Paris, Day 4: Lost in Montmartre
My hair caught in a loose chignon at the base of my neck, the one stray lock that always falls over my eyes tucked behind my ear. My favourite jeans and burgundy boots. My C’est Comme Ça t-shirt, with “I’m ready for something really beautiful” printed in tiny font at the hip, falling off one shoulder. My scarf with silver stars looped round my neck. My sunglasses providing emotional privacy.
This is how I ascended from Paris’s most deeply buried metro station, Abbesses, around and around and around through its decorated spiral stairs, surfacing into the 18th arrondissement on the western side of its hill.
This was perhaps the day I was looking forward to most here in Paris. In the planning pages of my journal, under the heading “Tuesday, September 26,” there was just one word: Montmartre.
There was no schedule for the day, nowhere to be at any given time. My plan was simply to show up and see what the streets had to offer.
I can see all of you experienced Paris-goers nodding right now. Because you know. You know the magic that is Montmartre. You know the tiny and twisting streets made of cobblestones. You know the narrow step-stair passageways that offer panoramic glimpses of Paris. You know the way the sun trails its fingers along the rows of tenement buildings and the way shadows cling to tree-covered squares. You know the joy of café life, which fills every single sidewalk here with its boisterous, contagious energy. You know the sound of church bells pealing up and down the neighbourhood slopes, and you know artists and makers and collectors whose shops create a unique fingerprint. You know window boxes full of geraniums, bottles of rosé sweating in the late-summer heat, and how quiet the city looks at sunset from the steps of Basilique Sacré-Coeur. You know.
And now I know, too.
Before I came to France I had said to many that I wanted to find Paris’s heartbeat and disappear into its rhythm while I was here. I did that today. It’s why I wore loved and comfortable favourites and didn’t even record the basilica as a required-to-see item. I knew I would find what I needed once I arrived.
I did end up visiting Sacré-Coeur after all, and found a secluded public garden with publicly tended beehives on my way there. I had a fascinating conversation with a Normandy sea-salt shop owner, and I came back to the flat with a stunning red-and-gold worn-lacquered serving tray from an antique shop that I fell head-over-heels for. But perhaps my favourite two hours of the day were the two I spent sitting on the sidewalk terrace of a brasserie with white lights strung in the awning over my head. I drank the driest, most crisp French rosé and devoured a Croque Madame topped with a fried egg boasting a perfectly wobbly yellow-orange yolk and then wrote for a long, satisfying stretch in my journal. A friend and I caught each other online and exchanged a quick string of messages while I ate.
She was kind enough to tell how much she was enjoying following my trip and, picking up a thread from my post yesterday, said she was proud of me for coming given that Paris can occasionally be a tough place to find yourself if travelling alone. (So much kissing happens here. If you are not one of the people kissing, you will be very aware that you are not one of the people kissing...)
I wrote back that this trip is the best and kindest thing I’ve done for myself in a really, really long time. I looked up and smiled out at the streets of Montmartre as I hit "send."
“I am glad that you realized that you are worth this,” she replied.