Paris, City of Love

Before I traveled first time to Paris, I was never dreaming about being there, and people were thinking that I’m crazy. Once I stepped on the streets of this dream city, I fell in love, I felt it as a second home, where I was feeling secure and excited. And after the short stay when I had to leave, I had tears in my eyes and started to dream about coming back again and again. And I was lucky, I came back again, and again, and still that wasn’t enough. I already knew most of the famous places of Paris, as I’ve been there more than once, but there were still so many places I’d like to go but didn’t have time for that, so I promised to myself to come back here again, even if it’ll be in 10-20 years. 
And here I am, again for a very short time. Maybe as many of you, I also have some favorite places, that I’d like to go again. But there were also few other places, that I had to go as well. Here I will tell about my quick journey in all the places I had time to go this time.
I don’t remember how many times I passed near Notre Damme de Paris, but every time I felt the power of this majestic cathedral. This time I saw it from another angle. I mean it’s always crowdy, always full of tourists and prayers. But this time when I arrived, even the small square in front of the Cathedral was empty. Only few policemen were walking around. The area was so peaceful at this early morning hour. I spent around an hour to walk around the building and make a slow some kind of excursion inside the Cathedral, checking all the stands with representations from Bible. Little by little people started to come in, more and more and the usual daily life started to become more active here.

I wanted to go up, to walk on the roof, to say “hello” to gargulas that sit on every corner of the roof and look to the city. But.. unfortunately the entrance to the roof was going to be opened only in 1-2 hours, which I didn’t have and couldn’t wait. So, I left this amazing place and walked down the streets of Latin quarter. Passing the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont from 15th century, crossing the legendary Pantheon, I reached one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, Luxembourg garden.

During my past trips I crossed this garden few times, but never had time to have a walk inside. This time I promised myself not to miss this opportunity and spend my morning in this beautiful place. The first thing that I noticed was that garden was full of young and old people, jogging, meditating or just reading books under the trees, enjoying the fresh air in the greens. Indeed, this is a real relaxing place for everyone.

Luxembourg gardens or, as locals call it, Jardin du Luxembourg, was created in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France. Inside the gardens was constructed the Luxembourg Palace for a new residence. The garden covers 23 hectares and is known for its lawns, tree-lined promenades, flowerbeds, more than hundred of statues (including twenty figures of French queens and illustrious women standing on pedestals, as well as the well known statue of Liberty), monuments and fountains, from which the most famous in the picturesque Medici Fountain, built in 1620. Initially it was in the form of a grotto with two streams of water, and a white marble statue representing Venus in her bath. This was a popular feature of the Italian Renaissance garden. It fell into ruins during the 18th century, but in 1811 the fountain was restored at the command of Napoleon Bonaparte. During the reconstruction the statue of Venus was removed. The sculptures of the giant Polyphemus surprising the lovers Acis and Galatea, by French classical sculptor Auguste Ottin, were added to the grotto’s rockwork. Inside the basin were reflecting all the shades of trees and fountain. The surrounding part of the fountain was so quiet. Only the mesmerizing songs of birds were heard. And this could be a great reason to stay here and read some nice books on the benches.

