France on Fridays: Plus Escaliers et Alors Nous Arrêtons

More Steps and then We Stop • Monday, June 5

It is hard to hide the weariness from each other as we make our way to breakfast in the morning. Thankfully, we are good traveling companions. We get each other and move in similar rhythm; we are both tired, we are both sore, but we are both determined to see Sacré Coeur this morning.

We enjoy breakfast early and leave for a 30-minute Metro ride north across the city. At the base of butte Montmartre, DeLinda and I look questioningly at the steps that lead to the basilica. More steps? We don’t have to say a word, and opt instead to ride the tram car to the top.

Sacré Coeur is not Notre Dame. It does not have the same grandeur, yet, it is venerable in its own right. There are no grand stained glass windows or flying buttresses. They do not accommodate the tourist here; the inside is quiet, no photos are allowed. In a way, it is a simple cousin to Notre Dame. Ah, but how simple is a filigreed white church on the highest point in Paris? Sacré Coeur’s travertine stone remains white despite Paris’ rampant pollution, and it is a site to see from far, and near.

DeLinda will tell me later that while we are standing inside the basilica, I whisper “Do you see god?” She thinks it is a profound question and considers her response, until she sees that I am pointing to the 5,000 square foot mosaic of Christ in the apse.

Surprisingly, we have no misgivings about ascending the steps to the top of Sacré Coeur. There are less than 387, surely we can manage. Our legs say otherwise halfway up, but the pain is worth the gain of seeing the city and Montmartre from up-high, of seeing the details of the domes and stonework up close.

The experience is not without sacrifice. We are drained. It has been a long week in Paris and our awe and enthusiasm begin to give way to exhaustion. In Montmartre, we wander past les artistes at work, but barely stop to see their finished products. We walk along cobblestone streets that remind us of the movie Amélie, but do not say much. In an outdoor café under the shade of trees, we dine quietly on ham and cheese sandwiches that have somehow lost their uniqueness — we promise we will be more experimental in the next leg of our adventure. We select sweets from a pâtisserie for our trip tomorrow. We get lost in the Pigalle district and wander aimlessly for a while until we find our way to a Metro stop.

The rest of the day is a blur. We had thought we had one more day in the city, then realize suddenly we leave tomorrow for Honfleur! We nap. We visit Le Monoprix for souvenirs. We email short notes home on rental computers with European keyboards. We enjoy a slow and quiet meal at a brasserie around the corner, the late-day sun warming us as we watch commuters passing by. We pack up our things and write postcards we will not get to mail from Paris. We crawl into bed at 10 — still as bright as day outside — with anticipation of leaving the city and driving northwest to Normandy in the morning.

Le Voyage de la Route!

• • •

Les Deux Amis En France, ©2011 Jen Payne. All rights reserved.

See also:
C’est La Vie
La Plus Longue Journée
À Travers La Ville
Petits Oeuvres D’art
Escalier au Ciel

Photos ©2011, Jen Payne, DeLinda Fox.

4 thoughts on “France on Fridays: Plus Escaliers et Alors Nous Arrêtons

Add yours

  1. How well you bring it again to mind —
    Montmartre, and its endless steps, all the way up to the top of Paris —
    Wonderful in its way, but EXHAUSTING.
    I think you are ready for Honfleur? and I am ready to read about it, never having been there.
    A la prochaine —

  2. I only got to see Sacré Coeur from a distance. Your pictures make me feel I got all the way to the top!

    Montmarte is quite the tourist trap, but I did have fun walking down those cobblestone streets in the evening. The ambience is nice and there’s always a nice little cafe to sit down and enjoy a tasty morsel.

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