DIY Paris: Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre, Le Marais
Day four and five, coming up!
7 AM | We started the day early, packed our bags and headed to our second hotel in the 10th Arrondissement so we could be closer to Gare du Nord station (since we were taking an early train to Brussels the following day). Our plan was to tour the nearby district of Montmartre and our first stop was Sacre Coeur Basilica.
It was a lovely morning and we didn’t want it to go to waste. So instead of taking the funicular railway towards the top of the hill, we opted for the longer route – walking. But with a view like this, how could you not love it?
8 AM | We finally managed to reach the basilica, panting from the walk uphill but I’m telling you, it was all worth it. Basilique du Sacre Coeur is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was built in atonement during the French Wars.
It took about more than 40 years to complete and the calcite stone that was used to build it made sure that the basilica remained white for the rest of its existence. On the other hand, the apse mosaic of Christ in Majesty designed by Luc-Olivier Merson just blew me away. The whole interior was quite dark but there was something about it that made us feel at peace.
Sacre Coeur is situated on a hill so expect gorgeous panoramic views of the city. At one point, we even tried to just sit on the steps, blend in and do just as Parisians do. ( I think we blend in perfectly with these kids on a field trip, right?).
10 AM | After lighting a candle and saying our prayers in Sacre Coeur, we moved on to explore the cobblestoned streets of Montmarte. The whole village is enchanting and though tourists constantly flock to this place, the fairy tale charm never wears off.
We made our way around and stumbled upon Place du Tertre, an old town square in the heart of Montmartre that used to be a haven for struggling artists in the old days like Picasso and Dali. It still holds true today as may painters and artists try to make a living here by setting up art exhibits, paint, sketch and create artworks for tourists and locals.
11 AM | We couldn’t get enough of Montmartre. There’s just so much to see and explore. Every corner is easy on the eyes and for a moment, I imagined how living here would be an absolute dream come true.
We spent the whole morning just walking around. Montmartre is full of quirky shops, art stores and hip cafes that every french-wannabe (like me) would enjoy. It has easily become my favorite district in Paris. In addition, Montmartre used to be a village of moulins (mills) and was the center of flour-making in Paris back in the day. At present, only one has stood the test of time, Moulin de la Galette (also called Blute fin), and was immortalized in some paintings by Van Gogh and Renoir.
12 PM | It’s lunch time and we were on a hunt for Amelie Poulain’s cafe, Cafe des 2 Moulins. Amelie, the lead female character in the famous french movie is our favorite. Kent and I wouldn’t want to leave Paris without finding it. Luckily for us, google maps was there to save the day!
I had salmon for lunch and Kent ordered the french staple, steak and frites. And who goes to Paris without having the must-try escargot? Not us! We got inside just in time to sit at the most-coveted spot in the cafe, the table beside the iconic Amelie playbill. We didn’t care that we got looks from the other tourists, we stayed as much as we wanted! Haha!
2 PM | We were so stuffed so we decided to walk it off. Can I just say it again, Montmartre is too beautiful for words. A few minutes later we ended up in front of the famous Moulin Rouge, the birthplace of the can-can dance and to this day is a must-see destination for the whole cabaret experience.
From Moulin Rouge we took the metro from Blanche Station and got off at Abbesses to see the famous Le mur des Je t’aime (I love you Wall) in the Jehan Rictus garden.
The Wall of Love was created by artists Frederic Baron and Claire Kito and featured the words I love You in 250 languages. It is believed that the red spots splattered all over the wall make up a broken heart. Can you spot I Love You in Filipino?
3 PM | From Montmartre, we moved on to another crowd favorite, Le Marais district – a fusion of medieval meets hip culture with bustling city life and lined with trendy fashion stops. But that’s on the Haut Marais, the northern part of the district. Personally I was more interested in some of the less touristy museums that were just as beautiful as the other big ones. Musée Carnavalet was the first on our list.
Musee Carnavalet, one of Paris’ many museums, is dedicated to the history of Paris. This particular museum was once a hotel – actually make that two hotels that were merged together and was later on transformed into an institution that showcases Paris in different eras, under the direct orders of Baron Haussman. One of my favorite pieces in the museum was the scale model of Ile de Cite in the 16th century.
On the other hand, the rooms depicted typical Parisian life over centuries starting from the medieval times, down to the Renaissance and even during revolution wars. At least we got to see and have a feel of how the french lived at some point in time.
