I have already posted the US and Canadian legs of our summer holiday, but now it's time to report on the European tail end of the trip . . . . vive la France! France is the most visited country in the world (79.5 million foreigners welcomed in 2011) and August is known as one of the most popular months for holidaying here in the largest country in Western Europe. Most Parisians flock to the southern coast themselves, leaving the city relatively empty. Perfect timing for us traffic hating islanders! We stayed at the Sourire-de-Montmartre, a beautifully situated bed and breakfast that looked one part Paris, one part Marrakesh.
How grateful we were for a plush bed and pillows and a hot shower to remedy the jetlag!
Breakfast was served each morning in the great room located on the top floor; a scrumptious spread of fresh fruits, yogurts, jams, sweet cakes, coffee, teas, croissants, and baguettes. I didn't know at the time that enjoying a typical tea with honey and cream would be a luxury elsewhere in France.
Montmartre, literally "mountain of the martyr," history dates back to prehistoric times when it is said to have been a Druidic holy place long before the Basilica_of_the_Sacre Coeur was built on the base of the 130 meter peak.
The neighborhood was favored in the late 19th century by artists including Picasso, Dali, Monet, and Van Gogh. Many modern filmmakers have chosen the setting for their art as well; La Vie en Rose, Amelie, and most recently Woody Allen's comedy Midnight in Paris.
Sacre Coeur is a spectacular sight at night. Built of travertine stone quarried within France, it will apparently remain white for centuries.
The steps in front of the basilica, the highest point in Paris, are dotted with people admiring the overviews of the city.
Lover's Locks on the Pont de l'Archevêché
Golden statue from the Alexandre III bridge over the Seine
I am pretty convinced the 4 hours spent standing in line for the Eiffel Tower was worth it, these are impressive views that greet you at the top.
I would think that visiting at night is a better option due to the city lights in all their many colors, with the added bonus of the post sunset sparkly light show on the tower itself, which is a little Vegas-ey in real life but makes for a quite romantic sepia photograph!
My father and his buddies camped on this very lawn in the early 70's. Nowadays your only allowed to picnic!
The Pere_Lachaise_Cemetery was one of my favorite places in all of Paris. After the memory stick containing these images went missing I spent four weeks mourning their loss when all of a sudden, it reappeared, how is still a mystery (as I ALWAYS remember exactly where I put everything, wink, wink)!
Navigating the 110 acres is not easy, at least not if you are on a mission to find Jim Morrison's grave or one or two of the hundreds of other famous persons plots. I would suggest getting familiar with the virtual tour beforehand if you are dead set (no pun intended) on paying your respects to certain sites.
We were perfectly content to get lost in these cobblestone streets and maze of graves. It is a hauntingly beautiful place, so easy to spend a few hours wandering aimlessly.
The cemetery opened in 1804, the first burial for a five year old girl which was only followed by another 11 burials that year. By 1830, that number grew to 330,000. Today, after five expansions, the cemetery holds between 2-3million that have been laid to rest here.
And what trip to Paris would not be complete without catching a famous cabaret? We chose the Moulin Rouge to round out our tour of the Montmartre district and were not disappointed! Paris was just the beginning of our journey which ultimately spanned over 3,000km, hence the overcharges on the rental car! We owe a great big merci beaucoup to one Parisian in particular, Veronique your amazing advice and travel links proved priceless! More to come on France soon . . . .