A Heavenly Hike To The Top of Sacre Coeur Basilica

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CAN YOU FIND FENTON & WHITE ON THIS MAP?  PARIS IS DIVIDED INTO TWENTY DIVISONS CALLED ARRONDISSEMENTS.  WE STAYED IN THE NORTHERN AREA  OF PARIS (HIGHLIGHTED IN ORANGE).  THE CENTRE OF THE CITY IS FOUND DIRECTLY SOUTH ON THE BANKS OF THE SEINE RIVER

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Flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport puts you on the northern edge of Paris.  Our hotel was located on a street that bordered two areas.  To the south was the Pigalle district (the red light district of Paris and home to the painter Dali and the Grand Guignole Theatre). To the north was Montmartre which is the highest point in Paris on top of which sits the Sacre Coeur Basilica.  Our hotel was on the border of the 18th arrondissement to the north and the 9th arrondisement to the south.  The numbers get smaller as you get closer to the core of the city and locals will often ask which arrondisement you are staying in.  Each division has its own unique character and strolling through Paris, you can sense the difference when you cross from one arrondisement into another.

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SUPER SHUTTLE WAS A CONVENIENT WAY FOR US TO GET TO OUR HOTEL

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From the airport there are many ways to get to your hotel.  If you have packed light, the cheapest way is to take the RER (the regional train system similar to the GO trains in Ontario) which connect you to the Metro (the Paris subway system).  For a fare of 7 Euros you can use your combined ticket to get to most places within the central part of Paris.  There are shuttle buses with central drop off points which cost a bit more, and there are private cars for hire which cost a lot more.  Somewhere in the middle of this is the Super Shuttle service.  When you book, they will partner you up with others going to the same area of the city.  When you arrive, a shuttle driver will meet you with a sign board with your name on it as you come out of the arrivals area with your luggage.  The driver will take you to their van and drive you to your hotel … but they may drop off the other guests first.  We chose this option because we had 3 pieces of luggage, and going on the Metro would involve hauling the luggage up and down stairs (most of the Metro stations don’t have escalators or elevators).  We were also tired from the flight, and this was the easiest way to get to our hotel quickly.  Because we were staying in the northern part of Paris, we got to our hotel within 20 minutes of being picked up.  For prices and more information on Super Shuttle go to http://en.supershuttle.fr/default.aspx?gclid=CIeOh7DJj9ACFVBZhgodK6sLxg

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THIS WAS THE VIEW FROM THE COURTYARD OUTSIDE OF OUR HOTEL ROOM

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  Between the street and our building there was a courtyard with a gate. The hotel gave us a pass-code for the gate.  This meant that at night when we came home, our hotel was behind a locked gate and only guests could enter. We also had a key to get into the coach-house building that we were staying in, and that same key let us into our room which was one of only four on the 3rd floor so it was quite private.

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THE ROOM AT THE TIMHOTEL WAS  MODERN AND LARGE … A LUXURY IN PARIS

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We paid around 90 Euros per night for our room.  It is possible to find less expensive rooms that are clean and located closer to the centre of Paris, but those rooms are likely to be just slightly larger than the bed, many don’t have closets to store or hang clothes, and at a lower price you may be sharing a washroom.  For the price and location, this room was actually cheaper than most Air BnB listings we looked at.

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A SMALL SEATING AREA, A FRIDGE AND A TV WERE AT THE END OF OUR ROOM.  TO THE SIDE WAS A LARGE CLOSET,

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OUR WASHROOM WAS ALSO A GOOD SIZE AND FEATURED A TOWEL WARMING RACK.  TO THE LEFT OF TOWEL RACK IS A LARGE COUNTER AND SINK AND THE TOILET IS JUST BELOW THE EDGE OF THE PHOTO

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We were feeling the need to stretch our legs, and based on our research, we knew that we were only a fifteen minute walk away from the Basilica of The Sacred Heart of Paris known as Sacre Coeur. We decided to take a stroll to this famous landmark and check out some other well known locations along the way.   Our hotel was located just a few blocks south of the famous Moulin Rouge (which translates to The Red Windmill).  Many know the name from the Baz Lurman film of 2001 starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.  This famous cabaret was founded in 1889, but burned to the ground in 1915.  It was rebuilt and today offers tourist-priced dinner shows that feature topless dancers and women dancing the can-can.  We never did go and see a show there … perhaps on another trip, but today we were on our way to church.