The gardens and the courtyard were as special as the inside, with its lush green landscape and a beautiful sculpture of King Louis XIV, the Sun King beaming at the center.
4 PM | Onto the next one, we headed to Musée Picasso, another well-loved art destination in the city. We were not so keen about it at first but Kent and I finally decided to give it a try. This collection was in fact an inheritance payment by the Picasso family to the government of France. (How that works, I’m not entirely sure.) To my surprise, I fell in love with it! The interior was chic and effortlessly elegant, with a little bit of European rustic flare to it, which I just adore!
After touring the place, we realized that Pablo Picasso, a Spanish artist and a grand master in his own time, is absolutely one of the most brilliant artists that walked this earth. His works are impressive – from paintings down to his sketchbooks, sculptures of paper, wood, steel and ceramics. He is definitely one weird dude. Eccentric, yes, but brilliant! I can’t wait to visit his museum in Barcelona soon.
Musee Picasso / 5 Rue de Thorigny, 3rd Arrondissement / Admission 11 Euros – Included in Paris Museum Pass
5 PM | It was almost golden hour so we tried to compress the little time we had in the city. There was one more place that we wanted to see, Centre Pompidou, a cultural hub for contemporary art. This time we were ready to check out modern-day Paris. Seeing it from afar, I knew that it just stood out from the rest. The exterior made of exposed pipes and vents would make you say, there’s nothing like it in the world.
It was Tuesday when we went to see it and sadly, the whole place is closed on that particular day of the week. Bummer. We ended up sitting on the open grounds and admire its uniqueness from the outside. We also checked out a nearby vintage shop and they had Doc Martens in every color! Of course we didn’t buy anything, nevertheless we enjoyed vintage window-shopping in Paris.
Centre Pompidou / Place Georges Pompidou, 4th Arrondissement / Admission 13 Euros – Included in Paris Museum Pass
After the rest of Le Marais, we went back to our hotel early in preparation for our Brussels trip the next day. For dinner, we ate sushi at a Japanese resto near Gare du Nord.
It’s not technically day five in Paris because we got back from Amsterdam on the eighth day of our Eurotrip. Let me just take you on a short trip on how we spent our last afternoon in the city.
3 PM | It was one gloomy, rainy afternoon when we got back to Paris and we didn’t have a clear destination in mind. Because I was feeling nostalgic, I wanted us to do something special so we headed to where Jesse and Celine met after nine years, Le Pure Cafe.
I can’t believe Kent and I were Jesse and Celine again, just like we were in Vienna. Of course there was nobody to actually film us walking or talking but when I replayed our own scene in my mind, it’s the best feeling in the world. We chose a table by the counter and ordered hot chocolate to match the mood of the day. Still, it was romantic.
5 PM | We went to a few more cafes after that and braved the downpour to reach Eglise Saint Sulpice where a few scenes from the Da Vinci Code was filmed. Being a movie buff and all, I like recreating scenes in these places when I travel.
In addition to the weather, the church emanates this kind of dark eerie vibe which I think was one of the reasons why Dan Brown chose this place for his book. But fictional aspects aside, Eglise Saint Sulpice has been around since the 17th century and is the second largest Catholic church in the city. The Great Organ, which in itself is a tourist attraction has been branded the best in the world with unparalleled greatness.
Eglise Saint Sulpice / 2 Rue Palatine, 6th Arrondissement
We wanted to see the Eiffel again but alas, mother nature said to save it up for next time. We couldn’t do anything else, well not when it’s all gloomy and drizzling nonstop so we decided to just buy souvenir stuff that we can take home to our family and friends. Then we finally called it a day.
Well, there you go guys, that’s how we explored Paris in five days. I think we have reached the part wherein I wrap up my DIY Paris series. The sun’s up and clearly, I pulled an all-nighter to finish this blog post (which I prefer by the way because creative juices flow freely when it’s all dark and quiet and I’m in my zone). I also think that this post might actually be a sign to finally let go and make room for other places to fall in love with. See here, you may think five days is enough but I’m telling you, there will never be enough time because Paris is an endless museum. It will just keep calling you to come back, time and again. And that’s what I plan to do, go back. Someday.
And so with all that’s been said and done, I want to end this post by saying how I absolutely love Paris with all my heart. For now, all I have are the beautiful memories of the city that took my breath away and I will be forever grateful for the chance to see it in this lifetime.
Merci pour les moments Paris,