Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paris Day 7, Part 2 - Head in the clouds

I was done with what I hoped was the most macabre side of Paris during the first half of the day and I was really looking forward to the second half. Something I've seen in so many movies and I had also done a lot of reading up on it. Montmartre.

By the time we got there, I was already wishing we set a day aside for it. Montmartre has a very different feel from what I'd seen of Paris so far. The people, the cafes and even the tourists seemed different from what I'd seen elsewhere. Maybe I was wrong and it was just my mind replaying all the things I've read about this part of Paris. We headed straight to Sacré Coeur because it was going to be dark very soon and I wanted to catch the Basilica in natural light. I would have loved to walk the stairs to the top but it was a tiring day and the funicular seemed so inviting. You can use a Metro ticket to ride the Funicular and the Navigo Decouverte passes we were carrying worked too. Trust the French to think of this convenience. Imagine standing in long queues to buy tickets for it and then getting in line to board the funicular again. Of course, if you didn't have a Metro ticket on you, that would still be a problem.

I saw a lot of pictures of Sacré Coeur before I left for Paris. But there was none that prepared me for my first sight of it. Against the increasingly darkening sky, it stood out like a brilliant white gem. What is it with churches and me? I'm not religious at all and I can't remember when I last went into one. Neither am I a believer of god in general or Catholicism in particular. But there's something about churches that captivate me. First it was Notre Dame, and now Sacré Coeur.

The Funicular

No, that crowd isn't watching me perform.

Sacré Coeur was more than just a church. It was a celebration - singing, vin chaud, food, kids running around, artists sketching, lovers kissing...and everybody smiling. We spent a while walking around the Basilica, until I forced myself to put the camera away and step inside. There was a service going on so I let the camera stay inside the bag. The inside is...well, gothic! Maybe it was the time of the day or the fact that it was the end of a hectic day for us, but I was tiring and just wasn't able to spend more time inside. Assuring myself that Sacré Coeur would get more time during my next visit, I walked out.

My ceiling fascination continues.

The Christmas Market was running full just outside and around the Basilica. We headed to the Vin Chaud stall first and grabbed ourselves two steaming glasses (although the best I've had are the ones at the Champs Elysees market). Rave did a bit of trinket shopping and we settled down on the stairs in front of Montmartre. It was festive and crowded but the crowds added so much to the atmosphere. There were musicians taking turns performing to an eager and responsive crowd. After a long while of sitting around soaking it all in, we decided to leave.

One of each please!

We're incorrigible. Figuring our feet were well rested, we decided to go wandering about for a while. After lots of walking around through some of the most interesting parts of Paris I've seen, we found ourselves near a familiar landmark. The Moulin Rouge! We gambled on catching a show somewhere and after making enquiries at all the wrong sorts of places, we decided the best show for us that night would be served on a plate inside a nice restaurant!

There were lots of other places in Montmartre we planned on visiting but didn't because we ran out of time. Place du Tertre, a few blocks away from Sacré Coeur, is supposed to be a place where artists set up their easels for tourists. Considering this part of Paris has a long association with art and artists, there are quite a few artistically inclined visits we'd planned too. The Espace Dali, housing lots of work by the master surrealist, Renoir's house, Picasso's studio and the house where Van Gogh stayed. These were the few on our list but I'm sure there's lots more than this we'll catch on our next trip.

Montmartre will definitely remain one of the regrets from this first trip to Paris. Regret because I wish I spent more time here. It's a regret I'll carry until the next time I visit Paris. Because that's when I'll make up for it!


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