Friday, February 7, 2014

Postcards from Paris: Finding What You Don't Seek (Montmartre)

I sometimes get madly obsessive with trip planning.  Trip planning has officially begun for me once I've launched Excel and start maniacally putting itineraries, lodging options, budget, several iterations of scenarios, outfits (don't judge), and pre-trip shopping lists in tabs, tables, under colorful and color-coded headings.

Once I get to the destination though, it's a different story.  Most of the time, I would have one or two do-or-dies, but then after that, all plans go out the window.  I allow intuition to guide my walks, my senses to dictate where I should grab lunch.  Although I carry a map, I am unafraid to wander aimlessly and to get lost.  

It was my second time in Paris and my second time staying in the same arrondissement of Montmartre.  I know my way around here a little bit and it's a little hard to get lost when right smack in the middle is Sacre Coeur, the heart of the neighborhood.  We stayed in this elegantly decorated apartment and this time, I felt more integrated than when we stayed at a hotel last year.  In the afternoon, the neighbor would play the piano and it would waft into the our open windows.  In the beginning, I thought he was playing a record.  But I heard him stop in hesitation once, before switching pieces, so I realized it was really a live person playing the piano.  I remember sitting there one afternoon, lost in my strawberry tart from the corner bakery (an award winning one!), listening to the neighbor playing the piano beautifully and almost sadly, and thinking there was no reason to leave the apartment.  
But I must.  The City waits.  

Montmartre sits on top of a hill and the views of Paris from here are quite nice.  Back in the 18th century, it was a hangout of impressionist artists like Renoir, Monet, and my all-time favorite, Van Gogh.

Here's Le Moulin de la Galette, still around today, which appeared in one of Renoir's famous paintings, Bal du Moulin de la Galette.

I kept walking, looking for a place to have a coffee, and for whatever reason, my sight rested on an interesting doorplate on my left.

I stopped dead on my tracks.

I ended up at Rue L'epic where Van Gogh lived with the most enabling of brothers, Theo.  It was the house Van Gogh lived in!  I ran into it and I wasn't even looking for it!  (Van Gogh is my absolute favorite of the impressionists.  See my post on the just reopened Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam here.)
I wondered for a second who lives there now and if any traces of Van Gogh's torment remain.  Did he leave any personal possessions behind?  A forgotten brush?  What is it like living in the same house as Vincent Van Gogh?  Does his spirit still linger in those four walls?

I snapped a few more photos and talked myself out of ringing the bell (my French is not that good - I can't explain myself to the police in French).  I kept walking, found a cafe, sat, and people watched.  Across the street, I could see the bustle of the markets.

Here are a few more pictures of our temporary Parisian neighborhood, sans the Sacre Couer (some of those pictures from last year are here).

This was our neighborhood bakery where there seems to be always a line. I met the baker one day while buying my pastry.  I asked for an eclair and he said, "No."  I felt like I was at the soup nazi line!  I thought I said something in French that did not sound right.  It turned out he was kidding.  Whoever said that the French do not possess a sense of humor could be mistaken since my experience of them has been positive thus far!

Coming up... Les Puces... The Parisian Flea Market!

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