After two very intensive days visiting the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles, we wanted our final day in Paris to be more laid back and relaxed; a day of exploring a couple of interesting parts of the city and soaking up the ambiance. We had the pleasure of doing some of that with one of my former students who’s been living in Paris for the past five years!
We met Crystal midmorning to tour Montmartre, one of her favourite areas of the city. In the 1870s, Montmartre became a centre of bohemian life inhabited by impoverished artists and poets and visited by Parisians who came for its cabarets, cafes, and dance halls. Today it is officially designated as a historic district with limited development allowed in order to maintain its historic character.
Crystal told us the stories behind a number of the district’s best known establishments like the cabaret, Moulin Rouge, and the little pink restaurant, La Maison Rose, that has been immortalized by many painters over the years.
She told us Marcel Aymé’s tale about the man who could walk through walls. You can read an English translation here.
We climbed the steep, narrow cobblestoned streets up the hill that is Montmartre to the beautiful Sacré-Cœur Basilica at the top. Visible from almost anywhere in Paris, it is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
Though there was a service going on inside, tourists were allowed to enter and walk around inside as long as we remained silent and didn’t disturb the worshippers!
After leaving the church, we enjoyed a lovely lunch at a sidewalk cafe in nearby Place du Tertre, a large open market area where artists worked on portraits, caricatures, and paintings of Paris’ most famous landmarks.
On our way back down the hill, we enjoyed beautiful views of the city like this one from below the Bascilica.
After saying good-bye to Crystal, we took the metro to the Latin Quarter, centre of university life and home to many bookshops and cafes. There we walked to the Luxembourg Gardens where we spent awhile simply sitting in the sunshine. The Luxembourg Palace overlooking the gardens was built between 1615 and 1645 as a royal residence for the mother of King Louis XIII. Today, it houses the French Senate.
Before returning to our hotel to begin preparing for today’s departure, we stopped briefly at the Pantheon, the final resting place of some of France’s “great men” including Voltaire, Rousseau, and Victor Hugo.