I‘m always looking for a taste of la vie bohème and ways to immerse myself in old world Paris; dare I say it’s become a bit of a habit of mine. So when I want to block out the noise of the modern city and really feel time travelling backwards, there’s one place that always does the trick. Follow me inside the Musée de Montmartre…
Beyond the white picket fence, the oldest building in Montmartre stands at the end of a cobble-stone pathway. It might not be the sexiest or most cutting edge of of museums, but it’s certainly one of the city’s most nostalgic; a leafy oasis of calm away from the droves of tourists buzzing around the Sacré Coeur.
Built in the 17th century, it once served as a residence and meeting place for many artists including Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and Émile Bernard, who kept their studios here.
Don’t miss the view from the left corner of the house next to the little red windmill…
There aren’t many viewpoints in Paris where you can see rolling hills beyond the city limits.
A stroll around the gardens is free if you don’t have much time to spare, but I’m happy to pay the €9.50 entrance fee to go inside the house and seek out something a little extra special. You’ll see…
The walls and creaky staircases are adorned with posters and artwork from the Belle Epoque advertising the infamous animated cabarets such as Le Chat Noir, the Moulin Rouge and the Lapin Agile. There’s an entire room dedicated to the French Cancan, arguably invented in Montmartre, and another full of rare zinc plates of dreamlike scenes from shadow theatre of the first cabarets in the neighbourhood.
But what I’m really interested in is stepping into the shoes of a bohemian painter living in Montmartre at the turn of the century. Luckily for me, through an inconspicuous door in the museum, one of the old artists studios has been recently restored and re-imagined just as Renoir might have left it.
You can get up close and personal and enter the private world of a Parisian artist in residence. Feel the warmth of summer shining through the atelier windows and smell the paint slowly drying in the sun.
I can brush my hands over the dusty work table where the ghosts of this studio would have once sat mixing their colour palettes and painting their muses.
Doesn’t every bohemian at heart dream of a humble existence in a Parisian studio in Montmartre?
But of course this area of Paris is just as famous for its bars as it is for its artist residences, so the museum also re-imagined a typical watering hole of the Belle Epoque…
What do you say, time for MessyNessy to retire from blogging and start my own little bar in Montmartre?
When you’re done playing barmaid, it’s about time we headed outside. The vineyards of Montmartre are calling us…
Head down the steps at the back of the house…
Watch out for the beehives!
Peek your nose through the rusty padlocked gate leading to the secret old neighbouring wood of 8 rue Cortot. The land was sold by the convent of Montmartre in the 17th century and later transformed into an ornamental garden. Today it’s an ecological reserve frozen in time, planted with rare flora and trees.
Only cats have access.
A few more steps down the path and you’ll arrive at your front row seat to the Clos Montmartre, one of Paris’s three last working vineyards producing 1500 half-litre bottles each year.
Apart from exceptional open days that happen once a year, you can’t find a more beautiful view point or get this close to the grapes anywhere else.
Isn’t she glorious?
Back through the gardens once painted by Renoir and aptly named after him today, take a seat by the lily pond in the courtyard of the Demarne Hotel, the neighbouring house on the grounds that was once home to Claude de la Rose, an actor from Molière’s troupe. You can actually rent the entire thing for a garden party. Do I hear wedding bells?!
Also until the 12th of July this summer, every Sunday you can join in with the Fête de Montmartre here and relive the spirit of the Moulin de la Galette ball.
Good luck leaving the dream of an artist’s bygone Paris. I could have sat on this swing chair all day.
Find more details on visiting the Musée de Montmartre here.