Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memories of Sacre Couer

I can clearly remember the first time I saw Sacre Couer.   Late March evening.  I was traveling for the first time overseas with friends.   Maybe ten years ago or so.   One of my friends and I decided to split off from the rest of the group and do some exploring on our own in Montmartre.    The details getting there are fuzzy, but I do remember rounding the corner and standing in awe at the entirely lit up enormous cathedral standing before us and then seeing the lights of Paris at our feet.    I will never forget that moment.

I will also never successfully recreate that moment.   Nor do I want to.  Some events are meant to happen only once in our lives so that they can stay perfect in our memories.   

My goal for today was a somewhat leisurely stroll through the areas around the Opera and Saint Honore Faubourg and ultimately end up at Montmartre and Sacre Couer before heading back home.   Another gorgeous summer like day in Paris.   A Saturday.   Everyone is out and about.  

I head down to the craziness of Place de la Concorde and walk up Rue Royale to the Madeline.   This was a new church for me.  I was struck by how huge and greek it appeared with its strong columns and dark exterior.    I was also distracted by all of the cute little gourmet shops lining the streets around the church.   Very tempting.    I climb the stairs and head inside.     This church, to me, feels more Italian than other churches I have been visiting in France.   More gold maybe.  This is balanced by my favorite part, the chandeliers with creamy white lights.  I love how these look with the ornate surroundings.  

I leave the church, make a note to come back and do some shopping before I leave Paris and head down Rue St. Honore.  On my way to the Opera, I stop by several more churches, the polish church Eglise de l’Assomption and St. Roch with its interesting metal sculpture behind the alter.   I make a pit stop at Place Vendome with its column duplicating the one in Rome and its fancy shops.    Favorite part of this walk was not the sights, but the window shopping.   Fun fantasizing about taking home lots of new beautiful dresses, shoes and jewelry.    Make another mental note to return.

I arrive at the Opera.   Another imposing and ornate structure on the outside.   I was eager to get inside and take a tour so I could see the Chagall ceiling.   Also disappointed to see the area was surrounded by tour buses and tour groups.   I hold out hope that maybe I can get in.    Another disappointment when I realize the area with ceiling is closed due to rehearsal.    If you decide to go here, definitely look into this in advance.  

On to Montmartre.   I have a general path outlined.  I love how the streets begin to get narrower as you approach the neighborhood.    Everything shrinks and becomes more of what you envision Paris to be.   Less big fancy city, more traditional neighborhood.    Reach Pigalle.   Take the same Moulin Rouge picture I take on every single visit to Paris.    

From here, I lose my map and just start following people.   Recognize the street Rue Lepic.   Love this street filled with little markets and cafes and also people.    I envision living here and stopping by to pick up fruits and vegetables on the way home.  

In my fantasy, I get lost again and wind up walking a large and quiet street around the back heading up to Sacre Couer.   Sometimes getting lost is the best gift.   Shade, quiet, little shops.    Very nice if not long walk up the hill.    Purchased a little olive baguette at one of the many boulangerie with a vision of having my afternoon picnic on the steps of the church. 

Up a huge staircase, past the vineyard and thrown right into the mix of the Place du Tetre.    If you come here maybe first thing in the morning or some off season time, I would imagine you can actually see the artists working their canvases, shop in the little (somewhat tacky) gift shops and perhaps stop for a drink and watch the world walk by.    On a late Saturday afternoon, on a gorgeous summer like day, it is not a fun place to be.   I push my way through the crowds.   Realize that there is also a mini event occurring here today.  In hindsight, know now that this is also tied to Biodiversity Days as there are lots of small vendors selling organic products.  I purchase a tiny cup of fresh strawberries for my picnic and push on through. 

The area surrounding Sacre Couer is also full of people.  Incredibly crowded.  I decide not to visit the inside and spend my time on the steps listening to the guy playing guitar and enjoying my picnic.    With all of the craziness, it was actually a nice little rest and great for people watching.   I also decided to get a little creative with my photography here.

And this was my day.    I can’t remember what else I did that night, but I do know heading home, I got trapped for a couple of blocks in a very seedy area of Montmartre, the kind that a girl traveling alone probably wouldn’t want to spend too much time in at night.   Was a fun little adventure.   Once I left here, stopped by the market and patisserie for a few more yummy things for dinner.   I was on a strawberry kick. 

A great Saturday.   It will never replicate the original feeling I had when I saw Sacre Couer for the first time all lit up that night, but I now have a new memory to put along side of it.  

PS – Thanks everyone for your support in the trials and tribulations of laundry day yesterday!   Another memory, slightly different in nature, but a memory all the same.  


  1. that is how i saw sacre couer first as well. just stunning.

    ps - are those strawberries cuddling up with OLIVES? interesting combination...:P

  2. Yup, those are strawberries.... and olives.... together :) I have to say... it worked!


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