A Day Trip To Montmartre, Paris - From London by Eurostar

by KathleenDuffy

For my 70th birthday and Mother’s Day combined, my three kind children took me to Paris for the day. The Eurostar train from London was effortless.

Looking back to the 1960s when I travelled by a long, weary combination of steam train, ferry (sick over the side) and steam train again to the French capital, I would never have dreamed that one day I would be able to take a trip to Paris by train in just two and a half hours from London to the Gare du Nord.....underneath the Channel!

What a marvellous feat of engineering the Channel Tunnel is!

I highly recommend this trip - it’s stress-free, comfortable and allows you to experience two cultures in one day! And be home in time for 'Newsnight' on BBC2!

Leaving London by Eurostar

Eurostar Train in St Pancras, London
Eurostar Train in St Pancras, London

We travelled on Sunday, Mother’s Day, boarding the Eurostar at St Pancras's International Terminal  in London at 8.20 a.m.

Naturally, just like an airport, you have to go through check in, putting your baggage through x-ray and showing your ticket and passport.  But of course there isn’t the waiting around and long queues that you inevitably experience at the airport.

As it was a special treat we travelled Club Class, but I have travelled in the normal Eurostar carriages when I went to Lille (another possible day trip) and they are really comfortable.  In Club Class your ticket price includes food - our breakfast was coffee, brioche, orange juice, jam, etc  - the whole works. 

Just One Day in Paris - Where To Go?

Since it was my treat I had the lovely privilege of choosing where to go and what to do.  I chose to spend the whole day in Paris's artists' quarter,  Montmartre - after all, Paris is a big city and it’s impossible to cover everything in one day.  Plus a vital factor was my feet -  which don’t serve me quite so well these days! 

In addition, Montmartre seemed to have something for everyone to enjoy, not just moi!  And I had never been to this part of the great city before.

Art Nouveau Metro Entrance Sign
Art Nouveau Metro Entrance Sign
K Duffy

So, when deciding on a day in Paris think about your physical fitness, your specific interests and how much time you have.  

For example, distance walking is a problem for me - but I am good at climbing hills which is handy, as Montmartre is very hilly.  Also, I am interested in art!   So Montmartre  was ideal for me.  It’s quite small with a very village-like atmosphere, but packed full of interesting shops, bars, cafes,  art history and buzzing with people - just very alive

We Arrive in Paris!

The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge
Joe Luckett

When we arrived at the Gare du Nord train station, we hailed  a cab to the Moulin Rouge, but the metro Blanche on the Boulevard de Clichy will drop you right outside too.

This is the red light district with lots of sex shops and night clubs.  As long as you go up the hills you will be in the heart of  Montmartre, and the famous white Basilica of the Sacred Heart will be impossible to miss.

We climbed the first hill across the road from the Metro Blanche and were immediately confronted with gorgeous pastry and pie shops.  It was culturally delicious to have been in London a couple of hours ago, and now to be in Paris! 

Parisian Tarts (No, not that kind!)

Gorgeous Flans!
Gorgeous Flans!

Oooh, la la!

Bakery Window
Bakery Window

The cobbled streets were buzzing with tourists and regulars, the narrow side streets looked tempting - but coffee was desperately needed! 

So, onwards and upwards pausing now and again to make a note of the delicious cheese shops, the bakeries, little design shops, the wine outlets!

The Bateau Lavoire - Picasso’s Studio

Bateau Lavoire
Bateau Lavoire
K Duffy
Place Emile-Goudeau
Place Emile-Goudeau
K Duffy

This building is now a restaurant - but at one time Picasso lived here, not to mention Braque, Juan Gris, Modigliani and the poet, Apollinaire.  Not all at the same time I hope - one can imagine the artistic flare-ups, philosophical disagreements and temperamental quarrals!

The building is  in a picturesque little square, Place Emile-Goudeau, where children were playing and neighbours were chatting to one another whilst their dogs frolicked - and er, the rest..... the Parisians love their dogs, but are famous for having an easygoing attitude to their poop!  So watch your step!

Coffee in Paris!
Coffee in Paris!
K Duffy

Just down the few steps before The Bateau Lavoire is a lovely cafe with outside tables where we stopped for a coffeeserved by an elegant waitress - we were not in the least bit ashamed of being typical tourists - a bit overwhelmed - everything was so French! Whereas two hours before everything had been so English

The surreal efficiency of modern rail travel! 

