Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jour 7 Paris: Montmartre

Montmartre is the hip, cool, snazzy part of Paris. If I had to compare it to New York (the city I know the best), I'd liken Montmartre to the Village. It's where artists like Dali (pencil mustache, melting clocks), Picasso (cubism, blue period), Monet (impressionism, water lilies), Mondrian (primary colors, Dutch), Van Gogh (starry night, mutilated ear), and several other artists had studios. These days though, it's a bit more like Soho. It's got a French-hipster vibe, it's getting more and more expensive, and it's filled to the brim with tourists who think it's cool to be there. And honestly, it is cool to be there. It's beautiful, there's decent food (though it's expensive), and there's an undeniable charm about the cobbled streets and hills and art.

The worst part of Montmartre is trying to pronounce it when you've got an American accent. Mohn'-mart-tr. The "Montmar" part is easy enough. It's the gurgling "tre" you've got to tack on at the end. No worries though, because the first two syllables is enough to get your point across.
As soon as you get to this area, you'll notice a difference. It's just more quaint and sweet looking, at least in my eyes. It's a great area for just walking around in but we had a purpose. We wanted to go see the Love Wall and one of my favorite places ever, Sacre Coeur.

Le Mur des Je T'Aime (The Wall of I Love You) is inside of a little gated park. You'd barely know it was there except that it's huge and blue and there will be people inside taking photos of it.

If you're set on taking your photo in front of this bad boy, I'd recommend popping by first thing in the morning. We probably got here around 10AM and there was just a handful of people. And luckily for us, everyone was courteous enough to let each other take turns and get solo photos of themselves.


Just going for a stroll.
You know, we saw Korean a bunch of times, French, Spanish, Italian, and several languages we didn't recognize but for the life of us, we couldn't find it in English.
We walked around the neighborhood a bit before deciding that we were hungry. We walked downhill from the loves and did a little meandering before settling on a restaurant. We ran into the cutest little chowchow on our food search.
We ended up at Le Progres, a cozy little place that had a decent prix-fixe menu - €18 for a starter and a main course. We decided to share, since neither of us was starving. For our starter, we had a salad with smoked fish, pickled vegetables, and potatoes in a mustard vinaigrette. The smoked fish was a bit strong but still delicious, especially paired with the pickled vegetables.
Oh, and because baby sis had never eaten escargots before, we decided to get some, as they were available on Le Progres' menu. These guys were humongous and drowning in herbed butter, which is just how I like them.
If you've never eat snails before and you think it's gross, keep your opinions to yourself. It's rude to judge people's food choices. If you've never eaten snails before and you're wondering how to do it, you just pick up the tongs, squeeze the little bugger inside, grab the teeny baby fork, and coerce the meat out of the shell.
When the little bugger is finally loosened from the shell, you'll feel that twinge of satisfaction. It's like when you've got a splinter and you're trying to pull it out and it finally comes out, it's like, "Ahhh! Finally!"
Don't forget to flip the shell over to drain any leftover butter. You'll want as much of that herb butter as possible for dipping your bread into - it's the best part and the main reason I even order escargots.
For our main course, we had this crispy skinned fish with fluffy rice, vegetables, and the yummiest cream sauce in the whole friggin' world. The cream sauce was obviously creamy but it was really light and flavorful (I'm guessing white wine plays a role) and just a great accompaniment to the fish. The vegetables were steamed perfectly - they were tender but still had a snap, which is my definition of perfect. I hate when vegetables are all mushy and have zero texture. Oh, and that drizzle of balsamic, my goodness. It added just the right amount of acidity and sweetness to balance the dish. We were sopping up all of the saucy goodness with bread and Baby sis practically licked the plate clean. Ha, by the way, if you've been looking at my food blog for my France-related eats, you'll notice that I never have a bad thing to say about any of the food we ingested abroad. All of it was delicious.
After lunch, we decided to burn the extra calories by climbing some stairs for fun. Kidding! We headed up to Sacre Coeur. Normally, we'd go the front way but this time, we took a back route because it required less walking.
If you've never been up here, you've got to go. Not only is the church beautiful but you catch a pretty spectacular view of the busy city as well. And, despite the forecast of rain, we were greeted with gorgeous blue skies. I'm telling you, we got so lucky with the weather.
There were way too many people there that day though so we didn't go inside the church. Not a big deal to us because we've been inside the church before. That's the best thing about visiting a city more than once. The first time, you're super eager to do all of the stuff you've seen on television and movies and other people's blogs. But, the second, third, fourth time around, you just go because you like it there, view things at a relaxing pace, and just do whatever the hell you want. There's no pressure.
We decided to walk down the front, even though the last time we were in this neighborhood together, we had a bad experience. There are several African gentlemen who stand around holding embroidery thread in their hands. They catch you off guard and all of a sudden, you have a string tied around your wrist. The man will tell you some story about life and love and friendship, all the while braiding the string to create a bracelet. Then, he'll say, "Look! I made you a beautiful piece of jewelry. Now give me money." Last time we were suckered into the scam because we weren't brave enough to tell them to bugger off. The only good thing that came of that was learning the lesson. Though, I have to tell you that we didn't pay them anything. I said, "Sorry, we don't have cash. We didn't ask you to do this!" And then we walked away while they yelled at us for being cheap.

This time though, when a few of them tried to approach us asking, "Hey, can I ask you a question? Where are you from?" I yelled back, "Leave us alone! We know what you're trying to do and we're not giving you any money." I'm hoping this helped some other tourists out, as I'm sure several people heard me screaming. We saw a few girls standing there smiling while they were being scammed. My sister said maybe some of them like the attention but I think they just didn't know what was happening to them. If you're a young girl, you will likely be approached so if you don't want the attention, just stare ahead, walk with purpose, and yell, "MERCI, NON!" when those scammers attempt to take advantage of you.
You've got to admit that Sacre Coeur is pretty spectacular. The domes, the height, the greenery surrounding it - it's all gorgeous.
There's even fun for the kiddies, if they find churches and grass and sunshine too boring.
Cheers.

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