Even at noon on a Sunday, neon signs advertising lingerie in all forms (latex and leather included), adult videos and blow-up dolls lit up the street, with peep shows waiting behind every curtain.
I kept walking and eventually those signs turned into tourist shops. Eiffel Tower key chains, mini-statues, scarves, and bags filled the generally over-priced stores, with foreign tourists from all over fighting to get inside.
Thankfully, I saw the sign for “Butte Montmartre,” which I knew would lead me to the Sacré Cœur. Fighting my way through the crowds of foreigners, I landed on a cobblestone street with more shops, more tourists, and men performing magic tricks in the middle.
I walked up the hill amid the luring smells of crepes and found my destination: the stairs of Montmartre.
Most people go to Sacré Cœur for the view and the historic church. All I really wanted to do was climb the stairs. When I started walking, they didn’t seem so intimidating.
Halfway through though, I pretended to stop to take pictures, but really I was stopping to catch my breath. I may have been a little overzealous when I started running up the stairs—which I wouldn’t recommend for the first time.
As I finally reached the top, a man shoved a clipboard and pen in my face. All I wanted to do was finish climbing the stairs, so anyone in my way automatically made me angry. I finally pushed my way past him and looked for a place without a mob of people.
I took a few pictures, and then decided to descend the stairs to walk around Montmartre more. At the bottom, there were men waiting for tourists with strings to tie around their wrists and then charge them for it. Luckily, I had already been warned about these “vendors”—I use the term loosely—in my French literature class last year, so I knew to avoid them at all costs.
In any other circumstance, I would have told them I’m not a tourist and brushed them off. However, they would have heard my accent, and it’s not very convincing to say you aren’t a tourist on a Sunday afternoon at the Sacré Cœur with a big camera. So, I pushed them off me without a word and kept walking.
I didn’t want to walk through the mobbed street again, so I headed down to Rue de Trois Frѐres, a street nearby. The only people walking had groceries, the shops and restaurants were calm, and everyone was speaking French. I had found Montmartre.
Intrigued by a little shop on the street, I wandered in and the saleswoman asked (in English) if she could help me. I replied in French, and even though she could tell I wasn’t French she continued to speak to me in French. It was nice for once for someone to understand and not speak to me in English—also I think she appreciated my effort.
At this point, I had accomplished what I set out to. I now know where to go in Montmartre to avoid crowds and that you can find really great deals without succumbing to Gallérie Lafayette or Printemps, the two major department stores in Paris.
Better yet, I found Paris’ built-in stairmaster.