Montmartre is a vibrant city with so much movement and character it’s sometimes hard to know where to look. Fresh open street markets, stores spilling out contents for sale onto the street for people to rifle through and street performers entertaining crowds on the lawn of the Sacre-Coeur are very common sights. Yes, Montmartre is alive! You can feel the culture and inspiration that grew Montmartre into a popular destination to visit. The home of the Moulin Rouge as well as countless artists (Van Gogh, Renoir and Picasso to name a few) Montmartre became home to the Bohemian Revolution long ago, yet today you can still feel its individuality and funkiness in the air. It does have an odd nature to it that wouldn’t appeal to everyone and some “squirrley” characters, but for all except one minor episode, I enjoyed my time there.
I stayed in the Le Regent Montmartre hostel just down the road from the World Famous Moulin Rouge. I must admit I love that movie (Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman) and ever since seeing it for the first time, I’ve wanted to get to Montmartre! Well because of that and a favorite black and white poster I had back in College that I just adored of a couple kissing on the steps of Sacre-Coeur with Paris in the background.
The hostel was actually quite nice. The location was ideal, the staff (while not overly friendly in person) were very helpful over email in getting me exact information on which trains to take to get there from downtown Paris and the rooms were cozy too. The hostel used to be a hotel and they have converted each room into a hostel room. The room I booked was only a 3-person room and each room had its own bathroom (a HUGE plus in my book)!! The only negative was the breakfast. It was lackluster and the brioche were a disappointment. Other than that it was a pleasant stay.
Another thing I enjoyed about the hostel (though it has nothing to do with the hostel, really) was my roommates. I stayed there 3 nights and it overlapped with each of my other two roommates’ stay as well. So for the nights I was there I got to get to know my roommates a bit instead of getting new batches of roommates each night of a stay. Both were young guys who were there for different reasons. The first was there because he was about to start film school at the University. He was from Egypt and very kindly gave me a coin from Egypt that I carry around with me. Unfortunately when I was getting ready to leave he wasn’t around so I wasn’t able to get his info to keep in contact, but I’m sure I will be seeing his name on some films not too far into the future:) The other young man was in Europe because he had won a photography competition and his work was being featured in a show in Brussels!!! How exciting is that?? So he was in Paris, well because, why not?? He is incredibly talented and for anyone who loves photography, I would recommend to check out his website at ameasureofmadness.wordpress.com 🙂
My time in Montmartre consisted first of getting to the Moulin Rouge to check out prices and show information, etc. Unfortunately the tickets were WAY out of my budget, but again it gives me something to go back there for! I walked all over town checking out the various nooks and crannies, getting lost every now and again or simply stopping for a seat and to watch life go on around me. I explored Sacre-Coeur and watched the sun set from the hilltop. And of course I took a walking tour of Paris:)
The only adverse experience I had there was my first morning in Montmartre. Before walking into Paris to the meeting point location for the walking tour (Place St. Michel) I wanted to get some pictures first thing of the Moulin Rouge. So I headed in that direction first, finding a little place to stop and get a yummy breakfast along the way. I sat on a park bench between the streets sipping on my coffee when along came a guy (creep) holding a beer in his hand. Mind you it’s 8am… He spotted me and came right over and sat next to me. So I got up and started walking away. Apparently he thought I was trying to be cutsy/coy because he proceeded to follow me. When I looked behind me and noticed this I immediately turned left to see if he was actually following me or not. And when he mimicked my motions, it was time to set him straight.
I stopped to face him and quite forcefully warned him to stop following me. I was speaking all in English but he got the point as his smile suddenly turned to a frown and he crossed the street away from me:) I went back to my original bench keeping a keen eye on the guy and once I finished my breakfast I spotted a very tall man who was going in the direction I wanted to go. So I walked up to him and asked first if he spoke English (thankfully YES!) and then asked if he would mind walking with me for a bit. He was really nice to agree and we chatted for the next several blocks until it was time for him to turn off.
The area around the Moulin Rouge is somewhat like a Red Light District, but very “in your face” and not at all classy (I hate to say) as the District in Amsterdam. Every shop turned into one type of sex shop or another the closer you got to the Moulin Rouge. It literally was like crossing an invisible line which on one side was very obviously the Red Light District and the other very obviously regular life. I found that interesting…
My favorite random experience while in Montmartre once again happened at the Moulin Rouge. I had pictures of it in the daylight, but now needed pictures of it at night all lit up! So after my day in Versailles, I stayed in Paris until it got dark to get pictures of the tower lit up, then headed back to Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge to get night pictures.
So there I was snapping away a ton of pictures. I was just about to leave when all of a sudden a horse trailer rounded the corner and parked in front of the Moulin Rouge… Two large men in black (bodyguards) then put up a little barricade behind the horse trailer. On the side of the trailer was painted “Les Petits Chevaux du Moulin Rouge”… Now I don’t speak French or know many words in French, but this phrase I understood! “Little horses of the Moulin Rouge”!! Oh this I had to see up close! I crossed the street and sure enough out came 6 little miniature horses who were promptly escorted from the trailer to a side entrance of the Moulin Rouge by the trainers and over the watchful eye of the bodyguards, LOL!!! The first thought that went though my mind was “What in the world goes on in there?????” 🙂