Saturday, June 22, 2013

Le Café des 2 Moulins


Amélie is one of my favorite movies. I've seen it way more times than I care to admit to and am always a little shocked when someone tells me they haven't seen it. It's got Audrey Tatou and garden gnomes and photo booth scavenger hunts and the guy from Delicatessen - what's not to love? The movie is a whimsical look at the life of Amélie, a shy woman who decides to start helping those around her and along the way, finds love. There's an eccentric cast of characters, many of whom frequent Le Café des 2 Moulins where Amélie works. She also has a reclusive neighbor, who repaints Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party and Amélie steals her father's garden gnome and sends it on adventures (to try to convince her father to go enjoy life). There's also a plot line involving photo booths at train stations (this is part of the love story) - I may have to take pictures in one of the booths tomorrow.

Amélie lives in Montmartre and the movie mainly takes place in this area. Montmartre is known for being the location of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur as well as where many artists and writers lived and worked, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Moulin Rouge is located here (it's one of the 2 Moulins the cafe is named for) as was Le Chat Noir. It's an interesting contrast - the basilica (the highest point in the city) and the decadent history of the surrounding area. The construction of the basilica was supposedly directly related to the moral decline of the French after the Revolution. It's definitely worth the trip from the center of Paris. It's not as touristy as it's made out to be.

Anyway, Montmartre is another part of Paris that I've wanted to visit since I first started planning this trip years ago. Originally, I had intended to stay in the area but that didn't work out (and I love le petit studio). One of the wonderful things about le petit studio is that there are 3 Metro stations within walking distance. One of them, Saint-Lazare, goes to several of the places I wanted to visit so it's been easy to get around. Now once I'm off the Metro, all bets are off. We know how terrible I am at directions (even with a map). I have the best intentions but usually end up several blocks (possibly even miles) from where I actually want to be and then I have a hard time finding my way back.

This is exactly what happened today. I knew that I had several choices for stations to get me to both Sacré-Cœur and Le Café des 2 Moulins, my destinations for the day. When I got off at the Lamarck – Caulaincourt station (this is the station where Amélie leaves the blind man after telling him all about what's happening around him), I missed the street to go up to the basilica. And then I'm not really sure what I did because I ended up nowhere near the basilica and kept turning myself around. Finally, I just got back on the Metro and got off at a different stop, the one I probably should have gone to in the first place. I guess I really don't wander very well now do I? I finally made my way to the basilica (follow the crowds). The street up is lined with gift shops and other street vendors. Once you get to the basilica, there are others selling knock-off purses and trying to get you to stand there while they make what looked like friendship bracelets. It was random. I didn't end up going all the way to the top but stayed at the base of the basilica for a while. Eventually it started to rain (and I was cold), so I made my way back down.

Yes, I could have walked to my next destination but I opted to take the Metro again since I knew exactly where I needed to go once I got to the Abbesses station. I did get a little turned around because Rue Lepic goes two different directions but I realized this quickly since the numbers were getting larger, turned around and found my way to Le Café des 2 Moulins. I almost walked by it but then I saw the movie poster inside and knew I had found my place. It was full inside so I took one of the last tables outside (despite the cold) and sat down to enjoy my visit. 

Sitting outside was a very good choice. The cafe is a great spot to watch people along the busy street. There are food stores of every type and a market at the bottom of the street. The part of the street I was on smelled like bread and rotisserie chicken. I also watched other people stop and take pictures of the cafe and talk about Amélie in hushed, reverent tones (in multiple languages). It was fun to sit on the little pink chair and watch Parisians go about their day. And the bread smell was just wonderful. I've eaten more bread in the last five days than a normal person should eat but I figure I also walk up and down 202 stairs each day so it's cool. I'm also totally in support of having a glass of wine at lunch. I've had rose (a favorite) at different cafes over the last few days and it's been lovely.

I've decided (at least as of today as I'm writing this) that what I love most about Paris is that it's not just one thing. If I were more of a foodie, I could have spent my entire time here eating amazing food probably in a thoroughly researched way. I could shop my way through Paris (if I were either extremely wealthy or enjoyed flea markets more). There was also the option to go to every museum possible - this would have been maddening. My first two days were filled with what I would describe as "the things everyone tells you to do in Paris" which are all lovely and worth seeing (just pretend like the crowds at the Louvre are there to see you). The past two days have felt more like a vacation - no real plan, just enjoying myself. I like that I combined must-sees with things that matter to me. Despite some crankiness on day two, I've done what I wanted to do and didn't let getting lost upset me (which probably would have happened a few years ago). I may have been a bit frustrated with my map reading abilities but I eventually figured things out and got to where I wanted to go.

Oh, and there was a clown leading a tour group past Le Café des 2 Moulins. Seems legit.

Amélie photo from Top Ten Filmz (top photo); all others by me

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