Jo’s Monday walk : Discovering Montmartre

Where else but the Moulin Rouge?

Where else but the Moulin Rouge?

Whenever I visit a new city I like to take a guided walk with a local.  You might remember that in Barcelona I accompanied Aleksandra on an eye-opening tour of the old side.  Paris was no exception.

A couple of my blogging friends are Paris experts and Lucy at On the Luce has a great post on which I spotted Discover Walks.  I was tempted by several of the choices, and so it was that, last Monday, I met Olivier.  A personable and very charming 20 year old, I knew at the outset that I was going to enjoy my walk.  And it was free, apart from a tip!

We met outside Blanche Metro station, at Place Pigalle, looking directly at that Paris icon, the Moulin Rouge.  There was quite a big group of us.  Why don’t you tag along?  I promise not to give away the best stories.  You’ll have to join Olivier for those.  I should warn you that this area is very steep, but we’ll take it slowly and pause to admire the views.

With all of Paris at your feet!

With all of Paris at our feet!

We started off up Rue Lepic- a street full of shops and locals.  It was tempting to linger over some of the pastries on display, but I hoped there would be time for them later.  For now, I wanted to absorb all that Montmartre has to offer.  Originally a village, outside of the city walls, the name Montmartre derives from martyrs who once were tortured and died on this hill.  Despite being incorporated into the city of Paris in 1860, Montmartre retains a strong identity and almost a village feeling.  It’s a community to which you would love to belong.

Olivier carried with him a satchel full of goodies and it wasn’t long before he was delving in. Outside Bateau-Lavoir, on tiny Place Emile-Goudeau, he produced a copy of a painting.  In this former piano factory, in 1907, Picasso painted his Cubist ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’; a portrayal of 5 naked prostitutes, outrageous for its time.  No longer is there evidence of the squalid conditions he and his compatriots lived in, as the building has since burned down.  A replica currently marks the spot.

The facade of Le Bateau-Lavoir (laundry boat)

The facade of Le Bateau-Lavoir (laundry boat)

Artists and their haunts abound in Montmartre.  Dalida was unlucky in love.  After the suicides of three of her lovers she finally committed suicide herself.  A beautiful home isn’t everything, is it?

Around the corner another copy of a painting emerged from Olivier’s satchel.  Enthralled I looked at the windmills Van Gogh had painted, in their surrounding fields.  His countryside setting was nothing like that before me.  Once Montmartre had more than 30 windmills, used for grinding wheat and pressing grapes.  Now just two remain.  At the junction of rues Lepic and Tholoze, Moulin de la Galette is one of them.  A Michelin starred restaurant, it’s definitely a sign of the times.

Later, in the Musee d’Orsay, I was to stare wide-eyed at Renoir’s immortalisation of the windmill in ‘Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette’, so beautiful in closeup.  I can only manage a photograph.

A seat on the terrace should give you the nicest views

A seat on the terrace should give you the nicest views

Our next introduction was to a gentleman by the name of Marcel Aymé.  Have you heard of ‘The Man who walked through walls’?  No, neither had I, but there he was, protruding from the wall!  I gather that he haunts Rue Norvins by night- a good reason not to loiter.

Olivier with Dutilleul, the 'hero' of the book

Olivier with Dutilleul, the ‘hero’ of the book

A look at the Montmartre vineyard was to follow, but with strict instructions not to buy the product.  Pollution levels in Paris are apparently not conducive to producing fine wine.

The Montmartre vineyard

The Montmartre vineyard- it’s green enough, isn’t it?

And down the hill, Lapin Agile

And down the hill,  ‘Au Lapin Agile’- the nimble rabbit- a cabaret spot

It’s a green and leafy space where you can hear the birds sing.  It’s not until you start to approach the monumental church that things begin to get busy.  I could happily wander these quiet back streets but inevitably you are drawn to Place du Tertre, where all of life spills over.

Not for us the crush of the main square.  We pass through peaceful gardens and emerge behind Sacre Coeur, where Olivier shares a final few tips and bids us ‘adieu’.  A job well done!  Merci!

Gazing on the Sacre Couer

Sacre Coeur from the gardens at the rear

You know where I’m going next, don’t you?  But first let’s have a quick peek at Place du Tertre.

