We started by walking up to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. All I could think was AMELIE. It's THE chase scene, with all the espionage and blue arrows. There's the carousel, the men who've painted themselves to look like statues, the pay-binoculars, the steps, the basilica. I'm really here, where all the charm in the world is produced.
I have to admit that I was really bummed about not being able to take pictures inside the cathedral. It was beyond beautiful. Gasp-out-loud-stop-your-heart beautiful. This was my first cathedral experience, and I couldn't ask for more. The exterior is gorgeous but imposing, austere in its way, but the inside is something else entirely. The ceilings are so high that you can't help but thrust your head up, in instinctive awe. They're painted in rich, metallic colors and depict a benevolent Christ with his arms outstretched. We visited while a mass was in progress, and the mixture of French, Latin, and chanting gave me goosebumps. There is such sincerity and devotion in the service and in the building itself. This visit alone made my entire trip worth it.
The area surrounding the Basilica, Montmartre (Mount Martyr), is the site of the first French martyrdom of a Christian, Saint Denis. A statue of him, severed head in hands, rests in a neighborhood park.
I took a Christian history course (with Brother Gaskill--do it!) last winter semester, and have such a respect and love for the early Church members, fathers, and martyrs. To see, side by side, the representations of sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, and its results, the flourishing of beautiful houses of worship, is humbling.
I'm not hugely into art history, but it was really pretty cool to see the various places along the walk where major artists slept, ate, and just generally lived their lives. This is the Bateau-Lavoir, cheap housing where several important artists, including Picasso, lived over the years.
This city has so much history, all of it seemingly important and life-altering on a humanity-wide level. I love it-- love the 13th century churches I pass on my way to the crepe stand, love the radical spirit that the city breeds in its artists, love every tall tale the people repeat about every building, statue, and square inch of avenue. I love it all.