Paris, part 1: Midnight at Sacre Coeur

After spending my first week of Europe in Netherlands, saw few places (check out my previous story when I visited Volendam here ), then my journey continued to the next destination. To that famous city, dreamy place, people say it’s the city of love, the most romantic city in the world, Paris. As for me, because I was traveling with my mother, well, it doesn’t get more romantic than this I guess, hahaha. But surely we had quality time throughout the trip, including the stress and panicky moments, all the drama, and even some tears that I have never thought that I could pour down that much tears since I’m a little baby (I’ll tell you about it when we get to the part in Rome later), the trip had made me closer with her than ever before, I truly thankful for the amount of ability I had at that time to make this trip with my mother possible. I love you Mom, and I love you Lord!

So, we took a bus from Breda to Paris, it was a eurolines bus, I booked it online using an app called GoEuro, it was really helpful to arrange transportations during my trip in europe, whether it was by bus, or train, or flights. A bus trip from Breda to Paris costed me around 35-40 euros per person. The bus was leaving from the front of Breda Central Station at 8am, then the bus went through Belgium’s major cities Antwerp and Brussels, to pick up and drop off people, and we arrived in Paris later that evening, at the Gallieni Bus Station around 8pm.
For our stay in Paris, I booked a place from airbnb at a shared apartment located near the MontMartre area. At first I didn’t realize that it was in the MontMartre area, because my main goal was to find a place that is near with the big train stations in Paris, so that my tired mom (after a 12 hours bus ride) can rest immediately after we arrived in Paris. So there I was, found a place available near Gare du Nord, at a 7-8 minutes of walking distance. I remember I read some suggestions from articles in the internet and an advice from a good friend that we should avoid the MontMartre area, as it is quite a well- known place for street-robbery or any other worrying things that we
foreign travellers should avoid, and some also mentioned how it is majorly filled with immigrants (hmm.. I guess that’s..bad? I guess I don’t really know, who am I to judge, right?) So I got that noted in my head, “avoid montmartre, got it”, but then, not only that I just realized that we have stayed in that area AFTER I have done the whole trip, but I found that area is not as dangerous or slummy (is that even a word?) or as worrying as what I thought it would be. But again, I’ve only stayed in Paris for 3 days, so I guess I didn’t get the chance to really know much about that area.

The First Panic Attack

So, after the bus arrived at the Gallieni Bus Station, I led my mom to find the subway metro. Then I went to one of the ticket machines to bought us a 3-days pass for metro, which was about 15 euro per person for inner zones of Paris. Then we board the train to Gare du Nord. After we arrived at the Gare du Nord and went outside, I was panicked, the Google Maps showed a blue dot (that’s me) but no map! How am I supposed to know where to walk if the map weren’t showing anything? And no I don’t have active simcard which I can use the internet to load the map. I did buy a simcard when I was in the Netherlands, Lebara if I’m not mistaken, it was said that it can provide services around europe and not just the Netherlands. But I guess I didn’t buy the proper data package or didn’t activate it so I panicked in front of Gare du Nord with my mom was standing by the exit door we went through (I was panicked in slient though, my mom only asked “what’s wrong? slow connection huh?”).

While I was pointing my phone up to the air hoping for a miracle, then a light bulb was turned on inside my head, “of course! how did I forget, train stations should have free wifi right?? um, they should have, right?” So then I picked up our bags and asked my mom to follow me back inside the station to find a public chair. I looked up for free wifi, 5 minutes with no result, oh no.. they should have a free wifi! then I walked around trying to find maybe a coffee shop or anything with free wifi. I just walked 6 steps from where I was then I got it, with weak signal, a free wifi of the train station! Excited, I walked more to get better signal, and then I was super relieved when the map was finally started to load. PHEW! Otherwise I wouldn’t know where to walk to.

At that time, I didn’t think of the idea to ask people for direction, because honestly I don’t think it’s wise to show how it was just 2 powerless women who got lost the day they just arrived in the city, No I can’t risk that to my mom. And also a main other reason why I didn’t do that because I’ve heard of how not many people in Paris are welcome to tourists (I think they’re fed up with the number of tourists coming there everyday), or not able (not prefer) to speak english (I remember my trip to Japan, it was RARE to find any local people can speak English, or want to), and I can’t speak French, so.. as cocky as I may sound, I prefer to find my own way, using the Google Maps, avoiding what I worried for. Next time I may need to learn more about French first, hahaha.
“So, are we set? You know where we should go?”, asked Mom when I walked back to her after I done load the map. “Yeah, turned out we went out at the wrong side of the station, come follow me”, then I picked up our bags and started walking out of the station. When we finally got into the apartment, it was beginning to dark (around
9.30pm I think) the host showed me how to use some of the stuff in her kitchen and living room. I must say it was a lot smaller than it looks on the advertisement, no, actually it was a really tiny apartment. Ah well, I guess the rent here is very expensive. The owner is a young Parisian woman, who is living with her spouse in the other room in the
apartment, but we rarely see them after the first day (I guess they rarely see us, because we always left in the morning after breakfast, and went back after it’s dark around 10pm).

