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Villages in Paris – the Villa Leandre

On the north east side of the Butte Montmartre, away from the crowds, step off the avenue Junot and all of a sudden you can find yourself transported onto an English street. This small cobbled street is very untypical of both Montmartre and Paris, with its brick houses with steep pitched roofs and their own front gardens. Originally lived in by artists and actors (Michel Piccoli apparently bought No. 10 for Juliette Greco – she never lived there), it’s now some of the most expensive real estate in Paris.

The Villa was built in 1926, most houses have been in the same families for generations. Before it was built, there were windmills at the bottom of the street. Residents tell of how it was lived in by both German soldiers and resistance fighters during the war. Nowadays it’s a calm and quiet haven, visited sometimes by film crews, a world away from the city surrounding it.

  • Villa Leandre, between 23 and 27 Avenue Junot, 75018 Paris. metro: Lamarck Caulaincourt

A walk around Montmartre

Montmartre can be a complete tourist trap. I wonder if it isn’t possibly the single biggest disappointment for many visitors to Paris. Yet Montmartre is beautiful, it’s a village lost in time, the Paris of years gone by, lived in not only by famous, sometimes almost mythical ghosts, but by real people who are passionate about their little piece of Paris, and who love and nurture it. You just have to know where to go, and where not to.

Start at the back of the ‘Butte’ – the hill that Montmartre sits upon. Walk up from Lamarck Caulaincourt and you will find yourself in the heart of the village. See the Maison Rose, the pink house made famous by Utrillo’s painting, pass the Lapin Agile, the (in)famous Cabaret (still in existence today) where Picasso and others would drink and pay with paintings as they were penniless (did you know in 1905 Picasso gave a painting – ‘Au Lapin Agile: l’Arlequin au verre’ to the owner, Frédé, who later sold it for $20 – in 1989 it sold for $41 million and is now in the Met in New York…Picasso is the Harlequin and Frédé is playing the guitar). Don’t miss the beautiful vineyard, and if you want to learn more about the area and it’s fascinating history, pop into the wonderful Montmartre Museum.

I personally think the views of the Sacré Coeur from the back are the most beautiful.

Sacre Coeur-Montmartre-Paris

I have to be honest I’m not a big fan of the Place du Tertre (the Artist’s square with all the painters), but it is interesting to walk through and will take you down the front of the ‘Butte’ towards Abbesses, which is another very interesting part of Montmartre, much more lively and full of wonderful food shops and cafés, including the bakery that won the highly coveted ‘Best baguette in Paris 2015′! Don’t miss Jean Marais’ sculpture of the Man Who Walked through Walls (read the story by Marcel Aymé), the old windmills known as the Moulin de la Galette, originally for grinding flour (Montmartre had many of them in the days when it was a village outside Paris) and later a dance hall immortalised by Renoir amongst others  – check out his famous painting in the Musée d’Orsay. Also stop by the Bateau Lavoir, once the studios of Picasso, Max Jacob, Modigliani, Juan Gris and the birthplace of cubism.

Finish on the rue des Abbesses and the rue Lepic. Fans of the film Amelie Poulain can see the Café des Deux Moulins where she worked and the grocery store Collignon, if you haven’t seen it, make sure you watch it after your visit! The ‘I love you wall’ is also at Abbesses, and is fun to look at – a wall that we normally would associate with being a symbol of separation and barriers is transformed into a place of love and sharing.

Montmartre is one of my favourite parts of Paris. Whilst up there recently I met a 93 year old lady who told me she had lived there since 1933, and that nothing much had changed – except that maybe there were a few more cars! Get some comfortable shoes on (there are cobblestones everywhere) and a street map, and lose yourself in a part of Paris that is different to any other.

  • metro Lamarck Caulaincourt or Abbesses. if you prefer to go up via the Moulin Rouge, take the metro to Blanche.

 

 

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Open days – Artists studios from Anvers to Abbesses

This weekend it was the turn of 120 artists living and working in the 9th and 18th arrondissements – between approximately Anvers and Abbesses – to open their workshops, galleries, shops and sometimes even their homes to the public. Organised by the artists association ‘d’Anvers aux Abbesses’ it takes place each year on the 3rd weekend of November, and this year celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

It’s a wonderful way to spend a day – you get to explore areas that you may not otherwise visit, to step into hidden courtyards, down tiny stairways into workshops, or go up the stairs into apartments and studios, all filled with amazing works of contemporary art. More than that, it’s a chance to meet the artists, to talk to them about their work, buy works if you wish and show them your support.

