Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exploring the 18th

When I was in Paris in September Forest was in the process of moving to a small apartment in the 18th arrondissement, an area I hadn't spent much time in before but was excited to explore. The area is know mainly as Montmartre and is home to the gorgeous Sacre Coeur basilica and it's equally gorgeous views of the city.

Originally this area wasn't a part of Paris proper and it's inhabitants saw themselves living in a distinct and raucous village. It wasn't until 1860 that Montmartre was annexed and even today the area has it's own mayor. It's been home to many famous artists such as Picasso, Dali and Toulouse Lautrec. With artists comes nightlife and who isn't aware of the nightlife that was the Moulin Rouge? This is also the area that the Russians occupied in 1814 during the Peninsular War. Many believe the term bistro came about from the Russian word bystro which means quickly- therefore referring to the restaurants here as places to get a quick bite.

Enough of the history lessons! The 18th today is jammed with tourists at the base of Sacre Coeur where Forest's apartment is. Con men have their tables set up in the street to entice you to try your luck at finding the disc that has the white bottom (like a ball under the shell routine). Souvenir shops line the road from the metro stop to Square Willette park. You step outside Forest's front door and are immediately in the mass of guided tours, people taking pictures, vendors hawking goods- they seem surprised that you just emerged from this little door that no one had noticed until then.

When we went to Le Tres Particulier we climbed the hill on it's west side. As we left we wandered the streets north and east, climbing up to it's tip top and ending up on Rue Norvins. This is a lively area and beautiful at dusk. The very old and famous restaurant (once cabaret) Le Consulat greeted us.

We continued across the top, finally walking behind the basilica and started down the east slope. Our destination was a little cafe with a wonderful outdoor terrace called L'ete en Pente Douce. This little spot is at the top of the stairs on Rue Paul Albert and was recommended to me by my cab driver when I arrived from the airport- she lives in the 18th also. We stopped here with friends after dinner and enjoyed cognacs outside, the night still warm but starting to have the feel of fall chill.

The area is filled with boutiques, wine shops, bistros, bars, fromageries, the well know Marche St Pierre, and even an American style diner. And of course the Moulin Rouge. It is really interesting for exploring and I would recommend anyone who hasn't veered off the beaten path in the 18th to take some time and do so.

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