Friday, September 25, 2015

A Glimpse of Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

O

 ur Big Bus wound its way up through the 9th Arrondissment. Montmartre was whizzing by us as Z and I sat on the upper level of the bus. It was getting chilly and the not so inspiring views of Montmartre were adding up to a not so fun experience for me.  So many people have told me that I would enjoy staying in Montmartre but as we made our way along the streets, I didn't see anything that would make me want to stay here. 

Admittedly, I had very romantic notions about Montmartre - you know, charming old buildings on narrow cobblestone streets, lots and lots and lots of cafes and bistros, ever present and vibrant street life filled with people, art, music and great (yet very reasonably priced) food. I saw none of that here.  To me, it looked like a US city neighborhood - very nondescript buildings, fast food restaurants, stores selling everyday stuff presented in no fashionable way.   It was all pretty blah. There was no Paris here at least what I am used to on the Left Bank.  It also seemed like the part of Montmartre we were riding through was the red light district.  There was a lot of XXX rated this, that or the other here.

So, it wasn't a good first impression and perhaps I need to come back to Montmartre one day, go on foot and explore the backstreets.

A very recognizable Montmartre landmark.

Our Big Bus dropped us off somewhere in Montmartre, within easy walking distance of our destination - Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Z fired up his Paris city app on his iPhone and led us towards the famed basilica which I have never visited and was very much looking forward to seeing.



Z's navigation had us walking along the backstreets of what looked like and felt like the fabric section of Montmartre.  Every which way I looked, all I saw were fabric stores and bolts of fabric.



There were no fashionable looking people walking about.  This part of Paris was definitely much more blue collar in flavor.

I was beginning to wonder where Z was leading us to until I saw the domes of the basilica.  Now, I knew where were were heading.


We arrived into a small square.  There were four small cafes situated around it.  By now, it was nearing 4p and I decided we needed to eat as I had no idea when we would next happen upon any sort of an eatery.

The first place I tried turned out to be a tea salon meaning we could get a cup of tea and a pastry but I knew that wasn't going to be enough for us.

The next place I tried didn't have a very enticing menu.  Third place turned out to be the charm.  It was cafe, it was open and it had a set menu option.  Score!

I think he's getting tired of me taking photos of him.  Took him longer than I expected to get tired of being my photo muse :-)

I needed to eat but I wasn't all that hungry so I ordered a classic croque madam which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The slice of bread came from Poilâne, the famed Parisian boulangerie.  We have a small loaf of Poilâne bread, sitting in the fridge, back in our apartment.

Look at the color of that yolk!  The eggs are incredibly delicious here~

Z went for the starter/entree option.  For his starter, Z also ordered a French cafe classic - oeufs durs mayonnaise aka hardboiled eggs covered with mayonnaise.  Not one of my preferences. 


For his entree, he ordered the fish of the day which came served atop some veggies and a parsley puree.  According to Z, it was delicious.


We ate al fresco and from our table, we could see the steps that lead up to Sacré-Cœur Basilica.  After our meal, we climbed the steps.  As we walked up, on the right side of the steps were small gates leading to private gardens that fronted homes.  People living in those homes must be very accustomed to strangers trying to peek beyond the gate.  It very much reminded me of similar steps in San Francisco, in the Nob Hill neighborhood.

Looking up towards the basilica.

Looking back down towards the cafe we had our late lunch at.

At the top of the steps was Sacré-Cœur Basilica.  Sacré-Cœur, as it's often simply referred to, is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The popular landmark was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919 so it's not as old a church as I had always thought it was.

The area in front of the Basilica, especially the steps overlooking the city, was absolutely packed with people.  A group of people were busy setting up a stage and equipment for what looked to be a concert of some sort.  At the base of the first set of steps, a street performer was strumming a guitar and singing, performing before a small crowd.

There was a lot of activity going on.

Before heading inside the basilica, we decided to take in the view.  We are high up on a hill, the highest point in the city, so it was a mass of buildings for as far as we could see.  It's only when you get to this vantage point that you really get a feel for just how big a city Paris really is.


Taking in the view, standing at the railing, we could see a small park sprawled on the hillside below.  This is Paris so unless the weather is truly horrible, there will always be people seated on the grass.  This is one country where benches are not needed!


Looking back up the steps at the famed basilica.

Soon, we made our way inside.  There was no entry fee but unfortunately photography was not allowed inside though as always, I see people snapping away with their smartphones.  Which part of no photography allowed did they not get?  People ignoring *Do not do...." signs - one of my pet peeves.

The front entrance of the Basilica.  A bronze equestrian statue of King Saint Louis on the left and an equestrian statue of St Joan of Arc on the right.

Inside, there was another group of guys setting up music equipment and a large screen.  As I walked around, I could hear snippets of a sound check blaring out over the loud speakers.  Folks...this is a church.  Shhhh......  Curious how they allowed a rock music performance to take place inside a place that is suppose to be quiet to encourage contemplation and prayer.  I am a tad irked but yet curious enough to see what was about to take place, music wise, that I sat down on a pew next to Z.  We waited for a bit but it didn't seem like music was about to happen anytime soon so we left the basilica.

Back outside, we headed for the entrance to the Dome and Crypt.  But the moment we found out we had to pay of admission....well, we turned around and left.  Neither one of us was all that interested in visiting either the dome or the crypt.  Besides, the sun had come out and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors.

We walked around the back of the basilica.  I don't know how to describe the architecture. Most Roman Catholic churches I've been to have very square lines; Sacré-Cœur is very curvy and quite feminine (if that's an adjective you can use to describe a church) in appearance.




My shadow art :-)


Before we left the basilica grounds, I braved my way through the throng of people, gathered on front steps, to take one last photo.  The white basilica looks so much nicer against the blue sky.


From near Sacré-Cœur Basilica, we took the Funiculaire de Montmartre, to go down the hill.  The short ride costs the price of single Metro ride and I used the free ride ticket, that came with my City Pass, to get in.  Z had left his back in the apartment so he used one of the tickets I had bought at Gare du Nord, when we arrived into the city a few days back.  I knew they would come in handy!


By the time we got into the funicular, the window seats were already taken so I decided to capture a video of the ride as a woman shot it on her iPhone.  If nothing else, I am creative and resourceful :-)


Once we were down the hill, we had to make our way to a regular Metro stop and make our way towards the Eiffel Tower.  We had a boat cruise to take!