Too many people for me!  I’m heading right for the top.  I figure with all that practise up four flights of stairs to our apartment, 300 steps will be a piece of cake?


The church first, but I wasn't allowed to take photos

The church doorway, but I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside

Are you worn out now?  You didn’t have to climb all those steps with me!  My legs are a bit jelly, too.  I hope you enjoyed my Paris walk.  Back down is simple.  Just meander!  Many thanks to Olivier for his delightful assistance.

walking logo

I turned my back for 5 minutes this week and you walkers took off at a pace!  Please make some time to read these.  There are some superb walks here.  Put your feet up and enjoy! (and then start walking)  Click on my Monday walks logo to find out more.

Drake?  Well, he was at a quarry  :

Secluded works of art

And Jude was in her beloved Cornwall  :

Capturing Cornwall

Madhu made me sad with her wistful haveli photos  :

Lucknow- a walk in the Chowk

And Pauline introduced me to a pretty section of Canberra  :

Canberra Lakeside walk

While Amy was out chasing beautiful butterflies  :

Trail walking

The definitive London walk- you won’t want to miss it!  :

A glorious Summer’s day in London

And by way of complete contrast, Sue has us dangling in wide open spaces  :

Grassi Lakes- the Canmore jewels

Not quite so reckless but another lover of the great outdoors, join Suzan on a bear adventure  :

Close encounters of the Bear kind

Right back to London, Laura shows us a side that tourists seldom see  :

Walkabout 3- the Branch Line

I thought I was eating choux pastry with Jude.  It must have been those steps!

New Abbey Buildings

And finally my lovely Viveka in Vienna.  You will never have taken a finer tour!  :

Felt like a local

Happy walking all!  See you next week.


  1. YES! that was exhausting. 😀 I wish to have the same energy like you every time I linger around. You seem to always go far. I sense so that you’re very diligent to see the things you plan to see. The protruding man, wow! The overlooking city, wow, wow! Sacre Coeur, wow, wow, wow! The suicide, yikes!

    1. You’ve sussed me, Rommel! I’m not an easy person to ‘holiday’ with. I’m always on a bit of a mission and my poor husband has to keep pointing me in the right direction to keep me on track. (I have zilch sense of direction) He just kind of winds me up and lets me go 🙂

    1. It’s a lot better than with your head stuck in a guide book, Pauline. I get irritated if I ‘miss’ something and that takes all the pleasure out of it for me. 🙂

      1. I agree, Jack just leaves it all to me to organise but I love the idea of just following along with some one that can fill in the details with lots of stories. It brings the past alive.

  2. How lovely, Jo. I love your shots of the windmills. And I’m intrigued by Marcel Aymé (being pointed out by your easy-on-the-eyes guide. 🙂 Your collage from the top is stunning. ~Terri

    1. I Googled him when I got home, Terri (Marcel, not Olivier!) and he was quite interesting. 🙂 I might well look out for his book of short stories.
      Sacre Coeur was fabulous. Truly worth the climb. Thank you 🙂 I’m currently engrossed in Giverny.

  3. Oh, you are very stingy with shots of Oliver, aren’t you Jo? Nooooo, it doesn’t work like that. He is such a hunk and so cute! Oh well, I enjoyed the tour and it looks like you did you. I would have as well, with such a sexy tour guide. 😆

      1. So daft I just raced off around the block in pursuit of a wonderful sunset only to come back almost empty handed. You now have my fullest attention, Sue. Apologies 🙂

  4. I just spent part of my lunch break taking a walk around Montmartre with you! It was a lovely getaway.

    In real life, I’ve not been to Paris yet so I really enjoyed this little tour. Did you get the impression that this neighborhood is very touristy, or does it still retain a “local” feel?

