Sun 1 Dec - Paris, France

A huge photo day, but only partly for Di... And walking on the wild side in Montmartre. And a new record in the number of words in a 1-day blog, sorry.

Hans and Di started the day badly - with a disagreement. We got a bit tetchy about what each of us wanted to do (Paris has so much to offer!).

A good suggestion from Di's mum was the elevated walkway but there were also lots of local food markets and Sunday activities. We also had booked our Montmartre walking tour for 6pm tonight, which we both agreed was not to be missed.

We both went out around 9am to our neighborhood fresh food markets and Hans took photos while Di bantered with the local grocers, fishmongers and chook cookers. Of course she had to buy some fantastic fresh ingredients for some home cooked meals for us. It seems to be what French people do and more on that later.

However, as soon as we stepped out on the sidewalk, we saw this...

A bloke with a harness around him, a long line up in the air and a weather balloon of sorts with a rotating camera suspended under the balloon. It was clearly a commercial enterprise, creating photographs from up there at any event that you can think of.

The bloke wore a machine harnessed to him which controlled the balloon and the camera. We were amazed while it was up but also when they wound it down and literally shoved the ballon and all in the back of this truck.

Di's story:

She returned home, wrote some emails then went to a local cafe at Republique to sip tea and nibble on a croissant. She felt it was a very Parisien start to the day but no fooling the locals - Di does not look like a skinny, chic French woman, more like a healthy German. Oh well you can't defy genes.

Her cafe of choice...

Like Hans, Di wanted to do some walking so set out around 11am towards the Bastille, walking on top of the vault we passed underneath on our cruise yesterday. A pleasant stroll on a lovely mild winter day - clear and 7 degrees.

Close to the Bastille, at Breguet-Sabine metro, the park on top of the canal became large Sunday markets, with locals again stocking up on lovely fresh produce and other necessities.

A few pictures to show the variety and bustle and lovely variety of seafood. Sigh...why can't we have this in Manly?

The end of the markets concluded at the Bastille column with an impromptu band - like we found in Montreal - who just seemed to be jamming together although one guy was trying to conduct. The bongo player was excellent but the local bum's dancing out front was not...

And then a view down the Arsenal to where we started our canal trip yesterday. Lovely.

Time for a late lunch and Di opted to return home with some of the treats she had bought, arriving at 2pm, ate, put on some washing and was just reading when Hans returned.

Sorry, no daytime photos of Di as the iPad is unkind for self portraits and you will soon work out who had the camera for the day...

Hans story:

After Hans heard from Audrey, his mother in law, about a walkway along a disused and abandoned rail line in Paris, he got immediately interested. Then after some research he noted that the 4.7 km (2.9 mi) parkway was the only elevated park in the world for some years (inaugurated in 1993) until the first phase of the High Line Park in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City was completed in 2010, he knew he had to check it out as the one in NYC is seriously cool.

This is how his exploration panned out after first taking the metro to the Bastille station.

After wandering down Rue de Lyon just down the road from Opera at the Bastille, there are suddenly stairs up to a small brick building and this sign verified to Hans that this was the start of the Promenade Plantee.

Several location shots follow.

It is clear that this has been in place a lot longer than the High Line Park in New York City as the vegetation is much more extensive, the street furniture a bit older and the walkway is mostly lacking art.

One of many former railway bridges...

It would probably look great here in spring and in summer.

And this pond is likely to be filled with water in season.

A new timber deck was being constructed over this railway bridge.

Rue de Lyon continued below and suddenly Gare de Lyon came into view.

A Parisian street from above...

Inventive way of maximizing new buildings' footprints at the same time as meeting town criteria for the pathway's continuous flow...split the building.

The Promenade Plantee is actually several "parks" after each other, with suburbia encroaching in between.

This green patch is called Jardin de Reuilly and this bridge had a huge swingability factor. Di would not have liked any stress testing of it.

Safely on the other side, with a "selfie" to prove it.

Naturally, as this was an old railway line into the centre of Paris, there were railway tunnels as well. A couple of examples below. And yes, it was Sunday morning and the joggers were out in full swing.



The Promenade Plantee sort of finishes abruptly at this expressway, which you can circumvent under this bridge which is what Hans did and continue further, but Hans decided that this was as far that he would go. Back again the same way for a while...

More joggers...

Back at Jardin de Reuilly, Hans decided to get off the track.