But the Luxembourg gardens are not only fountains and monuments. Starting from the 1958 the garden is owned by the French Senate, which meets in the Palace. Immediately west of the palace is the Petit Luxembourg, now the residence of the Senate President. Originally it was built around 1550.
But during the French Revolution, from 6 October 1789 until their departure into exile on 20 June 1791, the Petit Luxembourg was the assigned residence of the Count of Provence (the future Louis XVIII of France) and his wife. A little bit further there is the Musée du Luxembourg, established in 1750. It was initially an art museum located in the east wing of the Luxembourg Palace and in 1818 became the first museum of contemporary art. In 1884 the museum moved into its current building, the former orangery of the Palace. 
Today I don’t remember the reason, but on that day the museum was closed, so the only thing I could do there was to have a nice walks in the “Lungs of Paris”, as most of the locals consider it to be because of rich greens. But obviously this place became one of my favorites and if one day I will be back to Paris again, definitely I will come back here and spend more time in this beautiful garden. 
I’d stay in this lovely park for more hours, but I had limited time and some more places to go during this day. I took metro and left at Trocadero station, another famous tourist destination. Yes, this is probably the most popular place, where everyone comes to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower. Trocadero gardens was created for the Universal Exposition in 1937. It covers around 10,000 m²  area that offers a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. One of the main features of the gardens is the famous Warsaw fountains which has 20 water cannons and offers a remarkable water display. There are also a number of sculptures to be admired. Despite of the fact that this garden was quite full of people, taking pictures on every step, it was a great place to meet old friends, to have a nice talk near those fountains on the hot summer day (even that it was quick and short), to enjoy some time before running to the next destinations. 
I knew that there is an Armenian church in Paris, but couldn’t have chance to visit it before. This time it was in my mandatory “to go” list and I decided to go there directly from Trocadero. I checked the address and it seemed to be not that far, so instead of taking any transport, I started to walk. From one side there was a Seine with a view to Eiffel Tower that was left behind me, and from another side was a street full of cars and people rushing somewhere. Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was in about 15 minutes walk from Trocadero. It turns out that having one of the largest Armenian community in France, there was no any church there. And in 1902 a wealthy Armenian businessman Alexander Mantachiants, along with the poet Siamanto, singer Arménag Shah-Mouradian and musicologist Komitas, decided to build a church and hired a young French architect Albert Désiré Guilbertarchitects to design a church. The first stone was laid on October 5th 1902 and completed in 1904. 
When I got there I understood why I was not surprised that it’s not famous. It was a small church hidden between residential buildings. A very different architecture style for France, Armenian church caught eyes with its gentle lines and carving on the walls. There was no one inside, only the monk, who welcomed me near the entrance. It was so peaceful inside. Interior was very simple. Only few frescoes were decorating the walls. From the outside the walls of the church were decorated with carvings of st. Tadeo and st. Bartholomew, who were the ones preaching Christianity in Armenia. On the left side of the entrance there was also a big and nice cross-stone, one of the unique symbols of Armenian Christianity.
But let’s check out another part of Paris. On the square at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre there is an unusual monument, dedicated to love, called “The wall of Love” or more known as “Le mur des je t’aime“. On this 40 square meters love-themed wall “I love you” features 311 times in 250 languages. It was lovely to find Armenian representation twice, in both Western and Eastern Armenians. The splashes of red on the fresco represent parts of a broken heart, symbolizing the human race which has been torn apart and which the wall tries to bring back together. 
A romantic wall, created in 2000, is a must-see for couples from all over the world visiting Paris, the city of romance. This love corner is hidden in the romantic garden of the Square Jehan Rictus Place near metro station “Abbesses”. This small cute garden was a quiet place, where you’d feel like outside the city, because of no noise of cars, songs of birds and sound of nature. Most of the ones you’ll see here are couples: young or old, doesn’t matter. They come here to say again “I Love You” in the language they speak, or in other languages.. but what is the most important – in the language of Love. And here was the place where “Love is in the air” expression was the most actual.
In general, Monmartre is the neighborhood in Paris situated on a hill. Previously it used to be a village with vineyards. Today it’s one of the tourists’ most favorite district to walk which is a truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s a walk you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Montmartre can be a real reason to fell in love with Paris and it can be one of the reasons why you will want to come back to Paris. There are a lot of things do in in Monmartre starting from a simple walk in the narrow streets, visiting museums, eating overpriced crepes, shopping or have some wine in one of the charming cafes outside, until discovering historical part of the hill. From this museums I had chance to visit Espace Dalí during my past trips, and if you’re interested in his art, find it in hidden in the streets of Monmartre at 11 Rue Poulbot. But this time I came back here to visit another famous landmark, the Basilica Sacre-Coeur, that was only built just a century ago. 
The way I came here was leading from “Le mur des je t’aime” and crossing the Place du Tertre where the legends of 20th century art used to roam. Now it’s filled with watercolors, portrait sketchers and caricaturists. Somehow it reminds of that lost generation of artists who lived and worked here. Picasso, Modigliani, Van Gogh and countless others lived and worked in these narrow streets. If you like authentic art and appreciate looking at artists at work, you need to go to this square.
It’s very easy to get lost in this area as there are a lot of narrow streets that go up, where the Basilica is situated. But if you pick a wrong one, you’ll hike somewhere else and get tired in searches sooner than expected. I tried to ask for a direction from the people around, but seems all of them where tourists who didn’t go there yet, as no one couldn’t show me the way. So I trusted my sixth sense and chose a way to go. And it didn’t let me down! Just in a few minutes I saw white domes of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. But if you are lazy to walk or take steps, you can find the funicular, that will take you to the top of the hill for the price of a metro ticket. Or there is another fun way, to take a small white train, that will make a short drive on the streets of Monmartre and take you up.
From a distance, the stark white domes are powerful and imposing. It is obviously one of the things you absolutely need to see during your walk in Montmartre! The Basilica is based in Roman architecture and took over 40 years to build and it turns out that the origin of its construction was a “National Vow”.
Here is the history of the vow and the text in the Basilica, taken from the original source:

