In Paris we rented a cute studio apartment in the Montmartre neighborhood. Montmartre is more gritty than the central areas of Paris (you see a lot of litter and sex shops, for example), but it’s also a lively place with tons of cafes, bars, and boutiques. It used to be the creative center of Paris in??the 19th and early 20th centuries, but now I think the artists have moved on. Quite a few notable scientists and artists are buried in the Montmartre Cemetery, including Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone.??The cemetery is actually an interesting tourist attraction. Instead of graves buried in the ground, everyone is put in tombs above the ground. Many of the tombs are grand works of art with statues and stained glass. Some of them are so old and worn, we couldn’t even read what was written on them.
The Moulin Rouge is just a couple of minutes away from the cemetery. Today it’s more of a tourist attraction than a scandalous cabaret, but the red light district of Pigalle is only a block or two down the road. From there, we walked up to the??Sacr??-C??ur Basilica, a white domed building on top of the highest hill in the city. It has impressive views of Paris.
We visited the typical sights as well. Notre Dame, with its dark, dungeon-like interior and huge stained-glass windows, is one of my favorite cathedrals. We saw the??Arc de Triomphe during the day, at sunset, and at night. One afternoon we bought a blanket and had a picnic beside the Eiffel Tower. We walked along the Seine and to the Louvre. (We didn’t actually go in the Louvre, though. At this point, we’re pretty tired of museums.) Each night we came back to our apartment, cooked dinner, and listened to French radio stations. It was like our own little home in Montmartre.
One thing about Paris that really stands out to me, besides the beautiful buildings and romantic atmosphere, is its diversity. I don’t know the exact figures, but there are many immigrants living there. Just walking around we saw all different races and religions. On our first day we ran into a parade and celebration of??Ganesh Chaturthi, a Hindu holiday. The first time I was in Paris, I wandered into an open-air market and suddenly felt like I was in Morocco or Algeria. The various ethnicities are interesting, especially since most people don’t think of them when they imagine Paris.