The charismatic location of our latest home away from home in Paris is in Montmartre-Pigalle, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. It’s a captivating area that, with its population of artists, bohemians and budget tourists, little old ladies and ladies of the night, simultaneously manages to be cool and vulgar, charming and seedy.
Our latest home away from home in Paris is a charming apartment in Montmartre-Pigalle, a location that fascinates and seduces, as much as it delights and dismays – in the same way as Soho does in London or Potts Point in Sydney. And that’s exactly what makes it such a captivating place to stay.
If you’re joining us for the first time, this post was written during our two week stay in Montmartre for the project that launched Grantourismo, a yearlong grand tour of the world focused on slow travel, local travel and experiential travel – ways of travelling that we believe are more immersive, engaging and enriching; more sustainable, responsible and ethical. Our mission: to make travel more meaningful and more memorable.
For 12 months, we travelled slowly, attempting to live like locals by settling into apartments and homes for two weeks at a time, we focused on exploring local neighbourhoods, connecting with local people, doing and learning things, such as learning to cook local food, and, whenever possible, giving back to places – all in an attempt to get beneath the skin of the places we spent time in.
You can read more here about our Grantourismo project, our background as a professional travel and food writer and photographer team, how the project began, inspired by the ‘grand tour’, our guiding principals, the places settled into, the people we met, and the things we did and learnt in each place.
Our Home Away From Home in Paris is a Charming Apartment in Montmartre
On the lower slopes of Montmartre that creep up the hillside from boulevards de Clichy and de Rochechouart are buzzy bars, nightspots, and vintage furniture and bric-a-brac shops, while the tiny parallel doglegged streets of Rue des Abbesses, Rue des Toire Frères and Rue d’Orsel are lined with bistros, bakeries, and boutiques.
Higher still, on the top of the hill of Montmartre is the stupendous cathedral of Sacre Coeur, and the crowded tourist-heavy lanes centred on and around Rue Rustique, while on the slopes on the other side of the hill are lovely tree-lined streets of elegant old apartment buildings in a local neighbourhood that sees few tourists.
Our home away from home in Paris for two weeks is smack bang in the centre of the action in Montmartre on the lower slopes, on vibrant Rue des Abbesses.
On the top floor of a sixth floor building, with a courtyard at its centre, our petite attic apartment has Rear Window-like views into the neighbouring apartments and across the grey rooftops. From the toilette we can just see the tops of the spires of Sacre Coeur.
A light-filled one-bedroom apartment, with a compact kitchen-cum-living-dining room, a decent-sized bedroom, a bathroom much too big for the size of the apartment (someone once loved a long soak!), and a separate toilette, our quarters are petite without being cramped, and far more spacious in size than a Paris hotel room of the same price.
Our little Montmartre apartments may not be as chic as the sumptuous Paris apartments that feature in the glossy book of the same name that sits on the shelves among a library that includes everything from the French New Wave and Paris Architecture to Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso’s Paris, but it has an eclectic charm and an anything-goes style that is très Parisian.
Beside the books are bowls, vases and carvings from Africa and Asia, there are a few Morroccan lanterns, a blue-and-white Chinese bowl, and on the walls throughout the apartment hang alluring paintings, prints and black and white photos of Paris.
There’s an excellent French-themed DVD collection, featuring fabulous Parisian-set films from Godard’s Breathless to Truffaut’s The Last Metro, and a CD selection ranging from Josephine Baker to French Chanson.
The charmingly-mismatched blue-hued décor includes a Japanese futon in the living room and a white antique writing desk and rattan chair in the bedroom (and more books and guidebooks there too!), where I’ve set up office for the duration of our stay.
Terence has taken over the foldout dining table in the living-dining area, which means no dinner parties here I’m afraid, although the compact kitchen didn’t stop him cooking up an aromatic Côte de boeuf and Dauphinoise potatoes, Pierre Gagnaire’s suggestion for our series The Dish one the quintessential dishes of the places we’re settling into.
Terence is enjoying the range of amenities for such a tiny kitchen and although he loathes induction stovetops, he appreciates having a quality oven – something many apartments in Paris don’t have.
But while there is a fridge, freezer, and dishwasher – Terence would love to see some big white plates and more wine glasses in the cupboards. (Maybe I shouldn’t rule out that dinner party yet?)
My only complaint is the lack of elevator – I would have happily paid anyone to lug my bags up here the night we arrived, especially after 13 hours of travelling from Ceret.
However, that’s the price we knowingly paid for such a compelling location, and, after all, the more calories we burn, the more we can eat, right?