In my first post, I wrote that in seeing Montmartre, I discovered the reason people write about Paris. While the entire city is beautiful in many ways, Montmartre embodies the spirit of the true Bohemian lifestyle, one filled with art, charm, wit and beauty. With its art-deco cafés and cobblestone alleyways one easily finds the appeal it brought to artists and writers like Picasso, Zola and Renoir.
Obviously Montmartre is not what it was. There was a time in which someone like Renoir would be out on the street selling portraits for a few francs and the avant-garde Bohemian lifestyle was alive and well (this wasn’t where you had lunch with your grandmother). However, while the Bourgeois have pushed their way into the past haven for starving artists, there are those who still attempt to uphold that time-old tradition of peddling art in the street.
Just behind Le Sacre-Cœur, portraiture artists attempt to lure you in for a sitting, some of them really quite talented. I can easily tell the difference between the guy who can kind of draw attempting to scam tourists and the person who actually takes their time in creating a quality portrait because they want to make a living as an artist.
Then there are the artists who sell their original work in small square of restaurants and cafés, and they paint right in front of you. This is what they actually do every day. And while there may not be any Van Goghs among the group, the paintings are still beautiful and each has its own style and flare. If you can truly immerse yourself in the magic of the culture, go on a cold day when the tourists have retreated to their all-inclusive hotels–you might just catch a glimpse of a Spanish man in a striped sailor shirt.
After spending my afternoon at Les Deux Moulins, an art-deco café and famous film location for Amélie, I end the day by heading to the 11th arrondissement for some spoken word at Le Chat Noir. The 11th has decidedly become “Hipster Paris,” a perfect combination of grunge and chic, perhaps making a modern-day attempt to recreate Montmartre. It doesn’t really work, but it is a lot of fun, and Monday night spoken word at Le Chat Noir is the perfect open space I was yearning for after leaving DC. Everything is in English so anyone from any background is welcome to join, perform, watch and let the poetry flow. With singers, instrumentalists and poets alike, I think I found a new home for my Monday nights.
Perhaps more on this later, but I must say it was quite the day for a Bohemian pigeon.