A favorite (and mostly downhill) walk through Paris’ colorful Montmartre neighborhood

I recently sent the following to a family member. I can’t count how many times I’ve forwarded this to friends and family and it occurred to me (finally) that I ought to just post it on Wanderwiles. Et, voilà!:

Basilica of Sacré-Coeur
A MONTMARTRE WALK I always tell people that Montmartre is worth a visit and makes a great walk. A lot of people skip Montmartre because it’s more down-scale and crowded and has some steep walks, but it does have some of the best views and most classically Parisian locales and can be done mostly downhill if you follow the route I’ll set out. It’s not unsafe (I have a friend who owned a jewelry store there and loved the area), picturesque (beyond a certain grunginess) and charming in its own way. There is a large immigrant population in Montmartre, it’s the bustling fabric district of Paris, and it’s full of tourists and a fair amount of party-minded types in addition to merchants and the like, so expect bustling activity, noise and a colorful international vibe going in. Here’s my favorite route: Start at Métro Stop Anvers (line 2)and head uphill along rue Steinkerque (to your right as you’re exiting the Métro). [It’s usually crowded, so as always in crowds, be aware of your surroundings–purse across the shoulder, valuables in inside pockets, etc. I’ve never had a problem, but it’s always best to be city-smart.] You’ll pass lots of fabric and tourist shops and see the white basilica of Sacré-Coeur on the hill ahead. Enjoy the view of the church from the base of the hill. You can walk up or skip the steep hike and head to your left (as you’re facing Sacré-Coeur, as in the photo above) where you’ll come to the funiculaire de Montmartre. If you’ve got Métro tickets or passes, they work there, or buy a ticket at the stand. Ride to the top and take in the spectacular view of the city. (You can’t, however, see the Eiffel Tower from the steps. You’ll get to see it soon, though.) Take a look at the interior of the basilica with its beautiful mosaic of Christ with his sacred heart ablaze in gold on the ceiling. You can visit the crypt and climb the dome. When you come out of the basilica, head to your right along the sidewalk to the left of the road. About halfway down that road, you’ll see the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
View of Paris and the Eiffel Tower en route to place du Tetres from the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur

The road T’s in about a block. Go right a short distance uphill and you will come to the famous Place du Tertres on your left where artists are set up in a square surrounded by cafés.

Place du Tertres
After wandering the square, head downhill along the road you came into the square on (rue Norvins). (If you like Dalí, you can head left a very short way down rue Poulbot and then take another left. The Dalí Museum will be there on your left. Or take a detour to your right on rue des Saules and another right on rue Cortot to visit the small Musée de Montmartre and view Le Clos Montmartre, the last working vineyard in Paris.) From rue Norvins as you leave place du Tertres, head left downhill where rue Norvins branches and you’ll come to rue Lepic on your left. Wander downhill on rue Lepic where you’ll see a restaurant in a (modern recreation) windmill; further downhill to your right on a hill, you’ll see the last original windmill in Paris, the Moulin de la Gallette which was painted by Lautrec, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh (who lived with his brother on rue Lepic for a time). Just opposite this windmill, head downhill on steep, narrow rue Tholoze. At the bottom turn right, then immediately left. This will take you through the heart of the old rue Lepic street market. (Rue Lepic makes a big “U” which rue Tholoze bisects so you just pick back up on rue Lepic here.) The well-known Lux Bar is about halfway down on your left. At the bottom, you’ll come to blvd Clichy and Place Blanche. Métro Blanche (line 2 again) is in the center of the boulevard. Take time to look to your right where you’ll see the Moulin Rouge. If you cross to the Métro entrance and look back, you can snap a good picture of it or cross to the median for a straight-on shot.
Moulin Rouge viewed from the entrance to Métro Blanche
I usually just hop the Métro here, as I’m a big fan of Paris’ public transportation.

Trying out De Waterbus in Antwerp, Belgium: Daytrip on the Schelde River to Kruibeke Polder and Castle Wissekerke

De Waterbus at Steenplein in Antwerp

We got our first chance to try De Waterbus yesterday, the river bus that leaves from Antwerp’s Steenplein and makes a 30-minute run to nearby Hemiksem via Kruibeke. De Waterbus is new as of July 2017 so not yet in service when we were here last spring and not so appealing during the cold days when we were in Antwerp last October-November. Yesterday, however, was perfect: warm and sunny; just right for an explore.

The Waterbus leaves every 30 minutes on the hour and half-hour from Steenplein (the pier where the free cross-river ferry to Linkeroever docks, near Het Steen castle). The cost is 3 for a one-way trip or 5, round-trip. De Waterbus has plenty of room and racks for bikes and a nice, air-conditioned interior and public toilets. read more

Port of Katakolon, Greece: Ancient Olympia, a winery & beaches

Katakolon waterfront, just off the cruise pier

Katakolon, Greece, is an easy port for cruise passengers. Although Ancient Olympia is the main draw, the quaint waterfront town of Katakolon sits just at the end of the cruise pier. I’d visited Katakolon and Ancient Olympia years ago with my sons. We’d taken an excursion to Ancient Olympia then, but I wanted more freedom on this visit so I’d arranged a Sixt rent car for the day.

