A Great View + Art in Montmartre

(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.) 

Europe, Croatia 434Wednesday, September 19th.

After another late start, I head up to Montmarte, and my first stop: Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

Once I climb the stairs, side-step the small group of kids trying to stop people to convince them to donate to a charity for which they`re canvassing (it`s a front – they`re pickpockets), I see – of course – that the place is crowded with fellow tourists by the time I enter.

It`s simply massive. I don`t take very many pictures, save for the exterior and the crypt – which, unlike the Panthéon, isn`t filled with anyone or anything I recognize, but is actually creepy.

I ascend to the dome, which requires climbing some 360 steps.

I have to stop several times, because I am clearly out of shape and breath. As I get closer to the top, the air is cool and crisp (a welcome relief to me, because I am sweating – surprise!) and the sun’s quite bright.

Europe, Croatia 451It’s certainly worth the exertion. The view at the top is spectacular.

Below, there are a couple of wedding parties having their pictures taken, and a busker on the steps, entertaining a large group with song covers.

After leaving Sacré-Cœur, I walk around, trying to find the Salvador Dalí exhibition (called Espace Dalí Montmartre).

It’s not actually on my must-see list – until several days ago, I’d no idea it even existed. But Darlene suggested it when we hung out earlier in the week, so I thought I’d give it a try. If I can find it.

And, full disclosure: My previous knowledge of Dalí is limited to reproduction posters, and the odd (so to speak) photos of the artist himself.

Europe, Croatia 456But after visiting the exhibition, I have to say I develop a bit more respect for (and understanding of) Dalí and his life story, the bond between Dalí and his wife Gala, and the symbolism behind certain images synonymous with his work (such as the melting clock).

Do I completely understand him now? No – don’t kid yourself. He certainly was an odd duck. But I appreciate him more than I did before.

I wander around a bit before stopping for lunch off one of the winding side-streets.

I order an omelette – which comes with fries (this is a first for me), and some tea, as the chill the air has persisted so far today.

Stuffed, I go in search of Montmartre Cemetery. And make wrong turn, after wrong turn, after wrong turn.

But FINALLY – perhaps some 30 minutes or so later – I do.

Europe, Croatia 467The place is much bigger than I’ve realized, with tombstones crowded together like teeth. But beautiful nonetheless – particularly with the crisp fall chill in the air.

I attempt to find a couple of famous gravestones – those of composer Hector Berlioz and filmmaker François Truffaut. There are a couple of signs with maps pointing out where famous graves are located, each assigned a number (I suppose, to make the search easier).

But between my ever-reliable poor sense of direction and the sheer number of graves, packed together like patrons in a really popular restaurant, it’s fruitless.

But it’s interesting to see all the different headstones, both grandiose and small – even seeing graves as from as recently as last year (and you wouldn’t think there’d be any space left). I see a handful of people walking amongst the graves. There are others who I think act as caretakers who help maintain the neatness of the grounds. And there are cats perched atop gravestones here and there, gazing almost with judgement.

Europe, Croatia 462It’s around 5 p.m. when I leave the cemetery, stopping by a nearby Internet café to touch base with Darlene (I’m meeting up with her and one of her Parisian friends for dinner), then back to the flat for a nap.

I meet Darlene in the Oberkampf district (not pictured) – which she describes as sort of being akin to the way Toronto’s Queen Street West may have been a while back (and perhaps what parts of it are like now) – it’s up-and-coming, but not quite gentrified.

Eventually two of Darlene’s friends show up and we go to this Senegalese restaurant – kind of crowded and loud – for dinner and conversation. And by “conversation”, I mean it flip-flops between English and French, for my benefit.

I contribute where I can in English and try to follow along when the others are conversing in French, catching the essence of what the others are saying. But the noisiness only contributes to my difficulty in following the discussion.

I definitely feel very much like a more socially-awkward version of myself, one I’m not used to.  But, I suppose, this is what it feels like to be a “fish out of water”.

Darlene stays overnight at my vacation flat, because her friend/roommate Laurent has company over, and we spent the remaining time chatting until we fall asleep.

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