Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Paris (Day 2, Part 1) - Montmarte

Sacre Coeur
We woke up well-rested and ready to dive into Paris with a vengeance! The morning was to be spent in Montmarte which, to us, is the place where Amelie lives. If you have no idea what I mean by that, then you must see the French romantic comedy Amelie with Audrey Tautou.

We started by heading up to the Basilica of Sacre Coeur, which is positioned impressively on a high point in the city. The views from the basilica were amazing, with all of Paris stretching out below. The interior was equally impressive and, again, there was a mass going on while we walked about the basilica.

Although I enjoyed the basilica's statues, art and ambiance, I had a problem with the way money was being pulled out of visitors. Okay, I should reword that. Nothing was 'pulled out' of anyone; it was all donations. However, I've been to the Vatican and seen the immense wealth the Church has, so I find it hard to swallow placards suggesting donations are needed to keep the basilica going. And when these placards and donation boxes are situated below a five foot tall - apparently solid silver - statue, I have an even tougher time with it. Of course, we don't want people melting down art for operating funds, but there was a lot of other revenue streams flowing in this church. There were the usual spots one could make a donation and light a candle to a saint. Plus there were machines with commemorative coins for sale and a 'gift shop' of sorts. There's a part of me that cannot get past this overt commercial aspect in what is allegedly a house of religious worship.

Okay, point made. 'nuff said. The basilica was quite beautiful and we enjoyed seeing it.

St. Pierre de Montmarte, spookified
Outside, we saw the mountebanks begging for alms and then made our way past St. Pierre de Montmarte, which seriously made me think of a haunted mansion. Check out the photo. All I had to do is give this photo a slightly darkened black and white and - voila! - instant spooky home of the undead vibe. Gotta love that gothic(?) architecture!

We spent the rest of the morning enjoying Montmarte. First we jumped into the Place du Tertre, where we took in some of the local art, admired a few shops, and sat just outside a little restaurant to people watch and partake of escargot and snacks. It was always good to find time to sit during our stay in Paris! After thinking about entering the Dali Museum but getting a distinctive 'tourist trap' feel from the place, we headed down the Rue Lepic towards the less touristy part of Montmarte and made our way to the Montmarte Cemetery.

At the grave of Emile Zola
The Cemetery was enormous and jam packed with mausoleums from the 1800s, some of them absolute towers. Loads of sculpture, mossy tombs, and shady lanes made the place very atmospheric. There was even stained glass windows on some of the tombs. It could totally have been the set for a vampire movie. Aside from the graves, there were plenty of wild cats running around. I tried luring one over, until Jim suggested they were probably crawling with bugs and might not be the friendliest critters to ever walk the earth. Pet Semetery?

There are plenty of famous people buried in the Montmarte Cemetery. I believe Jim Morrison is one, but I wasn't all that keen on seeing his grave.  We did located what I thought was the grave of Alexandre Dumas, until I remembered that the fils after the name means it was his son. But, while I didn't get to see the grave of one of the greatest romantic writers ever, I did get to see the grave of the master realist: Emile Zola.

Literary Geek Moment #1 of this trip!

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