In doing my pre-trip research, I found Sixt to offer the best price as well as port-side car drop off. Sure enough, a nice young woman was waiting with a car when we walked off the pier. Some paperwork and a quick inspection of the car to make sure there were no dings or malfunctions that might later be attributed to us and we were off. read more

Port of Piraeus, Greece: Athens

On the Acropolis: The Erechtheion and its beautiful caryatids

After transiting the Suez Canal, our first port in Europe was Piraeus, Greece, the nearest port to Athens. I’d been to Athens a couple of times before, but it had been awhile and I’d never been with David, so we were both really looking forward the day. We wanted to do Athens on our own, though, and planned to take advantage of the Metro system. Not only did the Metro offer freedom of movement, but it is also very cost-effective, particularly when compared with exorbitant cruise line excursions. read more

Ladies only: Visiting the Grand Mosque of Paris’ steamy, dreamy hammam

Massage and lounging area of the hammam of the Grand Mosque of Paris

I visited my first hammam years ago in the Marais during my second stint living in Paris. I’d been super intrigued and curious about the hammam experience, but with my then-fairly-limited French, cultural uncertainties, and doubts about dress and modesty and expectations and such, I hesitated to go. When a friend who’d been living in Paris many more years than I had and who swore by semiannual “gommage” (exfoliation) treatments at a favorite hammam invited me to go with her, I jumped on the chance. It was a fun–and kind of crazy–experience, lounging around with lots of other naked and semi-naked women in clouds of steam, then being roughly scrubbed by a burly Tunisian woman (who nearly smothered me with her ample bosom as she leaned over me to work) before sending me off to recover with hot mint tea. I felt like a prize heifer ready for the show. The hammam was a far cry from the gentle, pampering spas favored back home in the States, but boy, was I scrubbed pink and seriously exfoliated! read more

Free Sunday at the Louvre Museum: Is it really too crowded to enjoy?

Updated November 18, 2018

A manageable crowd on Free First Sunday at the Louvre

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month (December), which means Free First Sunday of the Month at the Louvre and many other Paris museums.  (The Louvre and the Rodin Museum are free on first Sundays between Oct. 1 and March 31. Other museums offer Free First Sundays all year. See the bottom of this article for more info.) I’ve heard and read the horror stories about Free First Sunday hordes, so wanted to check it out myself so I could report what I found on Wanderwiles. I’ve been to the Louvre more times than I can remember and am a past member of Amis du Louvre, so I’ve always avoided these Sundays. Since we’re just in Paris for a month this time, David and I decided we’d give the Louvre a miss on this visit unless First Sunday surprised us…and it did! read more

Paris: Veneration of the Crown of Thorns at Notre Dame Cathedral

Veneration of the Crown of Thorns

While I drop in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris any time I walk by and there’s not a line, it’s always extra special to visit during a service. One particularly special ceremony to look out for is the Vénération de la Couronne d’épines (Veneration of the Crown of Thorns).

Everything about the veneration contributes to the beauty and religious aura of the famous cathedral: The clouds of incense, the music, the cloaked men and women, the ritual kissing of the gold and glass reliquary which houses a woven crown of reeds, now minus its thorns. The thorns were dispersed over the centuries, some 70 of which have been affirmed as original by the Catholic Church. read more

Fondation Louis Vuitton: Wow!

Visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton (“FLV”) was high on our list of things to do during our current month in Paris. Under construction for twelve years and costing nearly $135 million dollars, the privately-owned contemporary art “museum”/exhibition hall is a one-of-a-kind work of art itself. The building was still under construction on our last visit to the surrounding park, so we were really looking forward to seeing the finished structure. All I can say is “Wow!” Talk about exceeding expectations. An immense assymetrical collection of gleaming white structures clad in glass “sails” on steel and wood supports, FLV joins the panoply of great Parisian landmarks. It’s an architectural and engineering feat not to be missed. read more

Musée d’Ennery: Oriental art in a Paris mansion

How could I pass up the chance to see the inside of a private mansion (“hôtel particulier”) on swanky Avenue Foch and a reputedly extensive oriental art collection for free? Obviously, I couldn’t!

Front exterior of the Musée d’Ennery

The Musée d’Ennery is the former home of Clémence d’Ennery, a well-known actress of her day and an avid collector of oriental objets d’art. She deeded her collection to the Musée Guimet with the proviso that the collection be kept intact in her home. After some legal wrangling with her older playwright husband, who unexpectedly outlived her, her wish has been fulfilled (save for one lacquered trunk on display at the Guimet as an enticement to visit the Musée d’Ennery). read more

À l’Infintiste: creative fine dining in Antwerp with a self-serve twist

Interior of À l’Infintinste, pre-dinner

I had to do a quick restaurant review on a little place in Antwerp we finally had a chance to try called À l’Infintiste. It can take months to get a reservation for this tiny restaurant that has only one 16-person sitting for dinner. The set-up is unique: for €46 you get a creative 5-course dinner served by the chef (who also buses tables and cleans dishes); for everything else you serve yourself. Want bread? Fetch it yourself. There’s a basket, butter, olive oil for the taking, too. Same goes for an aperitif; there are two types of gin on offer. Bottles of red and white wine are in two separate refrigerators, along with still and sparkling water, champagne and other beverages. The price list is taped to the side of one fridge. Corkscrews are in a drawer by the bread. If you prefer wine by the glass, that’s available, too. There’s a fill-in-the-blank receipt on the table, along with a pen and a calculator. When you finish dinner, just fill in what you’ve consumed, total it up and leave cash. (No credit cards accepted.) While it’s not cheap, the low-service business model lets the chef keep prices reasonable for what turned out to be a really special meal. read more