At best, we slept poorly. It was hot and humid from rains yesterday, and our bodies were totally convinced that whatever time we though it was, it was actually time to get up and think about all our poor life choices. I dealt with this inner monologue until 5am, then we gave up and tried to start the day. Sasha was starving, and we didn’t have much to eat in the apartment, so Yulia and I went to the market around 6 to see if anything was open. The stores were closed, and the street markets were still unloading. The city is beautiful in the morning before everything starts. The street washer spun down the alley near us, and we went around to avoid getting a free shower.
We found a café that was part open, they had espresso to go but no food yet. The local taxi stand was out front, and drivers were running in getting coffee and smoking out front. Nothing else was open, so this place had the lock on the taxi crew. Not a bad deal. A bakery started to open, so we were able to get some croissants and head back to start waking up. Our plan for the day was no real plan. We were going to take the Metro to Montmartre. That was really as far ahead as we were thinking. I was also pretty sure a crepe and some beer was going to happen at some point.
Eventually, we made our way to the Metro. I love public transportation on vacation, but it always takes a few tries to figure out the system of tickets and zones and all that. I prefer getting metro passes for our stay, but I wasn’t sure we would use enough. I gave up on the machine for tickets, and went to the ticket counter. The young woman figured out what we needed, and pointed us in the right direction for the platform. Our local station was a 4 way interchange, so that helped. For some reason, all the signs are in French. Go figure. Arriving at Abessess station, we got to the exit, and got stuck again. I was looking for the exit turnstiles, and there were none. We stood for a bit and saw a local just push through an exit gate. So it didn’t really matter which ticket we got. they didn’t check on exit. There might be a zone transfer closer to the city limit, but we were just in the center. I’ll figure this out yet.
We were early to Montmartre, so the line at Sacre Coeur was almost nothing. Last time we were here, the line wrapped around the block, so we took the opportunity to get through and see the cathedral. Naturally, the cathedral was amazing, but the climb to the dome was the event. it was 300 steps up a narrow spiral staircase. At some points my shoulders would touch both sides, and at others my head would touch the archways, but ducking a lot helped that. Once out of the spiral you climb the pathways along the rooftop to the center f the cathedral, then you start the spiral staircase again. All along the way the views of Paris just keep getting better. At the top, it was stunning, in addition to the vista of Paris, you could see out the the newer modern buildings and the city simply stretched out as far as you can see. You could also see the areas of the cathedral that were never cleaned. The white marble of Sacre Coeur used to be black from Coal smoke pollution. Not slightly grey and dirty, but solid black. You can still see this in some areas.
Once we were done at the cathedral, we grabbed lunch at the central plaza of Montmartre. Yulia and Sasha had ham Crepes, and I ordered Mussels and Fries. For some reason my plate of Mussels was completely captivating the rest of the tourists. People were staring, and one group of Asian tourists started taking pictures. I’m sure I’m in some Asian guide to Paris now – bald guy eating seafood: daily showings. Since that wasn’t surreal enough, we hit the Salvador Dali exhibition around the corner. This had more sculpture than paintings, but since we planned on visiting his hometown near Barcelona, this seemed like a great warmup. I really like how Dali has reused elements in his art, and while looking absurd on first glance, you can see he had meaning in everything. One of Yulia’s favorite pieces was a burning woman, with the flames representing femininity, who had open drawers from her body, containing her secrets. Crutches supported the flames in back, symbolizing fragility.
We headed down from Montmartre and worked our way back towards our apartment. We still wanted to get some shopping in, but we weren’t in any rush. We still don’t have any serious plans. We’re just trying to enjoy the city, and doing a pretty good job so far.