Monmartre & Sacre Coeur

Trip Start Jul 02, 2012
Trip End Oct 04, 2012

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, August 23, 2012

Waking up in Paris still feels like a dream, but no mucking around, I jumped on the Metro to go off in search of a local market. Finding the market became a part of the adventure when the first one I arrived at turned out not to run on a Thursday.  Back down to the Metro and after one false turn (luckily a nice Metro guy let me back in without having to pay again), I finally (after an hour!) arrived at the market.

Essentially, stall holders set up on the footpath on both sides of the road for 3 or 4 blocks and you just wander along browsing and buying to your heart's content!  What a cool place - I missed Mum and Rebecca on this one, they would have loved it.  I spent a very happy time ambling between the stalls, "chatting" to the stall holders (felt very proud when one guy told me I spoke very well with a good accent - thanks 3rd and 4th form French!), and buying bits and pieces as I went.

Returning home, we had a delicious breakfast of melt in the mouth baguette filled with sweet, just off the vine tomatoes and ripe camembert,  Heaven!

Catching another couple of Metros to Monmarte (we have a new technique of scented lip gloss under the nose to help disguise the smell!), we arrived, only to be accosted by the now familiar teenagers with clipboards.  These groups move around the city and ask you to sign something while their mate picks your pocket.  Their other technique is to get someone to sign their support and then to ask for a donation; if the person refuses they can be beaten up and robbed – we saw one situation where it started to get rough with the man ending up having to pull his partner away and both hurrying away.  Nasty.  We had been warned about them by several different people and so a firm "NO" is the simple way to avoid any trouble.  Michael particularly likes that part!

Making our way up the beautifully cobblestoned streets, we bypassed the crowded and slow cable car and walked up 5 flights of steep stairs to the foot of the Sacre Coeur.  Of all the places we have visited, the Sacre Coeur remains one of my favourite.  The cathedral itself is so majestic, the crypt incredible, the painted dome awesome and the climb to the dome and the views outstanding. 

The first place we visited was the crypt, an amazing space with a silence that has a real peacefulness.  After the crypt we went in to the cathedral itself which is lovely although not as special with the hundreds of people making their way through at the same time.  Richard and Michael went outside to sit on the steps and watch the people while I climbed the 300 steps to the top of the dome.  I love those towers – they are crazy, with winding spiral staircases, sometimes only shoulder width wide and occasionally in pitch black when the lightbulbs have blown.  The views from the top were fantastic, and we had fun waving at each other from down on the ground and up in the sky!

Once I had come back down (much easier than going up of course!), we found a lovely little pizzeria behind the Sacre Coeur and had a delicious lunch of pizza and pasta with freshly squeezed strawberry juice.

Energised once more, we made our way around the foot of the Sacre Coeur to the Place du Tetre, a bustling market square full of artists painting Paris scenes or portraits of the tourists.  Having done a circuit of the artists, we meandered our way around some of the delightful little cobblestoned streets, looking at the shops and watching the people.  Monmarte is a wonderful place, quite different from Paris and a real hive of activity.

We slowly made our way back to the apartment and put our feet up for a couple of hours before heading off once more to do the Night Tour on bikes.  Having done the day tour yesterday and caught the Metro back, we thought we knew where we were going but the tricky thing about the Metros are the exits where you can intend to come out in one place but in fact you pop up somewhere totally different.  It was 7 o'clock at night and the streets were teeming with cars and people and we had no idea of where we were going, no contact details for the company (having left the brochure on the bench…) and 10 minutes to get there.  

We asked at a newspaper stand and were making very little progress with the vendor who had almost no English and was telling us to take this Metro and change to another and that they were closed for the day.  Disaster.  Miraculously though, an elderly man was waiting to buy his newspaper and he spoke English, overheard me trying to get the vendor to understand the place we were looking for was only 2 blocks away but we had no idea in which direction, and he said he knew where it was and he would take us!  We spent the next 5 or so minutes walking with him through a series of back streets and even through a gated playground, sure he was leading us on a wild goose chase, when we rounded a corner and voila, there it was!  He was a lovely gentleman – had lived in New York for 20 years through the 60’s but Paris before and after that and was delighted to be able to help us.  What a hero!

So, arriving at last, happily not too late, we joined a group and were soon on the road again, this time in flouor vests for riding the streets of Paris in the dark.  The Night Tour was different from the day tour in that the day tour was much more informative while the Night Tour was very much experiential – not as many stops, information or photo opportunities but lots of riding and a really neat vibe biking along the bike/bus lanes as dusk slowly turned to night while the Parisians ate and drank in the terraced cafes all over the city and tourists lined the streets around the monuments for photos at sunset.

Our tour took us past lots of well known landmarks – Notre Dame, Les Invalides, across the Seine several times, through the Louvre, Eiffel Tower (of course!), through the Latin Quarter, past Princess Di’s memorial by the bridge where she died.  Once it was dark, we boarded one of the many river boats that cruise up and sown the Seine and spent a fantastic hour on the river seeing all the sights againbut from a completely different perspective.


It was great to see the banks of the river on both sides lined with people talking, eating, drinking and just generally enjoying the balmy weather.  There was even one part we passed where big groups of people were whirling around ballroom dancing  - it looked fantastic!

The best part of the cruise was when we sailed past the Eiffel Tower in all its lit up glory.  It looked even more magnificent from the river and just so big as we sailed almost underneath it…awesome!

After disembarking, we biked the short distance back to drop off our bikes and then decided to take a taxi back to the apartment because it was 11.30pm and Michael was asleep on his feet!

What a great day!

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rebecca on

fantastic Eiffel Tower pics. Can't believe Berthillon icecream wasn't the best you've ever tasted - will have to sample NZ icecream again soon!

Elaine on

Awesome photos, I think I might have to employ you when you get back Philippa - you'd be a fab Travel Agerent with all your 'wee finds' !!! Enjoy your last week over there, looks like you're having the most amazing time xx

linda on

Looks like you are having a brilliant time. :)
Just beware of all those kids with clipboards. At least you've had lots of previous practise saying :NO" to Jasper.

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