Day Seven

It was my last day in Paris and I was determined to make the most of it. After I had enjoyed my last hotel breakfast and turned in my key, I headed back onto the streets. My Metro and museum passes had both expired yesterday, but that wasn't a real problem since I planned to walk to where I wanted today. I was planning to catch the Eurostarfrom Gare du Nord from Paris to London at about three in the afternoon so I had plenty of time to make my way there.


My major destination for the day, apart from catching the train, was the Montmartre area of Paris, locate in the north of the city. The feature that most dominates this area isSacré-Coeur a Romano-Byzantine church perched on a hill. Knowing the direction in which I wanted to head I once again put my map away and trusted my instincts.

As a walked north along Rue de Rennes I took the following shot of the famous café Les Deux Magots that is on the intersection with Boulevard Saint Germain.


Boulevard Saint Germain is full of café terraces, boutiques, cinemas, restaurants, bookshops and more. I continued north until I hit the Seine River. Turning right I once again headed towards Notre-Dame. Being a well known landmark has its drawbacks because all around the medieval cathedral are "tacky" tourist boutiques selling the usual paraphernalia of postcards, t-shirts and the like. I suppose that it goes with being famous but in many way I feel that it spoils the atmosphere.

Pompidou Centre

As I continued to walk I came across the Pompidou Centre. This is a very unique, especially in Paris since it appears like a building turned inside out. All the lifts, escalators, air ducts and the buildings supports are on the exterior of the building. Inside is the Musée National d'Art Moderne. The building is very contrasting from the usual Paris architecture and some people have remarked how much like an oil refinery it appears.

As I continued to walk I found the sculptured head outside St Eustache. I remembered seeing it in my Eyewitness travel guide and thought nothing of it but by just wandering I had found it. The things you see when you just wander.


I continued on through the street of Paris taking what I thought was a general northerly direction. After what seemed an eternity of walking I found myself near the Louvre. Hmmm... I thought, this can't be right and as it turned out it wasn't. I had somehow managed to take a right angle and was now heading west rather than north. After consulting my trusty map, getting my bearings once again I continued in the right direction. Because Paris is basically flat and most buildings are all the same size it is very hard to get any bearings from landmarks.

Sacré-Coeur

As I got closer to Montmartre I finally began to see Sacré-Coeur on the hill overlooking the city. It wasn't till I got closer that I realised that the church was in fact on a rather steep hill.


Starting out in Square Willette at the base of the hill I ascended the terraces to the church. Outside the church, at the top of the stairs is an excellent view of the city and surrounding city. Sacré-Coeur is a very popular attraction with the area being extremely full of tourists. Undaunted by the numbers I entered via the main entrance. Unlike many other churches that I had previously visited this was rather full, with a lot of people walking around and sitting down. After walking around the interior and taking in the majesty of the structure I had to say that it was really worth the effort to get here - it is truly magnificent. Along with Sainte Chapelle and Notre-Dame stands out as one of the most striking churches in the city.

As I was leaving I noted a sign that pointed the way to tours of the crypt and dome. Intrigued, I headed around to the left side of the building to an entrance on the lower level that is the starting point for the tours. The tours are self-guided and you can choose whether you want to view the crypt and the dome or just the dome. Since I was trying to get rid of my last French Francs, I decided on both.

The crypt is interesting but unspectacular, it is interesting to find a number a number of chapels down here that appear to be still in use. I now started my climb to the dome of the church. This had to be the highlight of the visit to Sacré-Coeur for me. You work your way through small winding staircases, over different parts of the roof, through more small winding staircases, finally emerging at a balcony at the top of the dome. The amazing thing about the trek up here is all the other paths and staircases that one could take ( if they weren't cordoned off ). As I plodded up all those stairs, pausing a few times to catch my breath, I knew that if any monk or priest wanted to get fit all they would have to do is climb these stairs everyday ! Climbing the stairs is great ! You get a real feeling of building and those who have taken these passages over the years. In my opinion all the effort is well worth it !


Once you reach the top you will find the 360º views of Paris also well worth the trip. The balcony atop the church is the second highest point in Paris, only exceeded by theEiffel Tower.

I now made my way reluctantly down from the dome and towards Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar to London. Walking the streets to the station I was glad that my travel agent had recommended against my staying here. The whole area is very touristy and a little run down and perhaps a little grotty to a foreigner like myself. It wasn't unpleasant but I could see why my travel agent had recommended against this area.

Eurostar

I managed to locate the station without too much trouble. The Eurostar departs from the upper level, on the left hand side of the building. After showing my ticket and passport I entered the passengers waitring area. I grabbed a quick bite and settled down to wait until my train arrived.


The waiting area is much like any terminal at any airport, including all the duty free shops ! After a short wait my train arrived and we started to board. After once again showing my ticket I boarded the appropriate carriage, settled down in my window seat and awaited our departure.


As you can see from the ticket it takes only about two hours to get from Paris to Waterloo station in London. The ride is very comfortable and it is hard to truly comprehend the speeds at which you are hurtling through the French country side at. I was a little disappointed in the fact that I thought that I would have seen more scenery on my train journey, but the country side looked like farmland almost anywhere else in the world.

As we entered the chunnel ( which takes about twenty minutes to traverse ) I reflected on my past seven days. Without equivocation I can say that I had an absolutely fantastic time in Paris, having had my expectations about the place well and truly exceeded. My greatest fear had been the language and that had proved to be no problem at all, I even felt that if I had stayed a few more weeks and done some more study then I might be able to even converse in French ! Would I like to go back ? Without a doubt, even though I feel that I have seen just about everything I wanted to see in Paris, I would still not pass up the opportunity to go again.

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