Places: France # 3: See Sacre Coeur
First of all, I hope that wasn’t rude. Damn Lumiere the candelabra from Beauty and the Beast for teaching me those words at age seven. And damn those beavers for teaching me how to say damn! (In their defense I can’t be sure which word they were trying to teach me. But Lumiere has no excuse!).
Second of all, the real point here is not that beavers are really coming into their own as English teachers. The point is that Sacre Coeur was an absolutely beautiful sight to behold, and definitely one of the highlights of my trip to France.
Part of the reason that this location is so truly amazing is that the view is rather unexpected. When you hike up the steps or if you take the Funiculaire because crowded glass boxes are your thing (I’ve known they weren’t my thing for a while, but I still decided to count it as a Bucket List Must and take it on the way up), you come face to face with the bold whiteness of the travertine stone that is the basilica.
You are so caught up in what’s before you that it takes you a minute to notice the landscape that sits at the church’s feet. But since it’s quite hard to overlook a whole city for long (don’t take that as a challenge, walking around with your eyes closed inevitably leads to someone getting run over by a taxi), you suddenly become fully aware that you are at the highest point in Paris, and you end up happily caught between the edifice above you and the entire world below.
The wonderful thing is that there is so much more to be explored than just what is revealed to you in the first minutes of your engagement with this place. The inside of the church has gorgeous stained glass and remarkable paintings that leave you in awe of their creators. And climbing the stairs–yes, you have to climb this time–to the top of the dome offers an even more beautiful perch from which to view the city.
There are so many reasons to love Sacre Coeur, but if you need any more convincing, consider these Fun Facts that I did not know before I went:
One of the site’s claims to fame is that it is the location where the patron saint of the city, Saint Denis, was beheaded. Rumor has it that he picked up his head and carried it to the top of the hill (I heard he even did it without using the Funiculaire. After all, it was just a flesh wound). You gotta love a guy that doesn’t let his head get in the way of what he needs to do.
It also boasts one of the largest mosaics of Christ in Majesty. I have a hard enough time painting my nails. You gotta love the artist with that much talent and who’s probably smart enough not to put a sock back on thirty seconds after painting their toes.
It has the third hardest name to spell, right behind Heiliggeistkirche and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllllantysiliogogogoch (Okay, the name Coeur does seem to pale in comparison…but the order of vowels is still confusing and let’s be honest, if you swapped random letters and numbers for those other two it would at least still look the same). You gotta love a name that’s just so….French. At least, I think you do.