Visiting Montmatre, home of artists and Sacre Couer

So, we have just about reached the end of our short break in Paris.   To be honest I could stay here a lot longer.  There may be a few strange things about the place but overall I love it.  It’s relative compactness and spacious feeling pavements and public transport are a delight and its overwhelmingly traditional lifestyles with tiny shops and a lack of commercialism is what I always aim for at home but sometimes it is swimming against the tide in London whilst in Paris, it is the tide!

So we packed our bags and bade the Jardin De Villiers hotel a fond farewell.  Time for one last look at the permanent market in the Rue De Levis with is countless patisseries, butchers, florists and arty shops.  Always a hive of activity and a very friendly and unthreatening place to be.

We had 5 hours until our Eurostar train would take us back to the U.K. so with our small backpacks fully loaded we headed left up the long straight road towards the beautiful white Sacre Couer church which we have seen from a distance every day of our trip.  Having been there before up the traditional steep road followed by around 300 steps and not wanting to jinx our avoidance of public transport by using the cable-car, we decided to take a little more round-about route.

It was a good plan and it allowed us to tackle the steep hill in stages and without the crowds of the more traditional method.  However, the church is on top of the hill and no matter which way you go, sooner or later you have to head upwards.  This we did whilst both overtaking less laden pedestrians and pausing for breath on the pretext at looking through shop windows at the pretty displays.  Our higgledy-piggledy route also had the advantage that I discovered a new and extremely beautiful and village-like area close to the Sacre Couer.  Narrow cobbled streets with cafes, bars, restaurants and tourist shops in equal measure.  It was the typical picture-postcard image of Paris and we stopped at Le Consulate.    It is an olde restaurant-bar and a place where many famous artists around the beginning of the 20th century including Van Gogh, Picasso and Monet amongst several others.  Being there it is easy to see why, such pretty views, perfect light for painting and the feeling that any number of creative people could work their magic given a little time there.  I felt at home and wondered how many of them had once stood where I do now.  A big part of me wished I could be there with them, rather like the Woody Allen film where a tourist ends up going back in time every evening whilst in Paris to meet some of the great names of the past.

We reluctantly moved on passed the painting shops and artists wanting to draw us, if only we had a few more hours to stay here longer.  The little squares were already busy and I can imagine them being unbearable in the summer time, atleast to peace loving people like myself.

We found ourselves looking out over Paris through the tall bare leaves of some mature trees in a tiny park.  The Eiffel Tower could be seen in the distance along with several other places we had seen.  Wow, we had walked A LOT.  It was warm and sunny, well warm in an early February sort of way so we stayed and enjoyed the views.

Aware that time was ticking away, we made our way to the beautiful white Sacre Couer church looking just as imposing close up as it did from 5 or 6 miles away.  The area is sadly home to a number of aggressive beggars watched over by armed police but somehow it didn’t take anything away from the beautiful atmosphere of the place.

The church is a Catholic church as most are in France and though we are Protestant and Orthodox respectively, we very much enjoy visiting every church and cathedral we can.  Fortunately for us a service was being held so we took a place near the back and listened to the events unfold whilst taking in the beauty of the building interior.  The church is full of tourists who walk round a set route but we were allowed to sit where we wanted to.  Though I understand tourists have to go everywhere these days, a part of me thought them and indeed ourselves to be a bit of an imposition and disrespectful to the worshippers especially as I didn’t spot one person out of hundreds to pay a penny and many of them kept trying to take photos resulting in a severe telling off from security. Maybe its just me but whenever I visit a mosque, temple or shrine in a different country I like to read up on the place first and be a bit more aware of the people who pray there but especially in Paris I got the feeling that most visitors saw the Cathedrals and churches as just another tourist site like the Eiffel Tower or EuroDisney.

We sat for about 25 minutes, long after the service had completed before we ourselves had a look around before we emerged into the bright sunshine and the exaggerated wailings of a Roma beggar who was almost tripping every visitor as they came through the big doors.  We could hear her “crying” from inside the church even when hymns were being sung.  We stopped and had a cup of tea from our flask on the lowest step of the side entrance and soaked up the view all the while noting that nobody gave this beggar any money and this time I agreed with them not to open their wallets.

We could see what we thought was the Gare Du Nord about a mile away so we loaded up our packs once again and made our way through the maze of streets one last time.  Sad to see the end of Paris but looking forward to the train ride home.  Beautiful scenery and lots of flooded fields greeted us on our return home.

It’s been raining nearly continuously for months in parts of southern England with many towns now flooded for 6 weeks and with another months worth of rain forecast in the next 24 hours. The wettest winter for over 250 years apparently.  We worried if like in October-December our garden would be levelled by winds and were pleased that everything was safe and sound.  With the nearest floods just a mile or so away it is nice to have a mostly sunny Paris in our hearts and minds.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to Visiting Montmatre, home of artists and Sacre Couer

  1. Rosemarie says:

    Another enjoyable excursion.

    Like

  2. HI Stephen, It was great to read about your time in Paris – made me want to visit Paris again! I hope the rain in the UK stops soon! Best wishes,
    Fiona

    Like

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