2022 Paris Trip - Tracing Artists' Haunts in Montmartre on Day 3
Monday morning, Day 3 in Paris, I decided on a Parisian breakfast of café crème and a pain au chocolat at the Café de la Paix overlooking the Opera Garnier.
The afternoon would see me on a tour of Montmartre. I had booked the Montmartre’s Hidden Gems and Artists by Emmanuel via Airbnb. I cannot recommend Emmanuel’s tour enough. He is a resident of Montmartre, and it is obvious he loves his neighborhood. It should be noted that while you can still see the tour on AirBnB, he is no longer booking tours through them, so contact him directly through his Facebook page. The group met at the square outside the Abbesses Metro station and proceeded to the Wall of Love. The Wall of Love is a mural created in 2000 by Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito of 612 tiles with I Love You written in 250 languages.
After the Wall of Love, we climbed the Passage de Abbesses staircase, emerging at Au Marché de la Butte, better known to fans of Amélie as Maison Collignon. Across the street from the shop is Alley Concept Street. On this day, I only saw the beautiful flower cart outside, but it is my understanding that the idea behind this is that this entire street will be full of art.
The next stop was at the Bateau-Lavoir. This squat building at one point had 20 workshops where artists, writers, and poets such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, and Pierre Reverdy lived and worked. The original building was destroyed by fire in May 1970, leaving only the façade. It was rebuilt in 1978 and again serves as residences for artists. We also saw Picasso's first studio in Paris.
We then went to see what remains of the famous Montmartre windmills. At one point, there were about 30 windmills dotting the Montmartre landscape. Above Le Moulin de la Galette, is Le Moulin Radet, one of the two remaining windmills in Montmartre. The second, Le Moulin Blute-Fin sits just down from Le Moulin de la Galette on private property.
We next saw where singer Dalida called home, which happened to be adjacent to the house our guide, Emmanuel, lived in as a child. Dalida was a true international superstar and a modern patron saint of her Montmartre neighborhood. Given all her successes, Dalida was still very troubled, and took her own life in May 1987. As a resident of the neighborhood at the time, Emmanuel conveyed what her death meant to the neighborhood and Montmartre as a whole, which is a unique perspective which made this tour outstanding.
We walked down the Allee des Brouillards, which runs alongside the Chateau des Brouillards. The Chateau des Brouillards is pleasure house built in 1772 for lawyer Legrand-Ducampjean on an almost two-acre farm with vines and a mill. The estate was sold on the eve of the Revolution, and the Chateau des Brouillards was later used as the headquarters of the Republican Club (1848). In 1850, a number of the outbuildings were demolished, and a pavilion was built and later inhabited by a number of artists.
The Alle des Brouillards opens into a square with a bust of Dalida that looks up the Rue de l’Abreuvoir, on which there is the picturesque Maison du vieux Montmartre and La Maison Rose, a much-photographed French restaurant at the corner of Rue de L’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules. La Maison Rose was originally a house that was purchased in 1905 by Ramon Pichot, a friend of Dali and Picasso, and was painted pink and named La Maison Rose by Pichot’s wife after a trip to Spain. In 1908, it opened as a restaurant. The current iteration of La Maison Rose opened in 2017 by the granddaughter of Beatrice Miolano (who herself had purchased it in 1948). Call ahead to confirm hours.
Next we visted the last remaining vineyard in Montmartre, Le Clos Montmartre. While you cannot tell it now, Montmartre used to be covered in grape vines. However, phylloxera and urban development changed that. After a campaign by artist Francisque Poulbot to prevent an apartment block from going up, the City of Paris planted vines in 1933. The first wines were produced in 1934. The current vines are pinot noir and gamay. The location of the vines is not ideal, and as a result, the wine has historically been not so great. The current vines are slowly being replaced by disease resistant hybrids by Swiss geneticist Valentin Blattner. Currently 1,500 half bottles a year are produced by winemaker Sylviane Leplatre. Per Vivino, the wines are well crafted, but the grapes let them down. The reds are thin and expensive at $50 for half a bottle (all proceeds go to charity), but the rosés, however, are much better and improve each year.
