"I’ve never been to Montmartre" Sarah confessed while we were in Paris a few weeks ago. "Can we go together?"
Sarah Lahey is the Editorial Director of Born to Shop and goes on most of the research trips with me. We were in Paris to revise Frommer’s Born to Shop Paris.
"No!" I squawked (that’s ‘non’ in French), "Montmartre is touristy and disgusting and you don’t want to go there."
"But you used to live there, who better to show me around?" "Yes (oui), but I lived in the northern part of Montmartre, not the touristy part!"
With a short speech about how I would not be taking her to the place du Tetre, where the portrait guys cheat you or even past the Moulin Rouge, I agreed to show Sarah my Montmartre, my way. We began at the #31 bus stop right off Etoile and drove east through the northern residential districts, so I could point out the changes in the 17e. As we passed the railroad tracks, I showed off the Batignoles area where I had once seriously tried to buy a house and the park that would have been the Olympic Village if Paris had won the bid. As we left the eastern 17e and moved into the 18e I showed her how the neighborhood had changed, explained why the shady area where 17e meets 18e is an interesting place to buy an apartment now. Then I sat up a little straighter as we moved onto the rue Ordener so I could show the length of my Saturday market and then my bus stop (Duhesme).
We got out of the bus in front of the town hall for the arrondissement, a cupcake of an 18th century building that is considered one of the nicest mairie for a Parisian wedding. We jumped in a taxi there next to the mayor’s joint while I explained to the driver that my sister had never seen Montmartre and I wanted to slowly go up the back, northern side of the hill, past Sacre Coeur slowly and then alight at the funicular. This allowed Sarah to see the stairs, the hills, and the residential areas but not have to climb them.
We got a good view of the church, were able to ignore the tourists in front and spent one metro ticket from our carnet to take the funicular down the hill into southern Montmartre. This is not a cable car ride or anything scary, just sort of a moving elevator. We got out, passed the carousel and went immediately into the surrounding fabric markets where we spent three hours in fabric heaven where prices were quite affordable.
Sarah never saw Amelie. She missed Nicole Kidman as well. We skipped Tati as well as the famous tourist joints. She never learned about the metro stop Abbess or even Monop Beauty, Monoprix’s answer to Sephora with its test store right there in touristland. Instead, Sarah saw my old neighborhood, the Montmartre I love and the one I miss deep in my soul.