We woke up to a bright Monday morning. “Finally”, I said. “No more rain for the day.” That would probably go down as the understatement of the year as the day carried on. We were up and about by 8am, our destination for the day — Montmartre and the famous Basilique du Sacré Cœur.
Finally. No more rain for the day.
The Métro took us right up till Anvers, a brisk walk uphill through Rue de Steinkerque along shops selling fabrics, souvenirs and cheap clothings, we soon find ourselves at the foot of the steps leading up to the basilica. On your left, you will find the funicular train, if you are lazy to walk up. Surprisingly, there are no crowds at Montmartre. The place was empty. We took the hard option and walked up the stairs. Nothing like a good exercise early in the morning.
This is Paris’ highest point at 420 feet. The City of Light fans out in front of you. This is a different view from the ones we had from the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse. Because, this is free! Try to find the Gare du Nord train station, followed by the Georges Pompidou Center and the dome of the Panthéon.
“Facing the Basilique du Sacré Cœur, you will see 2 equestrian statues, they are of King Saint Louis and Saint Joan of Arc,” states the wife. “Interesting.” I replied. Entrance is also free for the Basilica but photography is not allowed inside.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart Tips
Starting from the first pillar on your left, try to find the plaque which shows where 13 WWII bombs that struck Paris near this church and killing no one. Continue clockwise, you will find a scale model of the church. Rub St. Peter’s bronze foot when you come to it. Reason? I have absolutely no idea.
Rub St. Peter’s foot. Why? I have absolutely no idea.
Just as you are to complete the circuit by coming to the entrance of the church, look at the stained-glass windows dedicated to Joan of Arc. It depicts her hearing the voice of the Archangel Michael, then she took up his sword. She then kneels before the bishop before being burned at the stake.
We thought we were able to climb up the dome of the basilica but unfortunately, it starts at 930am, we were 45 minutes early. Not wanting to waste any time, we gave it a skip.
WC tip: the only WC around here lies 50 steps below the church grounds.
Dare: I dare you to take photos inside the church.
Place du Tertre
There is nothing much to see during the early hours at Place du Tertre. The place is lined with cafés and shaded with trees. A perfect spot to have your portrait drawn. However, the only Picasso or Van Gogh-wannabes we saw, were a few artists unpacking their wares and setting up shop around the place. They did not seem to be in the mood for drawing yet.
There is a tourist information center at the square and they open daily from 10am to 7pm. We were still too early for business. The lack of tourists was an eye-opener. We both felt like we were the only ones up and about around Montmartre besides the locals.
“Let’s follow along Rue Norvins,” I said. “There is a nice view that we need to take, according to the guidebook.”
“Where?”, my trigger-happy wife was already looking around for the killer shot. She has been happily snapping away with her digital camera throughout this trip, maybe I will get her to write a review of her camera (technically mine).
At the junction of Rue Norvins and Rue des Saules, turn back and take a photo of the boulangerie (bakery). In case you want to scream originality, you would have to go back to the 1900s, to find a similar painting by Maurice Utrillo.
Continue down Rue des Saules to find Rue Cortot on your right, this is where the Montmartre Museum is located. We decided that we have had enough of museums, so we gave it a skip too. Our main aim for Montmartre is to see a few unusual stuffs, leftovers of a different era. And one of them is coming right up.
Our main aim for Montmartre is to see a few unusual stuffs
At the end of Rue des Saules, you will find the Au Lapin Agile Cabaret. A bit of French would have helped but so does the poster on the front door. Yes, you have guessed it — it is the Agile Rabbit. This is where Picasso, Renoir and Utrillo would gather for ‘performances’.
The wife was grumbling when we had to walk back the way we came from. Turn right after La Maison Rose. This restaurant was made famous by another Utrillo painting but reviews online proved that the food isn’t. Walking along Rue de l’Abreuvoir, you will find the busty bust of Dalida. Pranksters and itchy hands over the years have given her bust a bit of a shine.
I dare you to touch Dalida’s boobs in front of family
Dare: I dare you to touch them in front of your wife/girlfriend/family.
Find the small walkway towards a small park called Square Suzanne Buisson. “Do you still recall the story about St. Denis that I told you yesterday?” I asked the wife.
“You mean the one carrying his own head?”
“Yes, that’s the one. Guess what, this is where they chopped it off and he managed to walk all the way to Notre-Dame, without using the Métro.” I replied.
I am not sure who was having the last laugh when they put St. Denis’s hand-cradling-head statue right in front of the lawn bowl court. Nasty.
Exit at the top of the park into Avenue Junot, which turns into Rue Norvins. In case you were wondering, starting from Place du Tertre, we have been walking uphill and downhill all this while. “Makes me want to walk through walls to get somewhere!” the wife exclaimed. OK, she did not say that, I just wanted the effect because of the next ‘weird’ thing that we are about to see, along Rue Norvins.
This guy, basically managed to do just that. He is Le Passe Muraille.
Double back to the junction of Avenue Junot and Rue Norvins. Turn left into Rue d’Orchampt. Here you will find Moulin de la Galette. Just imagine back in those days, the hills of Montmartre were filled with moulins, or windmills. Now we are left with this and the infamous red one, but then again, the red one was never used as a windmill. “Why do I feel like I have heard that name before?” asked the wife. “Bingo. This is one of Renoir’s famous paintings — Bal du Moulin de la Galette. Found in the Orsay Museum”, I replied.
Why is it famous again? For the umpteenth time.
Walk down Rue d’Orchampt and find Le Bateau-Lavoir, another interesting oddity that can be found at 13 Place Emile Goudeau. “Why is it famous again?”, asked the wife. Why do I get the feeling that the wife is tired of asking questions? I think this is her umpteenth question starting with why for the day. This is where Picasso once stayed when he was not famous yet.
We were feeling hungry from all the walking, whipping out my trusted itinerary I found 2 places within walking distance from where we were. Which was on Rue Ravignan. The first place, Coquelicot, is famous for its burgers but unfortunately it was not open for business. So we walked along Rue des Abbesses and came to Le Sancerre.
I have forgotten who recommended this place, but I do remember that we are supposed to try the tartare de Sancerre. Unfortunately, we did not do our research properly and in between our broken French and some sign language, we found that we were too early for their tartar. So we ended up choosing item number 2 — their 3 mini burgers, filled with ham, cheese/egg and tomatoes/guacamole.
Whilst we were resting our legs, the rain came. Not for the first time that it has bothered us but this time it was much heavier than before. The burgers were delicious and the portion was more than enough for the both of us. A brunch of some sort. We ended up people watching, but it was mostly people trying to get away from the rain. Umbrellas were out and about.
(to be continued)