    1. I was excited about going to Paris, Jackie, and it more than lived up to expectation.
      Montmartre certainly has a life of its own, but if you go to places like the Place du Tetre and Sacre Coeur you can’t avoid the tourists. These places are known the world over so you can’t expect to have them to yourself. But as Olivier demonstrated it is very possible to find a ‘truer’ Montmartre, complete with birdsong. 🙂

  5. You’ve shown me a part of Paris that I’ve never visited and I love it! Makes me want to go back there right away. Love the man in the wall, fascinating. We didn’t have time to visit the Sacre Coeur. You’ve really captured the charm of those peaceful Parisian streets beautifully. I love La Maison Rose, can I live there do you think? Great to catch up with you again Jo, and apologies again for being absent for so long. Wonderful walk, thank you. Time for a cuppa 🙂

    1. Thanks for joining the walking party again, Amy 🙂 Are you happy with the way I’m doing things? (that your walk appears on next week’s post) I put all of this week’s walks on my Facebook page on a Tuesday so it shares the love about a bit 🙂

      1. Next week’s spot? I am not aware at all… So sorry if I have caused any confusion, Jo. Thank you for posting it on your FB 🙂

    2. No, you’re not confusing things at all, Amy- you’re doing everything fine. It’s simply that if I add the walk you’ve just posted to the bottom of my walks this week not many people will see it because the majority will have read the post yesterday. So, I carry forward all the walks to the bottom of next weeks walk, so everyone has the same chance to be seen. Make sense? 🙂

  6. A fabulous gallery Jo! Took me back to our Montmartre walk with Paris Walks. Just realised I haven’t featured that yet!! Appreciate the mention.
    PS: R stayed on the ground too 😀

    1. Glad you liked it, Madhu. Was that a paid walking tour you took? I know that ultimately you pay for the free ones but they seem pretty good value to me. 🙂 I was SO tired that evening because we also walked along the Canal St. Martin- but that’s another story 🙂

  7. Great to read this as we did the same walk just a few years ago. I hadn’t heard of half the things William our guide told us, so it was a real eye opener. Love Paris & that area. We stayed in a great guesthouse just under the Sacre Coeur & have great memories. Have since done similar walks in other places & thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Love seeing the photos along the way, thanks for taking us all along on the walk with you. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Debbie 🙂 I always read the guide books cover to cover before I go but you can’t remember everything and it’s nice to get a fresh point of view, isn’t it? Happy travels! 🙂

  8. Fabulous, Jo! I’m so glad you chose Montmartre because it’s one Paris n’hood I didn’t make it too and I wanted to see the views from atop ( as well as Sacre Coeur). It’s as lovely as I imagined, and I can actually “see” those windmills and agriculture fields before development! Great post 🙂

    1. I don’t think there can be a soul in all the world who wouldn’t appreciate Montmartre, Sammy.(aside from puffing up the hills! I forgot to mention the Montmartre bus and the funicular for the less nimble) Thanks a lot! 🙂

  9. I loved this walk with you. Now I will think about going with a guide if I travel 🙂 I have always just been an adventure setting out to see what I could see 🙂 Hope you are well HUGS

    1. I always used to just follow my nose too, Eunice, but it always gets me lost 🙂 🙂 I like to start with one of these escorted walks and then be a free spirit afterwards. Thanks for your company, hon. I’m fine 🙂 Hugs to you, too!

  10. What a pleasant walk, Jo. I agree, having a local tour is a wise thing to do and can make a difference for the trip. Great photos, the church doorway is fabulous! We did get to tour Montmartre when we were in Paris. I really enjoyed this virtual tour. 🙂

  11. Amazing walk – wonderful captures – I can see you walked past the place in Montmartre where I stay overnight when I’m in Paris – some good freinds a couple who insist I use their guest room – again wonderful captures, Jo… 🙂

  12. Another great and entertaining walk, Jo. You really do get around. Olivier sounds like the perfect guide. The Dutilleul is quite startling, isn’t it? All that climbing has done me the world of good, and according to my fitbit, I already did 11,000 steps today. 🙂

    1. That sounds like a LOT of steps, Ad! I have no idea how many I do in a day. Probably as well not to know 🙂
      Paris was fabulous, and Olivier reminded me a little of my James.

    1. Yes, once away from the Moulin Rouge it’s beautiful, Gilly. I did find the Place du Tetre a bit tacky too but it’s such a pretty spot, you can’t blame people. Victim of its own success! The whole world must be honeymooning in Paris 🙂 Every time I blinked there was a Japanese pair of newlyweds in a clinch 🙂 🙂

  13. Thanks for being my incomparable tour guide to a city I’ll probably never visit. You sell the idea of a tour guide: I’ve always preferred to bumble around, but your experience, coupled with my superb 5W “guides” in Vienna and Budapes, is well on the way to changing my mind. Do you take notes, or are you blessed with a memory. It’s a great shot of Olivier (dressed with Parisian nonchalance and finesse) and the man who walks through walls. My favourite shots otherwise? The passage artwork of the woman with the tiny-splotches dress: the roofscape as you climbed the tower: the Moulin Rouge (which looked disappointingly like the Moulin Pink!) Were you feeling like a nimble rabbit at the end of the walk?

