Like many big cities, Paris gets cold in the winter, but it’s rare that it snows here. This December has been an unusually snowy month, and I love it! Well, I love the snow on the rooftops and tree branches…not so much the ice on the sidewalks.
Yesterday afternoon, a sudden blizzard hit the City of Light, leaving behind about half a foot of snow. As usual, Paris and its surroundings shut down, strangely more like something that would happen in my teenage home, Atlanta, instead of in a city that does have winter every year. Cars were blocked on the highways, with some drivers stuck in their vehicles all night.
The ice and snow persisted into today. One of the reasons for the former is that the French don’t liberally salt their sidewalks. As you walk, staring down warily, you’ll see little grains of salt or dirt, but rarely, if ever, anything more...besides sheets of ice or piles of snow.
Last night, I was a near-casualty of my street’s sloping, ice-covered hill. My knees still hurt. Worse still, as I got back up from my fall, an old man slipped just behind me. They really need to get into salt here.
But before all this, early yesterday afternoon, the first thought I had when I saw the snow coming down, besides “Hey – look at all that snow!” – was, "I have to get to Montmartre." One of the prettiest parts of Paris, this village-like neighborhood, which only became incorporated into the city in 1860, was home to some of the greatest artists and writers of the 19th and early 20th century. Here, they lived la vie bohème. Looking at the snow studding Montmartre’s famous sites like diamonds, it’s easy to see why they were so inspired.
When I first came to live in Paris, one snowy day I decided to go see the flakes coming down in Montmartre. I didn’t know yet about the no-salt policy, and my memories of that day are of me slowly and inevitably sliding down the sloping streets.
I feel like this snowfall was a little holiday treat from Mother Nature. I wanted to pass it along, so, wearing the most traction-providing boots I could find, I went up the icy Butte (“Hill”) at my lunch break today, to take some pictures.
On the way up, I noticed the Moulin Rouge’s roof had gone white with snow.
The Moulin de la Galette, site of many famous 19th century paintings, is the home of one of the only two real windmills left on the formerly mill-strewn Butte.
I guess there probably won’t be anyone enjoying a drink at the café terrace today…..
One of my favorite views in Paris, looking down the rue Saint Rustique towards the Sacre Coeur.
The rue Cortot was so covered in ice, I didn’t dare go any farther.
The Lapin Agile, where Picasso, Modigliani, Utrillo, and their cronies hung out and sang songs with le Père Frédé and his donkey, who painted masterpieces with his tail. The cabaret’s famous sign can be seen today in the nearby Musée de Montmartre.
In ancient times, Montmartre was covered in vineyards. Today, only this very small, snow-covered one remains. Every year, the wine is celebrated and tasted. It’s prized by certain people, but most Parisians will tell you under their breath that it tastes like piss.
I used to like to come read in this little park across from the Lapin Agile. Today, it was miraculously undisturbed, despite Montmartre’s usual flocks of tourists. I took this picture to show how deep the snow got.
Back up the street and around the corner, I was surprised to see that the Place du Tertre was nearly empty. Usually, it’s bursting with artists and tourists. Today, just a few of each stood milling around a small, snowy plain empty of easels.
Montmartre rooftops. I like the angel (on the top of the building on the right) who seems to be looking reverentially at the domes of the Sacre Coeur.
Saint Pierre de Montmartre, one of Paris’ oldest churches, behind some beautiful splay-branched, snow-covered trees.
An imposing view of the Sacre Coeur, one of my favorite Parisian landmarks.
A bronze soldier and another gargoyle, both on the Sacre Coeur, and both lightly covered in snow.
The back of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre.
Because of the weather, lots of trains and buses weren’t running today. Here, we see even the little Montmartre tourist train is unmoving under a snowy blanket.
The view from in front of the Sacre Coeur shows endless rows of snow-covered Parisian rooftops.