Back when I was still in Europe and thinking about how I would recap my adventures, I considered having each post cover one full day. Of course, that would have made for incredibly long blogs, but the day that I went to both the Catacombs and Sacré-Cœur would have been titled “Heart and Soul”, for hopefully obvious reasons.
It also happened to be Paris’ Journée Sans Voiture, or Car Free Day, where many of Paris’ streets were closed to car traffic, with the exception of taxis and emergency vehicles. It reminded me of the CicLAvias that occur every few months in Los Angeles, which are themselves based on the ciclovias that originated in Colombia.
Anyway, Sacré-Cœur sits on top of Montmartre, the tallest hill in Paris, so there is a bit of a hike to reach the top, unless you take a ride on the funicular. There’s a lot of people just hanging out on the grass, but there are also a lot of hawkers selling souvenirs or trying to get you to give them money in one way or another. I actually had an awful experience there with a group of guys who were trying to pull of this string bracelet scam.
While I was walking up the hill, I got approached by one man who asked if I wanted a string bracelet. I said no, but all of a sudden this other guy GRABS MY HAND and starts tying a string around my wrist. Soon enough, there are maybe three or four guys talking to me, asking me where I was from or telling me that I should smile since I clearly looked annoyed. I didn’t reply to any of their questions and kept quiet, but then it got to the point where I just shouted “NO MORE”, pulled my hand hard so that the guy holding it would let go, and walked away without looking back. You can read more about the scam here.
I do have to admit though that I was kind of proud of myself for escaping that situation. When I was in high school, I went on a trip to New York City once and got hounded by this guy to buy his rap CD. I was so intimidated that I actually bought it. The incident on Montmartre showed just how much I had grown since then.
Come to think of it, I also might have been the target for a pick-pocketing attempt since this other dude a little later walked into me really hard before apologizing and continuing to walk away. I didn’t have anything in my pockets and my backpack was secure, so if this guy was trying to steal something, he didn’t get to from me. I thought about following him to see if he would bump into a couple more people throughout the day, but I had more important things to do with my time. It’s such a shame though that a nice area could be so ridden with awful people.
Okay, now for some information about the basilica.
Sacré-Cœur is a Roman Catholic church that was consecrated in 1919. While I was there, there was some sort of religious rock concert that was happening inside, which made the space a lot louder than any other church or cathedral that I visited in Europe. I didn’t spend too much time inside because it was crowded, but there were some people who were really into the music.
I was planning to just head out and explore the neighborhood of Montmartre after that, but I noticed that it was possible to climb up to the dome. After buying a ticket for €6 (~$6.64 USD), I started up the 300 steps to the top. Yes, 300 steps and no lift. I think this was the most that I’ve had to climb at one location in Europe, but IT IS COMPLETELY WORTH IT.
Seriously, don’t let the thought of those 300 steps discourage you if you are able to make the climb because the views of Paris up there are spectacular.
When I finally came down, I decided to explore Montmartre a little more. I think the neighborhood was part of the Car Free Day that was happening, which was good since it opened up some more space in the narrow streets.
I went to an ice cream shop and bought a scoop of blackcurrant and a scoop of this mascarpone, honey, and strawberry mix that I really liked a lot since it had this kind of understated sweetness.
The hours for the Car Free Day had ended, so vehicles were starting to move through the streets more regularly and I decided to head back to my hostel. I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, so I found a nearby cafe/restaurant, got a table for one, and ordered a steak with some Ventoux wine. The song “Je Suis Venu Te Dire Que Je M’en Vais” sung by Monica Nogueira was playing in the background and, even though I didn’t understand the words, the music set the mood for the rest of the night.
When I got back to my room, I put a mini Eiffel Tower that I had bought for one euro in a souvenir store in Montmartre on the shelf by my bed. The next day, my last full day in the main city, I would finally be able to see the real thing up close.
Next Post: EuroTrippin’: Paris (Part 10) – Eiffel Tower