I’ve lived in several different places in the Greater Paris Area since I began my French séjour. After close to eight years abroad, I’ve moved five times. Before that, when I was still living in the US I moved six times in just four years — blame it on student housing and summer rentals in a small village by the sea.
When I was an au pair I lived in the chic suburb of Les Vesinet. Then I finally broke the pérephérique (the pseudo freeway-cum-border that surrounds Paris) and moved to the 16th arrondissement. From there, I headed back out to the suburbs to Nogent-sur-Marne where my in-laws live. Next, Montreuil, the up-and-coming suburb that also has access to the métro.
Suffice it to say, I’m tired of moving and I hope to never do it again (kidding, but not really). Luckily, I now live in what I consider to be the best neighborhood in Paris: Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement.
I walk out of my door and take a quick left to climb the hill to head to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which just happens to be a few minutes’ walk from my place. On my way, I decide to take the Rue Caulaincourt to get there. It’s springtime so the wide avenue is shaded by lush trees that I take a moment to look up at as I pass by. Something so simple as watching the leaves blow in the trees instantly becomes special when you’re walking through Paris, doesn’t it?
The buildings in the area are a mixture — the 18th 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries come together to form the hodgepodge that is Montmartre. My building was built in 1881. The Lapin Agile, a bar where Picasso used to hang, is just around the corner and was built in 1795. The Sacré-Cœur? Construction finished in 1891.
There are cafés on every corner (obviously, it’s Paris) and each one is just as unique on the outside as it is on the inside. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit but I’ve personally never met a Parisian café I didn’t like. Even if it did look the same as the one next door.
Speaking of cafés, there is no shortage of restaurants to try in the 18th. My local hangout is Georgia Love on Rue Caulaincourt. You’ll catch me and my husband on their terrasse 1-2 times per week.
A little further down the hill is the Boulangerie du Square, where I pick up my daily baguette fix — if there isn’t an insane line at Maison Landemaine, I’ll pick up a sandwich there. For my fresh fruits and veg, Rue du Poteau has several outdoor markets to explore, as well as a cheese shop aptly called La Fromagerie de Montmartre. There are also several butchers, and a Monoprix in case I need other essentials.
If you climb back up the hill to the Sacré-Cœur, there are even more eateries to try. For an authentic French experience, head to Le Miroir on Rue des Martyrs. If you’re craving good Italian (yes, it’s possible in Paris), visit Constantia Martyrs, also on Rue des Martyrs. For the best Mexican I’ve ever tasted in France, ACÀ on Boulevard de Clichy is always a good idea.
The mood, the atmosphere, the vibe. Different words for the same thing: The feeling that I get when I’m wandering the streets of Montmartre is unlike anything I’ve ever felt elsewhere. From the first moment I visited the area, something just seemed right. I was home.
Considering my background, it makes sense. Montmartre was once (and some argue, still is) the artists’ quarter of Paris. Along with Montparnasse, the best and the brightest once lived here. Picasso, van Gogh, Verlaine, Renoir, Modigliani…I could go on and on.
It makes sense. I’m a writer at heart and that heart seeks out places where those who came before me once lived. The reason why I feel so at home here is because it’s the perfect place to sit with myself and create. The architecture and food help, but the vibe is what makes it so unique. That ephemeral, impossible-to-articulate sensation that I feel as I climb the winding streets up to one of the highest points in the city is so difficult to communicate that I can only say this: You have to experience it yourself to understand.
And I sincerely hope that each and every one of you does, one day.
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