Street Entertainers of Montmartre

Street Musicians
Street Musicians
K Duffy

Carrying on up the winding paths we came across one of the many street entertainers working in Montmartre.  In this case the boys above were very accomplished musicians who played Latin music whilst later on we came across  the lady below who sounded like Edith Piaf!

And outside the Basilica  we would come across a very talented boy doing amazing tricks with a simple football against a stunning Parisian backdrop. 

The standard  of street entertaining is good and the crowds were generous with their applause (and money!).

This lady sounded like Piaf!
This lady sounded like Piaf!
K Duffy

Street Artists of Montmartre

Just below the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur in the Place du Tertre,  the street artists of Montmartre set up their easels and ply their trade vigorously!  Before you know it they will have you seated before them and be sketching your portrait in chalk, crayon, pencil - even a black cut-out silhouette can be yours to take home!

Street artists
Street artists
K Duffy

There are the usual views of Paris too, and the art ranges from dubious to flashes of originality and now and again, brilliance.  

The place is buzzing, the portrait artists are extremely busy and there’s even a chap with a beret playing the accordian! 

Looking at the art...
Looking at the art...
K Duffy
Accordian player
Accordian player
K Duffy

 

All this arty-farty stuff, the berets, the accordians, - does it all smack of commercialism?  Of eagle-eyed merchants out to make a fast buck from gullible tourists?  

Of course it does!  It's always been that way!  This is Montmartre!  And it's wonderful!

Trying to decide....
Trying to decide....
K Duffy

The Summit of Montmartre - The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur

This famous white  Parisian landmark provides a stunning view of Paris.  

The interior of the Sacre-Coeur is very beautiful and serene and here we sat down to take the weight off our feet and to be still.

There is also, nearby, the Church of St Pierre. Whilst the Basilica is about one hundred plus years old, this Church of St Pierre  is amongst  Paris’s oldest. Parts of it date from Roman times.  Legend has it that the famous Italian author, Dante, came here to pray.

Door of Church of St Pierre

Door of the old Church of St Pierre
Door of the old Church of St Pierre
K Duffy

View of Basilica Sacre-Coeur

View of Basilica Sacre-Coeur
View of Basilica Sacre-Coeur
K Duffy

Below is the view of Paris from the Basilica.   If you look carefully at this photograph you can see the young boy I mentioned before, on the left, demonstrating his football abilities whilst jumping around on a plinth!

View over part of Paris from Sacre-Coeur
View over part of Paris from Sacre-Coeur
K Duffy

Back Down the Hill - Those Famous Steps - and lunch!

By now we were getting hungry - so time to find somewhere to eat.

We made our way back through the artists’ square and found those familiar steps that are often seen in films and photographs.  There is also the choice of taking the funicular (or elevator type train) if you prefer. This is a great option if you have difficulty going up and down stairs.

Talking of which, I forgot to mention that there is also a little white train that will take you round Montmartre. Although some people scoff at this mode of transport, I think it's brilliant if you have tired, bad-tempered children (or anyone!) in tow or if you are finding it hard to walk around all those cobbled streets. I would definitely take one without hesitation if I needed to.

Little Train To Help You Get Around!

Could be a godsend...
Tourist Train
Tourist Train
K Duffy

But back to that important issue of lunch!

Eventually, after rejecting one after another of the various bistros,  we found one  where my son had the best onion soup he'd ever tasted -  I think we gals wished we’d ordered it.  Our steaks were good though and the wine superb! And the waiter was very nice...

I couldn't tell you where this lovely little bistro was as we just stumbled around and it appeared - but there seems to be plenty of choice.  Just wander about until a particular place looks popular and you can spot what people have on their plates!  If you like it - then go for it!

Lovely Flower Seller Outside the Sacre-Coeur

Flower Seller of Montmartre
Flower Seller of Montmartre
K. Duffy

An Art Gallery - and An Amazing Fabric Shop (closed on Sundays)

Stairs, Montmartre
Stairs, Montmartre
K Duffy

We then made our way back to the  famous steps and carried on along the bottom of the gardens below the Sacre-Coeur.  Here was a pretty double-decker roundabout - and just round the corner in the Rue de Ronsard, there is a warehouse with an art gallery, nice cafe and library and excellent toilets!  We stopped off here for a while.

Roundabout in Montmartre
Roundabout in Montmartre
K Duffy

Now, if you love dressmaking, or any kind of home sewing there is a place just over the road from the  gallery called Marche St Pierre.  It’s a big, multi-level fabric warehouse which houses an amazing variety of fabrics in all colours and designs from all over the world. Apparently, it's  heaven-on-earth for sisters (or brothers) who stitch. 

