“There’s daddy’s plane,” he shouts and follows up with, “I’m going to miss him mummy.” He genuinely believes I own and fly it. Why shatter his little dreams!
I cross the road to pick up a souvenir or two from the tacky gift shop on the left and then re-join Tom at Starbucks.
“Got to be the Musee Montmartre today I think.”
“That sounds good.” Replies Tom and off we set.
We get as far as Anvers and are suddenly stopped in our tracks by the down pouring of rain. This wasn’t on the agenda and the walk up the hill wasn’t looking to appetising. We head left and locate a Costa Coffee and take refuge from the rain.
The rain is much heavier by the time we are served and we don’t feel any enthusiasm for making our way up the hill so we sit outside but under the café’s awning protecting ourselves from the downpour. I love the way the rain trickles from the awning and so attempt some photography to capture it. I fail miserably (see result below) but thought it would give a sense of the conditions.
We assumed the rain was here to stay so when the rain was at its lightest we made our way back to the Elysée Montmartre where we turn an immediate left to climb the hill. I glanced up at the Elysée Montmartre at 72 Boulevard de Rochechouart and note that it is undergoing some repair work and decide to cross over the road taking shelter to take a few snaps of its current condition (see below). I am pleased that the Elysée is being refurbished as it’s a venue with ample history. It’s at the Elysée Montmartre that the unforgettable French cancan was invented in 1807. The shows quickly spread to other venues in the neighbourhood of Boulevard Rochechouart, including the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergère and it was at the Elysée Montmartre that Toulouse-Lautrec painted several of his paintings.
After surviving a fire in 1900, Elysée Montmartre diversified and took on many different guises but was again ravaged by fire in 2011, the 200-year-old venue nearly shut down before the French government rallied to save it. Elysée Montmartre is currently closed to the public but a new era awaits.
If you want to know anything about the history of Montmartre and the personalities that lived and executed their art here then this is the place for you. Situated at 8-13 Rue Cortot and founded in 1960 it was home to many artists such as Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and her equally famous artist son Maurice Utrillo (a specialist in capturing the streets and buildings of Montmartre). The gardens have been renovated according to Renior’s paintings and provide a view of the vineyard and the Au Lapin Agile.
Since the last time I was here Suzanne Valadon’s studio has been renovated and this gives you a real sense of how she and Maurice lived and the conditions in which they worked.
For me it wasn’t just about the literal artists that occupied this place it was the history of Montmartre generally and the vision Rodolphe Salis had for it and his subsequent creation of Le Chat Noir which was his attempt to deliver on his vision. Then there is the tribute to The Moulin Rouge and there is plenty to take in especially the lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec that celebrate the Moulin Rouge performers Jane Avril and Louise Weber. For good measure there is a fine Lithograph of Aristide Bruant a friend of Lautrec and a very interesting personality in his own right who is well worth a study.
It’s worth reading the plaque that exists within the museum that says more about Montmartre and Salis’s vision:
“In 1800 Montmartre was an impoverished, dangerous and physically marginal part of Paris. However, at the end of 1881 a young visionary named Rodolphe Salis opened the Chat Noir cabaret on the Boulevard Rochechouart which soon attracted numerous young, avant-garde artists, writers, musicians and performers to live and work in Montmartre. In 1884 Salis made the following audacious statement: “What is Montmartre? – Nothing! What should it be? – Everything!” Within a relatively short time, Salis’s prediction that Montmartre would be “everything” became a reality. In fact, Montmartre was transformed in to the literary/artistic centre of Europe! This exhibition endeavours to reveal the unique characteristics which define the “Spirit of Montmartre” as well as to the Present Montmartre’s contribution to the development of modern art at the turn of the nineteenth century. Welcome to the show!”
Time is running away from me at this point, less so for Tom who is staying another night. Realistically, I have time for one final lunch at Le Chat Noir before heading back to the hotel to collect my backpack and pick up my taxi back to the airport. I opt for the Caesar salad and I feel like it’s my final meal as a condemned man, I know in reality this is far from the truth but it underlines just how gut wrenching it is for me to leave the city I have come to love so much. Tom, set out his potential plans for the remainder of his stay.
“I may take in some Monet,”
Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about leaving.
“If I want to see some Monet I’ll take a trip to IKEA.”
Seriously, IKEA have destroyed Monet for me simply because I used see his work there all the time and it became too accessible.
I wish Tom well a little envious of his extra day and leave him at the Chat Noir as I head back to the hotel to pick up my stuff. I wait for the taxi who then takes me past The Chat Noir, The Moulin Rouge and Starbucks looking at my seat one final time knowing that tomorrow morning it’ll occupied by someone who perhaps is embarking on their own little adventure in Paris.