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travelogue
 PAST ISSUES

INT. TRAVEL ARCHIVE:
677: The Little Island
Escape the late-winter blues with a tropical blast from the past
675: Scenic Spirituality
Commune with religion and nature in an ancient land
673: Aoni Onsen
Return to a forgotten time at one of Honshu’s most remote getaways
671: The Golden Rock
One of Burma’s many splendid attractions hangs by a hair
669: Hida Takayama
For personal trips gentle to the soul, seek out the old-time charm of Hida Takayama
665: Okayama
A serene stroll through history awaits at this seaside retreat
663: Cruising the Bay
Ha Long Bay offers a breath of calm away from Vietnam’s urban rush
661: Agamachi
Fox fires and bar codes help a rural Niigata town reinvent itself
535: Hotel California
Mark Parren Taylor kicks up the desert dust in Palm Springs, the perennial Hollywood star retreat.
531: Race through time
The Xterra Saipan triathlon journeys through tropical jungle, up steep mountain paths and across the sands of history. Tama M. Lung joins the chase.
527: Bohemian rhapsody
No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district. Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.
523: Slow Motion
Mark Parren Taylor touches down in the timeless former seaport of Lukang, Taiwan.
519: Rock of ages
From ancient times to the present, Gibraltar has always been an island of legends. Stephen Mansfield sifts through its history.
515: Go west, young man
Simon Rowe takes in the big skies and dust trails of Western Australia's East Kimberley region.
511: All mixed up
Mark Parren Taylor makes land on Macau and finds an enigmatic blend of cultures, cuisine and heated competition.
505: Earth, wind and fire
A historically imperiled town in Papua New Guinea holds the keys to a magical getaway. Carlo Niederberger splashes ashore.
501: Off the rails
Braving the 2,010 kilometers of Vietnam's Reunification Express from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi is quite the adventure. Simon Rowe goes along for the ride.
493: Rites of passage
From firecrackers and cheek piercing to divinations and buffalo races, Thailand's most colorful customs come alive at two annual festivals. Mark Parren Taylor joins the crowds.
489: Paradise found
Beaches, battlefields and a colossal casino provide tropical pleasures on the Pacific isle of Tinian. Carlo Niederberger touches down.
485: Through the grapevine
Stephen Mansfield drinks up the delights of the Château Monbazillac in southwest France.
481: Pleasure island
Saipan awaits the young and young at heart with its pristine beaches, pointy peaks, and perfect amount of entertainment. Carlo Niederberger checks in.
477: Reservoir of dogs
Simon Rowe visits the Kingdom of Tonga, where storms burst without warning and wild canines rule the night.
473: Into the bat cave
Sarawak’s Niah Caves are home to hairless bats, birds on the brink of extinction, and lots of bugs, according to Simon Rowe.
469: A fork in the river
Laos’ ethnic minorities battle the forces of time. Stephen Mansfield goes upriver in search of them.
465: Action scene
Sick of the short, humid Japanese summer? Tired of the winter? In NZ it’s summertime and the living is easy, the food and drink inexpensive, and the evenings long and lazy. Mark Devlin heads south to explore and party.
457/458: In living color
Simon Rowe soaks in the glow of Samoa's kaleidoscopic streets.
454: From Jamaica with love
Michael McDonagh soaks up the atmosphere in James Bond's balmy birthplace
449: See worthy
Dan Grunebaum drops oar in the stunning caves of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay
445: Great heights
Simon Rowe packs his hiking boots and sets out for Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu
441: Split personality
There are few cities with such an exacting dividing line between past and present as Lijiang in China's southwestern province of Yunnan
438: Fierce creatures
Simon Rowe introduces us to the untamed charms of Australia's Kangaroo Island
434: Leap of Faith
Simon Rowe dives into a tropical island paradise of waterfalls, reefs and bush rugby on the Fijian archipelago
430: A week in Provence
Stephen Mansfield explores the historic festival city of Avignon, a medieval diamond in the south of France
426: Outer space
Surreal sites, lunar landscapes and UFO sightings go with the territory in Chile
422: The Big Easy
The Moorish streets of Granada, Spain are alive with a new Bohemian rhapsody
418: Small awakening
Japan's microbrewers
414: Fowl play
The animal kingdom comes alive in the Galapagos
410: The river of spirits
Wading through soulful waters in Varanasi, India
406: Heading north
Marching to the beat of a modern drum in North Korea
403: Santa's lap
Santa's lap - enjoy saunas, Santa and sightseeing in Finland’s Lapland
399: Shanghaied
Seeking the past in China's megacity
395: Rising from the ashes
Mary King explores the rich history, culture and art of Croatia’s phoenix city, Dubrovnik.
391: The betels and the stones
Simon Rowe rolls with the tropical exotica on the obscure island of Yap
387: Prague
World heritage site
383: South Africa
Land of hope
381: Hawaii
Pearl Harbor
377: Salt of the earth
Tour the Uyuni Salt Pan
374: China
Suzhou and Hangzhou
370: The Nile
The river mild
367: Tibet
Top of the world
363: Laos
Memo from the Lower Mekong
360: Cuzco, Peru
Lost cities
357: Namibia
Call of the wild
354: Southern India
Mad about Madurai

