A different walking tour of Chateau Rouge and Montmartre, part 2


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July 20th 2012
Published: December 8th 2012
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Basilique du Sacré-CœurBasilique du Sacré-CœurBasilique du Sacré-Cœur

La Butte Montmartre, Paris, France
Behind Les Grands Magasins Dufayel, a street leads towards the Montmartre hill. At the end it is possible to take two ways up to the top. The smaller of the two is a path which takes you through lots of green, yet also lots of faul smells of urine. The larger and more touristic walk to the top are the stairs which spread out infront of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. Though the stench of urine is far from as bad here, the bottom of the stairs are occupied by extremely aggresive young guys who force tourists into buying knitted bracelets. However, with Luis and the rest of the couchsurfers our group of weary globetrotters and backpackers seemed to scare off even the most aggresive of guys, and while many couples on a romantic weekend had to fend off the guys we were left alone. Luis offcourse began a long and thourough history of the Montmartre hill and the church which adorns the top.

In first French and then Spanish, he told two different tales of how Monthmartre got its name. The first refers to Montmartre as a variant of Mons Martis, and thus relates to a heathen past, where the
AcrobaticsAcrobaticsAcrobatics

La Butte Montmartre, Paris, France
Montmartre hill held a temple for Mars, the Roman god of war. The second and more detailed story explains the name Montmartre as meaning the Mountain of Martyr. In this version, the name is of Christian origin and a part of the central founding myth of Paris itself. According to legend (or perhaps more befitting to myth) Saint Denis, bishop of Paris around 250 AD, apparently scarred the pagan population by his success in converting people to Christianity. For this reason, he was beheaded on top of Montmartre, which at the time was a holy place for the local druidic religion. However, Saint Denis wasn't completely done yet and as a chicken runs around a bit after beheading, so did he. He took up his head and walked across what is today central Paris while preaching a sermon. After ten kilometers he stopped at the place that today holds the Cathédrale royale de Saint-Denis, where the French kings were burried before the French Revolution. Which version is true is impossible to say, but personally I think there is more to the idea that Christianity as an invading religion took over the name and reinventing it, in the same way as
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Montmartre, Paris, France
winter solstice became Christmas and so forth. However, I do like the second story better, and I am certain a creative mind could create a computer game about it.

Reaching the top of the stairs and standing infront of the impressive Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Luis continued his story of how it was build, who were the two statues infront (Jean D'Arc and Louis IX - both sainted) and how it was central in the rebellious events that lead to the rise of the Paris Commune in March 1871. Apparently, Montmartre was one of several places where the National Guard in Paris had hidden canons from the invading German forces, after the disastorous defeat to Bismarck in September 1870 and when Paris stood against being overrun. However, when the National Assembly with Adolphe Tiers as leader attempted to retrieve the canons from the increasingly revolutionary National Guard at Montmartre, it turned into a mess. The two leading generals of the operation were killed by their own soldiers after ordering them to shoot at the masses which had gathered around the National Guard. The soldiers then joined ranks with the National Guard at Montmartre and from there it turned into a
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Montmartre, Paris, France
rapidly spreading revolution by the people of Paris against the National Assembly. Voilá, la Commune de Paris était née. Vive la France!

But Montmartre is more than a beheaded bishop and the beginning of a revolution. Leaving behind the basilica, Luis turned to stories of how the many cabaret houses had been witness to anything from the amour of world famous artists to the secret dealings between the Parisian and Corsican mafia families.

We ended up on a small square which seemed nothing more than an increased sidewalk at the turn of a street. The 'square' was adorned with a bust of a woman, whom Luis told us was the famous Dalida and the square was the Parisian gay-communities commemoration of her. Yolanda Gigliotti was an Egyptian born, Italian descended singer and actress who has received cult status in France after a 30-year career and quite an interesting life. Today she has received cult-status in homosexual circles due to her disco period. Moreover, she was a good friend of Charles Aznavour, which has made my mum immediately check her out on Youtube (My mum is a major fan of Aznavour, go figure). However, the most interesting part to
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Montmartre, Paris, France
the story is the alleged relationship between Dalida and French President Francois Mitterand. According to Luis, Mitterand's decision to construct a glass pyramid infront of Louvre was apparently as a gesture to Dalida, as she had grown up in Egypt. Beat that Dan Brown!

Afterwards, Luis took us to Le Passe-Muraille and told us the story of the short story by Marcel Aymé from 1943. Moreover, as we went through the Passage des Abbesses he pointed out little faces looking down on us - other testimonies to the man who could walk through walls. Turning to a small green area Luis finally directed our gaze to the Wall of Love, which adorns a small park next to the metro station Abbesses. After a whole lot of love in a maze of different languages, the trip ended with a visit to the grocery shop and bar from Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain as well as the cabaret above all others Moulin Rouge.

The end.

Anna


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the streets of Montmartre

Montmartre, Paris, France
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Dalida

Place Dalida, Montmartre, Paris, France
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Le Passe-Muraille

One of several faces representing le passe-muraille, Montmartre, Paris, France
The Wall of LoveThe Wall of Love
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Montmartre, Paris, France
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Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

La Butte Montmartre, Paris, France


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