Until recently, my memories of Montmartre were hazy.
When I was still studying secondary-school French, six of us students sat in a dimly lit Parisian restaurant somewhere near an ornate Art Deco Metro station. We ordered escargots, and our steaks well-done; the meat arrived rare, and my taste buds never looked back. Aside from that, all I really remembered were the steep but charming Paris streets.
This winter I did make it back to the city’s village on a hill – the highest point in Paris – and thunder was threatening when I arrived. It didn’t matter, as not even a torrential downpour could detract from the magic of Montmartre.
“Montmartre is the most romantic part of Paris.”
Time Out describes this historic neighbourhood as “the most unabashedly romantic part of Paris.” Development is limited here, so Montmartre retains its classic Parisian charm, little changed since the 19th century when it was a well-known watering hole – home to infamous cabarets like the Moulin Rouge – and residence of renowned artists including Degas, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec.
On that rainy afternoon, all my mother and I did was meander, admiring the architecture, strolling through skinny streets and stopping to explore little shops. Whichever turn we took, the Sacré-Coeur basilica was there, peering out over Parisian rooftops.
Artists and their easels were clustered at the Place du Tertre, while locals walked leisurely along the Rue des Abbesses. Service may not have been spectacular, but the film-like scenes on every street more than made up for it – striped awnings, shuttered windows, and ivy-clad walls.
With memories refreshed, I made my way back to Le Royal Monceau. If you have an afternoon to explore the City of Light, make for Montmartre, indulge your imagination, and dream of Paris days gone by.
My stay in Paris at Le Royal Monceau was provided by Black Tomato for winning first prize in their travel writing competition, ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ You can find out how it happened on my blog, and read my story, ‘From Tianjin to Tokyo,’ here.