29 December, 2010
My original plans involved going to either Chartres or Versailles. But thanks to a big honking migraine that hit me Wednesday morning I managed to wake up early and drag myself downstairs to get the very basic breakfast provided by the hostel, and then promptly drag myself back up to my bed where I slept til about 11:30, pretty much wiping out half my day.
I reevaluated my plans for what I wanted to see and do while in Paris, and decided to head up the hill and check out Sacre-Coeur and from there I'd figure out what to do next.
So I began my trip by figuring out where the Basilica was in relation to where I was staying, and then took off. I took a whole bunch of the extra batteries I had picked up Dresden, because I figured I would be taking a LOT of photos up at the church and didn't want to run out of juice.
Along the way I found a mini little holiday market set up in front of Saint Jean de Montmartre Church. I wandered through to see what was available and availed myself to a crepe and cup of coffee before making my way to the church itself. It was the first European church I found myself with the opportunity to explore, so I went in and was just floored by the elegance and simplicity.
While in the church I was accosted by a young man wanting donations to something or another. I later found that these assholes were preying on tourists everywhere. I didn't really understand what was going on at this point, so I decided I'd go ahead and donate 10€ to get him to shut up and leave me alone. I had looked at the paper he was shoving in my face and saw that was what everyone else had written, so I figured what the hell.
Well, I pulled out the money I had and handed him the 10€ bill, and he promptly snapped the rest of my money out of my other hand, blew me a kiss and tried to walk off with all of my money! Just that morning I had looked to see how much cash I had left, so I knew that he had just taken 40€ of my money. I would have none of that, so I really let him have it. I made a scene and a fuss until I got every euro back that he had taken, including the 10€ that I would have donated willingly if he hadn't been a jackass thief. I was shaking with anger when the situation was over and I found myself outside again, alone in my own personal space. I knew that I had been careless, so I promised myself I wouldn't let that happen to me again.
I continued walking up the hill, and walking, and walking. My god that hill was steep! I finally came across the big hill with Sacre-Coeur at the top. And dear lord... MORE STAIRS!
I could have taken the tram that went up and down the hill, but I wanted to out-stubborn those goddamn steps. So I climbed. And climbed. And climbed some more. Took the occasional break to step aside and take photos as I grew closer and closer to the top of the hill.
Finally, I reached the base of the Basilica... and all of that work was worth the view.
It was a grey, drizzly day, so the view of Paris wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be. I took some photos, but none of them really wowed me. I was actually more interested in the church itself. I was stunned by the magnificence, and just completely overwhelmed at how beautiful it was. I tried to draw part of it, but just couldn't capture what I was looking at. I would need more time, a bigger sketch pad, and a great deal more practice drawing things of that magnitude before I go after that church again with pen and paper.
So I focused on the architecture, and began photographing every detail I could... big or small. My batteries soon died and I swapped them out for a new pair. I took two pictures and then.... black. "Please change batteries." WHAT? Changed batteries again. Took two pictures and again fade to black. "Please change batteries." Of the 12 extra batteries I brought with me that day, I managed all of 6 pictures. :( I was devastated. I could have taken hundreds of pictures of Sacre-Coeur, but all I ended up with were 28.
Since I had no more opportunities to continue taking pictures of the building itself, I followed the crowd to go inside. I don't really know how to describe what I felt.
I'm an atheist. I secretly find really ostentatious churches to be offensive and it kinda pisses me off that groups with so much money spend their money to make pretty pictures in a building rather than helping the people who need help.
But then I sat inside the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, and for the first time in my life I recognized the power that is in a place like that. I understand now what some people mean when they reference a holy space, or a sacred space. Sacre-Coeur was so magnificent there was no way I could not be affected by it. I had nobody with me telling me we had other places in Paris to see or that they were bored and wanted to get out of there... so I was able to sit inside for several hours, just me and my thoughts. Almost meditating, if you want to call it that.
I finally left the church and went back outside. I had to find a place nearby that sold batteries, because I was desperate to get my camera working again. But before I got far I was accosted by another type of Parisian out to get money. One of the artists of Montmartre. He wanted to draw my picture. I was really at peace with myself, and in a damn good mood... so I decided, Why not? The artist introduced himself as Dino, and he offered me his arm as we walked from the steps down to a nearby park with benches so we could sit for the portrait.
That was fun. We talked the whole time, we laughed, he flirted and I laughed some more. I felt kinda bad, though, because I only had 40€ and I suspected that the final cost would be much more than that. But Dino was having fun, and so was I. So what the hell, right?
Oh wow... the final result of that caricature was so wonderful! I looked at it, and I just felt like he had completely captured how happy I was. So I braced myself, and asked how much.
I explained that I could not afford that much. So he said, since he had so much fun, he would give me the student price of 60€. I pull out the 40€ I had and told him that was all I had. So we negotiated. Final price for the caricature portrait of me ended up being 40€ and 2 kisses. :D My kisses are worth 25€ each. How bout that, eh?
With my lovely keepsake in hand, safely rolled up and tucked into my bag, I said goodbye to Sacre-Couer and began the trip back down the hill to continue on my day's adventure.