Today was our long-awaited (in the sense that we signed up for them in May) walking tours in Paris with professional tour guides. The students had 3 choices: le Marais, Montmartre, or Montparnasse (“I forgot which one I signed up for. . . I think it starts with an M?”). Originally I was supposed to go to Montparnasse, which I’d chosen because I’ve never visited there. But no faculty were signed up for Montmartre so I went along with that group instead. Our guide Orane was one of the guides on the visit to the Louvre last year. She recognized me even though we’d only seen each other once or twice before. I made a concerted effort to speak French–something I’m working on more diligently this year–and maintained what I’m pretty sure was a pleasant and intelligent level of small talk during the metro ride from Porte d’Orléans to Blanche. For future reference, when you get out at Blanche you will be directly in front of the Moulin Rouge, and that’s pretty cool. In fact it’s one of my overall favorite things about Paris: the prospect of coming up out of a metro station and finding yourself right next to something beautiful (Aubers station–turn around and you see the Opéra Garnier), famous (Blanche–Moulin Rouge), or important (St. Michel-Notre Dame–right across the street from Notre Dame cathedral).
Orane gave us a great, well-planned tour of Montmartre. The weather was not ideal–it drizzled intermittently–but the heavy rain held off till the tour was over and I was ensconced inside a crêperie. Because Montmartre is one huge hill, touring it is always a strenuous walk. However, there are lots of good places to stop and take a look around: in addition to the Moulin Rouge we saw the Montmartre vineyard, the Lapin Agile (originally the “Lapin à Gilles” because someone named Gilles painted the rabbit on the building–I love a good French pun), the Moulin à la Galette (one of only 2 remaining windmills in Montmartre, of which there used to be 30), and the café from Amelie. I used to turn my nose up at guided tours but I always end up learning something and seeing things I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. So no more guided tour snobbery for me; I’ve been converted.