    1. Thanks, Meg 🙂 You always make me smile. I do cheat a little because my memory isn’t all that great. I read the guide books to death before I go and every evening (or early morning) write up my travel diary. Olivier was very engaging but I couldn’t remember much detail. I checked a few things (like Marcel Ayme) on Google when I was writing the post.
      He reminded me a little of my son. Part of his job contract is to wear the pink waistcoat, which he professed to hate 🙂 I have posted this on his Facebook page as I think it’s good promotion material for the company. I sincerely hope he approves.

  14. Oh Jo, what a wonderful walk. You negotiated all those steps for us AND took superb photos too. The guided walk is a great idea, though I have a tendency of dawdling behind taking too many photos so miss the interesting tid-bits. Not this time though 😉 I ALMOST went on one in Lisbon (it rained) and London (the tube strike meant I was too late). A great way to be introduced to an area by someone who knows it well. Many, many thanks ❤

    I'm back in Scotland this week for you:
    Jude xx

    1. I had so much Paris in my head I couldn’t think what walk to do this week, Jude! Then Michael said ‘Montmartre! It was a Monday walk’. So obvious really 🙂 They can be relied upon for logic, can’t they?
      I haven’t done the Lisbon one or Seville but both are on the list. Porto was my first, 2 years ago (next month!) and that was fantastic. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm, and participation 🙂

      1. Hi Jo, yes, I’m fine….look forward to your visit, I have some new Beauty in Decay and a few other things on the blog

  15. Thank you for taking me through the streets of Montmatre – I enjoyed the walk Jo. Oliver sounds like a gem – he certainly introduced you to lovely spots.

    1. He reminded me a lot of my son, though I’m not sure if James would be so outgoing. Probably- if his mum wasn’t around 🙂 It’s a beautiful place, Colline, and a rather special area of Paris.

  16. Those walking tours are great, you get to see so much more! I was around some of those same places 3 years ago when my daughter lived in Paris! We had our portraits painted in Montmartre by some art students. Great photos too Joanne.

  17. Fantastic post Jo, brought back a lot of great memories. My brother-in-law used to have an apartment right in the heart of Montmartre – just loved memory lane. Seems like you guys had a great time with Oliver as guide.

  18. Jo what a fabulous walk. I know we have had some marvelous guides in our sounds like Olivier was very prepared with his satchel of goodies. Good for you to hit the stairs to get those incredible views for us! Now I have to ask why was it free? An extraordinarily good price. 🙂

    1. I’ve done these in a number of cities, Sue. Mostly the guides are students and they supplement their income with the tips. (this company was a little cheeky and stated in their brochure that their average tip was 13 euros but you could leave whatever you liked). In Barcelona a paid walking tour was almost 3 times the tip we left so it’s a good deal. And Olivier was a lot of fun. Reminded me of my James. 🙂

      1. Follow my link to Discover Walks. There is a choice of 5 Paris walks. The link to Aleksandra takes you to my walking tour of Barcelona and within that is a link to one in Porto. Initially I think I Googled free walking tours, but it’s a winning formula. 🙂

  19. Breathtaking views and photos, Jo. My legs are rubber from that steep climb. Ha. You have just given me a preview of what I hope to see, soon. Did you arrange your walk ahead of your trip or while there? We’ll be staying in the Marais.

    1. I booked online but there wasn’t any need to, Lynne. Follow my link to Discover Walks. There are 5 to choose from and the one in the Marais has been recommended to me as well. 🙂 You will LOVE Paris!

