Our second real day in Paris was also a full day tour. We started out at the exact same fountain location as yesterday, but instead of heading straight to our first destination, we went to a small café to drink hot chocolate and café allongé. The reasons being that our first stop was the Musée d’Orsay, and the galleries inside this museum were small and crowded, which meant a tour inside would have been impossible. So while we sipped at our lovely hot drinks (it was drizzling and cold outside), our guide regaled us with tales of all the different artists and their works (Monet, Manet, van Gogh, etc).
We weren’t allowed to take photographs of the inside of the museum, but it was a fantastic trip. Mostly self-guided, I was able to spend a long time in the van Gogh galleries (my favourite painter), and attempt to decipher the cryptic plaques written in French, explaining the paintings.
Following a rather lavish lunch of steak and chicken, we went to see the Palais Garnier, the opera house that provided the setting for Leroux’s famous novel, The Phantom of the Opera. The façade itself is a mix of several architectural styles, mostly Beaux-Arts. We were told that the interior was as splendid (if not more) than the exterior, but again, due to time constraints, we weren’t allowed to go inside. Boo.
We then took the city bus to the famous hill, Montmatre. It is basically the highest point in Paris, so once you get to the top, you have a wonderful view of the whole city laid out beneath you. At the foot of the hill is the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. I was planning on going to a show at this place while planning the trip, but tickets were way expensive and were sold out months in advance. So if you’re even planning on attending a show, make sure to check it out early!
At the top of the hill is the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, a large white church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. It was inspired to be built in memory of the tens of thousands who lost their lives during the French Revolution and during the Franco-Prussian War. The inside was quite simple, and relatively modern (after all, it was complete in 1914), though the mosaic in the apse (Christ in Majesty) was a breathtakingly beautiful and detailed piece of art. It is the biggest mosaic in the world, and it wasn’t difficult to see why. The most astounding thing about this minor basilica is that it was completely funded by personal donations! Wow.
And tada! Here is the view of Paris from the top of the stairs of the Sacred Heart Basilica. Points for finding the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Centre Pompidou!