Today, Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day, the day we find out, or not, how much left of winter there is.
February 02, 2009
I’m always on the lookout for fabric samples in Paris and one place I like to find them is in Montmartre. So following my matinal café au lait, I set off for the 18th arrondissement.
The name Montmartre comes from mons martyrium, the mount of martyrs, in this case the first Bishop of Paris, Saint Denis, and his two companions, Rusticus and Eleutherius.
For centuries, Montmartre was a rural village studded with windmills (moulins) that ground the flour for the capital. Today, only two of them remain.
In the 19th century, artists, writers and musicians discovered Montmartre’s bucolic charms and low rents. Lively bars, raucous cabarets, and garish bordellos soon followed, all the necessities for a Bohemian lifestyle.
I step off the train at Métro Abesses, one of the city’s few remaining Art Deco stations.
On the steady climb upward, I pass a souvenir shop, formerly the infamous cabaret, Le Chat Noir, where the bourgeoisie rubbed shoulders with the Bohemian demi-monde.
A few doors down at No.72, I recognize the Theatre Elysée-Montmartre, where the famous cancan dancer La Goulue made her debut before defecting to the Moulin Rouge.
Mildly out of breath, I climb the rue de Steinkerque, ducking in and out of fabric shops, collecting swatches as I go. I’m told a young Picasso visited the brothels on this street.
A familiar outline comes into view: the Basilica of Sacré Coeur. Do I have one more ascent in me? Puffing, I reach the summit of rue Foyatier, having covered all 266 steps.
How far would you climb to see one of the world's great sights?