The association organizing the weekend provides a free, easy to follow map with a list of all the artists and their mediums. You can wander around and visit as many or as few as you like, in any order. The area around Montmartre is also full of lively cafés and restaurants and there are plenty of places to stop and relax between visits. On a beautiful crisp, sunny day like today, Paris is at her creative and beautiful best.

Anvers aux Abbesses artists association website (in French)

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La Villa des Arts

Hidden on a small street in the 18th arrondissement, at the foot of Montmartre cemetery, I discovered (again thanks to the Journées du Patrimoine) a beautiful and fascinating building, La Villa des Arts.  Built in 1888, the Villa des Arts has been home to artists such as Cezanne (he painted the Portrait of Ambroise Vollard here), Renoir and Picabia, to name but a few, and has witnessed almost every artistic movement through the work of its residents. Famous visitors to the artists in residence included Picasso, Joan Miro, Gertrude Stein, André Breton… Fellini also came here, filming Les Clowns, as did other cineastes such as James Ivory for his film Quartet.

The Villa consists of a group of artists studios set around a pretty courtyard garden. Belonging to the same family since 1888, in 2007 it was bought and renovated by the City of Paris – saved by its residents who formed an association to prevent real estate agents from buying and breaking up the studios. Today it is still home to artists of all kinds – painters, sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, writers and poets, and part of the building is also let out as social housing. In order to be able to rent one of the studios, you have to be a working artist, and apply via the Ville de Paris. It can be a long and complicated process, but it ensures that buildings such as these are preserved and remain true to their vocation.

Inside we were able to admire the magnificent monumental staircase, and beautiful ironwork on the balustrades and in the structure.

And finally, to really understand the size and scope of the Villa des Arts, head around to the rue Ganneron, from where you get a spectacular view of the studios overlooking the Montmartre Cemetery.

La Villa des Arts_Paris

 

There is also a gallery, run by the Association to promote the work of their artist members. Check out their Facebook page and website for information about events and visits. The Villa is not open to the public generally, but will open for special events such as the Journées du Patrimoine, and also occasionally for weekend visits guided by one of the residents.

  • La Villa des Arts, 15 rue Hégésippe Moreau, 75018 Paris. metro: La Fourche

Website (in French)

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A vineyard in Montmartre

If you find yourself on the wrong side of Montmartre, it can seem like a nightmarish tourist trap. But get yourself around the back, and it’s like stepping back in time. One of the many very charming aspects of this neighbourhood, is that it is home to the oldest vineyard in the city. In the heart of Montmartre, on a small slope surrounded by houses, is a beautiful little corner of French countryside.

The presence of vines in Montmartre goes officially back to 944, and many say even to Roman times. In the 18th century three quarters of the hill of Montmartre was covered with vines. At that time Montmartre was outside of the city of Paris, and so not subject to its taxes, making the wine (and rents) cheap and so attracting the artists, dance halls and cabarets that the area became so famous for.

These vines are actually fairly recent, planted in 1933 thanks to a local association who got together to try and save the plot of land from urbanization and to replant the vines which had traditionally grown there. The wine is called Clos Montmartre, not an exceptional wine – the vines face north, the soil is not really suitable and neither is the Parisian weather! However it’s very popular, probably due the very limited quantities made – there are only around 1750 vines, making approximately 1700 bottles – and sells for around 50€ a bottle currently. All the money from the sales of the wine go to local charities. The wine is actually made in the basement of the town hall of the 18th arrondissement! It’s the only town hall that has a license to make alcohol. The wine label changes each year and is designed by a different local artist each time.

Clos Montmartre wineEach year at the end of October the ‘Fete des Vendanges’ or harvest festival is celebrated. it’s a huge street party, featuring processions, music, dance, food and of course wine. The vineyard is not open to the public. You can book a visit as a group through the Montmartre Tourist Office, but it’s pricey. However you can see it easily from the street, and can get some fantastic views of it from the garden of the Montmartre Museum where you can get right up close. The vineyard is also carefully planted with fruit trees, flowers and aromatic herbs – it’s very beautiful at any time of year. If you’re spending time in Montmartre, make sure you get away from the crowds at the Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre, and don’t miss the Clos Montmartre.

