OVER THE LAST YEAR, I’ve collected many sounds in Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement. It’s one of the most visited parts of Paris and it’s easy to see why.
People come here to experience the atmosphere, to see the artists at work, to savour the food, to sample the nightlife and to enjoy the magnificent view of Paris.
In this soundwalk I’ve tried to capture some of that atmosphere.
A Soundwalk in Montmartre:
Those of you who have visited Montmartre will recognise some of these sounds I’m sure. For those of you who have never had the Montmartre experience, the soundwalk includes the sound of con men busily ripping off unsuspecting tourists on a Sunday morning at the foot of La Butte de Montmartre. Yes, I’m afraid that Paris does have its ugly side too! We take the funicular to the top of the hill where the bell on the tourist train is beckoning customers. The man making key rings from coloured wool is a permanent fixture, as is his running commentary. A walk along the rue Norvins brings us to the bistro, La Petaudiere and lunch complete with piano. We hear an Edith Piaf sound-alike, one of the better ones in Paris. We cross the Place du Tertre and come upon an altercation, a perfect demonstration of the way the French turn an argument into an art form. I’ve written about this before on this Blog. And finally, we are summoned by bells – the bells of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur peeling out on a Sunday afternoon.
I hope these sounds give you a flavour of Montmartre and for those of you who have never been, I hope it will tempt you to come and listen to the sounds for yourself.
Montmartre has its own website so you can catch up with all the news here.
THE BASILIQUE DU SACRE-COEUR is situated on the top of the butte Montmartre. Built in a Romano-Byzantine style using white travertine stone, which whitens with age, the Basilica provides a commanding view of Paris.
Montmartre and the Basilica of Sacré-Couer are magnetic attractions for tourists each year. But how many of these tourists know that Sacré-Couer is a relatively recent construction? Completed in 1919, the Basilica of Sacré-Couer was built as a monument to the end of the Franco Prussian war and the ensuing Paris Commune of 1870-71.
I like going to Sacré-Couer to listen to the sounds – notably the sound of the very fine Cavaille Coll organ inside the Basilica and the sound of the bells outside.
The Bells of Sacré Coeur:
The bells of Sacré Coeur are housed in the bell tower which is detached from the Basilica itself. The most distinguished and majestic of the bells is the giant “Savoyarde”. Cast in Annecy in 1895, the bell weighs in at a massive 19 tons making it one of the heaviest bells in the world.
Some people visit Sacré Coeur as tourists, others to worship and some for quite different reasons…
As for me – I am simply Summoned by Bells*.
*Summoned by Bells, is the blank verse autobiography by John Betjeman, first published in November 1960 by Betjeman’s London publishers, John Murray.