Thursday, July 30, 2020

Montmartre, Parisian ghost town

 I went up to Montmartre and Pigalle recently to see how the hysteria has affected it. The number of people was actually pretty normal—for normal city streets. But it was a chapter from The Stand compared to the usual crowds in Montmartre.

One of many tall stairways in Montmartre
There were no tourists at all, of course. There were Parisians strolling about, so it wasn't deserted, but it might as well have been so as far as the souvenir shops were concerned. Locals aren't very likely to be in the market for Eiffel-Tower key chains or I 💓PARIS t-shirts. And the famous restaurants up on the Butte had only a handful of customers, whereas normally every table would be occupied. Parisians do have to eat, but not necessarily at the overpriced restaurants around the place du Tertre. Heck, I wouldn't mind eating there myself, but I can't afford to pony up €22 for a steak haché avec frites. Some of the best-known restaurants were closed, too, which I found worrisome on a weekday afternoon. Tutti Sensi was open, so I bought a big cup of their excellent-but-pricey homemade vanilla gelato.

There was no line for the Montmartre funicular, which is unusual. I haven't the energy to climb the many stairs up to Sacré-Cœur, so this was nice. The cars are unventilated, and with crowds and warm weather they can be unpleasant, albeit still preferable to a heart attack from climbing the stairs.

There were more people down in Pigalle. All locals of course, walking up and down the pedestrian median on the boulevard de Clichy. Lots of bicycles in the adjacent bike lanes, too; I had to take care not to get run over. The beautiful weather surely helped lure people outdoors. And I was surprised by how much all the trees have grown on the median. I recall when they were first planted, years ago, as shadeless, skinny saplings, taped to sticks to keep them from falling over. Time flies.

I noticed that the sanisettes in the area are now equipped with hand-sanitizer dispensers. I wonder how much difference that can make when so few people wash their hands after using the toilet already. If they are not afraid of gastroenteritis, the Deadly Virus seems unlikely to worry them.

The Moulin Rouge is still closed. I wonder if it will ever reopen. There were two security guards standing in front. The "Red Mill" was not turning. Deadly Virus oblige. Not to mention those ridiculous giant flowerpots installed to discourage bogeymen and terrorists. Or maybe they're afraid of Gilet Jaune protestors. Or strikers. Or Islamist fanatics. So many things to be afraid of! People are afraid of their own shadows these days.

I've made a little video of my explorations, below:

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