One of my favourite things to do when I travel is to walk – I will walk everywhere if I can. When I walk , I get to see so many things that I might otherwise miss if I were traveling by car or by bus or metro. Even if travelling by bike, I can’t just stop anywhere to take a photo and all places are not accessible by bike.
Walking tour with Context Travel
On a recent trip to Paris , I was lucky enough to experience a walking tour of Montmarte. If you know anything about Montmartre or have any interest in art … you know it is full of culture, art and history and it is such a unique, exciting area that still holds onto some of the bohemian atmosphere it has been known for throughout the last century.
The walking tour is organized through Context Travel, they have tours all over the world and one to suit everyone’s interest whether art, culture, food or adventure related. There are quite a few different tours available throughout Paris, I was particularly interested in this one to Montmarte because of the area, its history and the fact that I am such an art geek ….some of my favourite artists hung out and lived here.
The walk itself was about 3 hours in length, we met at 9:30 in the morning and it ended close to 12:30. Starting off at Abbesses métro station, and coming back to that same general area at the end.
Our guide Rebecca, an Expat American and an admitted francophile, was delightful and very knowledgeable. She knew the area and the history quite well and the the tour was in English, which helped because my French is rusty…
As we started along on the tour, Rebecca would point out some of the interesting buildings and the history behind them as well as some of the windmills ( moulin) and their importance, of which only a few are left in the area at the moment.
She also came equipped with a binder full of more information and detail on some of the historical sites and the people that were well known from the area. So…it wasn’t just about the artists from the area but also the history of what went on in the area and how Montmartre came to be during the revolutionary government of the Paris Commune, it was quite fun to get all the background information.
Highlights of the tour
I loved meandering through the cobblestone streets and seeing all the beautiful architecture. Some of the highlights for me were seeing where Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo, as well as where Toulouse LauTrec had lived, and learning about some of the wild parties he held in his apartment, as well as visiting Au Lapin Agile, the cabaret the artists all hung out at during the early 1900’s. Can’t forget the Bateau Lavoir, where Picasso and a few other artists lived and worked for a many years. There were things that I learned about some of my favourite artists which I had not known before… that was quite fun!
Ending on a lovely note after all
As I mentioned earlier, along with the art history we also learned some information about France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war and how Sacre Coeur figured in all of it. Sacre Coeur is such an imposing and beautiful piece of architecture, and to hear all the effort that it actually took to finally get it built is quite amazing! It was incredible climbing up the cobblestone street to the top of the hill to finally see it in all its glory.. One of the interesting facts about Sacre Coeur is that is is self cleaning because of the stone that is is built from … so everytime it rains, it cleans itself and you can even see the areas that get the most rain from the brightness of the stone.
We ended up at a lovely plaza full of artists working at different stages of drawings and paintings. As we were taking the steps down from the area we became surrounded by young people asking to help the deaf ( one of the many scams they play on tourists) Luckily, Rebecca quickly ushered us through and made sure we were not held back by any of them.
It was a lovely and interesting walk, even though the last bit with the tourist trap was unexpected but we got through it…
Best way to see a City!
If you are thinking of heading to Paris and love art, history, and architecture this is a must do walk! Hopefully you will be lucky to get Rebecca as your guide, she was absolutely delightful and informative! Context Travel does many different tours around Paris as well as many other cities around the world. You must make sure to check them out; it is the best way to see the city and get to know it.
*Disclosure : I was a guest of Context Travel during the walk mentioned above, however all opinions are my own.