The timing for us to be in Montmartre was perfect – Angela and I were celebrating an anniversary, and it was her birthday, so celebrating in the heart of the 18th arrondissement seemed like a great choice. Our first view of Sacré Cœur (also known as The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris), confirmed our choice – this place is stunning.
We arrived in Montmartre via Metro, getting off at the Place de Clichy station. The problem with getting off at the Place de Clichy is that it’s flat, and gives you a false sense of security. As you begin to explore Montmartre you realize quickly that this place is hilly. Really hilly. Misty Mountains hilly. If you go walking in this part of the city make sure to stretch first, lest you pull a hammy. But more on that later.
Finding our way out of Place de Clichy, we immediately began walking in the wrong direction from our hotel. I’d love to say it was because we were working on picking up some extra steps for my Fitbit, but the reality was we’d read the map wrong. It was hot, we had all of our bags, so those extra steps were well earned. No matter, after about half a kilometre we realized our mistake and turned around. Ten minutes later we were checking in at our hotel, the B Montmartre (formerly known as the Hotel Beausejour Montmartre). We were greeted warmly by Patrycja, the desk agent on staff, and thus would begin three days and two nights in one of the finest boutique hotels I’ve stayed at.
With Patrycja, B Hotel, 18th Arrondissement
Patrycja, upon learning it was a special occasion for Angela and I, upgraded us to a room with a private balcony and a fantastic, luxurious bathroom. She was amazing, and treated us well during our entire stay. The other staff was also extremely helpful – everyone there seemed to enjoy people, which makes a massive difference when staying thousands of miles from home.
Every morning we had a fantastic breakfast buffet which included a wide variety of dishes, from eggs and bacon to various breads, cheeses, fruit, cereals, yogurt – they pretty much had it all. We ate inside one day and outside in the courtyard the next. The breakfast bar doubles as a regular bar at night.
Some of you know that I am occasionally invited to stay at hotels in exchange for coverage – not in this case. I’m raving about Hotel B because I loved it, and they had no idea that I write about travel (until I left).
Spoiled by our central location, we couldn’t wait to get out there and explore. First on the list was Sacré Cœur. Patrycja told us it was walkable in about fifteen minutes from the Hotel B, which is probably true if you hoof it straight up there with no stops. But we like to take our time and check stuff out when we’re in a new neighbourhood, so we got a kick out of exploring the area.
Along the way we crossed a bridge where we got a great look down at the Montmartre Cemetery, where more than 20,000 burial plots exist. Degas, Truffaut, Michael Berger, and many other famous people are buried there. It’s the third largest cemetery in Paris, and it prepared us for our trip the next day to Le Père Lachaise (post coming soon). The graveyards in this city can be massive, the monuments works of art unto themselves.
Passing the graveyard, the flat terrain turned hilly and we began the climb upwards. The hill towards Sacré Cœur is deceptive, because there’s plenty to see along the way, so it doesn’t feel like you’re climbing at first. But the hill is no joke, trust me.
We passed plenty of shops and cafes, each one exhibiting that Parisian flair that makes even the simplest of streets seem interesting. The look of this shop caught Angela’s eye…
…while this cafe stood out for me.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong. People take real pride in their window displays, and small business still thrives in this French metropolis.
As you work your way upwards towards the basilica, you’ll come across a square full of artists. Known as Place du Tertre, it’s also the first place you can get a glimpse of Sacré Cœur. It’s nice to watch painters and sketch artists work, but it’s also the point where your peaceful hike ends and you’ll start to be harassed by people wanting to draw you. It’s okay, though, and since you’re trying to catch your breath from the hill climb, you won’t be able to answer them anyway. Just wave your hands around while you huff and puff and they’ll go away, confused, or judge you mercilessly about your fitness level. Either way, they’ll leave you alone.
We enjoyed the activity of the square and it all felt very quintessentially French.
We left the Place du Tertre, turned the corner, and got our first glimpse of the city below. Sacré Cœur is placed at the highest land point in Paris, so the views are pretty great. It’s hard to stay focused on the city, though, when the basilica is right in front of you. I had seen pictures of Sacré Cœur, but they don’t really do it justice.
With our action-packed schedule we didn’t have time to go inside, something I wish we had been able to do, but it was a worthwhile experience just the same. We did sit down on the steps and watch a harp player entertain the masses. And in the basilica, the masses entertained the harp players (and everyone else; masses run throughout the day at set times).
We journeyed down the front steps to the base of the hill, where a carousel spun, much to the delight of the little ones. And to the big ones who still love carousels.
I kind of dropped the ball on this pic, and didn’t get the effect I was looking for. That’s the thing about travel photography – you might only have one opportunity to get the shot. Even so, there’s a moving carousel, the basilica in the background, and plenty of attentive Parisians and tourists. In some ways, it works better than what I saw in my head. Here’s to happy accidents.
That night we wandered around Montmartre and checked out some of the highlights, including Moulin Rouge. We were there just as the sun was going down.
Sadly, they didn’t ask me inside to dance. I have a killer high kick. Disappointments aside, we found a nice restaurant on the corner with a patio and enjoyed a long dinner, watching the world go by. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Day 2 in Montmartre was broken up a bit, by time spent at the Louvre (true, outside of Montmartre, but pretty convenient via bus) and at Printemps, which is actually in the 9th arrondissement on Boulevard Haussmann, but is close enough to count for this post.
Printemps is a high end luxury department store, and while we enjoyed shopping a bit we were really there for two things – the views up on the roof of the beauty-home store, and lunch under the dome in the men’s store (there is a third building that houses the women’s store – this place is huge).
At Printemps, we made our way up to the rooftop where they have a restaurant and panoramic terrace. The views are fantastic.
You can see most of Paris from here, with an almost 360 degree view of the city. Not a bad view of the Eiffel Tower, either:
You can also see across to the men’s store, which is where we were headed next for lunch under the dome at the Brasserie Printemps.
We were encouraged to eat there by Angela’s friend, Ida, who never misses a chance to visit when she’s in Paris. It was a great suggestion, because this place is stunning.
It’s impossible not to keep looking up – the thousands of pieces of coloured glass are brilliant.
The food was excellent, but not cheap – expect to pay for the view as well as the food. Our server was friendly and he seemed to appreciate that we were determined to speak French with him. Angela’s actually quite good, but my French is rusty at best. Even so, we made it through and wound up with the food we thought we were ordering, so we must have done okay.
We finished up with a chocolate from Angelina’s – that’s what I call Angela half the time, so we got a kick out of it. It was a perfect way to wrap up our time in this part of the city.
Next up – the museums!
Have you been to Montmartre or some of the other spots in this post? What did you think? Leave comments below – cheers!