ISSUES 349-   
ISSUES 299-

Bohemian rhapsody

No visit to Paris would be complete without taking in the Montmartre district. Bon vivant Simon Rowe dusts off his French to go exploring.

The waiter dances, the bartender sings, and the chef whistles. After the sumptuous lunchtime special of smoked trout and goat cheese salad, this ongoing sideshow should be the main attraction at Tabac Des Deux Moulins, but it’s not. The hit French movie Amelie was filmed in its smoky art-deco-style depths, located in the heart of Montmartre, and judging by the crowded sidewalk tables outside and steady strobing of camera flashes inside, more than a few people enjoyed the movie.

Like the cheery staff at Tabac Des Deux Moulins (15 rue Lepic. Metro stop: Blanche or Pigalle), nothing better sums up the laid-back demeanor and vibrant color of the Parisian neighborhood than Montmartre itself. Renoir, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec drank, slept and sold their paintings here. Today, the steep and winding streets of this once infamous Bohemian enclave are still home to artists, writers, students, and plenty of liberal-minded, espresso-swilling “free thinkers,” although growing, too, are the number of tourists who simply check out of their hotels and take a short lease on one of many 100-year-old apartments.

Who can blame them? Montmartre is a place many refer to as a “petit coin de Provence” (small slice of rural France), and since it lies an easy 15 minutes by Metro from any point within the 20 arrondissements, or precincts, it makes the perfect base from which to explore Paris.

 

Montmartre’s modern-day bohemians mingle at the Sacre Coeur and Tabac Des Deux Moulins

Wining and dining
“Rural” is still used to describe Montmartre’s rambling hillside gardens, and on Rue Saint Vincent, this couldn’t ring more true. Behind the poky Musee de Montmartre, which documents the turbulent history of the precinct, lies the only wine-producing vineyard in Paris. Its annual harvest might only be 1,500kg of grapes, yielding around 1,500 bottles of the rare Clos Montmartre wine, but you don’t hear the red-cheeked locals complaining.

Cobbled-stone streets like Rue des Abbesses and Rue D’Orsel ooze a curious mix of ethnic charm and rural hubbub. These are places where you can shop among bright and brimming fruit stalls, fragrant Moroccan grocery stores, funky ethnic jewelry emporiums specializing in trinkets from the Caribbean, and then recharge at any of the ubiquitous smoke-filled cafe-tabacs which fill every space in between.

The Gaulloise tobacco haze hangs heaviest up the street from Tabac Des Deux Moulins, at Restaurant au Virage Lepic (61 rue Lepic), where simple bistro fare can be mopped up with cheap wine and crusty bread for less than €15. If their crude oil-strength espressos are not your thing, then places like the cushion-filled Scarabee (5 rue des Trois Freres. Metro: Abbesses), a spicy-smelling Egyptian salon de thé which serves refreshing mint tea, are great spots to scope out the local denizens as they go about their daily lives—a woman tending to her window flower boxes here, an old man perusing La Figaro newspaper as he walks his dog home, with a fresh baguette tucked under his arm.