When we put our bags in the room and I was getting ready to get a shower and rest, I told my mom that we actually are staying near one of the must visit place in Paris, the Sacre Coeur, and we can get there just by 15-20 minutes walk. “I think we can go there on our last day here”, I said to mom as I close my bag again after I take the towel. “How about we go now then?”, my mom suddenly said that, which got me surprised.
“…now? are you sure? it’s 10pm now”. Then she said “well the sun just went down right? so it shouldn’t really be that late now.. right? let’s not waste a day when it’s just nearby”. I totally did not expect that from her, but boy was I excited. “Really? You sure? yeah? OK! let’s go!” Then, by still wearing the same clothes we used for the entire bus ride, we put on our shoes again and walked out to get to the Sacre Coeur. The cold breeze surely made us not producing any sweat at all, not like in our home country.

Midnight walk to Sacre Coeur

By using only Google map, we walked through the small streets in the Mont Martre area to get to the Sacre Coeur up on the hill. We passed by some small but crowded bars on the corner of the streets, it looks like a favorite hangout spot for young local parisians, and since it was a saturday night, they looked like they’re overloaded. After almost losing our breath for the uphill walk and stairs (“At least we won’t be climbing up these stairs again when we go back”, said Mom between her breaths), we finally there, the second highest point of view of the city
of Paris, the Sacre Coeur, the white church on top of the hill.

Here are the night view of the Sacre Coeur, from below the side stairs, from the side front, and from the front.

View before we climb up the last set of stairs to reach the Sacre Coeur. The night view was pretty sweet, huh?


The Sacre Coeur at night


And this is how it looks like from the front.. so big that I can’t even see the iconic pointy domes on top.

Why “second” highest point, you ask? Well, on the other side of the city there’s that famous tower, right? Hahaha. Well to be honest I didn’t really know how high the Sacre Coeur is, but you definitely can see the beautiful city view from up here. And since we were there at night, the view was just even better, the Paris city night skyline blinking right before our eyes.

Pardon my lame panoramic shoot
on this one, I guess it was time for me to get a better camera, haha.

Can you see a tiny thin tall blue line emerged in the city far behind my mom on the photo above? That’s Eiffel tower. Too bad I didn’t bring my binocular so we couldn’t really see the Eiffel clearly from here, just a blue silhouette. But when I was in Eiffel tower, I definitely can see the Sacre Coeur by using the binocular, it is sitting on top of a hill.

There were many young couples sitting around and hang out on the big staircase right in front of the Sacre Coeur, just behind where my mother stood in the photo. They’re having a quality time and enjoying the view of the city. Some of them are also group of friends, just enjoying some laughs, or even play cards and have a drink on their hands. There were also some small food & drink sellers nearby walking around. There are also quite a lot of cafes & restaurants nearby, right down the main stairs in front of the Sacre Coeur, but I don’t think they have the best view of the city. After we spent around half an hour minutes sitting there and just enjoy the view (“I guess this is the
place where young couples spend their Saturday night, huh? and look at us, so romantic…”, one of the comments my mom made, which then led us both giggling) we went down the stairs, stopped by at a cafe to buy a pastry to take away, which was already around midnight, then walked back to the apartment. We were just fine when we walked back to the apartment that late, considering that it was actually the area where most tourists avoid.

Well, there it was, my first day in Paris, thanks to my Mom who doesn’t want to waste a day to not “visit” a place, I think we just had a non-mainstream thing. Why non-mainstream? While most foreign tourists or travelers visit Sacre Coeur during the day when it is crowded with other tourists, we were there at midnight, and surrounded with the locals, living their Saturday nights traditions.

I’ll continue my story in Paris day 2 on my next post, where we walked around the city visiting 7 (yes SEVEN!) must see places in Paris! Boy how we made our legs walked that day, hahahaha. Stay tuned! :-*


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