Monday, Nov. 09, 2009

9. Montmartre Walk

At first blush, Paris's Montmartre neighborhood might seem little more than a sad neon strip, lined with peddlers of souvenir windmills. But idle away a few hours in its intricate back streets and you'll likely find more local color than you would in the center of Paris. Trace the maple-dappled paths of Montmartre Cemetery to the resting places of the old avant garde — Edgar Degas, Gustave Moreau and Francis Picabia lie here, amongst the more obscure departed. Climb or ride the cable car up the hill to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre. Built to cure the country's spiritual ills in the face of military defeat at the hands of Germany, the basilica expresses a singular faith in beauty's power to move. From the steps outside, amidst hawkers and buskers, the city succumbs to countless daubs of gray in the dusk.