Last month in my beautiful city I got the chance to become a tourist again and explore a quartier que j’adore with Paris City Vision.
On the morning of Saturday the 22nd of October I set off to meet Anna, my friend and fellow blogger at the metro station Anvers, which is located at the foot of the stunning Sacre Coeur. Anna and I have lived here for a while but are always keen to learn more about our beloved city so when Paris City Vision invited us on one of their tours, we jumped at the chance!
At the metro station we were greeted by our friendly, smiley guide Céline who explained that the tour would be in English and Spanish as the other people attending were from Spain. Céline was warm and welcoming and spoke both English and Spanish perfectly which was even more impressive when we found out that neither were her native language (she is actually French)! She handed out audio guides and headphones to the group and off we went!
We started weaving our way through the crowds to the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the impressive church. Céline explained that we would not be climbing the 90 steep steps to reach the Sacred Heart but instead, were going to take the cable car because tickets for it were included in the price of our tour! I’d actually never taken the cable car before and found out that, to my surprise, even normal metro tickets work on it! The cable car is a great option if you are travelling with older visitors and made the idea of a 2-hour walking tour much less daunting.
A few minutes later when we were just below the church itself, Céline explained the history of Montmartre to us. I learnt that “Mont” comes from the church being on a very large hill (resembling a mountain) and “Martre” comes from martyrs, something that France had a lot of à l’époque! She also told us that Sacré Cœur is made entirely with limestone so that when it rains the stone actually becomes whiter!
My favourite story of the day had to be the one about Saint Denis. Saint Denis was Bishop of Pars in the third century and shortly after 250 AD he was martyred with his companions Rusticus and Eleutherius. The legend says that after being decapitated Denis picked up his own head and walked ten kilometres (six miles) while preaching a sermon of repentance the entire way. He was one of many Christians who was persecuted by the Roman emperor Decius in 251 or Valerian in 258. Even though very little is known about his life I was fascinated by this story and even more intrigued when we were taken to a small garden that had a statue of Saint Denis himself. His beheaded head in his hands of course!
The tour moved on into the Church itself which is simply breathtaking and then into the village. We made our way across Place de Tertre where artists like Picasso found their inspiration, down the steps past some beautiful houses that people dream of living in and eventually arrived at the Vineyard. Yes, you heard that right, Montmartre has its own vienyard! At each place we stopped to listen to Céline who kept us hanging on her every word with her dynamic style and interesting stories! And the tour wasn’t over there. We continued towards the statue of Dalida, a famous French singer who lived in the area, past her house and into the garden to visit Saint Denis.We walked past Montmartre’s well-known windmill, its bars, restaurants and shops that line either side of the streets and finished in front of the Moulin Rouge.
I learnt a great deal whilst on the tour with Céline and she was a captivating and energetic guide which made the tour even more enjoyable. I would recommend her and Paris City Vision to anyone visiting the city, and even if you live here…you should take a tour, there’s always more to learn about Paree.