In 1870 war broke out between France and Germany. The Council that was being held in the Vatican at the time was suspended and the Pope, no longer under the protection of French troops, considered himself a prisoner within the Vatican. France was defeated and partially occupied by German troops. The initiative of Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury was a spiritual one. They vowed to build a church dedicated to the Sacred Heart “as reparation” (i.e. as penance for infidelity and sin) for they held that the misfortunes of France had spiritual rather than political causes. At the end of 1872 Cardinal Guibert, Archbishop of Paris, approved the vow and chose Montmartre. At the end of 1873 he got the French Parliament to pass a law declaring that the Basilica was in the public interest, thereby making the land available for the construction of a church. At the time the construction of a Basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart contrasted with a series of Basilicas dedicated to the Virgin Mary during the same period in Lourdes, Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon and Notre-Dame de la Garde in Marseilles. The work was funded from donations – in many cases modest – collected throughout France, the names of the donors being carved in the stone.

«“In the presence of the misfortunes that have befallen France and the greater misfortunes that perhaps still threaten her. In the presence of the sacrilegious attacks committed in Rome against the rights of the Church and the Holy See and against the sacred person of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. We humble ourselves before God and uniting in our love both Church and Fatherland, recognize that we have sinned and been justly punished. And to make honorable amends for our sins and obtain through the infinite mercy of the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ pardon for our faults, as well as the extraordinary help that alone can deliver the Holy Pontiff from his captivity and put an end to the misfortunes of France, we hereby promise to contribute to the construction, in Paris, of a sanctuary dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”»

The interior architecture is also in the Romano-Byzantine style and gives this “house of God” an atmosphere of harmony and peace. The light and architectural details focus attention on the apse, the place of liturgical celebration and adoration of the Holy Sacrament. The 475 square meter Mosaic of Christ in Glory is one of the largest mosaics in the world. It represents the risen Christ, clothed in white and with arms extended, revealing a golden heart.
Another eye-catching and important thing to see inside the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur is the grand pipe organ which is unanimously considered to be one of the most remarkable in Paris, France and Europe. The imposing size, rare quality of manufacture and unique sound quality have been officially recognized by the French state, which classified it as a national monument in 1981. 
The Basilica is a impressive giant with 85 meters long, 35 meters wide. The outer Dome is 83 meters high and the Inner Dome is 55 meters high. From the dome, over 200 meters above the River Seine, it is the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower and if you climb up, you’ll have a panoramic view of whole Paris.

Even if you won’t climb up the dome, being on top of the hill you’ll have one of the bests views over Paris. When you reach the top and stand in front of the Basilica of the Sacré Cœur with Paris at your feet, it feels as if the time had stopped. Every moment needs to be cherished.
I came from another side and it was worth it to step down that 222 steps leading up through the Louise Michel public garden, where you’d see dozens of people sitting on the grass or on the steps, taking pictures, relaxing or just looking around with dreamy eyes. At the bottom of the hill is the Boulevard de Clichy which is lined with bars, where you can relax after a tired day and still feel the magic of Monmartre.

If you’re interested in the history of Montmartre, you should know that for a long time it was in conflict with Paris. It was separated from Paris. In 1871, the inhabitants of Montmartre rebelled and created a new system of their own. It was called “La Commune” and they were kind of independent from the city of Paris for about three months. The true Montmartrois are pretty different from the common Parisians. They are revolutionary, free and talk what comes to their mind.

As always, wandering time has limits and the time came to say goodbye to this adorable place and run to meet another adventures in another places.
To be honest with you, Paris wasn’t the same I saw it last time on my previous trips. It was changed a lot. Somewhere worse, somewhere good, but it’s always a good idea to come back here, as each of us can find the best places in Paris to enjoy and fell in love again and again. And always there will be much more left undiscovered and you’ll need to come back another time.

Good luck with your findings and see you soon in another places 😉

Read more about treasures in France here:
Calanques of Casis
Gorge du Verdon
Marvelous Avignon, France
Museums of Paris
Loire Valley Castles

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