The French attitude seems to have changed with the times. They are definitely more tourist friendly in their approach, and seem eager to speak – or practice – their English. At times, they don’t even allow you the opportunity to show off your skills in their language. Immediately, they launch into English… “ah, American? New York!” Although it may be that, as a society, they have finally realized the value of tourism and its impact on the economy. There has always been western influence as well, and with the world becoming much smaller, young people in particular are open to other cultures more than ever.
Departing from the hotel, through a back alley, there is a small cluster of restaurants fronted by Café Zimmer on the main road. Although a bit sketchy looking at first, that alley turned out to have the most interesting local bars and cafés. Café Zimmer is a proper restaurant with lovely windows overlooking the bustling street. Their breakfast special is simple, typically Parisian, and a perfect way to start the day. €8.50 for coffee/tea (individual pots), fresh pressed juice, a croissant and baguette with butter and jam. Delicious!!
This neighborhood is splendid for walking and shopping. Just one block from Rue de Rivoli, where you find the major retail chains such as H&M, Zara, etc, yet it still has a residential feel. Easily hop on the metro here, from Chatelet station. Next stop, Madeleine. The Madeleine area is known for Place de la Madeleine with its fine patisserie shops, Boulevard St. Honore with its designer shops, and Place Vendome, a large square with designer shops. I did not find this area too interesting, but rather upscale commercial without the warmth found in other quarters. However, it is a sight to behold if you are into fashion and high-end shopping.
Continuing across the city, take Metro Madeleine to Abbesses, which takes you to the top of the Montmartre hill. Exiting the station, look back for a view of the famous art deco stairway. This gathering center of the city was overwhelmed with people. Crowds were simply everywhere, it was difficult to enjoy the beauty of the area with so many people walking in the streets. So, of course, we stopped for a beer.
Following the trail of people like breadcrumbs, we came to the funiculaire, or gondola that transports you to the top of the hill and Sacre Coeur Church. There is such a long line to board, however it moves quickly as only a metro ticket is needed to get on. Upon exit, if it’s even possible, we are greeted by an even more overwhelming crowd. Disney World, anyone? Note to self, do not travel during Holidays. It was almost impossible to get a good photo of the sights without Clark Griswold in the shot. So we pushed our way into Sacre Coeur and said a quick prayer…then got the heck out of there as fast as possible! Navigating from memory, we walked away from Sacre Coeur via Place du Tertre towards Rue Lepic. Place du Tertre was almost unrecognizable, and not very pleasant with the crowds.
Taking Rue Lepic back down the hill, and past the first of two remaining original windmills of Paris. Keep going to the second windmill, where you’ll find the location of a street/graffiti art photo shoot for Nothing Rhymes with Orange’s Polite Gothic album cover. Unfortunately, the artwork is not longer there.
Continuing to 44 Rue Lepic is Galerie W – the art gallery dedicated to Troy Henrikksen, an American painter living in Paris.