This is an ode to Montmartre; the petit neighborhood on a hill.
where I lived for two years until I had my fill…
…of always having to take two metro lines to get anywhere and living in a one room apartment without much natural light.
Alas, there’s more to it than that, of course—and not all negative, bien sur. Seeing as I haven’t written here in quite a while, and last left you with a post on yogurt, I present you with the first of a three-part series on my move. Today’s post tackles the “why” of the move and what I will (and won’t) miss about my first* Paris apartment and its surrounding neighborhood.
Things I Will Miss about Montmartre and My First Paris Apartment
- The elevator. While I was only on the 4th floor, and it was about the size of standard American refrigerator, I very much appreciated it whenever I had groceries or was returning from a big trip with luggage or was just feeling plain old lazy, which was more or less all the time—especially on the way up. My new apartment is on the 6th floor. Without an elevator. Kim K, watch out. My ass is soon to be one to reckon with.
- The sounds in the courtyard. Despite lacking light or a view, there were mostly lovely sounds coming from the courtyard that my windows faced. (I say mostly because I also regularly heard a toilet flushing.) There were the sounds of a kid practicing a clarinet. There were the sounds of, what seemed like, jungle birds at dusk (click the link below). And, of course, there were the sounds of the church bells from nearby Sacré Coeur just up the hill. Such noises seemed so private; as if the tones were tickling the ears of only those who were truly listening.
- The grocer just up the stairs. Not that I’m a master cook or anything, but it was so pleasant to be able to pop downstairs, up a quick flight and immediately turn into my local produce market in less time than it takes to boil water. Especially when I was in the midst of doing so before I realized I didn’t have an onion or a lemon or eggs for whatever it was I was making. The Asian family who ran the place always offered up a friendly “bonjour,” especially when it was my third visit that day.
- Soul Kitchen! I never really had a local canteen until this place. Its name is fitting because it really exudes such a warm, charming atmosphere and the women who run the place produce incredibly fresh dishes and quality coffee. The menu changes daily and there’s only ever three choices (none of which I can easily choose between!) . Plus, it never costs more than $15—with dessert and a coffee!
Things I Will Not Miss about Montmartre and My First* Paris Apartment
- The commute. None of the activities or destinations I frequented were nearby, and few friends live in the area or came up to hang, which meant I was almost always taking two trains (the 12 to the 8 or the 12 to the 2 or the 12 to the 1—THE GODDAMN 12!!) to get anywhere. While Paris is fairly small, and it didn’t ever feel like the 35 or 44 minutes Google said it’d take to get where I was going, it was a pain—especially in the evening when I’ve had a few drinks and the wait time between trains increases.
- The metro station Lamarck-Caulincourt. As an addendum to the previous bullet point, my closest stop—and it really was close—was a travesty on literally all levels. First, to reach the platform (or street), you either need to descend (or ascend) a gazillion steps or wait for the elevator. Going up, I obviously waited for the elevator, but it STANK like a mix between cherry cleaning supplies and urine. Plus, and this is sad, but the space just outside the elevator became a hub for drug addicts to privately light up or doze off.
- The lack of Velib bikes nearby. As another addendum to the previous two bullet points, when I wanted to take a bike as an alternative transport method there was NEVER one available at the stations nearby. Why? Because Montmartre is located on a huge hill and it’s obviously easier to go down than up.
- My bed. In Paris, when you rent a furnished apartment, they usually come with such items and how can one know beforehand whether the mattress will suit your body? But on this one, when I slept, I felt like I was descending into a deep sink hole from which each morning I needed to crack several body parts in order to climb out. Of course, my new apartment comes with one too, but I can only hope it won’t undo all the yoga I do regularly.
- The lack of natural light. A lack of natural light can be a real mood killer and since I work from home, I often became my own worst colleague. Plus, I like knowing what time of day it is or what is happening with the weather without having to look at a screen. We are creatures of the earth! I want to know that it’s still turning on its axis!
- Living in one room. I don’t think this apartment was that much smaller than my studio back in NYC, which I loved, but I guess I’m bigger. Or rather, older, and tired of living in one room. Tired of my kitchen table also being my desk and my couch not being a couch at all but actually an uncomfortable armchair. I’m 38 years old FFS. After doing some research, it became clear I could pay the same amount of money and get two rooms! With a wall between them!
Overall, when I look back on my first two full years in Paris, I will recall them fondly. I feel lucky to have lived in such a quaint part of the city and roamed the same cobblestoned streets of Van Gogh and Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec. The actual apartment itself presented few logistical issues and my landlady was a delight, which are both rare. Plus, I do think it fitting that I ended up in the 18th arrondissement seeing as I moved to Paris on the 18th of November and consider the number 18—chai, in Hebrew—special. It signifies life and living, and in life change is refreshing. For me, anyway. It invites adventure. It sparks joy. Only in France, not before it sucks it all out of you first.
To be continued…
*Technically, my fist apartment was the sweet, but also light-deprived studio I had off rue des Martyrs in the 9th, but that was always temporary and didn’t require my signing any leases or electricity bills or renter’s insurance so doesn’t really count.