About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sacre'-Coeur...Home to Italy

It's our last morning in Paris. We got a great start with breakfast at the neighborhood bakery we love so much.

Today we are carrying all of our luggage. Katrina has her camera bag. Brandon has his loaded backpack. I have a fully loaded backpack and one of our small suitcases...thankfully it has wheels.

After breakfast we caught the Metro to Montmarte district. It is located on Paris' highest hilltop (420ft). This area is rich with history: monks grew and stomped grapes here in the 1200's, farmers ground grain with windmills in the 1600's, gypsum was mined in the 1700's, and artists took over the area in the 1900's.

The Sacre'-Coeur is a 5 domed, Roman-Byzantine basilica that crowns this hilly area. It took 44 years to build and was completed in 1919. It is built on 83 piers because the hillside is honeycombed with gypsum mines.


Brandon and I stayed outside the basiica while Katrina checked out the interior. I didn't feel like toting a suitcase inside. From the steps of the basilica visitors have a great view of Paris.

Next, we walked a few blocks down the street to the place du Terte. Its a little plaza filled with artists selling and actually painting as you watch. There are some really talented artists there. Katrina really enjoyed checking out all the displays and watching them at work. Her artistic side was in a good place.

After a snack of french fries and a Nutella crepe, we worked our way down the hill towards the Pigalle, stopping to admire the architecture along the way. We found a house that Van Gogh lived in, quite by accident.

The Pigalle is Paris' red light district, the infamous 'Pig Alley.' Its an interesting area full of topless bars, the Museum of Erotic Art, pickpockets, and the famous Moulin Rouge. This famous establishment has become more touristy than anything. They say buses line the streets at night with tour groups visiting the place that made the Cancan famous. They pay a steep price, with admission to the show starting at 120 euros. Next door, a 150 euro bottle of champagne comes with a friend to share it with. Yes, its an interesting area, and very different from the red light district of Amsterdam.

After taking a short break on a bench near the Moulin Rouge, we decided to walk through to the nearest RER station. It was quite a few blocks away, but we always enjoy checking out the local neighborhoods.

At the station we had another interesting event take place. While in line to buy RER train tickets to the airport we noticed armed military looking police had begun to stop people from entering the corridor on our left. Within 10 minutes, the ticket booth closed and no one to enter the platform. We didn't know what to do? The RER was our transportation to the airport. We decided to go back up to the main level and figure something out. The RER corridors at the other end of the station were open and functioning normally, so we bought tickets and hopped on a train to the airport. We never did find out what happened to cause the shutdown.

Our flight back to Milan was fairly quick and uneventful. We called the Jetpark shuttle and they whisked us back to our car. We were home in a little over an hour, including stopping to pickup some dinner.

My overall impressions of Paris:

Beautiful city with amazing monuments, museums, palaces and churches. The architecture is very interesting as well. The Eiffel Tower was amazing and the Orsay Museum is my favorite. Our hotel was very clean and nice. The bakery on the corner was awesome and L'Encrier for dinner was superb.

The city seems a bit dirtier than others we have visited. There seemed to be the smell of urine on many streets, especially side streets. I don't know if the presence of so many heavily armed police made me feel more secure or more nervous. The demonstration at the Bastille was pretty intense.

After this trip, here are my top 5 European destinations:

1. Murren, Switzerland
2. Venice, Italy
3. Bled, Slovenia
4. Munich, Germany
5. Verona, Italy

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