Day Twenty-Two/ Sacre Coeur & Montmatre

Trip Start Dec 17, 2011
Trip End Jan 14, 2012

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Monday, January 9, 2012

After a big day yesterday, there was no time for a sleep-in, so we were up and ready early.  We had organised to go out with Jean-Marc, Florence and Colombe to Sacre Coeur.  We navigated the metro system, and found our way there.  There were three stations within the vicinity of the Church, so we just chose randomly. Unfortunately, we seemed to choose the one that was the furthest from the church, and we had to climb the mountain all the way to the top.  The Sacre-Coeur sits atop a hill, and overlooks the entire city.
The Church was built as a remembrance for the 50,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Franco-Prussian war.  It took 46 years to make, and 6 million euros to complete.  It's location is the most impressive thing, as you can see the entire city. On a clear day, it feels like you can see the earth's edge, and lucky enough, it was quite clear the day we made it up.
We had originally planned to attend mass, but we didn't arrive at the time.  The Church is quite beautiful inside; as all French catholic churches are, but after seeing church after church after church here, it all looks a little familiar inside.
Outside, there was a car rally organised for really old, vintage cars.  It was pretty cool to see the cars pass like a parade infront of us.  There were vintage cars that looked like a mini-hearse, but it would only hold half a coffin in the back.  They had a mini army jeep, complete with the driver and passengers dressed in army apparel.  I'm not so much a car enthusiast, but I really enjoyed seeing all the cars go past, and the camaraderie between the drivers.  The drivers stopped in the middle of the road, and bought each other baguettes.
Coincidentally or not, there was also a group of people who met at Sacre-Coeur who rode vintage bikes.  They were all dressed up as well, almost like paper-boys and school-teachers of the late 1800s.
From Sacre-Coeur, we walked down into Montmatre.  At the heart of Montmatre is an artist's district, and as you walked, people started to draw your portrait to sell to you.  They were all extremely talented, but where would I put a portrait of myself? Above my bed head? On the back of the bathroom door?
The artists also painted beautiful and unique pictures of Paris, and the landmarks. I wanted to buy so many of them, but I had no idea where to hang them, and I'm not sure I want my bedroom to look like a little Parisian shrine.  Artists are known to love to live in Montmatre, including Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Montmatre was also filled with fresh food being sold from little boutique food shops.  It smelled really good.  I really felt like a true Parisian, walking through the little narrow streets on a Sunday morning, surrounded by artists and cooks.
We twisted and turned our way all the way to the Moulin Rouge, and from there, we took the subway to our next destination.
We had lunch at a Moroccan restaurant near the subway station.  Florence was born in Morocco, and her mother still lives there.  She is French, but there seems to be a very large French community in Morocco, that stays quite separate from the native Moroccans.  The food was really good, and the decorated restaurant and tasty couscous makes me want to travel there.
At the end of the meal, Florence said "are you ready to walk again?" Little did we know how much we would walk.
At the end of the day, Dad estimates that we walked 16km.  We walked passed the Immortals, where the people decide what is and what is not in the French Language.  Once accepted into the academy, they have a life membership, therefore being called the Immortals. We walked passed the Musee D'Orsay, which is famous for the contemporary art. 
We also walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is a huge garden in the middle of Paris.  Apparently, the true, true Parisians buy their honey there, which is made in the garden itself, and buy their organic fruit and vegetables. They have chairs scattered around the garden, which you can pick up and transport with you anywhere in the garden. In summer, those chairs are like diamonds.
The garden also houses tennis courts, a large playground, and the French Senate.  The Senate building has the faint appearance of bullets in the outside, where it was attacked in the second world war, when it was occupied by the Germans.
Walking with Jean-Marc is like walking with a tour guide, because his knowledge of Parisian landmarks, art, history and architecture is extensive.  He was able to answer every question full of information, and point out things that we may not have noticed.  Also interesting, is that he works in Luxembourg.  He drives for 20 minutes to get to work, while crossing three countries; France, Belgium and Luxembourg.  His company is French, but for tax reasons, is based in another country.  For Australians, it is almost incomprehensible to think that you can work in one country, and return home to another each night.
They ended up taking us on a boat tour in the Seine.  We went past the Eiffel Tower, and right past the French Statue of Liberty (the same as the New York one, but smaller) and into the outskirts of Paris. It was a really amazing way of seeing the entire city.  As the water level of the Seine is so unusually high at the moment, we were not able to sit on the top deck of the boat, as the clearance under the bridge was next to nothing.
We said good-bye to Jean-Marc, Florence and Colombe after the river tour, and we went back to our apartment.
We went back out to dinner, and met Jessica and Alex outside the Notre Dame. We followed dad to a restaurant that we had eaten at before, but it was closed, so we went to one that was across the road.
Dinner was lovely, and it was fun chatting to Jess and Alex about everything, from Jess' plans to study physiotherapy to Alex's training as a firefighter. At the end of the night, we had to say good-bye to them for good.  It was really heartbreaking.  I hadn't seen Jess for 3 years, and we don't know when we will see each other again. Jess and I were both really teary, as we had just seen each other again, and we have to go again, so soon. I will miss her, and Alex, too.
We went straight back home to sleep.
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