We must have both been very, very tired, because we didn’t stir until 8:45 a.m. That felt good.
While I showered and dressed, Doug went out for milk and coffee and yet another chocolate croissant. A small coffee here is €2.50 which is $3.25. Makes Tims look like a charity event. There is continental (aka cold) breakfast available in the hotel, but at €12 each that would be $36 for the two of us. Our granola (got it last night) with milk, chocolate croissant, yogurt (left from yesterday on the outside window sill overnight - no frigs in hotel rooms here) and coffee cost about $9. That’s how we keep traveling costs under control.
Today is cool, but dry, so outdoor activities are on the agenda. I decided that our destination would be Sacré-Coeur which is a Roman Catholic basilica. It is the second-most visited monument in Paris. I think you can figure out which monument is the number one attraction. We found the metro station, and successfully navigated two metro lines to get to our destination.
Sacré-Coeur Basilica which is consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Christ, sits at the summit of Butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city of Paris. Montmartre means "hill of martyrs" - this was the place where Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was decapitated for his faith. The basilica is celebrating its 100 anniversary this month, so it’s a relatively new church by European standards. There are a lot of steps up to the level where the staircase in front of the church begins so we used a couple of our metro tickets to take the funicular up. We rounded the corner from the funicular and were rewarded with a simply spectacular view of Paris. That’s a memory we will always treasure.
The area around the steps to the church is full of vendors hawking trinkets, selfie sticks, bottled water, sparking Eiffel Towers and the ubiquitous love locks. There is a lot of litter - Paris could do a better job here. And there is a sight-seeing tram jostling for space amongst the hordes of tourists. It’s all just a wee bit sacrilegious.
After passing through the security check, we went into the church. The mosaic in the apse entitled Christ in Majesty, created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is among the largest in the world. It represents the risen Christ, clothed in white and with arms extended, revealing a golden heart. It is stunning.
As we were enjoying the majesty of the church, we heard singing. In one of those delightful moments of travel serendipity, mass was beginning. Since I haven’t been able to attend mass so far on this trip, we decided to stay for it. The music was provided by nuns with simply angelic voices. I pulled up the readings for the day on an app on my phone so we were able to follow, and I was able to get the gist of the priest’s sermon.
When mass was finished, the most amazing thing happened. The priest knelt facing the main altar and immediately, a white curtain rose above the altar to reveal a beautiful monstrance containing the consecrated body of Christ. Since 1885 (before construction had been completed) the Blessed Sacrament has been continually on display. Perpetual adoration both day and night of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the basilica since 1885. It was an incredibly moving moment. We prayed for a while and then left quietly, knowing that we were very blessed to have been at Sacré-Couer this morning.
We drank in the view of the Paris skyline again, and then began exploring the streets of Montmartre. This area is best known as the home of cabaret nightlife and bohemian artists, struggling painters, poets, dreamers and a fair number of drunkards. Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir, Toulouse Lautrec, Dali, and many others spent time here.
We found Au Lapin Agile cabaret (still in business) and Le Moulin de la Galette, a dance hall featured in a famous Renoir painting, “Bal du moulin de la Galette” which is in the Musée d’Orsay where we are headed tomorrow. This painting is one of Impressionisms most celebrated masterpieces.
We found a little boulangerie and got ham and cheese on baguette sandwich. (The little place down the street from the hotel now only sells bread and pastries - no luncheon fixings. Sad…) We added a couple of cookies to the menu. Great baguette. We’ve had better chocolate chip and caramel cookies. The people watching was very good as we sat and ate.
Off for more exploring. We found a public toilette that completely cleans itself (toilet, sink, floor) after each use - very space age. Could have used that technology in the Middle East last year.
We found the Wall of Love is a love-themed wall of 40 square metres (430 sq ft) in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre, Paris, France. The wall was created in 2000 by calligraphist Fédéric Baron and mural artist Claire Kito] and is composed of 612 tiles of enamelled lava, on which the phrase 'I love you' is featured 311 times in 250 languages. It includes the words 'I love you' in all major languages, but also in rarer ones like Navajo, Inuit, Bambara and Esperanto.
At the base of Butte Montmartre, we found the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill) nightclub that offers pricey cabaret shows. This red light area of Paris is called Pigalle - it’s a pretty tough and raunchy area with lots of sex shops and slightly sleazy bars. It is named after the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (1714–1785). Allied soldiers during WWII called it “Pig Alley”.
With tired feet, lots of memories, and still giggling from seeing Pigalle, we hit the metro again and worked our way back to the hotel. The metro system is a maze of stair cases going up and down in all directions, but we figured it all out using the very good metro app that I put on my phone.
We are back at the hotel now. Doug has the New York Times (in English) to keep him happy. Since the outlook for tonight is clear, we are going to take a boat cruise on the Seine after dark.
We did take the boat cruise. It was a bit of a bust - people taking hundreds of selfies blocked our view and then the rains came and we had to scuttle down below where the views were even worse. (Bit of advice - take the 10:00 p.m. cruise when most of the bus tours have packed it in for the night.) It was sad to see the skeleton of the once-grand Notre-Dame Cathedral that was ravaged by fire earlier this year. This cruise couldn't hold a candle to the ethereal moon-lit cruise of Budapest that we so fondly remember from 2016.Read more