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France

Montmarte and Sacre Coeur

I got to Paris and it was POURING rain. Since all I had in my backpack other than my purse was papers, electronics, and clean socks for the plane, I was excited to see that there was baggage storage, very conveniently located right at the entrance to the trains. They showed no signs of life at 5:59, but opened promptly at 6 and took my bag.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I was off to the city!<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So, normally I go to a new place with no clue if/when I'll be back, so I'm a very aggressive traveler, trying to do and see everything. This time, I know I'll be back in a week and a month, so there was no pressure. I went to Paris and didn't even glimpse the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Seine, or Bastille (although the last is because it doesn't exist anymore).<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">This trip was inspired by Sacre Bleu, a book by one of my favorite authors, Christopher Moore. If you haven't, you should read it. It's hilarious.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">It takes place in Monet's Montmarte and features many of that era's artists.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Fortunately, the RER train from the airport stops at Gare du Nord, which is relatively close to Montmarte. Even better, the rain had changed from a pour to a gentle rain, meaning that it was minutes before my feet got wet, but they were never sopping and swimming.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The crown of Montemarte is Sacre Coeur, a huge church on top of a hill. I saw a sign for the church, so I followed it up some steps, but it turns out those were just the steps to get to the steps to get to the church grounds.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I finished with the steps to the church grounds, there were still the steps to get to the church building and then the steps into the church. It was all worth it.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">First, the church has a great view of the surrounding city. Everything out there is just so low and flat compared to Sacre Coeur.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Secondly, maybe because it was early early morning and I was the only tourist there, but the church felt like a church and not a tourist attraction. At the same time, it felt very alive. I'm guessing part of that was the beautiful singing from a small prayer service being conducted up front. The acoustics brought that pleasantness all the way to the back.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I wandered around, looking at the various works of art on the ceiling and walls, and just in awe of the glass. It was so funky and didn't have that medieval preachy vibe to it. I think that the stained glass there might be my favorite stained glass of any church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other building that I've ever seen.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">When I had finished in the church, I wandered around the streets of Montmarte and could feel the old times. I could fool myself into thinking that this was how it was in the time of the great artists.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">The one thing missing was the smell of bread. I wanted to get some bread from a bakery like in the book, but I was struggling to find anything open. It was 8 am and everything was dead, including any bakeries or bars. (The area was mostly bars). I found it hard to believe that people didn't need to go have breakfast at a cafe or go to work or do something. 8am is not that early.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">But, even Starbucks was closed.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;"><br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Eventually, I left the upper part of Montmarte empty-handed. I took the stairs next to the funicular (225 steps) down and found a bakery called Pain Pain. Now, I was disappointed that I couldn't smell it, but it was a bakery and it was open. I asked the lady in my pantomime what she liked, and was pointed to an apple pastry that was amazing. It was mostly apple filling, with just enough pastry to keep it in. I love getting more filling than bread! I also had a decent covered begniet-thing that was good. I was very pleased with and full enough from my super-cheap breakfast.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">That was, until I saw the fromagerie. It was about half-past 8 and all the little markets were starting to open and put out their produce. I saw some delicious-looking cherries, some odd white strawberries, and a ton of large white asparagus. I was able to walk past those, but the cheese store was just too tempting. Again, I asked the guy what his favorite was, and he pointed me to a balled cheese that began with an R. I should have written down the name. It was delicious and creamy like the inside part of a brie, but without the rind. It was so rich that I was only able to eat about half of the tiny ball before I decided I was done for now.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">As I ate it, I walked around to the Moulin Rouge and the area of town with all of the sex shops. Check. Not much to see on a drizzly Friday morning.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">I decided that I'd see if St p?? Hall was open-no. And then walked toward the Republic Square. On the way, I happened upon a little indoor market, where various vendors sold fruits, vegetables, meats, seafoods, oils and spices. What surprised me was that it was after 9 and many of the stalls were still being set up, or they hadn't even started the process. That's pretty late, from my experience.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">Also on the way to Republic Plaza, I came across a bakery that was filled with French people. So, I stopped in and got the smallest baguette they had, which was still pretty big.<br style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 12.8000001907349px; line-height: normal;">So there I was, walking down the Magenta Boulevard, an umbrella in one hand, a baguette in the other, and my chunk of cheese in the other, alternating bites (not of the umbrella), and happy as a clam. I guess I must have looked local, because some woman come up to me and asks me something or other in French. I just stared and said "I don't know?" Turns out, she was also a tourist and was happy to switch to English to ask me directions. I still didn't know though.

Eventually I arrived at the Republic Plaza. In this middle, there was a large statue with the ladies: liberty, fraternity, equality (the French values saying) on it. Very cool. Except, that it was covered in graffiti. People had spray pained all sorts of things all over it. Some, were nationalistic sayings "we are all Charlie," referencing the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks. But some were just graffiti. Some people had draped a clothesline and hung protest papers on it, which I feel is much better than defacing a national monument.

As I walked around the plaza, it looked like they were setting up for some sort of street fair. I went to take a closer look. It was all of the Red societies, opening booths. Now, I have no issues with people who truly believe in socialism or communism. But these booths all had out pictures of dictators. Somehow, I feel that venerating dictators who used the name of communism as an excuse to chain their masses and increase the wealth and power of a small oligarchy (while not actually practising communism) isn't really the way to convert people to communistic ideals. Of course, then it hit me- today is May 1. Labor day in many countries, and possibly in France. That might be why the streets were empty in the morning. That might be why I saw all those people selling flowers for the Red Cross. That might be why they're having a communism festival. I say might because I actually don't know for sure. That also might mean that I need to get back to the airport a little earlier as many people may be going on vacation. I took a walk back via a pretty canal. It even had locks in case boats wanted to use it, although I didn't get to see anybody on the canal, much less using the locks. That guess about needing extra time for the holiday was true. When I got back to the train station, I had to wait in a relatively long line to use a ticket machine. The wait was exacerbated by people who didn't have coins or cards with chips (cash and cards that only swipe are not accepted by the machines. I think you have to go to a desk to use those.) The train to the airport was crammed full. Even at the airport, the lines were long and I was glad that I already had my boarding pass. Lesson learned- check for holidays before you go some place.

First stairs to Montmarte

First stairs to Montmarte


Approaching Sacre Coeur

Approaching Sacre Coeur


Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur


Flower Sellers

Flower Sellers


Fromagerie

Fromagerie


Park in the road

Park in the road


Church

Church


Defaced statue

Defaced statue


Defaced statue

Defaced statue


Canal

Canal

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

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