“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there.” – Hemingway
Living in the city of love is surreal. There have been moments while strolling around the city or walking around in Montmarte, I have always experienced things from a different perspective, in a different mood.
For a very long time this week, I dallied along the lines of how I wanted this blog to turn out. Should I make it a clichéd article? Talking about what kind of a place Montmarte is, the must-visit spots or the touristic routines. On a second thought, I even began to recall from my visits, a few pointers about Montmarte to give to my readers – but then, my whole point of sharing with you the reality of the place is amiss.
Nonetheless, to brief you, Montmarte is a large hill in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. It is a major tourist attraction for its quaint picturesque neighbourhood, artists corner and cafes. Montmarte is also the destination of the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, Ernest Hemmingway and Picasso, Vlamenck, Derain, Soutine, Modigliani, Van Gogh and countless others who lived and worked in these narrow streets. You could find wall plaques identifying buildings and cafes as historic. “Hemmingway once peed in our bathroom…” etc.
The other major attraction is the Basilica Sacre-Coeur, built only a century ago, after the French were embarrassed by a brief but successful occupation by the Germans in 1870 under Bismark’s Prussian army. The Basilica is based in Roman architecture and took over 40 years to build. From a distance, the stark white domes are powerful and imposing. During WWII, 13 bombs are said to have landed on the church, but without resulting in casualties, which lent the place special status among the local people. Atop the dome, you get an entire view of the city including the Eiffel Tower.
What makes Montmarte so special? The peace inside the Basilica is incomparable, I have sat there for hours on many occasions. I still remember how it feels like every part of the locality whispers its secrets to you.
Take a walk in Montmarte and you will know what I mean. How would you feel when the guy sitting outside strums his guitar and sings one of your favourite song? How would you feel if you were transported in another world of art and era?
How do you feel knowing that you tread on the same cobbled stones which were once daily routes for Van Gogh and Hemingway? How do you feel just existing in that moment, breathing the same air and feeling the beauty of a past somewhere trapped in its transition? How do you feel, when every part of your soul tells you that this was the moment writers craved for?
That these were the corners that buried more than a painting, these were the bars and cafes where kisses were shared in secrecy, where tall claims of love were made in declaration. These were the places that gave many their heroic moments, that gave many their firsts of things. How do you not revel standing in a town that still keeps its magic simply by existing?
The more I am there, the more enamoured I have felt of how Montmarte, my most favourite part of Paris is. Montamarte whispers to you in love and secrecy when you are there with a unattached mindset. It makes you believe that there is always a next time for everything in life, that life goes around in a circle and what’s meant to be will always, always find you.
And in that moment, I swear, we are infinite.