Sacre Coeur, Paris

This is the view looking up from the base of the Butte, before we tackled the 220 steps to the top.

The building stays this blinding white despite the pollution because every time it rains there is a chemical reaction with the rainwater and the stone secretes calcite and this naturally bleaches the outside.

You can see quite how high we are here; this is the highest natural point in Paris, some 130m up. The Butte is a natural hill and it seems strange that Sacre Coeur was the first major building to be eretced on the very top, though in all probability it was not. There is strong evidence that the Romans had a temple to Mars up here, though the exact location is unknown. For those who can’t face the steps, there is a funicular railway that takes the strain, though it has to be the shortest journey you can take on a Metro ticket.

I wasn’t able to take any photos inside Sacre Coeur so if you ever go, do go inside. The interior is as lovely as the exterior.

Next: the artists’ square at Montmartre and the man who I saved from being run over…..

Paris (again!)

This is just a little appetister…. an artist at work in the Place de Tertre in Montmartre.

I have to admit, I had some fairly serious concerns about this latest trip, based on the state of play in France currently, but the very worst thing that happened to us in our three days?? No ice cream at the kiosk at the end of Les Jardins des Tuilleries.

I am currenly almost brain dead as I got home just after 1am today and was up to teach this morning, so a more comprehensive post will have to wait.

But coming soon:

Montmartre and the artists’ square

Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame

Musee D’orsay revisted.

….and maybe more.

Watch this space

A whistlestop tour of Montmartre

On our first evening in Paris we went out again after dinner to visit Montmartre, the artists’ district of Paris. Because both our drivers had finished their hours, we took the Metro.

The Metro is at once easier to use but less forgiving than the underground in London, but just as crowded and hot and unpleasant. Our station to exit from was Pigalle, which is the red light district, not dissimilar to Soho in London. The eyes of some of the kids were out on stalks….

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur is at the very top of the Butte, the highest point in Paris(apart from the obvious metal tower…) and was accessible by hundreds of steps and by trying to bypass the thousands of Parisians having fun drinking and dancing in the street. There’s also a funicular railway which I think might have been a better option had it not already been late at night.

Party mood filled the streets and I was whisked past a number of bars I could quite happily have settled down in for a glass or two. We paused for breath near the square filled with artists earning a living by drawing the tourists, and before the kids had further breath to complain they were tired, we started off again uphill. I moved on with regret; I’d earmarked some Euros to satsify my vanity by having an artist sketch me.

At the very top the gleaming white wedding cake that is Sacre Coeur looms like a fairytale castle above Paris and its steps were filled with revellers. Someone strummed a guitar and people danced and sang and called out for others to join them.

Having marched to the top, we admired the view. That is to say, others admired the view and I stood dropping with exhaustion and stress and waited till we could turn and return. The walk down the steps was fraught for me as I don’t like heights and lots of steps in the dark, dodging people who had had too much booze is a tricky thing at the best of times, but when you are as tired as I was, it was a nightmare. I got to bed that night at 1am, having started out the previous day at 11.30pm. I worried the whole time we were out that we would miss the last Metro train at midnight; then we would have been truly up a certain creek without a paddle.

It was somewhere I’d really wanted to see properly, and wander round in good time and daylight. I love art and artists and I was genuinely disappointed that we had so little time to enjoy the area and the atmosphere, and maybe have a glass of the wine that is grown on the slopes of the Butte itself.

But one day, I may go back and get a drawing done, and have a taste of that wine…..