He saw this water filling station and decided to fill up his bottle. Imagine his surprise when the water that came out had bubbles in it. And it tasted very nicely too. Another new one there...

Hans decided to backtrack a little bit, get under the railway tracks and towards the Seine. Along the way is this stadium / venue with the impossible name of Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy according to Google Maps anyway.

Look who will play there, Black Sabbath tomorrow 2 Dec and Placebo 10 Dec. The latter would have been great to see and hear.

Part of the stadium. Hmm... Hans wondered how they kept the grass short (because it is real grass).

Pont de Bercy is adjacent to the stadium and spans the Seine. Looked great with the shadows and momentarily without any people.

And this is how Pont de Bercy looks from the left bank after Hans crossed the bridge and looking back.

Mystery... How did they get that steel frame, anchoring this barge, around and over that pole?

Around Quai de Austerlitz is clearly arty with this what looked like squattered building having orange paint "running down" it.

This building belongs to Embarcadère du Ministère des Finances with direct access to the water and with a heliport on top.

Classic Parisian signage...

As Hans had never been inside the Le Jardin des Plantes, Botanical Gardens, in Paris, he wandered in to have a look. The building in the background is the The National Museum of Natural History.

Then suddenly Hans saw this... what the...?

Yep, there they were. Hans felt momentarily a bit homesick. Can't help liking the look of these guys as long as they are not in front of your car.

A quick visit into the courtyard (but not inside) of Institut du Monde Arabe, the Arab World Institute. We were here in 2006 as it is an interesting building with great views from its restaurant at the top were we went last time (to the top for photography, not to the restaurant).

Hans finished off his walking on Boulevard Saint Germain before wandering to Chatelet station and taking the metro back to Republique station.

Hans was home around 3pm having a break from all the wandering before part 2 of the day.

And now together again and in agreement, just after 5pm we left our apartment, wandered up to Colonel Fabien station and metro line 2 that took us to Blanche station, just opposite a somewhat familiar venue.

We were due to meet our Montmartre walking tour guide at 6pm outside of Starbucks opposite Moulin Rouge so we had a bit of time to explore first.

The Moulin Rouge (red windmill) was established in 1889 and was immortalized by Toulouse-Lautrec's posters and regular visits there.

The Can Can dance started in this district when the girls doing table dancing realised they got more tips the higher they lifted their skirts, and kicked, often without underwear (for even bigger tips!). No undies was illegal and the vice police at the time had the job of checking... The guys in our tour thought you would never retire!

Nowadays this area has no such qualms. Montmartre definitely remains the red light district of Paris but no where near Amsterdam standards.

We went inside Moulin Rouge to have a look of what's doing...and decided we wouldn't be seeing a show here, which started in price at 99€ for a seat at the back, nothing included, and goes up in price quickly from there.

Yes, there are still some shady characters in Montmarte even today.

A selfie while we were waiting for the tour to start.

Di with our tour guide Roberta, wearing the hat. She was half Italian and half English, having been born in the latter but spent most of her younger years in Sicily.

And yes, she appeared far more Italian than English and spoke English with a lovely Italian accent.

The Montmartre tour commenced and this is how it panned out this time.

Roberta's background was in Arts studies so our tour took an extra focus in the activities of the famous artists of the La Belle Époque period who lived (and loved) here. People like Van Gogh, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and followed later by Picasso and many others.

We first started with something more recent - a cafe made famous by a local movie...

"Amelie" was directed by a Montmatre local and he begged the cafe owner for 14 months to allow him to use his cafe as the central location of the movie. Finally the owner agreed and we think he has never regretted it because it made an average cafe famous and packed. A signed poster of "Amelie" was clearly part of the deal.

This street that runs parallel, just above Blanche and Pigalie metros, is now known for "BOBOs" - short for bourgeois bohemians - wannabe artists who actually have daddy's money's live on.

BOBOs have money so the street has lots of trendy bars and nice restaurants.

The famous resident who lived here on the 3rd floor two windows to the right was a huge failure in his lifetime and was never quite right in the head. Vincent Van Gogh lived there for 10 years with his brother after failing as an art dealer and a pastor. In his lifetime no one appreciated his art either and he even failed to kill himself quickly - a self inflicted gunshot took 2 days to kill him.

Apparently Van Gogh's time here with his brother was when he was in his best mood.

