Friday, July 30, 2010

Nous sommes allées à la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre

A few days ago, I found the website of City Free Tour so I reserved two spots in the Montmartre tour for this morning.

Sandi and I hopped on the Métro and headed to the 18ème Arrondissement.

The journey took about 12 minutes and, while we were hurtling along, I got thinking about the pubic transportation I've taken in other major cities - London, Rome, New York. They're all pretty much the same: smelly and seedy-looking, but extremely efficient. The Paris Métro goes nearly everywhere in the city for the small sum of 1€70.

We met our guide, Chris, and the rest of the group by the Métro station and headed across the street to the Moulin Rouge.


The tour was 2 hours long - up hills and down hills (some stairs too, but mostly hills) as Montmartre is built on a "butte". We saw some very interesting sights and heard fascinating stories of the area. You can click on the purple words if you want more information. Some people would rather just look at pictures than read all the history, but I'll add links when I can so if you're really interested, you can explore.

We saw the house where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother, Théo, before he went a bit crazy.

Then Chris told us the sombre story of these plaques that were affixed to the outside of elementary schools in Paris to ensure that citizens never forgot what happened to Jewish children under the Vichy government (who collaborated with the Nazis) in World War II.

I don't know if you can read that, but it says in the 18ème Arrondissement (District) of Paris, over 700 children were rounded up and sent to concentration camps between 1942 and 1944. If you want more information, this is an interesting site.

We also got an intriguing lesson on Parisien architecture, specifically the Haussmann style, which is known for the balconies on the 2nd and 5th French floors (the French do not count the ground floor as the "first floor" - our apartment is on the 5th French floor, which means it is five floors above ground).


The Moulin Rouge is not (and never was) a real, working windmill. But, the Montmartre district was known for its windmills. There are now only two remaining - les Moulins de Gallette.

The top one is a heritage site and is being restored, but one in the bottom photo is part of a restaurant.

Have you heard of Marcel Aymé? He was a French novelist in the early-to-mid 20th century. One of his most famous stories Le Passe-muraille centres around a character who had the unique ability to walk through walls. He believed it was a curse and went to the doctor to get some pills that would relieve him of this strange skill. However, he put the pills in a drawer and forgot about them when he realized that his ability would allow him (among other things) to visit his married lover without getting caught. One night he had a rendez-vous scheduled with his girlfriend, but he had a headache. He didn't want to miss the tryst so he reached into the drawer and took what he thought was a headache pill, but instead he mistakenly took one of the pills his doctor had given him. As he was walking through the walls to meet his lover, the pill began to take effect and he found himself frozen within the wall. That is how he was caught by his lover's husband.

This statue commemorates Marcel Aymé and it is considered good luck to shake his golden hand.

Paris's last vineyard, which used to be owned by the Catholic church but now belongs to the city.

And across the street, the Cabaret Lapin Agile - an artistic cabaret where people would meet to discuss art, philosophy, politics, literature. But not to party in the modern sense.It is necessary to make a reservation to drink and dine here, and most Parisiens don't bother with it.

The summit (in more ways than one) of our tour, was a visit to la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur.

You may have noticed that I like to climb things. Today I climbed about 234 very slippery and narrow steps from the base to the dome of the cathedral.

It was well worth the effort and the 5€ to go up there. Look! Another Eiffel Tower sighting!

Afterwards, Sandi and I climbed down about a million more stairs to get back to the Métro so we could head to our "home" in the 5ème Arrondissement.

Crêpe update!

I had my very first crêpe of the trip today for lunch. It was a crêpe salée (savoury) rather than a crêpe sucrée (sweet) - champignons et fromage.

Mushrooms and cheese.

Mmmmm... so good!

Sandi had one too. We're not sure if this will be her "Crêpe du jour". She might need another one for dessert.


Barb said...

Thanks for the tour....and I loved the story of the man in the wall....thanks again. I look forward to your post every day.

Sherri said...

Oh my goodness...I love each post...makes me seriously want to go to France some day! Thanks so much for posting your travels!

Pat said...

You are taking photos at such great angles.....really making those places come alive for us who are looking at them on your blog. As always, more cute photos of you. (Do you ever look BAD in a picture? I have decided I want Sandi to take one of you with un-combed hair and no shoes.....maybe that's the real you??? LOL)

PunkiePie said...

Beautiful pictures! I hope when you get home, you print them out and put them in an album. They need to be shared with everyone.

Quilting Lab said...

Better than a tour book! Enjoy and thank you!