Montmartre was a haven of struggling artists back in the day. Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh…all have lived, worked, or socialized here–at Le Consulat or La Maison Rose–some point in time. However, thanks to the fame of Amelie, Montmartre is also extremely popular with the tourists today. Our hotel was right next to the Moulin Rouge, which looked like a modern movie theater. In my naivety, I kind of expected or at least hoped that things still looked old and interesting instead of getting a modern face lift.
Luckily, as we unintentionally followed Amelie Poulain’s footsteps around the neighborhood, I did discover that large swashes of Montmartre still seemed to lag behind the modern world, in a good way. Narrow cobblestone streets and long steep staircases were lined with quiet, old houses. The cafes, even the famous ones, looked like the decor hasn’t changed since the 1800’s. We saw Collignon’s Marche de la Butte, Amelie’s workplace at Cafe des Deux Moulins, and of course we wandered up and down her street–Rue de Lepic. We climbed higher and higher until we reached the Sacre Coeur Cathedral, which has the most magnificent view of Paris. Then on our way to lunch we casually passed by Picasso’s old studio and Van Gogh’s apartment. I felt a pang of sadness thinking about how some of these artists lived in total obscurity and struggled to even eat, when now their art are almost priceless.