Friday, February 01, 2008
Je Suis Amelie
I finally managed to get out of my flat earlier than usual today - around 11:15am. No matter how honest my intention, I just can't seem to wake up and get rolling early. There's still a whole city I haven't seen. Tourist spot yet unrevealed and all I can do is languish around the bed all morning. Perhaps there's a good reason for such languishing...
At the behest of blog reader "true," I'm on my way to Montmartre this morning to check out Coquelicot Boulangerie and Bistro for my petit dejeuner. Getting there on the Metro is relatively easy, just one transfer and many stations. The transit is uneventful and we arrive at the Abbesses station.
Abbesses is know for it's wrought iron and glass canopy - one of only two surviving originally designed by Hector Guinard (the other is on the far side of town at Porte Dauphine), but what no one tells really tells you is that since Montmartre is on the top of a hill, the actual train platform is farther underground than any station in the city. And after you get used to merely walking up a flight (or two) of steps to get to the street, you really don't think much about taking the stairs - even though you noticed those people waiting for the elevator.
The stairs are hell. A sprial staircase that rises endlessly, unrelentingly driving you forward and by the time you realize that this is ridiculous, you're too far gone to go back down. If Moscow's subway is 250 meters underground, Abbesses has got to be at least 100 meters. Take the elevator, it's to the right of the platform marked "interduit." Save yourself.
Coquelicot is just a block west of Abbesses and was extremely easy to find. The staff was friendly (and cute) and the food came out quick. I went with the prix fixe menu of: Le Bol de Chocolat Maison, La Tranche d'Une Demi Baguette, Buerre Fermer et Confiture Maison for 4,45 euros. Not a bad way to start the day.
A bowl of hot chocolate seems like a lot, but it's just right for the meal. Dip the baguette in the chocolate or slather with butter and/or jelly and you're good to go. It may seem weird to dip baguette in chocolate but they go very well together - kinda reminds me of Mexican Churros and chocolate.
I also ordered Le Oeuf Coque et Ses Mouilletes, or soft boiled egg with bread sticks for 2,50 euros. The egg was the typical French style, which I always find kinda hard to open without getting some cracked shell in my egg. Add some salt and all is well. Dip the bread as desired and just chew through the crunch of the shell bits.
After my breakfast, I decided to wander a bit around Montmartre: Home of Amelie Poulain, from the movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Polain or Amelie (as it was released in America). I haven't seen the movie in awhile, so not much of the village looked familiar to me, so I decided that perhaps I should do the one really touristy thing of my trip: visit the Sacre Coeur.
As I've said, Montmartre is on a hill. Sacre Coeur is the highest point with reputedly commanding views of the entire city. If one must command his people from on high, then this is the place to do it. Darn Catholics. They get all the good real estate.
We're about halfway up the hill and the climb is a long one involving many, many stairs. It's cold. And raining. Good thing I've got my foul-weather gear.
I'm no wimp. I've made the summit of the highest peak in southeastern Maine: Mount Bradbury at 500 feet - in frozen and icy conditions. I've made the summit of Mount Olomana on O'ahu (1,200 feet) and I've made the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai'i (elevation 13,476 ft), but these stairs are kicking my butt.
Hiking to Sacre Coeur from the West Face is for the young and thin, not the old and plumpy.
As I reach the top of the hill, expecting to see visions of glowing virgins (or at least an apparition of Jesus Christ), I see something that horrifies me to my core: an electic tram ferrying passengers from the street below to the Sacre Coeur.
All of this cursing and sweating and being rained upon and I could have easily rode the tram for a few pence! Bloody hell.
That really sucks.
But I reassure myself that I've made it "The Man's Way" through blood, sweat and tears, and I promise to make an offering to honor this achievement.
In spite of the clouds and rain, the view is quite spectacular. All of Paris is laid out at my feet. I feel as Napoleon must have felt: Emperor - ready to crush his loyal subjects into Froggy Mush at the whim of my twenty-three mistresses. Behaviour unbecoming a good Catholic? Nothing but a few thousand Francs to deliver absolution.
And that's just by Tuesday. On Wednesday, we start over again.
No photos allowed inside the Sacre Coeur, but it's quite gorgeous inside. If there's one thing to be admired about the Catholic Church, it's they know how to build them. Ornate, refined - the best artisans of the day. No expense spared. These are buildings fit for God.
I make a little prayer offering and I'm back on the front porch admiring the view. It's still raining and it's time to go. For a moment, I think about taking the tram, but that would be silly. I've made it to the top, time to walk down and savor the moment.
The walk down through the garden is simple, quick and easy. Tourist take photographs. Lovers kiss in the falling rain. It's the Paris of the movies and Amelie is returning those photos.
As I make my way down rue de Steinkerque I'm fascinated by the fabric shops. Seems that whatever fabric you need, you can find it here. Between them are the kitschy tourist souvenir stores you find in all tourist zones in major cities across the world. Statuettes of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur can be had for six euros. I want to get a big one for The Spro, but at 24 euros, that's too much.
Later, I'll find a small one on the boulevard de Clichy for three euros. It's not a big tower, but it will be good enough.
24 rue des Abbesses
01 46 06 18 77