Paris Series: The Paris Metro and the Sacre Coeur

Getting around Paris is primarily using the Metro. The Metro in Paris (does any French people use the word Metropolitan or just Metro?) is one of the largest system in the world. I find it very bewildering reading the maps (yeah, not map but maps) of the system. London’s Tube while equally large is so easy to read because there is only 1 map and the station names are short. In Paris, there are three maps and I spend a lot of time reading it trying to get to where I wanted to go. And the pocket map they issue, they are practically useless to me because the prints are so small — it is printed in something like 3 points.

The Art Nouveau entrance to the Metro blends very well with the general architecture in Paris. It does not shout in loud bright colour “here is the the subway”. Problem is sometimes I walk past a station entrance because it was so well camouflaged!

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I had heaps of problem using the Metro. One tip … never, ever try to take the Metro during rush hours. I mean, I know that any subway system is packed during rush hours but in Paris, you’ll be lucky if you could squeeze into a train. There was once I tried to get on like a Vancouverite, I could not get on for three stops. That was when I decided I act like a Parisian, push and shove my way past everyone, ladies and old men included. If you think it was OK once I got on … no … the train was so packed that I swear that it’s worse than trains in 3rd world countries. I am not exaggerating … it was a lifting experience … my legs were practically not touching the floor!

The network uses all kinds of trains in the system — there are double deckers and trains of all shapes and sizes. Oh yeah, one quirky feature of the trains here. The doors does not automatically open, you had to pull an old fashion handle to open the doors.

One thing about the Metro though, there are a lot of stops. This makes it easy for me to get to where I want because it practically stops at the doorstep to the places I wanted to visit.

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Today’s post is primarily about the lesser known church in Paris, the Sacre Coeur. Getting to the Sacre Coeur requires a climb up a steep hill. There is a funicular railway operating on that hill. I find it amusing that this short railway is actually part of the Metro system. This must have been the shortest Metro line in the world.

Unfortunately when I was there, the system was not working. Oh … climbing that hill is not easy.

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The name Sacre Coeur means Sacred Heart. It is located in Montmartre and on top of the highest point in Paris. Paris as you have seen in my earlier pictures is flat. Unlike a lot of other European churches, the design of this church has the Romano-Byzantine influence. Does resemble more like a mosque, doesn’t it?

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One thing I did not like about the area around and outside the Sacre Coeur. There were a lot of touts and scam artists. For one, there was this group of people who wanted to draw me to their makeshift gambling table — I have seen these people at work before and they target innocent tourists. Also there were a lot of Africans who tried to stop me and wanted to loop some coloured strings on my fingers — I don’t know what the heck they actually wanted and I did not want to wait to find out. Does anyone know what’s this thing about them wanted to loop coloured strings on your fingers?

My primary intention to visit this place is the dome. The dome is opened to the public.

Before I went up the dome, I entered the church. It was the most solemn and serious church I’ve been in so far. They are very serious about keeping complete silence and have people with suits and white gloves standing everywhere reminding people to be silent. The interior is dark and looked really interesting. I did not learn much about this church because most of the signs are in french.

Getting to the top requires climbing up steep winding steps and through narrow walkways. I was thinking that it’s almost impossible for someone slightly overweight to make it through.

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At the top of the dome, the place was just filled with graffiti. This reminds me a lot of the “broken window syndrome” — have you hard of this term? It is a strategy adopted by the City of Vancouver to deal with vandalism. The theory says that a neighborhood deteriorates starting with a single broken window. If a window is broken and is not repaired promptly, then it sends a sign that people do not care and this in turn will lead to another broken window until people starts to be indifferent and the entire neighborhood just turns into a slump. This theory applies to littering, graffiti and other vandalism in general. So, someone need to care enough to quickly clean up all the graffiti in this dome. It’s a shame because now people thinks it’s OK to deface since everyone is already doing it.

I digressed … sorry.

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The view was spectacular from the top of the dome. See how flat the entire city is? I took this picture to mimic Ken’s (my photography guru) shot he showed me. So, Ken, how does this compare to yours? He he he … I think this composition is better because I used the 70-200 zoom instead of the wide angle. The Eiffel looked closer here.

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I am glad to see how much foresight the city planners have to strictly regulate the height of buildings in the city core. The wide tree lined avenues is so pedestrian friendly. Paris is a beautiful city but I felt the people need to care to deal more aggressively with the littering and graffiti that is marring their own beautiful city.

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