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Paris on a budget. The sacre coeur
Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Paris, France)
Member Name: giksy21
Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Paris, France)
Advantages: beautiful, thought provoking
Disadvantages: string men
Paris on a budget - The basilica of sacre coeur.
On our recent holiday to Paris, we set out to take in the capital, but without spending a fortune. We were on a strict budget and tried to take in as much of the culture of one of Europes most beautiful cities. Our Little hotel was in the montmatre region of the capital. Montmartre literally means hill of martyrs and therefore was the only real choice for one of the most striking religous buildings in the world.The Basilica of Sacre Coeur is Montmartre's leading tourist attraction, and it's probably the most-visited church in Paris after the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Unfortunately, the steps leading up to the basilica are also a prime target for the scam artists known as "string men," who prey on tourists and those who are not aware of such goings on.
Here's how the scam works:
A tourist (usually, but not always, female) enters the small fenced square below Sacre Coeur and proceeds toward the stairs that run up the hillside. Before they know it, a "string man" has grabbed her wrist and encircled it with a homemade bracelet of colored string. The string man then demands payment. they use the excuse that they are collecting for the church, but this is a complete lie. The tourist, who fears retaliation by the string man and his friends if she says "no," pays the requested sum to avoid a confrontation.
We were caught by one of the "string" men. Not the best of starts to our visit to one of the grandest basilica's in the world. He was friendly, and chatty. We did not know of the scam, and were surprised when he demanded payment. I said "non", but he perservered, demanding payment of twenty euros! I lied that i had not brought my wallet, and pulled a two euro coin out of my pocket. He did not look happy, but he left us alone. I wouldn't go as far as saying that it was scary, but i was more annoyed that they preyed on innocent people, visiting one of the most beautiful, and deeply religous places in the world.
When we had calmed down, we were finally able to take in the Basilica. Although we were inside the gates, we still had a long way to go. The hill of monmartre is the highest point in the capital, and you are in for a stiff uphill walk to get there. We chose to visit on the Monday, and i would suggest that you do not do this if you are travelling with the very young, or the very old. The basilica is served by a funicular (moving stairs.) most days, but not on mondays. Therefore we had to walk up the stairs to the very top. As we climbed, the steps got busier and busier. People just sitting there, be they students writing, lovers kissing, or musicians playing. It really was a sight in itself, and at least it broke up the journey to the top somewhat. We even encountered a man playing keepy uppy with a ball on the steps, with reggae music playing!!! He was very good, but i dont think he was obeying health and safety regulations! However, we struggled on to the top. We counted three hundred and six steps to the top!!! But when we got there, we turned and it all became worthwhile.
The view from the front of the basilica is amazing. It looked exactly like a postcard. We could see notre dame, the louvre, the eiffel tower. But they were all in miniture. It was only really from up here that we were able to take in the sheer scale of Paris as a whole. It truly is a massive place, yet it looked even more beautiful still when viewed from afar.
So, we went in. No photos were allowed, a rule which i had no problem with. I would never wish to disrupt such a deeply religious place. You must remember, that this is a working chapel. Still it serves the local community, and mass is served here as normal. We stayed only in for about ten minutes, but even still we were entranced by the purity of the place. You could make a donation to the sacred heart, and light a candle, which we did for a friend that passed on recently, and whom we miss dearly. It filled us with hope, that even though they have passed, they are in a better place. We walked on, and took in the romanesque arhitecture. It is huge on the inside, and although we did not stay long, i will never forget the christ on the ceiling. It was truly awesome!! We left, as it felt quite intrusive to be here, while others were worshiping. Rather like we were strangers, amidst a large family gathering. Though brief discussion with one local told me that they feel we are all part of the same family within those sacred walls.
We went outside, dazzled somwhat by the sun. We gazed a while on that view once more, and with renewed gusto we prepared ourselves for the descent......
Highly recommended. G
Summary: one of the most amazing places of worship, tarnished only by those that would scam you at the bottom
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