Montmartre is no more than 20 minutes by Metro from any point within Paris’s 20
Arrondissements


Montmartre mingling
A stroll through Montmartre should begin in Place Pigalle, home to the Moulin Rouge cabaret (82 boulevard de Clichy) and the Eroticism Museum (72 boulevard de Clichy), both of which offer diversions far more wholesome than those of the surrounding streets after dark. Once you step through the bric-a-brac market along Boulevard de Rochechouart, where stalls of East African fabrics, military antiques, Suze ashtrays, pastis glasses and other café paraphernalia can trap you for hours easily, take a seat outside the amiable Chinese-run Jin Yi Fa cafe-restaurant and then take in the “moveable feast” of Montmartre fashion fiends.

The cobbled streets wind up through the quiet neighborhoods before converging on Square Willette. From here you can then ascend the Everest-sized staircase to the white turban-shaped domes of Sacre Coeur, though those weak of knee can jump aboard a funicular railway (Metro tickets accepted). Nothing, after the Eiffel Tower, stands out more dramatically on the city skyline than this grand Byzantine and Romanesque-style structure, which serves as a popular mingling point for Montmartre’s groovy teenagers, aspiring (and sometimes tone-deaf) musicians and legions of camera-slingers, daily. The 50-km-wide panorama of Paris is worth the crush.

“It’s our own private Taj Mahal,” jokes a Levi’s-clad student standing at the counter of Aux Rendez-vous Des Amis (23 rue Gabrielle. Metro: Abbesses), a small vaguely bohemian café bar, located a stone’s throw from Sacre Coeur. In its warm, intoxicating depths, you can find a table beneath the low wood beams, and with a chilled bottle of cider in hand, enjoy the wonderfully easy-going atmosphere. Few tourists venture in, however, probably on account of their poor French language skills or their lack of courage to simply step up to an unfamiliar bar and shout “un cafe, s’il vous plait!”

Locals tend to sit back, nurse their late afternoon demis (half measures) of beer, and watch the sightseers do all the hard work. From Aux Rendez-vous Des Amis, it’s a quick slog up a series of impossibly steep flights of steps to Place du Tertre, located in the backstreets west of Sacre Coeur.

Take this otherwise charming plaza and fill it with a lot of impatient North Americans demanding over-priced cafe au lait, surround them with wily street artists hocking oily “masterpieces,” throw in a few vicious portrait touts for good measure, and you have what most local residents would call “the most cringeful spot” in Montmartre. Lively at best, phony at worst, Place du Tertre is worth the climb through the quaint and window-shuttered hoods, if not for the cliché postcard snap of the famous restaurant Le Consulat that lies on the west side, then just to witness the hectic business of art. Or is that the art of business?


Getting around Paris
Save your soles and take the Metro, one of the world’s easiest to navigate (and liveliest) subway systems. Runs from 5:30am to 12:30am. Buy a book of ten tickets, called carnets, from any station or tabac (tobacco store) showing a green metro ticket sign; the cost is €8.38, or €1.23 for a single journey ticket. Pocket-sized Paris Plan de Poche maps are also available from most station counters. Convenient Montmartre stops: Anvers, Pigalle, Abbesses.

Where to stay
Location is everything and the two-star Hotel du Square D’Anvers Opera only 100m from Anvers stations fits the bill. Offers easy access to the Moulin Rouge and surrounding Montmartre bars, clubs and cafes. Rates per room per night: single €53, double €59, twin €68. (6 place D’Anvers, Paris, 75009. Tel: 33-142812074, fax: +33-1-48784745, email: squanvers@ aol.com). A groovy boutique hotel option located a cider bottle’s toss from Sacre Coeur and 100m from the hustle of Place du Tertre is the Art Hotel. Good value rooms run about €64 single, €78 double, €80 twin, €94 triple; breakfast buffet €7. (5 rue Tholozé, Paris, 75018. Tel: 33-146063052, fax: +33-1-46061083, web: www.art-hotel-paris.com)

More information
The best time to visit is Paris is the spring. April to June see clear sunny skies and cool nights ideal for outdoor dining. Avoid the blistering summer and holiday season from July 15 until the end of August, when tempers turn and many businesses close for the break. The currency is the euro whose symbol is €. One euro is currently worth about ¥128. Tourist offices can be found at Maison de la France, 8 avenue de l’Opéra, and Office de Tourisme de Paris, 127 Champs-Elysées. Some recommended websites to help you plan your trip are www.roughguides.com, www.paristravelguide.com, and www.kasbah.com/hotels/ cheap_hotels.asp?cheaphotel=Paris

Photos by Simon Rowe


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