The French have a marvelous saying “Joie de Vivre” which means an exuberant enjoyment of life. It seems that Paris certainly carries that all through the city in long meals, delicate pastries, artistry in every structure, and music playing along the river. While our first day in Paris was filled with the iconic, historical, and impressive the second day seemed more about those joys of being in the city.
We began our day at the beautiful Sacré-Coeur. This Roman- Byzantine basilica has stood overlooking the city since 1914. After a great defeat of France and the capture of Napoleon III, the Bishop of Nantes concluded that the defeat came from the declining morality and religious belief of the people of France since the French Revolution. So as a means of reigniting that religious fervor, he proposed the building of a great church dedicated to the heart of Jesus. The construction would take 40 years to complete. Even though it was completed in 1914 it would not be consecrated and opened till 1919 after WWI.
The architectural style of the basilica was somewhat unusual and counter to the thinking of the day. It was fashioned to be in part a reaction against the neo-Baroque style that was sweeping through Paris with the Palais Garnier Opera House. It was meant as a subtle influence to return to the past and not get caught up in the flashy.
Outside the Sacré-Coeur offers one of the best views of the city of Paris stretching out for miles below. These steps are often filled with people as they enjoy the moment of looking out over Paris.
Another part of the steps are the thousands of locks covering the fences. This popular tradition of lovers writing their names on the lock and then throwing away the key as a show of commitment and long lasting love can be seen in many places around Paris and in other parts of the world. Don’t have a lock? No problem, there will be a few sellers on the stairs that can provide one for you.
After the beauty of Sacré-Coeur, we followed the road down the hill to enjoy the beautiful artist area of Montmartre. This area has lost none of the beautiful charm of a small village, even though it is one of the most popular places in the city. The cobblestone streets were filled with local artists and inviting bistros with the beautiful dome of Sacré-Coeur in the background.
Artists have long come to this area of Paris bringing with them a more bohemian and free spirited atmosphere than the flashy grandeur of the center of the city. Like many artist areas, the rent was much less but the surroundings were more inspiring. Montmartre still has the lovely simplicity of an artist community and nothing could be better than just wandering around and being part of it all.
What I really loved about visiting Montmartre was the natural slowing of my pace as I gazed at the buildings, took pictures of soft colored shutters, and munched on pastries from the shop. Often traveling is a lot of going and doing and seeing in a short space of time. But walking through this area is not for the hurried, it is for just strolling and being there in the moment.
Montmartre is not only known for the charming village feel, but for having the few remaining windmills of Paris. At one time there were 30 windmills just in the Montmartre area. And of those 30 windmills, only one is still functioning today- the Moulin de la Galette. This beautiful wooden windmill was built in 1622. Businesses came in and around the windmill offering visitors places to meet and eat. Artists like Renoir and Van Gogh have captured the beauty of this windmill.
But of the remaining windmills, probably none are so popular as the almost garish Moulin Rouge. This was home of the most celebrated cabaret in Paris. This was the birthplace of the famous can-can dance. Originally built in 1889 and then rebuilt completely after a fire in 1916. Today most people associate Moulin Rouge with the movie or play of the same name.
The detailed artistry of this city even extends to metro stations and throughout Paris one can find a beautiful collection of art nouveau signs. These were designed at the turn of the 20th century to symbolize the Golden Age of Paris.
Another incredible example of art nouveau can be found at the Galleries Lafayette. This shopping mall has seven stories of high end shopping to enjoy. But the real appeal is the intricately designed dome of archways and stained glass. This is the art nouveau style at its best and I could have spent hours just gazing up at the light and colors of the dome.
We walked through the square of the Ministry of Justice with tall pillar with a statue of Napoleon staring down at us. This statue has Napoleon dressed as the emperor. Once seen as one of the greatest leaders of all time but when that ambition led to taking over the world feelings changed. The statue of him has been removed and replaced many times over showing a conflicting feeling about the man.
We ended our day with a lovely walk through the Tuileries Garden behind the Louvre. First created in 1564 by Catherine de Medici and became a public park after the French Revolution. With ample amounts of space, it makes for the perfect place to sit and relax or walk about the garden, or grab a bite to eat at one of the small shops. We pulled up chairs next to the water with our food in hand and sat and watched the people come and go. The purple irises were out and the Louvre behind them made a perfect backdrop.
Paris is nothing short of exquisite. I loved our day before and seeing the famous monuments of the city. But today I really enjoyed the slower pace, the artistic creativity of the areas, and feeling part of that ‘joie de vivre’. Paris will give you that exuberant joy of life in big and small ways and in every way it is beautiful.
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Thank you for coming along on this second day in Paris. May you always have a certain ‘joie de vivre’ with everything you do.