Unfortunately it is closed on Sundays - but I am seriously thinking of coming back in the future,  during the week,  just to browse.  This area of Montmartre is the fabric district and this blog will give you some information about Marche St Pierre and other outlets. 

Watch this video tour of Montmartre

A Quick Trip to the Seine!

Such a laid-back, relaxing day and already it was getting on for 5:00pm.  The time seemed to have gone by so quickly. But our train didn’t leave until 8:00, so we strolled back down the hill, stopping off at those cheese, sweet and pastry shops to stock up!

Let them eat cake!

Sweets, Meringues, etc.
Sweets, Meringues, etc.
K Duffy

....or lollipops

More sweets....
More sweets....
K Duffy

Once back at the Moulin Rouge we impulsively  took a cab down to the Champs Elysee.  This is where the Tour de France ends, and my son, who is a keen cyclist, was happy to see the roundabout where the racing cyclists come hurtling  round at speed before belting up the great, wide avenue to the Eiffel Tower.

After walking along the Seine for a while we had time for a leisurely cup of coffee outside a bar before hailing a taxi to take us back to the Gare du Nord.

The Girls by the Seine
The Girls by the Seine
K Duffy

Back to London - after ‘A Perfect Day’

The Lou Reed song says it all really.  It had been ‘a perfect day’.  It’s not often we can all get together like this - our lives are busy - so this was very special.

The train pulled out, our food was served, and as the sun set across the darkening suburbs of Paris we ordered wine, sat back in our seats and reflected on how lucky we were to live in such close proximity to the most romantic city in the world.

Outside Picasso's Studio
Outside Picasso's Studio
D Sims
Windmill in Montmartre
Windmill in Montmartre
K Duffy

Some Useful Details

  • To find out about day trips, or longer, to Paris by Eurostar you can visit the Eurostar website here.
  • Another useful website dedicated to train travel across Europe and beyond is The Man is Seat Sixty-One  which is an absolute mine of information for those who love train travel.
  • I found Matt Barrett’s webiste,  Travel Guide to Montmartre  really useful.  It will tell you about many of the things we didn’t have enough time to do and in a friendly, insightful manner too.

 

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Updated: 04/09/2014, KathleenDuffy
 
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KathleenDuffy on 05/07/2014

Hello my lovely friend! Thank you so much! Yes - it was so good of them and we all had a brilliant day. I think the answer was to concentrate on one area - apart from a quick cab ride to the Seine before catching the train home. :) x

Toni on 05/07/2014

Whow looks like you had a fab time. Being spoilt by your children. And why not you certainly deserve it. I love the way you write and explain where to go. Very interesting and I can't wait to go back to Paris now and visit the lovely Montmartre. Oh Happy 70th you don't look a day over 50 :-)

KathleenDuffy on 04/17/2014

Hello Mira! So glad you enjoyed my article! It was a great day and we managed to pack quite a lot in by just concentrating on one area. I hope you enjoy your next trip to Paris - it was my first visit since the 1960s! :)

Mira on 04/17/2014

What a wonderful post, Kathleen! I've been meaning to read it for a week now. It did make me feel like I traveled around Montmartre with you guys. It also made me realize that every corner, every pastry shop in Paris can be enchanting. I keep hoping to make it to Paris sometime soon. I did visit once but that was a long time ago. I'll be looking at things differently this time around.

KathleenDuffy on 04/13/2014

Hello sheilamarie - Thank you for commenting! I guess you will miss your son and his family if it is a permanent move - the south of France is lovely - I hope you do get to visit Paris. - I do apologise for taking so long to answer you, I missed the email! Thank you for reading my article. :)

sheilamarie on 04/09/2014

I love Paris! My son and his family are returning to France this summer (South). Maybe I'll get to visit Paris again some day.

KathleenDuffy on 04/07/2014

Hello Younghopes - Thank you for your comment about the photos! Yes, it was a wonderful day and such a lovely surprise too!

younghopes on 04/07/2014

So pretty photos, each one is a memorable treasure fr you. Hope you enjoyed your trip

younghopes on 04/07/2014

So pretty photos, each one is a memorable treasure fr you. Hope you enjoyed your trip

KathleenDuffy on 04/07/2014

Hi Dustytoes! Thank you for that comment! Oh, I do hope you will have a chance to go one day...thank you for your lovely thoughts! :)


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