Monday, May 18

Jour 3 à Paris: Montmartre & Sacré-Coeur

After a semi-late evening last night we didn’t get the quick start like we had been hoping. We ate breakfast (which consisted of café and croissants again at Café Le Solerino) and then took the metro out to the Montmartre area. It’s quite a ways away from the heart of Paris so you’ll have to take the metro. When we arrived in Montmartre we wanted to go to Sacré-Coeur right away and started our journey up the hundreds of steps to the top of the landing where the cathedral stood overlooking the city.

I mean I consider myself in shape but still felt like I was huffing-and-puffing up the stairs. Yet people were working out and jogging up the stairs around me- jeez. After a few hundred stairs we finally made it to the top of the landing and Sacré-Coeur stood behind us and an amazing city-view of Paris before us. Talk about a wonderful view! The sun was out and lots of people mingled on the stairs leading up to the basilica; some were artists sketching the beautiful architecture, others painted the city view, some people ate and chatted on the steps and others just lounged taking in the views.

We walked up the remainder of the steps and into Sacré-Coeur. It’s amazing how inside the cathedral it seems to be untouched by time (with the exception of the speaker and AV systems). It was very stunning inside the cathedral; lots of amazing architecture and sculptures throughout. It was cool and gray and I can’t even imagine attending service in the winter- it must be frigid. After touring through the inside of the cathedral we made our way to the ticket office to go to the top of Sacré-Coeur. Note- they only accepted cash and there are NO bathrooms anywhere in the cathedral so make sure you a. have currency on you and b. go to the bathroom before you walk up the staircase.
A windy 300 steps greeted us and we began our accent to the top of Sacré-Coeur. Mom wasn’t kidding when she said the steps get narrower as it goes on. We climbed to the very top and were not disappointed by the wonderful views, wow. You had a wonderful 360° view of Paris. Off in the distance was the iconic Eiffel Tower. We were lucky because not many people had decided to climb the stairs at that time so we were quite alone with the exception of a few other couples.

Sacré-Coeur is obviously an iconic part of Montmartre but so is the art scene. Artists were set up around the streets painting various sceneries of Paris with a multitude of different mediums. Some were relatively accurate like a photograph while others were interpretive or impressionistic but regardless it was still beautiful to see the different artists. We stopped and watched artists in their element a bit before finding a café, Les Coulisses, for a quick bite for lunch. Oh and when I mean ‘quick’ I mean French quick, which is by no definition anywhere close to the term ‘American quick’ ha.

Have I mentioned how small the tables are in cafés and restaurants around here? With three of us around one small French bistro table there’s barely any room for plates! So we originally grabbed two small tables but they told us we could only get one for three people. So we were trying to maneuver around the table when Kelly accidentally bumped the table, sending the glasses and bottle of water flying down towards me (as of course we were sitting on a tilt). Can you say hello Americans? Luckily the waiter was nice about it (to our face anyways) and I dried out eventually.

Following lunch we got to spend the rest of the afternoon in Montmartre. The area has tons of cute shops and boutiques, cafés and restaurants as well as some historic landmarks. We stopped into a cute little macaroon shop later in the afternoon as well as our first Starbucks (because you know, sometimes you just need a piece of home). The clouds were starting to roll in and look threatening so we decided to wind our way down the streets towards the metro station. On our way down however we saw a cute little man dancing in the street to a guitar player, people walking hand and hand, and children playing soccer in the streets…welcome to Paris!

Oh also along our way, we searched out Moulin Rouge which I do have to say was kind of a letdown; it’s literally built into another building and looks nothing like the old pictures. I was expecting it to be its own standalone building with its cool and funky windmill on top, but it almost looked fake!

Luckily it never did rain on us and we were able to hop on the metro and cut across town to the Champs-Elysse district to go see the Arc de Triomphe. Walking down the street and oh my goodness, there was one name brand designer after another. Beautiful stores with luxurious cars parked outside, you could almost smell the opulence and money in that area. The Arc sits right in the middle of it all, almost like the center of Paris (although the ‘heart of Paris’ is actually over by Notre-Dame Cathedral I later found out). We walked down some steps, under the ground and there you pop out right in the center of the iconic round-about. I’m not sure if its every day or just on the weekends but there was a military ceremony happening when we arrived with public officials and children walking with the French flag and flowers and under the big French flag that flies under the Arc they gathered for a few moments, kind of neat to see.

We climbed the stairs, although not as many as this morning, to the top of the monument for another spectacular view of Paris. Sigh, I seriously will never get sick of this view. Again in the distance you could see the Eiffel Tower and even Sacré-Coeur where we were earlier. It was so windy up there I’m pretty sure by the end my hair was a birds nest but it was worth the views of the city.

It was getting late so we decided to make our way back towards our apartment to figure out a dinner meal. We stopped into our local grocery store to just gather a little picnic meal of cheese, meat, bread and fruit when…remember that rain that never happened earlier…well it hit right as we were packing our grocery bags to walk home. Granted we were only a half block away from our apartment but I don’t think I’ve been more soaked in my life! We busted into our apartment complex in fits of laughter because we couldn’t believe how drenched we got in that short period! So tonight we enjoyed our not-so-hot picnic indoors and laughed about our wonderful  day in Paris.