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Laurence Debart-Johner

Laurence is passionate about Montmartre and knows intimately the story behind its vineyard "Le Clos Montmartre."

Laurence was born in Dijon, the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy, where the fairies of patrimony and gastronomy gave her their blessings, which she has carried throughout a nomadic life that has taken her from France to Morocco to Spain to Ireland and back to France again. Having earned diplomas in hospitality and oenology, she has shared her passion for history and winemaking throughout Europe. All of these experiences (and a sprinkling of fairy dust) come together on top of the hill of Montmartre where Laurence is honored to share the fascinating story about how the rebellious Parisian spirit  protected a piece of land which remains Europe’s oldest and most well-kept secret urban vineyard — “Le Clos Montmartre.”

You are affiliated with the COFAS (Comité des Fêtes et d’Actions Sociales de Montmartre), the association which runs the Clos Montmartre vineyard. And you’ve said that the artist Francisque Poulbot, who was one of the founders of the “Republic of Montmarte” in the 1920s was an inspiration. What resonates with you most about COFAS and the spirit of this place?

Just consider the motto of Francisque Poulbot: “Faire le bien dans la joie.” [Do good while having fun.] When I met this great idea of Poulbot, a true  “Knight of charity and arts,” discreet and devoted to the people around him, I was really thrilled. Indeed, I try to do my job with a bit of the same inspiration: joy and pleasure, but blending it with charity and beauty is an absolute must.

With Secret Journeys, you lead the Montmartre Vineyards journey. The vineyard is a surprise for many when they encounter it in Paris, why do you feel that the vineyard has retained this status despite its long and rich history?

Difficult question, I can only answer with other questions/interrogations. Poulbot had a strong personality and was quite famous; he left a devoted team and some associations to carry on. Maybe History is created by the living and nowadays, charity is more sexy/appealing if it is perceived to be “far away”? The point is that nowadays, the needy people are not so much the children, but the elderly and the homeless, and the scale of the problem is not restricted to the Hill of Montmartre anymore. Furthermore, things are more and more regulated and organised, even charity. Still, the Clos is alive: the vines grow, bear grapes, die, turn red. As such, it has to be protected to stay an efficient witness of what free-minded people can carry out when they band together.

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