Best of Paris Itinerary: This morning we’ll hop on the Métro, then hike up Montmartre to tour the colorful neighborhood which was the haunt of artistic geniuses a century ago—including Van Gogh, Picasso, and Renoir—and generations of hopeful artists since. We’ll end our walk with spectacular views of Paris from the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. You’ll be free for lunch and have time to explore more of the city on your own this afternoon. We’ll regroup this evening to enjoy a wine tasting and dinner together before embarking on a dreamy Seine River cruise. Boat: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Tuesday, May 3: Bon Anniversaire!
What a happy coincidence that on my birthday our tour was scheduled to go to Montmartre, site of the Moulin Rouge and one of my favorite films, Amelie. It was surreal to walk through the cobblestone streets and hear an accordion playing a tune I know so well from the soundtrack … I kept expecting Amelie to appear and lead me on a little tour.
We met our tour guide at the top of a tram ride to picturesque Montmartre – he kept us entertained with many bad puns and colorful stories about the history of this artists’ village. During the Belle Époque, many artists had studios or worked in this area, including Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro and Vincent van Gogh. It was an absolute thrill to be in this place with so much artistic history and inspiration. We also saw locations from the films Amelie and Paris, je t’aime.
After the tour, Mom and I had lunch at Amelie’s restaurant, Café des Deux Moulins (of course!) – and I was sitting about in the place where she is cleaning the glass behind the object of her affection. ❤️ After lunch, we did a little window shopping, and stopped for crème brûlée and espresso. Then we visited the Musée de Montmartre and Renoir Gardens. What a charming museum! Founded in 1960, the museum was built in the seventeenth century as the Bel Air House and is the oldest building in Montmartre. During its heyday, 12 rue Cortot served as a residence and meeting place for many artists including Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and Émile Bernard, who held their studios here. We got to peek into Valadon’s apartment, and got goosebumps. In the garden, you can see the actual swing depicted in Renoir’s The Swing. More goosebumps.
We spent the afternoon exploring the museum, and I especially enjoyed the number of black cats I saw in the Chat Noir exhibit. The afternoon flew by, and I realized we’d better get ourselves back to the hotel in time for wine tasting. We retraced our steps to the Metro stop where we had arrived with the tour group – uh-oh – we couldn’t find it, and the streets seemed unfamiliar. After getting jostled by an aggressive street hustler, we almost chickened out and just called a taxi. In our stressed-out wanderings, we finally happened upon a different Metro stop, and figured out a route to return to home base. Whew! 😓
Back at our hotel, a wine and cheese tasting event had just started. Mom went to the room to rest, and I let some delicious French wines take the edge off. 🍷 We regrouped for dinner with our tour group at Bistro Saint Cirgues. This sweet family restaurant served up risotto with mushrooms for dinner, followed by a waffle with strawberries for dessert … mine came with a candle and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday from our new friends. Paris is a great place to celebrate!
We finished the evening with a cruise on the Seine River. I wouldn’t describe a boat tour packed with high-energy teenagers and tourists as “dreamy”. However, this offered a unique and lovely perspective on the city at twilight, and it was a real treat to see the twinkly lights of the Eiffel Tower on the hour. Just as I was about to take a video of the spectacular light show event with Patrick’s camera, it ran out of battery! 😳 But we saw it, and it was magical. ✨