Stylin’ in Montmartre

Bonjour

Geesh-– Is that a French word?  No, I guess not.

Spending more than a few minutes trying to ask for cheese on my vegetarian salad, I finally gave up (fromage–right?) — the waiter obviously wasn’t in the mood to work out my high school French. And really, I am here to people-watch–it would be truly difficult to spoil my mood–particularly after seeing the salad that he just served (sans said cheese).

At 5:00 p.m., the neighborhood streets of Montmartre are filling with people on the move– many spilling from the metro stop, others walking feisty dogs or pushing precious cargo in strollers as the case may be–their numbers seem fairly equal. In the alley, across the street, high school kids yell and shriek, kicking balls and letting off steam.

Armed with my roller bag, iPad and a copy of my passport– just in case someone gets tricky with my purse–I am looking for clothing shops and cafes– all the things that make me smile. Once In awhile, a stranger returns my grin– but it is not customary, for sure. Our hostess joked that although the French are friendly, the Parisians wake up in a bad mood. So I don’t take it personally.

What I adore are the styles I see parading by! Boiled wool coats, signature berets and scarves of many hues of course– didn’t the French invent them? Although black and gray coats are the norm, the brave sport plaids and colors– orange, red and gold. Pink winter coats that I saw last year are still evident too. The styles of jackets and coats are unique and smart–some fitted and stitched or asymmetric in design. No longer are sneakers looked down upon but boots dominate– how do they walk in those steep heels? And felted hats are common– do they not get ”hat hair” here?

Once Montmartre was the artists’ haunt– but now, it is more upscale though old world charm is represented by wrought-iron fencing at the windows or shutters reaching from ceiling to floor of the apartments peering down along the boulevards that are haphazardly arranged rather than running perpendicular. It makes following a map challenging.

As the Cathedral chimes the hour, I am reminded that Montmartre predates its Christian heritage– first it was named in honor of the Greek god, Mercury and later, for Mars. Christian influence swiftly interpreted it as the “mount of the martyr”, referring to the grizzly tale of St. Denis, a priest who was beheaded for his faithful teachings. Legend has it that he carried his own head many miles before he lay down to die. The Basilica at the top of the hill was built to honor him in the late 1800’s.

It is said that you may sit for hours at restaurants and cafes as you sip or eat without being given your check–to do so would be rude– so here I sit, putting it to the test.

Later I plan to test another spot–only then, it will be with French wine!

Sante’