Thursday, 30 April 2009

Montmartre (Part I): Artists, Writers and Other Dissolutes

I didn't think much of Moulin Rouge as a film, but I did like the depiction of Montmartre. Somehow, the idea of a village within Paris that was home to writers, painters, drinkers and artists seemed incurably romantic. And I'm a card-carrying pragmatist.

Even the hotel and street names in Montmartre are artistic. I stayed in the Hotel Utrillo, on rue Aristide Bruant:

Aristide Bruant by Toulose-Lautrec

Armed (again) with Historic Paris Walks, I began my tour down at the bottom of Montmartre, where the real-life Moulin Rouge now boasts (natch) a convenient souvenir shop where tourists can anything from Moulin Rouge key rings to Moulin Rouge umbrellas, via Moulin Rouge baseball caps.

The Moulin Rouge today. And not a hint of Ewan McGregor or Nicole Kidman anywhere...

The Elysée Montmartre, another 'Belle-Epoque' cabaret, hasn't fared quite as well

The permanent residents of Montmartre must have extremely shapely and well-toned legs. The village is on a hill, many of the streets are cobbled and narrow, and there is a network of steps to take you up and down:

You know it's good for you!

Up at the top of Montmartre, the Dali Espace Montmartre (hosting an exhibition in 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of his "disappearance") is at No. 1 Rue Poulbot. This being Montmartre, Francisque Poulbot was an artist in his own right. He's most well known for his cartoon-style pictures of Parisian urchins, so much so that the word 'Poulbot' entered the French language to indicate a 'Montmartrois' child.

(This, incidentally, is quite a big deal. The Academie Française keeps an iron grip on the language to prevent any untoward (read: English) words creeping in).

A 'Poulbot', in both senses of the word

What's the point of being a starving artist/writer if you don't have any good stories? Or anybody to tell them to? Or, more to the point, a place where you can tell them? Montmartre boasts 2 such places: Le Consulat and La Bonne Franquette. These are right next door to each other (there was strong competition for the custom of starving, broke artists).

The Impressionist group of Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Cézanne, Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec all hung out here. Van Gogh painted at La Bonne Franquette. Emile Zola developed an attitude here (I'm guessing). Woody Allen, amongst others, has filmed here.

La Bonne Franquette

Le Consulat

But there's always one person who has to spoil it for everybody. In Montmartre's case (IMHO) this came in the shape of M. Louis Renault, who saw fit to test his new petrol-fired automobile in the Place du Tertre, thus marking the beginning of the French motor industry. The petrol heads had arrived!

Shortly followed by the first parking ticket

Words and Pictures © Louise Heal 2009


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Thank you for sharing I wish I could go somwhere.

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