Did we mention Montmartre is on the only "serious" hill in Paris? And our tour started at the bottom...great views and plenty of stops along the way. Not hard for us but a younger couple actually seemed to struggle a little.

A replica of the one and only surviving old windmill in Paris - Moulin de la Gallette was saved from destruction by the Russians by the owner sacrificing himself. This windmill and cafe featured in some famous paintings that we will look for in Musee D'Orsay.

Spoiler Alert: In case you did not realise it, the Moulin Rouge has a fake windmill...sorry to ruin the myth.

This guy was never famous but had a cute myth around him being able to walk through walls - which was very helpful when he was having an affair with a married woman - but the skill deserted him part way through a wall as he was fleeing the jealous husband and he remains forever stuck since then.

We rounded a corner and aah...the church of Sacre Couer looks just as fabulous at night.

D'Alida was a very famous French singer in the disco period who is still popular post-mortem. She killed herself after 3 separate relationships went bad and all the 3 guys suicided.

D'Alida did the same when her dog died. A bit of a tragic life...but she remained a great beauty until her death and was adored for her vocal and physical attributes. Hans understood why. Oh yeah!

The Pink House is a cafe made famous by several artists hanging out here - generally to get a cheap meal on the ground floor and their "desserts" with the prostitutes on the first floor.

Lapin Agile was, and remains today, a cabaret restaurant with again a contingent of artists who went there to rat the stewed rabbit.

One famous artist was truly starving and poor and went there, ate the food then couldn't pay. He got around this twice by flattering the waitresses and drawing portraits of them on napkins. At the third attempt the owner changed the rules and demanded payment and Pablo Picasso (yep, it was him) instead did a deal where he swapped artworks that the owner could sell for food at the restaurant.

The owner eventually agreed and did surpremely well from the deal as Pablo Picasso of course was hugely successful during his lifetime and his art is worth millions.

Across the road there is the Musee Montmatre perched on top of the hill - but why is there empty land here?

Vineyards? This is the only vineyard left in Paris and they produce less than 2000 bottles from it each year.

Why bother? Apparently the standard of each vintage is used as an inverse benchmark for how good/bad the overall French wine standard will be that year. A bad wine here means good wine for the rest of France and vice versa. Of course its a bit rigged...the wine never tastes good here. Too much pollution.

Roberta was fun and at one stage in our tour she asked us to turn or backs as we turned a corner - so to keep the view a surprise. Ta dah! The back view of Sacre Cœur is dramatic and made us all go "wow". A great approach.

Sacre Cœur is made of travertine stone and is self cleaning when it rains., so hence it remains white. The black sections are those that are protected by the rain but it is illegal to clean the outside of the church. A famous view that we love but no need to go inside - we have already seen it and "no photos" is the rule.

A selfie outside.

And looking down the front steps towards Notre Dame and the Seine. Paris is never truly dark so no stars in the sky but plenty of other sparkly lights to watch elsewhere. The city of light is lovely to see at night.

We headed back down the hill and went to "the heart of Montmatre", which is a little square where artists gather in the daytime.

The square is surrounded by restaurants including this place famous for being the first "Bistro" in Paris. The Russians invaded in the 1800's in response to Napoleon's attack on them. When they ate here the cafe owners and staff went into "go slow mode" as they hated the Russians.

The Russians would should "bistro, bistro" or "faster, faster" to try and speed up the process. This enterprising cafe owner decided on a better commercial proposition by naming his cafe "bistro" and implementing home cooked food served quickly. It worked, the rest is history and the business has been here ever since as bistros now can be found everywhere.

An unusual Starbucks. Trying the blend into Montmatre.

One more famous cafe - this time the cafe featured heavily in the Woody Allen movie "Midnight in Paris". We recognized the bar (Hemingway seemed to be leaning against it a lot!)

A final famous stop.

Le Bateau Lavoir means the laundry boat and this building was a 27 bedroom hostel, where starving artists stayed for years. The reason for the name the laundry boat is that the artists washed their clothes and sheets then hung them out the windows like sails.

Lots of famous and competing artists stayed here at times. In fact Picasso got quite upset when a burglar broke in and stole paintings but none of his!

The tour lasted much longer than we expected as Roberta got a bit carried away with her art stories, but we loved Montmatre and it is stunningly beautiful at night.

We made our way home on the metro and arrived around 9.30pm. A bit hungry we had a bowl of soup before bed (and we had also a bit of an unpleasant surprise, but more on that tomorrow). Good night.


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