By Patricia Killeen
Discover or Rediscover the secrets of Montmartre on the tour even Paris Expatriate “Lifers” and real Parisians take!
Eileen Grison has been living in Paris for two decades and has made Montmartre her home. Passionate about her neighbourhood, and initially showing her family and friends her favourite and often secret Montmartre corners, Eileen was encouraged by them to organize professional tours. At home in Ireland, after graduating with a degree in Italian and Cultural studies she subsequently worked as a tour guide for CIE, one of the country’s largest tour companies. In 2012, she created her company
“Lingo Immersions”, offering Walking Tours of Montmartre. As someone who “loves all things culture and travel related” and having completely immersed herself in the culture of Montmartre, she was ideal for the job. I recently took one of her tours: “My Famous Artists of Montmartre” with some Parisian friends, and we had a fantastic day out.
Eileen’s clients love journeying back in time with her and hearing about the early, heady days of the illustrious Moulin Rouge and soaking up the village atmosphere of Montmartre. She explains why during the Belle Époque, (approx. 1871 – 1914) Montmartre appealed to famous artists such as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and Renoir. In fact two necessities; accommodation and wine were both cheap! Montmartre at that time was considered to be outside Paris, and exempt from Paris’s wine tax. A lively bistro and cabaret scene flourished, around the jovial artists, models and Cancan girls and to this day Montmartre still offers scintillating night life.
People on Eileen’s tours also watch today’s artists at work in ‘Place du Tertre, (the square at the top of the hill) selling their canvases and offering portrait sessions. At about 426 feet Montmartre is Paris’s highest hill. The first of Paris’s beautiful monuments tourists often spot on the drive in from Charles de Gaulle airport is the famous, white Sacré-Cœur basilica situated at the top of Montmartre.
Word spread about Eileen’s passion and knowledge of Montmartre and the
reputation of her tours grew leading to her being bestowed with the title “Deputy of the Republique de Montmartre”. Her role is akin to being an ambassador – it is her job to share the heritage and history of Montmartre, which she does with joy while wearing her well merited Montmartre dignitary’s blue and yellow sash with pride.
Over the past few months, limiting the number of people per tour, with face-masks obligatory, and maintaining social distancing, Eileen has been going about her business. While waiting for foreign tourists to flock back to Paris post Covid, she leads Expatriates and Parisians on secrets of Montmartre tours around the cobbled streets, for once so unusually calm and quiet. Her tour takes 1h15, for the extremely reasonable price of 20€ per person.
I live near Montmartre and go there on a regular basis but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed Eileen’s tour. She avoids the more touristic routes and managed to reveal some hidden jewels of bohemian Paris, even to us seasoned Expat “lifers” and Parisians. Eileen lives just a stone’s throw from Sacré-Cœur and the Moulin Rouge and is privy to lots of interesting and funny stories about the famous inhabitants of Montmartre and generously shares her local insider knowledge about her adopted ‘village’s’ good shops and restaurants.
Article written by Patricia Killeen who as a former guest manager for one of the top luxury boutique hotels in Paris, Patricia is constantly on the lookout for the best events and addresses in the city. She is fascinated by how expatriates living in Paris often just blossom! In Gertrude Stein style, many adroitly navigate the balance between maintaining their own identity and culture, while simultaneously soaking up the sparkle and light of Paris, their adopted ‘home town’. Patricia graduated, as a mature student with a Master’s degree in English literature from the Sorbonne, Paris 3 and loves living in a city paved with the words of writers and philosophers. She’s ‘IrishCentral’s’ woman on the ground in Paris and has also written for ‘FUSAC’ and ‘Expatriate Magazine in Paris & Suburbs’.