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Mounting Montmartre

montmartre    One does not merely visit Montmartre, one climbs it. The standard approach is from the South, via Metro Anvers or Metro Abbesses, although other directions provide interesting, less crowded climbs. From Metro Anvers the walk up to the orned switchbacked stairway is short but sometimes overcrowded with tourists and associated commerce. The longer climb from Metro Abbesses, also the safest at night, leads one through more worthwhile cafés and shops. Follow rue de la Vieuville to rue Drevet, turning right on rue Gabrielle and left up the stairs to rue du Cardinal Dubois. For an easier ascent, take the glass-covered funiculaire from the base of rue Tardieu. Reminiscent of a ski lift, it is operated by the ratp and can be used with a normal metro ticket.
    Every sunday at 2h30pm from may 1 to oct 15, the city organizes historic 2hr walking tours in french of montmartre, which allow a unique view into some of the less-touristed spots of the butte.

Basilique du Sacre-Coeur
Metro : Anvers, Abbesses or Chateau-Rouge

    The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is like an exotic headdress floating above Paris. In 1873, the Assemblée Nationale selected the birthplace of la Commune as the location for Sacré Coeur, "in witness of repentance and as a symbol of hope", although politician Eugene Spuller called it "a monument to civil war". The catholic establishment hoped that the Sacré Coeur would "expiate the sins" of France after the bloody civil war in which thousands of Communards were massacred by government troops.  After a massive fund-raising effort, the basilica was completed in 1914 and consecrated in 1919.  Its hybrid style of onion domes, arches, and white color set it apart from the smoky grunge of most parisian buildings. Most striking inside the basilica are the mosaics, especially the depiction of Christ on the ceiling of the Mural of the Passion at the back of the altar. The narrow climb up the dome offers the highest vantage point in paris and a view that stretches as far as 50 km on clear days. Farther down, the crypt contains a relic of what many believe to be a piece of the sacred heart of Christ. While the views up the grassy slopes to the Basilica are among the most beautiful in Paris, the streets beneath the winding pedestrian pathways leading up to the Basilica are hideously over-touristed. To the circumvent the onslaught, walk up rue des Trois Freres instead. Likewise, try to avoid the sacrilegiously commodified streets surrounding Sacre-Coeur.

Lapin Agile
Metro : Lamarck-Caulaincourt. 22, rue des saules.

    Still going  strong among quaint shuttered houses is the Lapin Agile cabaret. Frequented by Verlaine, Renoir, Modigliani, and Max Jacob, the establishment was first  known as the "Cabaret des Assassins" until Andre gill decorated its facade with a painting of a lapin (rabbit) balancing a hat on its head and a bottle on its paw. The cabaret immediately gained renown as the "lapin à gill". By the time Picasso began to frequent the establishment, walking over from his first studio at 49, rue Gabrielle, the name had contracted to "lapin Agile".

Place du Tertre
Metro : Abbesses.

    One of the most heinously over-touristed spots in the18eme, place du Tertre teems with absymal chintz artwork by hack street artists., hordes of pushy portrait painters, and has-been cafés. But the place was once the haunt of artists and intellectuals, and the cheapness of the area had not destroyed its celebrated vista of the butte.

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