wall. The statue was done by Jean Marais.

In Paris there is an ongoing polemics about the highest place of the city, whether it is Montmartre (128,21 metres) or Belleville (128,16 m). When comparing you have to distinguish whether you compare the public or private domain.

During our Sunday walk we approach the house with a modern architecture with interesting paintings of heads of several children. Our guide, Michel Faul, explains that in this house used to live Francisque Pulbot, a renown illustrator of comics. His illustrations were printed in media from 1900 and he is known as an author of a typical Parisian little boy from Montmartre, with a baseball hat and pants with suspenders. Based on hismontmartre-6.jpg drawings, even today, when we say a small „poulbot“ we mean a typical young boy from Montmartre.

We walk in the street "Villa Léandre" with the houses resembling to the English architectural style, and we learn that the word "villa" in French does not mean vila, fancy house, but an alley, an impasse with several houses of a similar architecture.

The Montmartre tour continues in front of the restaurant "Le Lapin Agile" (Amontmartre-7.jpg Nippy Rabbit). As already mentioned, in 1860 Montmartre was outside Paris and the fact that its inhabitants were poor and often of a bad fame is proved also by the names of this tavern before it became "Le Lapin Agile". In 1860 it was called "Au Rendez-vous des voleurs" (At the meeting with the thiefs), later "Le Cabaret des Assassins" (Cabaret of assassins).

André Gill, who used to come here, decorated the tavern with a painting of a rabbit jumping out of the stew pot and so it got the name of "Lapin à Gilles" (Gille’s Rabbit) and by a word pun it became "Lapin Agile". Standing by the colourful wooden fence of this touristic restaurant, Michel Faul tells us the story from the exhibition in 1910. There was a painting named "Et le soleil se coucha sur Adriatique" (Sun sets behind Adriatic) and it was signed by an unknown Italian painter J.R. Boronali. On March 8th 1910 Roland Dorgelès borrowed Lolo, a donkey of Frédéric Gérard, the owner of the tavern "Lapin Agile" and in presence of a legal executor the painting was painted by the donkey Lolo, on the tail of which they hanged a brush. Each time they gave a carrot to the donkey, it started tomontmartre-8.jpg move wildly with a tail and in such a way apply the painting to the canvas.

In front of the low building of "Le Lapin Agile" there are the vineyards of Montmartre, now at the end of September loaded with clusters of sweet Muscat grapes. Each year 1700 bottles are sold, and is supposed to have diuretic effects. The first grapevine was planted by Adélaïde de Savoie, the first abbot from the Montmartre abbey.

Our walk comes to its end at the square by the oldest church in Paris "St Pierre de Montmartre", where the guide tells us the story how Louis Renault made a bet with his friends that on Christmas evening in 1898 he would come to the top of Montmartre by the street Lepic with his "voiturette" – little car of type A, and he succeeded.

And Sunday morning at Monmartre finishes in front of the Sacré-Coemontmartre-9.jpgur Basilica, in construction of which participated all Paris. A "souscription nationale" (national subscription) was declared. According to the donation amount, the inhabitants could own a hidden stone, a visible stone or a stone with the inscription of their initials. In this way thousands of golden francs were collected. In 1919 the basilica was consecrated. To remind the difference between a cathedral and a basilica, basilica served as a pilgrimage place. This basilica is not plastered and it does not need it since it is built from a sand stone which whitens in the air and so it is white all the time. Actually it dominates a city that is said to be built from a "white stone".

The guide makes a funny remark that "the artists do not have mistresses but the muses". And Montmartre remains a neverending muse of artists, intellectuals or lovers from all over the world.

Source of information: Michel Faul

M.D.D., Paristep

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Preview of picture in folder Paris Montmartre 2013 | Jan Schinko jr.