Monday, March 4, 2013

Montmartre, Paris

The hill that dominates Northern Paris is known as Montmartre. The name has two possible origins. The hill was used for pagan worship back in the Roman days and was dedicated to the gods Mars and Mercury, so the name might derive from their names. More likely is the second possible origin. The hill is said to be the site where St. Denis, the first Christian apostle to Paris, was martyred along with St. Rusticus and St. Eleutherius. So it's the Mons Martyrum, the hill where the martyrs were killed. Saint Denis's martyrdom is particularly interesting, since legend has it that he picked up his head and walked a few miles to what is now know as Saint-Denis, where a church has been built in his honor. Montmartre is much better than the old name that is still sometimes used: Butte.

Our hotel in Montmarte was at the end of one of the metro lines. The station name is Porte de Clignancourt, which I almost immediately (and shamefully) renamed Port of Klingon Court. The hotel is on the northern side of the hill, away from Paris. On our first day we decided to explore, which meant wandering up many streets and staircases.

Lots of streets are like this; why hasn't a big action movie chase scene been filmed here?

L and Mommy climbing up

Proof that we made it!

The hill is a bit of a theater and night club district as well. The infamous Moulin Rouge is here (though we didn't go) and some of the street names are quite entertaining, as in they are from popular French entertainments.

Long noses welcome here!

And, in case you think I was making up names earlier, check out this street named after a saint.

Not Saint Bugspray, either

At the top of the hill we started working our way around to the front of Sacre-Couer. We ran across a monument to Claude Charpentier (1909-1995) who according to the sign was a "Architecte - Urbaniste - Musicien."Architect, Urban planner, and musician!

Square Claude Charpentier, with Sacre-Couer hiding behind it

Next to Sacre-Couer is a large-ish castle building that is not identified in any of our guide books nor by any signs by the road.

Castle Mysteriouse

The view from the castle is similar to the Sacre-Couer view, except for the western view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Looking into eastern Paris

Really, this was only two minutes after the previous picture!

An intriguing water fountain was right by the castle. We saw several of them throughout Paris but couldn't figure out how to make them work. Maybe they were shut off for the cold February temperatures.

Parisian Fountain

A few streets away we came across the Place du Tertre. The square is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. The middle of the square is full of artists selling their paintings or offering to make a quick sketch for the right price. We had two artists approach us about sketching L, which is definitely a tribute to her cuteness. Or their aggressiveness.

Restaurants and other entertainment

The cold did not discourage the artists!

The cafes were a little too busy to seat us for dinner, so we headed back down the hill to find a nice restaurant with immediate seating. On the way, we saw some more impressive windows.

I think the octopus in the middle bas relief was the motivation for taking the picture

After a yummy dinner, we headed back to get a good night's sleep before further adventures in Paris.

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