1-Moulin Rouge-RSYNOPSIS:  The Basilica of Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge and the Red-light District of Place Pigalle in Montmartre.

Flying through a night that gets cut by 6 hours and “waking up” from little more than sore muscles and a headache with which you have to face a full day has never been among my favorite things to do.  But it’s the obstacle you have to overcome going overseas.

Half the day had passed by the time I left Charles De Gaulle airport and after checking into my hotel there was little time to do much of anything.  I picked a site in the neighborhood and went to see the  Basilica of Sacre Coeur.  From one of the tallest mountains in the city Butte de Montmartre, you look across town and even the Eiffel Tower looks just like a small chimney in the distance.   Couples lounge on the grassy mountain and vendors are trying to sell more kitsch than imaginable.  Inside the church a choir of about 8 nuns was trying to get through a vesper service but rude visitors had to be shushed every minute by some ushers; to no avail.  It was a circus.  Tourists!  A world I try to avoid, but in Paris you just become one of them.  And so I joined them in taking pictures of the church while the service was unfolding.   The nuns had pleasant voices.  This could have been such a spiritual moment; but not at Sacre Coeur.

At the foot of Sacre Coeur, stretching all the way to Place de Clichy, the red light district unfolds.  Contrary to the clean delineations we like to make in the States between low and upper class neighborhoods, shopping districts, or commercial downtown areas – things here mingle a lot more freely.  This was a neighborhood as well as a red-light district.  There are bars next to strip clubs. There are clothing boutiques adjacent to sex toy stores.   And there are ordinary people, including children walking along the streets, not just horny customers and scantily dressed prostitutes.   Thank goodness!  As I had no idea when I started out where I was heading, I was able to blend in and “get through”. 

Not to be missed in the middle of this district, sparkles the Moulin Rouge, famous and known to me through the Impressionists.  I never knew it sported a windmill!  The symbolic significance of it escapes me.  Is it the futile chasing of love or the even more futile fight of imaginary enemies, as in the comic duel between Don Quixote and the blades of the windmill?  I have no clue.  I assume it still functions as a turn-on revue of sorts.  I was not about to find out.  

But what I found out was that after 8 PM most stores are closed and even the corner grocery shut its doors.  And so dinner consisted of a bottle of water from the hotel vending machine and a dry roll I had picked up at a bakery earlier in the day, with hopes of supplementing them with red wine and cheese…  Good night.

4 comments so far

Add Your Comment
  1. A dry roll with a bottle of water certainly does not sound like Paris to me – but made me smile. Am looking forward to following you on your journey.

  2. ET! I am so pleased to see that you are walking on the wild side, that being the “red light district”. I am having so many memories of my time in Paris, thank you for the reminder; I will share some of them when next I see you! Here is one related to today:

    I was very excited when I saw you visited Sacre Coeur – In a rare moment when I was there, the steps that lead up the hill of Montmartre to the Basilica were vacant! In a split second, I did my best to remember the famous photograph taken by Halasz in ’24, and tried to snap my own, I love his picture, but also my own, as it IS my own.

  3. Wandering in the red light district, Elisabeth, my my! That McDonalds right there in the midst of what looks like Haussmann’s Paris. What an interesting little building it’s in. You should have sampled a “French hamburger” and some French fries…even though we were told by our government a while back never to call them that again. LOL
    I looked around for the “meaning” of the windmill on the Moulon Rouge, and there are various ideas…most suggesting that the windmill represents the history of Montmartre, a village that used to have lots of windmills. Moulon Rouge was built in 1889, and we know what else was finished in that year. Must have been wonderful to be in Paris during the Belle Epoque.
    And wonderful for you to be there right now. Can hardly wait to see what you saw on your second day.

  4. Hi Elisabeth, thanks for letting us be part of your journey:) I have lived in Paris and can see you and the streets and understand the tourist part too:) Wishing you good luck on your just starting journey:))
    We are going to a “Bootlegger” basement in a privat house life concert today on Dexter Rd. and I enjoy every minute Gömlek is here, filled with friends visiting, parties, projects, dancing and reading etc. big Bear hug from Leyla and Gömlek:)