If you come to Paris as a tourist, you need good walking shoes. Don’t look at how the Parisians dress – they look sophisticated and elegant even when they go to collect their children from school. Accept the fact that you will look like a tourist and put comfortable shoes on your feet.
The other thing you need is a strong bladder. Yes, there are all those cafes where you can sit with your coffee but you will eventually need to find a loo. You will then either stand in a queue for hours or spend ages looking up and down the streets for one – they are not always easy to find. I find it curious that in places with hundreds if not thousands of tourists, they will place one public loo and that is all.
We decided to do the Montmartre walk and our guide was Philippe, a former lawyer, who wears hot pink socks, a pale blue linen jacket and is having a sea change. He has abandoned the long working week and shares his love of Paris with tourists. He has a “Jewish Mama” who called him during the walk – he answered and apologised to us and explained that if he doesn’t answer, she continues to ring until he does.
We had walked the streets of Montmartre ourselves and thought we knew quite a lot, but were mistaken. We stopped outside the place where Picasso lived between 1906 and 1912. He moved here after a good friend committed suicide. This was his “blue” period. he was poor and could only afford white, black and blue paint. He was not particularly fond of these colours.
We learnt about Maurice Utrillo, the son of Suzanne Valadon, a famous artist’s model. Suzanne had been a young single mother who had to work to make ends meet so she relied on her mother, a drunk to look after her young son. She managed by putting alcohol into the the child’s drink, so he became an alcoholic at a young age. Maurice spent most of his life living in mental asylums as he also had severe mental health issues as well. Each week, his mother Suzanne, by then a successful artist sent her son a postcard – usually of a street in Paris. To fill his time, Maurice painted the picture depicted on the postcard and had remarkable talent. We saw some of art at the Musee of Montmartre and later in other Galleries. It is beautiful. He had a sad life.
These walking tours bring the area alive. Philippe showed us a few authentic cafes and where to buy baguettes and explained how to judge a good baguette. Many of the top bakers of Paris are here in Montmartre.
Again, we saw signs of the Invader and other fascinating street art.
Later, Keith and I found the fabric markets of Montmartre. I could have spent hours exploring these stores. Not a good idea with a full bladder.
There are so many flower shops and they are exquisitely beautiful. Each time I walk by, I want to buy a bunch. Keith has figured out that most Parisians live in apartments so this is their way of making up for no gardens – this and their magnificent flower boxes.
There are cheese shops that you could stop and gaze at wondering which cheese to choose.
Returning to shoes and walking. The other thing we have noticed is that there are many dogs and the Parisian’s are not good at cleaning up after their dogs, so the walker must be wary.