Across the street from the vineyard sits the Lapin Agile, one of the famous Parisian cabarets. A cabaret has sat on this location since around 1860. The building was bought in the early 20th century by Aristide Bruant to save it from demolition. The name comes from the sign, showing a rabbit jumping out of a frying pan, painted by Andre Gill in 1875. Residents started calling the cabaret Le Lapin a Gill, which eventually become Le Lapin Agile. The cabaret was immortalized in the 1905 painting Au Lapin Agile by Picasso. The Cabaret is open on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 PM to 1 AM. Credit cards are not accepted, so make sure to bring plenty of Euros. For more information, go here.
After winding our way through Montmartre, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, otherwise known as Sacre Coeur, was our last stop. Construction of the church began in 1875, and it was completed in 1914. However, because of World War I, consecration did not occur until 1919. As popular of a tourist attraction as the church is, it is not without controversy as church was erected by conservative political forces on the spot where the Paris Commune was crushed by the French Army in 1871. Even with the controversy, Sacre Coeur welcomes more than ten million visitors annually.
Sacre Coeur is perched on the highest point in Paris, so the views from this point are spectacular which adds to its popularity. The crowds and lines were very long so I stayed outside and soaked up the excellent view over the city. Next to Sacre Coeur is Saint-Pierre de Montmartre. This parish church is one of the oldest surviving churches in Paris (stay tuned for Day 4 to see the oldest) and was the church of the Montmartre Abbey. The Abbey was destroyed in the French Revolution, but the church survived. Unfortunately, the church was not open on the day we were there, so I will have to visit again on another trip to Paris.
On the way back to the Metro, I saw more excellent street art, including this tribute to Karl, and stopped at Gelato Morice Galka for some refreshment. The passionfruit gelato was the perfect end to an afternoon walking around Montmartre. I headed back to the Abbesses Metro station (make sure you find the elevator, otherwise you will be climbing or descending 191 steps) and headed back to my hotel via the Metro.
Dinner on Day 3 was a dinner I had been looking forward to since I had booked my reservation. In my planning for this trip, I wanted to try places I had not been before and also make sure I went to a number of restaurants that are owned by female chefs. Pouliche, French for filly, and its chef Amandine Chaignot, came highly recommended.
The menu at Pouliche is simple. It is a prix fix menu for €62 with only a choice for the main (meat, fish, or veggie). There is no wine pairing, but the wine list is interesting and approachable.
The meal started with three starter dishes. The first was white asparagus and burrata. The second was a beautiful eggplant dish. Pouliche definitely puts a spotlight on vegetables, and that was readily apparent in these first two dishes. The third starter dish was a tartare (fluke, I believe) with roe and green peas.
Next came what I thought was a salad but also contained mushrooms and fish. A cup of soup also came with this course. For my main course, I had selected the meat, and a flavorful dish of veal and potato that went very well with the wine I had chosen for the evening (and Alsatian Pinot Noir) was brought out after the soup and "salad" was cleared away. After my main course, I went ahead and purchased one of Amandine Chaignot's cookbooks that was on offer at the restaurant. As of now, I have translated a number of recipes, but have yet to cook any of them.
The meal continued with a cheese course (Saint-Nectaire, I believe) and then dessert. One dessert was a lovely, deconstructed passionfruit custard tart. The second desert was a hazelnut olive oil cake that while incredibly good, I did not finish as I was very full.
All in all, it was an excellent meal and a gorgeous restaurant that I will be happy to revisit on a future trip to Paris. Pouliche is open daily. Monday to Saturday: 12:15 - 14:30 and 18:00 - 21:00; Sunday: 12.15 - 3.30 pm (last order at 3.30 pm)
After wrapping up dinner, I went around the corner to Le Syndicat for a few cocktails. When I got there, it was absolutely packed. Le Syndicat, currently listed as the 84th best coktail bar in the world, has been slinging cocktails made exclusively of French liquor since 2014. The outside is very nondescript, and the inside is very compact, which makes the outside tables necessary.
The menu is very interesting. I put myself in the hands of my server who recommended the Gettin' Milky with Nut. This cocktail was complex and surprising. If you thought Roquefort shouldn't be in a cocktail, you would be wrong. It worked amazingly well.
Once a seat at the bar opened up, I moved there and put myself in the hands of the bartender. I had three more cocktails, all of which were very good. Paris is a very underrated cocktail city.
Le Syndicat is open every day of the week 6 PM to 2 AM.