  • corner of rue St Vincent and rue des Saules, 75018 Paris

website for Fete des Vendanges (in French)

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The Montmartre Museum

Today I visited one of the most charming museums in the city, in one of the most charming areas of the city – Montmartre (if you avoid the tourist traps around the Sacré Coeur and the Place du Tertre then Montmartre is gorgeous). The Montmartre Museum was created in 1960 in the oldest building on the Montmartre hill, and has recently been completely refurbished and the gardens redesigned.

Set in two buildings that have been homes and studios to the likes of Renoir, Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valado and her son Maurice Utrillo, it’s now home to a collection of artworks that tell the story of the artistic life of Montmartre – its cabarets, studios, cafés and those who frequented them. The caretakers lodge was also home to Pere Tanguy; artists such as Picasso, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh would get their art supplies at his shop nearby. If they couldn’t afford to pay him they would give him one of their paintings instead.

You are also treated to an up close and very beautiful view of the Montmartre vineyard (yes they still grow grapes there, and the wine is made in the cellars of the town hall, another post to follow on that!)

Montmartre Museum: Paris

 

And finally you can visit Utrillo’s studio, which has been reconstructed as it was when he lived there until 1926 with his mother Suzanne Valadon.

There is a lovely café in the gardens (closed for a few weeks for refurbishment but due to reopen shortly). The Montmartre Museum is not only a fascinating visit, but also a haven of peace and quiet beauty away from the crowds nearby.

  • Musée de Montmartre, 12 rue Cortot, 75018 Paris. metro: Lamarck Caulaincourt or Abesses

Open daily 10:00 – 18:00.

The Montmartre Museum

Parisian metro entrances

I love the way that in Paris the everyday can be beautiful. Things that we take forgranted can become a pleasure to look at if we just take the time to notice them. Metro entrances are a great example. The iconic green art nouveau ones were designed at the beginning of the 20th century by Hector Guimard, and have become synonymous with the city of Paris just like the Wallace fountains. Apparently when they were inaugurated the Parisians were afraid to go down into the metro, thinking that the orange lights looked like 2 huge eyes leading you down into a monstrous dark mouth. But apart from these very famous ones, look around you at all the other styles in the city. They have evolved over the years, and still continue to do so. I like to take pictures of them whenever I see a nice one, below a few that I particularly like, but there are many, many more!

 

Rose Bakery

Much as I love French pastries, sometimes it’s really nice to have a taste of home. Rose Bakery has managed the seemingly impossible and seduced the Parisians with their British cakes, lunches and brunches. It was the carrot cake that initially made them popular, and people keep coming back for the fresh, organic, homemade food and juices. All the ingredients are sourced locally and change with the seasons, or even daily depending on what is delivered. The kitchenware is handmade and comes from a cooperative in Norfolk. The food is simple, fresh and delicious.

Part café, part grocery shop, you can eat in or take away. Weekend brunches and lunch times are especially popular, go early if you want to be sure to find a table. The atmosphere is relaxed and laid back and the decor minimalist.

There are now 3 Rose Bakeries in Paris, the original one here on rue des Martyrs, one in the Marais and one inside the Bon Marché department store. They are also a great place to pick up English teabags, Marigold bouillon (which I have not managed to find anywhere else in Paris) and some great recipe books.

  • 46 rue des Martyrs, 75009 Paris. metro: St Georges
  • 30 rue Debelleyme, 75003 Paris. metro: Filles du Calvaire
  • le Bon Marché, 24 rue de Sevres, 75007 Paris. metro Sevres Babylone

An art gallery and café at the foot of Montmartre – La Halle Saint Pierre

Montmartre can be pretty crowded, especially in the summer, tourists and hawkers are everywhere and sometimes it can feel a bit too much. However, it’s a beautiful part of the city and not to be missed, and it’s not because the Place du Tertre is crowded that you can’t find a quiet place frequented by locals where you can relax and feel a bit more like a local yourself. Try La Halle Saint Pierre, it’s just a stone’s throw away.

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The Halle is a wonderful example of a 19th century metallic ‘Balthard’ building, and used to be a market, then a school. Now it’s home to a contemporary art gallery. As well as hosting a permanent collection of Naive art, it also hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts, lectures and conferences, and houses a great café and a fantastic bookshop.

Pop in for a coffee or lunch whilst you’re in the area, it’s a perfect antidote to the crowds outside, and could be just what you need before or after climbing the ‘Butte’.

Open daily 11.00 – 6.00

  • Halle Saint Pierre, 2 rue Ronsard, 75018 Paris, metro Anvers or Barbes Rochechouart

Halle Saint Pierre website