A walking tour of Montmartre

At 9:30 on a Sunday morning a group of VirtualTourist members met here at the Café des 2 Moulins at the suggestion of Paul Smith, who used this as the starting point for a walking tour of Montmartre.

Anyone who has seen the film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, starring Audrey Tautou, will recognize this café, because it was here that Amélie worked as a waitress.

Me with my Vélib’ bike at the café

I rode over from the Latin Quarter on Vélib’ bikes, changing bikes once on the way, and actually arrived more or less on time (within what the Germans call the “academic quarter hour”), even though I had warned Paul that 9:30 a.m. was not my usual time to be anywhere.

But the ride went really fast, since there is hardly any traffic in Paris on Sunday mornings.

(Thanks to Sonja for the photo.)

Inside Amélie’s café

Props and photos from the film

In a small display case in the café there are some props, photos and other memorabilia from the film.

VirtualTourist members having breakfast at Amélie’s café

This was in September 2011 as part of a large meeting of VirtualTourist members from all over the world. The website VirtualTourist has since been discontinued, unfortunately, but at that time it was still in operation.

VirtualTourist group in Montmartre

Starting from Amélie’s café in Rue Lepic, Paul led us on a walk through Montmartre “up to the Sacré Coeur using backstreets that miss the general run of tourists”, as he had promised in his invitation.

Walking in the rain in Montmartre

We had a leisurely walk through some picturesque streets such as rue Cauchois, rue Véron, rue Germain Pilon, rue des Abbesses, rue Ravignan, rue d’Orchampt, rue Giradon, rue Norvins, avenue Junot and rue des Saules, which gradually led us up to the top of the hill.

The I-love-you wall

In the Square Jehan Rictus at the Place des Abbesses there is a blue tiled wall with the words “I love you” written in more than 250 languages and dialects.

These were collected by a French musician and artist named Frederic Baron, who (according to the wall’s website) “began his project in 1992 by wandering the streets of Paris and asking people to write these words in their mother tongue. Baron feels he has toured the world without ever leaving Paris.”

A few of the many ways to say “I love you”

At first I thought the German sentence was grammatically incorrect, but that turned out to be some other language entirely, and I found a correct German sentence in the bottom right corner.

Above the blue tiled wall

Above the “I love you” wall there is a painting (added later by someone else, I believe) of a woman in a long blue dress saying: aimer c’est du désordre… alors aimons! Which means “Loving is disorder… so let’s love.”

VirtualTourist group in the rain at Square Jehan Rictus

The square was named after an anarchist poet (1867-1933) who used the pseudonym Jehan-Rictus and belonged to the chaotic Bohemian poetic scene in Montmartre starting in the 1880s.

Buskers at Place des Abbesses

The British and Australians have a nice word for street musicians: buskers. I was surprised to find these guys playing in the rain, since most musicians I know are very careful not to let their instruments get wet and pack up at the first sign of a shower.

Le Bateau Lavoir

Here at Place Émile-Goudeau there used to be a collection of flimsy, run-down buildings where dozens of famous or soon-to-be-famous artists lived and worked starting in the 1890s. Among the residents were Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Maurice Utrillo.

The original buildings burned down in 1970 and have been replaced, but in the window at the front there is an interesting display about the artists who once lived and worked here.

Bust of Dalida with VirtualTourist members

The singer and actress Dalida (Yolanda Gigliotti) lived in Montmartre for the last twenty-five years of her life. Ten years after her death a little square at the corner of rue Girardon and rue Abreuvoir was named Place Dalida, and a life-size bronze bust of her was set up. The bust was made by the sculptor Aslan (Alain Aslan, born 1930), who also made a statue of Dalida for her grave in Montmartre cemetery.

Dalida’s house in Montmartre

Dalida publicly supported François Mitterrand during the French presidential election campaign in 1981. Inevitably there were rumors (probably true) that Dalida and Mitterrand were having an affair during the two years prior to his election.

On the wall by her house there is a plaque that reads: “DALIDA lived in this house from 1962 to 1987. Her friends in Montmartre will not forget her.”

My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2019.

Next: The man who could walk through walls.

6 thoughts on “A walking tour of Montmartre”

  1. I remember that he told me was going to do the walk in my suggestion…………;but was out of VT by then. Nice pictures and I am sure lots of memories for you. Cheers

  2. Great to see so many familiar VT friends 🙂 I was supposed to be at this meet but had to pull out at short notice because of back problems and I always regretted missing it

    1. Sarah, too bad you weren’t able to come that time. It really was a fine meeting, well attended and with a number of fine activities. I’ll do some more posts about it as time permits.

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