Saturday, 13 December 2008

Montmartre as you've never seen it (probably)

Montmartre is one of the first destinations for any visitor of Paris. From the steps of Sacre Coeur you get a breathtaking view of the whole of Paris and in the winding streets in the adjoining neighbourhood once frequented by Van Gogh, Renoir and Toulouse Latrec amongst many others you feel the history and charm of Paris’ best loved neighbourhood.

However, one of the big problems is that Montmartre is a victim of its own success. Turn up on any evening and the place is flooded with tourists from all over the world. On the Place du Tetre it’s heaving, from behind their easels portrait artists hound passers-by, the over priced cafes are bursting at the seams and the sound of clicking camera equipment never ceases.

I was surprised when one Saturday afternoon in autumn I received a phone call from my friend Igor inviting me to join him on a walk around Montmartre at 8am on Sunday morning. My first reaction was “you must be crazy”, but he was very persistant and eventually I reluctantly agreed.

Here is the astonishing thing, at 8am Montmartre is a completely different place, a place that few tourists chance to see. It’s deserted and you have virtually the whole area to yourself. You can walk along those lovely streets unmolested. In the place du Tetre life is just beginning to stir. The cafes are setting up and the portrait artists are just emerging from wherever portrait artists emerge from. You might want to sit a while as the first customer and enjoy (a still overpriced) coffee and take in the scene. It’s a real treat but get out of there by 9am when the hordes start to arrive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

perhaps we could go for an over-priced coffee sometime. rich