Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Paris Post #2: Montmartre

On most tourist maps of Paris, miniature building cartoons pop up where the icons of Paris stand. One of these tiny drawings shows the church of Le Sacre Coeur, perched atop the steps of the sharply angled Montmartre neighborhood, which also contains Le Moulin Rouge. On Saturday night, Lisa, Max, Brett, and I boarded the metro in pursuit of a real life look at this famous church, and, more importantly, a look from its steps.

We weren't the only ones with this idea. A few blocks up from the Montmartre metro stop, we joined the happy herd climbing the endless steps towards Le Sacre Coeur, torn between looking up at the church and looking out over Paris to admire the best free view in the city. Huge crowds had gathered beneath the church, singing along to the 60s style music of the street musicians playing there, admiring the sunset, perhaps buying one of the tiny golden Eiffel towers on sale, scattered before the feet of the half dozen illegal vendors positioned across the plaza.

We found a corner on a sloping patch of lawn and uncorked the champagne Lisa and Max had bought to celebrate both of our weddings and our visit to Paris. We ate strawberries as the light turned from pale gold to ripened gold to twilit blue. We opened our bag (yes, they come in bags in Paris) of olives and crunched down on poppyseed littered bites of baguette scrunched around Manchego or Cheddar. The frame of the exterior of one downtown building appeared to catch on fire after a while, burnt by the sun. The lights of the ferris wheel far below popped on, heralding many more to come. The sun disappeared altogether.

For some, it may have been just another night in Paris. But for us, as visitors, it was a chance to participate in a surprise community, drawn together by the light, the city unfolded beneath us, and the dramatic curves of the cathedral above us.

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