Our final day in Paris had arrived and what better way to start it off than a sleepy breakfast in bed of pain au chocolat, orange juice and half a sweet marzipan tart. I cannot get enough of all the amazing bakery goods, and all for the reasonable price of 7 Euros for 2 people. It was nice to spend an hour eating in bed and chilling out for a while enjoying the wonder of eating pastries for breakfast in Paris. However, this couldn’t last all day and after we had enjoyed a chilled out hour, we packed up and headed for the metro to meet our waking tour in Montmartre.
After disembarking at Blanche metro we met our guide Margot, who would be taking us on a walking tour of the Montmartre area. I am a big fan of the free city walks available in most European cities and wanted to take full advantage of this great way to explore a new part of the city. The tour company is called Discover Walks and after Margot introduced herself to the group she started the tour by explaining how Montmartre never used to be a part of the city of Paris and that 200 years ago there was a city wall running through the heart of the area that kept Montmartre outside the city limits and therefore free of taxes. As a result a lot of the cabarets that are situated here now became stationed here due to the fact that drinking ad merriment was cheaper as all products sold outside the city did not have to pay the city tax. We walked over to the Moulin Rouge and she explained about the history of the club and the fact that al the performers were prostitutes. This is not the case now when tickets for each show can sell at up to 300 Euros a pop! Tourism has definitely classed Montmartre up.
We then waked up to the Amelie café where we learned that Amelie used to be the most watched French film ever, before The Intouchables ousted it from the top spot in 2011. The café has been left as authentic as possible and we decided to come back here for lunch to check out the inside later. As we climbed the steep hills of Montmartre Margot pointed out the best places to get good quality French produce, the best baguettes (which is an award won each year by one bakery and thereafter they provide all the baguettes to the president for the year until the next winner is crowned the following year) and Boulangerie Coquelicot which serves breakfast until 5pm and was the regular haunt of artist Picasso who resided across the road in small studio Le Bateau Lavoir before he found fame and during his years of rising to the top. The studio is still open to artists to apply to now.
From here we turned off the tourist trail and started to explore the beautiful properties that make up the area. We started with the mansion that was owned by Dalida – the famous French singer and learned about her heartbreaking love life coupled with her extreme fame – resulting in a death which saddened the nation. Margot was a great story teller and she knew some great nooks and crannies to look in for views of some of the most expensive real estate in Paris. The gardens and parks were really beautiful and there were some intriguing statues such as the man who is frozen in time in a wall. The story goes he was given the power to run through walls with the catch that no-one must see him using this power. However, he used it to follow a love of his who looked back to see who was following her and bazaam, he was immortalised in the wall forever more. The stories and anecdotes really gave a sense of life in this part of the city and certainly added to the enjoyment of the tour.
However, the piste de resistance was yet to come and as we turned away from the crowds and walked down a back street heading further still away from the city, passing a small vineyard, the only one located within the city limits and I am told the best cabaret club in Paris, we arrived at another lovely park with some beautiful views of the Sacre Coeur, or Sacred Heart. We felt like locals having the luxury of the fantastic view free from the crowds which congregate out of the front of the building. At this point we said goodbye to Margot and paid 25 Euros for 2 people for the tour, although it is a free tour the guide has to pay to have the honour of taking you and so when they are good a generous tip is deserved, and walked around the huge Basilica to the front for some wonderful views out over the city, surrounded by a hundred million tourists. After taking some photographs we headed down the steep steps and made our way back to our starting point of the tour.
This was perhaps easier said than done, but using my excellent map skills (and refusing to pay for another day of international data roaming) we arrived back at the Amelie café – Café des 2 Moulins – where we were seated straightaway at a small cute table near the window. They had a reasonably priced lunch menu and so we both ordered the Beef Stroganoff from this as well as a tuna tartare to start and a Chambord Royale for me to match my tuna. The Raspberry in the royale really brought a sweetness to the champagne which went well with the sharp tartare. It was fantastic and the glass of Saint Emillion Bordeaux went perfectly with the beef. It was a great cheap meal and somewhere I would definitely recommend if you are in this area of Paris and looking to eat/grab a cocktail or coffee. Again, we sat for a while watching the Parisian world go by before jumping on the metro down to the river to catch a river cruise with Vedettes du Pont Neuf.
I had reservations about the River Cruise and if I am honest would much rather have spent the day wandering the streets of Montmartre. However, after a very hectic weekend sitting for a couple of hours watching Paris float by didn’t seem too awful. The cruises depart regularly and luckily just as we arrived we were able to buy tickets, do a quick toilet stop before getting the last few available seats on the open top deck of the boat. As we were sitting awaiting the boats departure I was actually quite looking forward to the trip!
However, as we made our way along the Seine past the Louvre (almost completely covered by the trees on the riverbank) I started to understand why I had had the reservations. We got quite a good view of the Musee d’Orsay but unfortunately, our guide was clearly reading off a script timed to the hurried pace of the boat and although some of her observations of the buildings we passed were interesting, none were anything I couldn’t have learned from reading a guide book. The speed of the boat also in turn meant that the air chill was a few degrees colder and so after we had reached the Eiffel Tower and our turn around point my mum was so cold she retired indoors to the heat where the views were through small plastic glass windows. The guide even managed a 10 minute break as we cruised back down the section she had just spoke about on the way upriver. After we passed Notre Dame I retired from the cold too and soon enough the hour cruise was over and we were making our way back to pick up our luggage and grab a crepe. Would I recommend the boat cruise – no. Is it the worst sightseeing thing I have ever done in my life, probably not.
We had decided to head back to Republique to be near to the hotel and metro for getting back to the airport. We traipsed around for a good 25 minutes before eventually stumbling upon a creperie right next to the metro exit – our luck was overflowing today. I had the white and milk chocolate crepe which was delicious with a Parisian espresso. It was delicious and warming and exactly what I needed to pick me up after the chilly boat ride. Unfortunately however, time was ticking on and while I would have loved to sit in the creperie watching the world go by, instead we had to battle the crowds on the airport train back to Charles de Gaulle. The train takes about 45 minutes and we stood until one stop from our terminal building. It was a very long ride but at least we made it, when we had first tried to catch the metro to Gard du Nord we had to let 4 trains go before we could manage to squeeze onto one of them!
I treated myself to some wine and olives in the airport and a Limited Edition Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne. Paris had been wonderful as expected. It is a city I could visit every weekend for a year and still find new and enthralling places every time. It is somewhere I will continue to visit for the rest of my life, if only for the acceptability of ordering champagne cocktails at breakfast.