The Musée de Montmartre: A True Multi-faceted Gem!

The Musée de Montmartre is one of my favourite museums in Paris and is really worth visiting for so many reasons.

First of all the museum is located on top of the Butte in a peaceful cobbled street so typical of Montmartre, the ‘rue Cortot’. And although Montmartre may be the most touristic area of Paris this street and the museum itself remain rather off the beaten track and not too crowdy.

Musee de Montmartre - Rue Cortot - Paris
Musee de Montmartre – Rue Cortot – Paris

Secondly the permanent collections are exhibited in a beautiful house which is the oldest house in Montmartre. It was built in the middle of the 17th century and fully renovated in 1959. It is a four-storey building offering a succession of charming rooms with apparent oak beams and terracotta floor tiles and vista of the gardens from every window. The works exhibited tell the history of Montmartre. One can see paintings of landscapes of the Butte in the 19th century, covered with gardens, vineyard and windmills; or souvenirs of the cabarets whose history cannot be separated from the one of Montmartre: Le Chat Noir, Le Lapin Agile or Le Moulin Rouge.

Thirdly the Musée de Montmartre houses the studio of Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo, which is absolutely amazing. A perfect replica of the artists’ workshop has been built in its genuine exceptional location on top of the second building of the museum. It offers a terrific view on the roof of the old house, on the gardens and on Paris in the background. The studio is bright and peaceful, with a unique and authentic atmosphere thanks to all the period furniture and objets exhibited -including a genuine Almanach des Postes of 1925-. None of them belonged to the artists but the reconstruction is faithful and striking.

And last but not least the garden of the museum is idyllic and charming. I should say ‘the gardens’ as they are multiple, each of them offering a very special and different atmosphere. They are named ‘The Renoir Gardens‘ as the impressionist artist used to live and paint there.

They are romantic, peaceful and clear in front of the Studio of Suzanne Valadon. There one can enjoy a drink in an atmosphere evoking the impressionists’ period: a pond with water lilies; table, chairs and sunshade of the ‘Café Renoir’; and even a swing hanged up in the precise spot where Auguste Renoir painted his masterpiece: La balançoire, in 1876.

At the back of the museum the gardens are much wilder and the atmosphere totally different. One gets lost into the groves walking down a path through flowers and trees; one can sit down on a stump and enjoy dreaming or reading. Further on the right one notices a couple of hives hidden in the old wood of ‘8 rue Cortot’ which is today an ecological reserve of the City of Paris planted with trees and where only cats have access.

The path comes out onto the vineyard of Montmartre: 1762 vines of 27 grape varieties, mainly Gamay, have been planted and allow to produce a light red wine, the ‘Clos Montmartre’. The view onto the vineyard and the small houses below including the cabaret ‘Le Lapin Agile’ is amazing. It reminds the old Montmartre and offers a striking contrast with the recent buildings of northern Paris in the background. One stay there and contemplates past and present, countryside and urbanization.

If need be here are two more reasons to go and visit the Musée de Montmartre this summer. Firstly a superb exhibition dedicated to the Dutch painter Kees Van Dongen is taking place there until 26 August 2018. It is focused on the years that the artist spent in the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre from 1905. Beautiful paintings coming from various museums of the world and from private collections are exhibited: A unique opportunity to see them in a very successful presentation. Among my favourites: ‘Fernande Olivier’ (the portrait on the exhibition’s poster); ‘Deux Yeux’; and in the last room, ‘Femme allongée’ and ‘La promeneuse’.

Photographies are not allowed and the only way to admire them is to go there…

Musee de Montmartre - Paris - Exhibition Van Dongen
Musee de Montmartre – Paris – Exhibition Van Dongen

Finally the Musée de Montmartre offers late-night opening until 10pm every Thursday in July and August. One can then enjoy an even more romantic atmosphere and especially admire the beautiful light of sunset in the gardens and on the vineyard, the surroundings streets and houses and the northern part of Paris. And one can choose between the usual visit at usual price (12€) or buy a special entrance ticket including the degustation of a glass of champagne in the gardens (extra cost of 4€). Nothing could be more romantic!

I went to the Musée de Montmartre during the day last week and although Paris is busy with tourists at that time of the year it was a heaven of tranquillity. I spent two hours there, visiting the museum, the apartment and studio of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo, the beautiful exhibition Van Dongen and also strolling in the multiple nooks of the gardens. In such a magical atmosphere I lost track of time: A true delight!

