Ahh… it feels good to be back talking about travel! My favorite subject. I know what you’e thinking right now… how did I manage to get a photo of one of the most iconic landmarks in Montmartre, Paris without hardly even a single person? N’est ce pas? Ah well… I can’t always guess your mind. But it’s true, I did manage to snap this shot without hardly a tourist in sight. How? Well, ma chérie… in order to get a photograph without people, you must arrive at your destination before the people… meaning, before dawn. Sunrise!
That’s right. One fine morning in May, two of my friends and I decided to brave the wee morning hours and strike out up to the 18th arrondissement, to the neighborhood known as Montmartre. The Bohemian capital of an artist’s city. How could it not be magical? Well… let me tell you a story…
By now, if you have been following my blog for a little bit, you will probably have heard me say that nothing in Paris is as you expect it to be. Sunrise at the Sacre Coeur is no exception. Oh, not because we overslept and missed it. We were perfectly on time. The problem was, no matter how many times we circled or how many angles we tried, the sun was constantly behind a building. There was simply no angle where we could properly watch the sun rise. Miscalculation on our part. Otherwise, it would have been lovely. That is… if there hadn’t been a public holiday the night before…
You see, my friend Hilary and I are looking rather fresh for being up at 5:30 in the morning. This is because, unlike the rest of les français… we were not up all night drinking on the steps of Montmartre. That’s right – all the steps leading up to the majestic Sacre Coeur were covered with evidence of last night’s party. Bottles, rubbish, and worse littered the steps all the way up to the top of the hill. I don’t need to tell you that the smell was enough to put us off of our quest, but we were determined. Tourists often are, and we hadn’t crossed that threshold into locals just yet (since this day I have actually drank wine on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, but that’s a story for another time.).
These are the step, significantly cleaned up from the scene that greeted us when we first arrived. Apparently the city workers had been hard at work while we were busy chasing the sun behind buildings. How silly we must have looked, but it was rather serene to be able to enjoy a normally overly crowded spot without the usual throngs of people. Eventually, we bowed our heads to the Goddess called Paris, and began to descend back to the streets below. It was still quite early at this point, but a very generous cafe owner offered to let us sit at a table and have coffee before his establishment actually opened. Again, to be able to enjoy this area and this view without the hindrance of people… that alone was worth the trouble of the alarm clock!
We sat, in the dark (until the cafe properly opened at least) drinking our cafes et croissants… soaking in the view before the city awakened. I have to admit it was quite beautiful, once we removed ourselves to a safe distance from the smell. It looks so serene, perched up on that hill. I, however, am completely unable to take a serious photograph, hence the silly pose. Let her have all the regal qualities. I’ll settle for the quirky guest appearance.
Was it exactly the experience we imagined? Certainly not. But then, when in life is anything what we expected it to be? Paris teaches this lesson, again and again. And she’s such a beautiful teacher, the pupil hardly minds the lesson.