  20. What a fun walk, Jo. I love Paris in general, and who cannot love Montmartre and Sacre Coeur? I love the square with the artists; it’s iconic Montmartre. And the windmills and Moulin Rouge. It’s all amazing and it sounds like Olivier did a fabulous job. Great that he pulled out the appropriate paintings! I’m sure your legs were jelly after all this! 🙂

      1. Yes, a little too many rum drinks all around, Jo! My legs feel like they’re failing too, after all our walks around Puerto Rico. It was great. Hot and humid but lovely! I ate too much Mofongo!! 🙂

  21. This brings back lots of happy memories thanks for a wonderful post Jo! I bought a couple of street prints from a similar stall in Montmartre on my honeymoon a very long time ago and I still have both prints framed and hanging. Merci beaucoup Rosemary 🙂

  22. It’s a good few years since I was fit enough to climb to the top of Sacré Coeur, but every time I go to Paris (I had lots of tutorials and exams there when I was studying) I naturally gravitate to Montmartre. I wrote a haiga about the man who walks through walls, called He Forgot to Stop! It was published in the French Literary Review, but I can’t find the original on the old computer.
    Thanks for the memories.

    1. You’re very welcome, Viv 🙂 Have you tried Googling it (your poem)? You just might be lucky. I’d love to read it, and will possibly hunt down Marcel Ayme’s book too 🙂

    1. I’m pretty sure there won’t be a next time, Lucy, which is why we had to make this one special. And it was! 🙂 I would have liked to do the Left Bank one too. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. The only bit I didn’t manage that I really fancied was the Plante walk, but we did SO much else. 🙂

  23. Thank you Jo, I loved this walk and the views are amazing. We walked around some of the side streets of Montmartre, less busy and so enjoyable, the gardens at the back of the sacre couer provided us with a lovely respite from all the tourists on the steps leading to sacre couer.

    1. We got lost going back down 🙂 Or rather, didn’t end up where we wanted to. I’d planned a boat trip on Canal St. Martin but we had to change plans. It was a good change though 🙂

  24. Jo, I think you walked the same streets I walked 5 years ago, fantastic to it again with you. The Montmartre is my favorite area of Paris, my first visit Paris … and was supposed to be in love and all that; we stayed at a little hotel just by the metro stop Abbesses.
    Thank for bringing me back to memory lane *smile
    Wonderful that you used the gallery set up to show more of your brilliant images. Sacre Coeur is my favorite place in Paris, the view is spectacular. My favorite image is the uphill street image, but I can feel the afford going into that. ~laughing
    But I miss one shot, the famous step from Rue Gabrielle up to Sacre Coeur, didn’t Olivier make you walk them????? I have only walked them down. *smile and taken the funiculaire de Montmartre up.
    A wonderful post with stunning images – thanks for bringing me back to the part of Paris I like so much in a city that I don’t agree with at all. *smile

    1. We walked DOWN those steps too, Vivi 🙂 There were a lot of people about and I wasn’t happy with the shot I took. Olivier stuck to the quieter parts, which was great. Afterwards I loitered in Place du Tetre while Mick went looking for a cashpoint 🙂 He had to go all the way back to the bottom to find one that worked! Just one of the reasons why he didn’t climb the tower in Sacre Coeur with me 🙂 It was worth the effort!

      1. Jo, you would get me up on any heights and not up any stair neither. Good on Mick for staying on the ground with both feet. I have been up in the Eiffel tower, but not on the top level.
        I know there is always people in those stairs, but I been luck, I got shoots when they have been empty. He could have taken the train back up again. Poor man!!!.
        It’s purely some climbing in that part of Paris, but one city that is even worst … Istanbul, only uphill. *smile Worse than San Francisco.

      1. Jo, Istanbul is far more interesting than San Fran. I think you should put Istanbul on your bucket list – and very high up. Far more interesting than Barcelona and Paris too. Friday hugs …. *smile

    1. I thought that too, Robin! (about Biba 🙂 ) The going back too, but I’m sure we never will. I tried my hardest to fit everything in and I didn’t fall far short.
      Thank you! I’m a big fan of these tours. If you’re ever there, there are 5 to choose from.

  25. Wonderful. I bought a painting for my sister there in 1974! I wonder if she still has it, I’ll ask her now that I think about it. It was still wet and I had to let it dry in my hotel room before putting it in my luggage bag

  26. That brought back wonderful memories of wandering the area around this time last year! “The man who walked through walls” is a good story. I meant to write a review of this book of short stories but never got round to it! Just like I haven’t got round to writing up any of my walks!

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