Practical information : Musée de Montmartre – 12 rue Cortot 75018 – 10am-6pm (5pm from October till March) – Late-night opening on Thursday until 10pm in July and August – Exhibition ‘Van Dongen et le Bateau-lavoir’ until 26 August 2018

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Cherry Blossom Festival in Paris

Dear Readers,

I intended to write a post about a beautiful and strong exhibition that I have just visited in Paris but walked through the Jardin des Plantes yesterday evening ; and I have changed my mind. The Japanese Cherry trees are presently in bloom, and so magnificent ! Once it has started the Cherry blossom only last a couple of days.

So if by chance you are in Paris this weekend or the coming week, do not miss this amazing sight and enjoy a walk in the Jardin des Plantes… as it will not last more than a few days. Moreover not only the Japanese Cherry trees are in bloom but also the Magnolias and the Butterfly bush : A true delight !

Below is the article I had written about the Jardin des Plantes three years ago, on 9 April 2015. We had a very cold and long winter in Paris this year ; but Spring has finally arrived… and the Japanese cherry trees are in bloom almost on the same day as three years ago !

A must-visit in Early Spring: the Jardin des Plantes in Paris
Jardin des plantes Paris-Cherry blossom
Cherry blossom in the Jardin des Plantes

I hope that you have enjoyed this walk again… and promised, next week I’ll tell you about the exhibition !

Practical information : Jardin des plantes – 57 rue Cuvier 75005 Paris

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –

Along the Seine: Paris Bridges towards East

There was not only snow in Paris this winter but also much rain. So much rain that it had produced a significant rise in the river Seine level: the banks had been flooded and closed. When they reopened three weeks ago I had a walk along the Seine towards east, from the Ile Saint Louis to the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand. It was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the light was superb, the views on the Paris bridges amazing and the signs of the drop in the water level could be seen here and there.

1.From the Pont de Sully to the Pont d’Austerlitz
Pont de Sully - View from the Open-air Sculpture Museum in the Jardin Tino Rossi
Pont de Sully – View from the Open-air Sculpture Museum in the Jardin Tino Rossi

Our walk starts at the Institut du Monde Arabe. There the Seine divides into two branches round the Ile Saint Louis -and further west the Ile de la Cité. Along the river a pleasant garden has been laid out: the Jardin Tino Rossi.

There one strolls very close to the water in the middle of beautiful trees: pines, magnolias, Japanese cherry trees, weeping willows,… and discovers here and there the sculptures made by famous contemporary artists such as César, Brancusi or Zadkine. And on the esplanade one can see regularly groups of musicians or dancers.

The Pont de Sully and the Ile Saint Louis in the background
The Pont de Sully and the Ile Saint Louis in the background

A little further one walks along the Péniche du Cœur, which belongs to the famous non profit organization created by Coluche in 1985, Les Restos du Cœur. It provides accommodation and food to homeless people and has just reopened after the Seine floods.

2.From the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Viaduc d’Austerlitz
The Pont d'Austerlitz
The Pont d’Austerlitz

The first bridge to span the Seine east of the Ile Saint Louis is the Pont d’Austerlitz. It gets its name from the victory won by Napoléon: the first bridge built at that location had been inaugurated in 1807, two years after the battle. It was renovated fifty years later and the present stone bridge dates from 1855. It is decorated with the names of the main officers killed during the battle.

A bit further one is surprised by a cable winch diving into the water. Here is liying at the bottom of the river La Louise-Catherine, a barge which used to be renovated by Le Corbusier in the early 20th century and turned into a refuge for homeless. For a couple of years the barge has been under repair so as to be converted into a cultural site. But last month the Louise-Catherine sunk when the Seine level has dropped. It should be afloat again when the Seine returns to its usual level.

One reaches then the Viaduc d’Austerlitz. This bridge was built by Eiffel and is used by the metro line 5 to cross the Seine between the stations Quai de la Rapée on the right bank and Gare d’Austerlitz on the left. I love its elegant silhouette!

3.From the Viaduc d’Austerlitz to the Pont Charles de Gaulle

Shortly after the Viaduc d’Austerlitz one notices a wooden construction on the water. This is the first and unique hotel on the Seine in Paris: The Hotel Off Paris Seine. It offers 54 rooms and 4 suites for a unique experience. One can also enjoy the bar either for an evening drink or a brunch on Sundays.