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ALONG THE WAY, PETE PASSES THE MOULIN ROUGE IN THE BACKGROUND

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AS YOU CROSS THE BOULEVARD DE CLICHY AND HEAD NORTH INTO MONTMARTRE, THE STREETS ARE COBBLED AND FILLED WITH SHOPS AND RESTAURANTS

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Our route to Sacre Coeur was along back streets.  This had several advantages.  For one thing, the climb up the hill is more gradual.  As well, if you approach Sacre Coeur from directly below, you will pass a lot of tacky tourist shops.  The winding side streets are filled with charming shops and restaurants that are a little more … Parisian.  We had also been warned that both at the area where the tourist funicular is located and up the main stairs to the base of the Basilica, there are often aggressive beggars and pick-pockets.  To be fair, at the top of the stairs there was a fair police presence and we didn’t see too many beggars on the stairs, but perhaps at the height of the tourist season this may be of greater concern.  If you have limited time you can go to the Abesses Metro Station and take a funicular up the primary part of the climb and then walk the remaining stairs to the base of Sacre Coeur and get lovely views of the city from the top of the Mont. The funicular costs one Metro ticket each way (1.80 Euro).  If you have more time, get lost in the streets of Montmartre and as long as you keep going uphill, you will eventually find yourself at the Basilica.

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THE FUNICULAR CAN SAVE YOUR LEGS AN UPHILL WALK, BUT WE CHOSE THE BACK ROUTE INSTEAD

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AS WE WALKED THE STREETS OF MONTMARTRE THE BASILICA SLOWLY CAME INTO VIEW

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SACRE COEUR BASILICA HAS WONDERFUL ROMANO-BYZANTINE FEATURES

 Sacre Coeur isn’t the largest Basilica we have seen, but it somehow seems larger due to its location on the top of the hill.  This stunning church was built between 1875 and 1914 and is situated at the highest point in Paris.  You can visit the inside of the Basilica each day starting at 6 AM without charge, but to get the most spectacular view you need to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome.  During the fall you can access the stairs between 9 AM and 5 PM for a charge of 6 Euros.

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THE INTERIOR OF THE BASILICA IS VERY BEAUTIFUL

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We made our way inside the church first, and then after a 30 minute self-guided tour with an English brochure, we headed just to the left of the front doors and paid the 6 Euro price to climb to the top for a stunning view of Paris.  Our legs welcomed the exercise after the long plane ride and the sunny skies made this a perfect way to get an overview of Paris.

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SCOTT CAN’T BELIEVE HE IS IN PARIS AS HE CLIMBS UP A TIGHT CIRCULAR SET OF STAIRS ON THE FIRST PART OF THE JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE DOME

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PART WAY UP, STUNNING VIEWS OF MONTMARTRE BEGIN TO APPEAR AS YOU HEAD OUTSIDE ALONG THE LOWER EAVES OF THE ROOF OF THE CHURCH

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THE MIDDLE OF THE CLIMB TAKES YOU ON WORN MARBLE PATHS ON THE ROOF BELOW THE DOME

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FENCING KEEPS YOU SAFE AS YOU CLIMB THE LAST STEEP SECTION TO THE TOP

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300 STEPS LATER … PARIS IS SPREAD OUT BELOW YOU

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VIEWS IN EVERY DIRECTION ARE STUNNING

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AS WE LOOK DOWN, PEOPLE BELOW ARE THE SIZE OF ANTS

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AND OF COURSE … IN THE DISTANCE … THE EIFFEL TOWER

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Our visit to Sacre Coeur lasted about an hour and a half, including walking around the inside of the Basilica for about 30 minutes, walking up the steps, and enjoying the views all around before going down the stairs (which are a different set … so people descending don’t encounter those climbing upwards).  This was a fantastic introduction to the city that we would explore over the next 8 days.

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Tomorrow … The most famous painting in the world

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 Fenton & White

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