Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bienvenue à Paris!

Welcome to Paris!  We were prepared for cold and rain, but Paris is experiencing an incredible early spring.  The weather has been warm and sunny every day so far.  C'est magnifique!

Apartment living is definitely the way to go.  Our apartment is even more spacious than it appeared in the pictures (quite remarkable in Europe), and the cost is much less than most hotels.  You can see that we have wasted no time getting into the French wine!

While the rooms in our apartment are spacious, the elevator is not.  Believe it or not, the specs for this elevator say it can carry a maximum of three people (obviously, three very tiny French people!)

On our first full day in Paris, we did a self-guided tour of our neighborhood. Montmartre is often called "La Butte" which means the hill, and it sits on the highest ground in Paris.  Montmarte has always been known for its nightlife, and when we walk outside of our apartment, we can see the famous dancehall "The Moulin Rouge" at the top of our hill.

Montmartre was once dotted with 30 windmills, but today only two remain.  Here is one of them:

Many of the Impressionist painters frequented an open-air dance hall near this mill which Renoir immortalized in his painting "Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette" (reproduction below is posted outside in a garden where Renoir finished the painting):

We visited the Musee de Montmartre, a small museum about life on La Butte in the oldest house in Montmartre.   The house was owned by Suzanne Valadon whose son, Maurice Utrillo, was a Montmartre painter; many famous impressionist artists temporarily lived here including Renoir and Van Gogh.

  The city of Paris feels so far away in this bucolic setting. 

We loved this little museum that recreated the life and times of the Impressionists.  Several rooms were decorated with old dancehall posters that perfectly captured the "joie de vivre" of the age.  Artists like Toulouse-Lautrec became famous for creating these "advertisement posters" with their unique style for the local Montmartre night clubs.

We also saw the suspicious-looking character (below) trying to order a drink at a re-creation of a Montmartre bar:

Outside, we had a gorgeous view of Paris's only remaining vineyard with the city in the background.

We walked past colorful souvenir shops,

and eventually made our way to Sacre Coeur, one of Paris's most famous monuments, sparkling at the very top of the hill.  A street entertainer was singing and a crowd gathered on the steps to listen.  Everyone was enthralled with the good vibe and the marvelous view.

We even got a hazy first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower way in the distance just as the sun was setting.

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