The Hotel Off: sleeping on the Seine
The Hotel Off: sleeping on the Seine

Then one walks under the Pont Charles de Gaulle which looks like a white airplane wing. This bridge was built in 1996 so as to face the development of the new areas of Bercy in 12th arrondissement and Bibliothèque in 13th arrondissement. It offers an additional road to reach the Gare de Lyon from the left bank.

The Pont Charles de Gaulle
The Pont Charles de Gaulle
4.From the Pont Charles de Gaulle to the Pont de Bercy

As one walks towards east the banks become less busy and more deserted. One is far from the bubbling city and the walk under the Cité de la Mode et du Design could even be a bit disturbing when there are no other walkers.

The Cité de la Mode et du Design was built in 2009 on the premises of former warehouses. The structure of reinforced concrete was preserved and a “plug over” made of glass and metal painted in bright green was added. The undulating shape of this plug over makes one think of a wave or a snake. I am not really fond of its design at daylight; I prefer the building at night when it is lit up and reflected in the river.

The Cité de la Mode et du Design shelters exhibitions and performances, a renowned School -the Institut Français de la Mode-, and several clubs, cafés and restaurants. My favourite is the Rooftop, so pleasant at night in summer!

Walking on the bank under the Cité de la Mode et du Design after the water level has dropped was a unique experience. The place looked like the end of the world; the ground was full of puddles, of mud and footprints. Even a shoe had been left behind by her owner…

One feels relieved when one leaves the basement of the Cité de la Mode and can see the sky again. The view on the Pont de Bercy is just amazing. I like this bridge with its two levels : one for the cars; and above it a viaduc for the trains of metro line 6. At the end of the bridge, on the right bank, one can see the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Accor Hotel Arena, where concerts and sports events take place.

The Pont de Bercy: for both cars and metro
The Pont de Bercy: for both cars and metro
Metro crossing the Seine on the Pont de Bercy
Metro crossing the Seine on the Pont de Bercy
The Ministry of Economy and the Accor Hotel Arena at Bercy
The Ministry of Economy and the Accor Hotel Arena at Bercy
5.From the Pont de Bercy to the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir

The banks now cross the new living areas of Eastern Paris: Bercy on the right bank and Bibliothèque on the left bank. Just before reaching the huge site of the Bibliothèque François Mitterand one can see the Piscine Joséphine Baker which is a public swimming pool where one can swim at the Seine level and with a view onto the river. Very pleasant indeed… but also quite crowded in summer.

The Josephine Baker swimming pool is reflecting the towers of the François Mitterrand Library
The Josephine Baker swimming pool is reflecting the towers of the François Mitterrand Library

Around the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand the banks are really pleasant and lively by fine weather, especially in summer, as there are several trendy cafés where to enjoy a drink with a view on the elegant Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. The atmosphere reminds the one of the Thames banks at Southwark in London: the river is wide, the surrounding buildings are modern, the clientele of the cafés are mainly local people.

The Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir is one of the four pedestrian bridges crossing the Seine in Paris. It was inaugurated in 2006 and makes the link between the esplanade of the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand and the Parc de Bercy; and next to it the pedestrian area of Cour Saint Emilion. The two levels of the Passerelle are reserved to Pedestrians and cyclists. One does not use it only to cross the river but also just to enjoy walking on it, feeling its undulation and admiring the views from it: a true delight!

The Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir: Only for Pedestrians and Cyclists
The Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir: Only for Pedestrians and Cyclists
View on the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir
View on the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir
6.From the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir to the Pont de Tolbiac

Beyond the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir the landscapes are even wilder and less urban. One walks past the Batofar, an emblematic site for concerts and cultural events since 1999. Every Parisian knows the silhouette of this small red boat with its huge light: one cannot miss it!

Le Batofar, a place for events and concerts
Le Batofar, a place for events and concerts

Our walk ends at the Pont de Tolbiac, which is the last bridge but one spanning the Seine in Eastern Paris. Thanks to the rise in the river level the stairs leading to the upper banks are diving into the water and one has to walk back! At the foot of the bridge it looks like the seaside at ebb tide.

When the Seine level drops under the Pont de Tolbiac
When the Seine level drops under the Pont de Tolbiac

The whole walk takes about one hour and a half -one way. The landscapes are as beautiful as unusual for Paris and I like it because it really takes you to another world. One piece of advice: choose a sunny day with a beautiful light!

Next time I will walk toward west, where the bridges are also superb and the views on the Parisian monuments amazing… although more traditional and familiar. See you soon!

Christine Bokobza – Good Morning Paris The Blog –