The Sacred Heart of Paris

When you visit a city for the first time, especially if it as distinctive as Paris, everything awes you. Or at least me. Be it the fake-French-window in the building opposite my hotel, or the narrow alley leading to a florist’s shop. But the image that first comes to your mind two months later when someone mentions the city is what becomes the face of that city for you.

For me it is the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur.

It was a rainy summer morning as we made our way to the Montmartre metro station. We hardly had to make an effort to walk; the wave of commuters drew us out and we found ourselves staring at crowded market streets and bright murals. We made our way into the market street, looking at all the touristy wares on sale – fridge magnets, buttons, umbrellas, and snow globes. And suddenly, out of no where we were looking at the most glorious sight.

As if on the cue, the rain stopped. We folded our umbrellas and made our way up the flight of stairs almost impatiently. We wanted to get closer to the magnificence that stared down at us from the top of the hill. The monument is surrounded with so much beauty, the gardens, the foliage, the fountains and the most interesting people, and yet it has the power to take you into the past, the past that you may have never known even. If you were a history buff, I am sure snatches of French revolution would flash in front of your eyes.

As we walked up, we suddenly found ourselves mesmerized by what was behind us! For the monument gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and its skyline. Before we could catch your breath, both literally and metaphorically, strains of melody caught our ears. At the same time, the weather God showed mercy and the sun shown from behind the clouds.

We found ourselves glued to the stairs with hundreds of others and watched an old man play his harp. He seemed lost in his music, with no visible care of the hundreds of people watching him. At that exact moment, I fell in love with Paris.

The insides of Sacré-Cœur are equally glamorous; the architecture, the intricate designs, the mammoth pipe organ – all are something to write home about. While we were admiring the huge statues outside the building, we saw the crowd gather around a petite old lady. She seemed to have a contraption* and loads of sheets of papers with her. As we moved closer, we saw that she was playing music on what looked like a box (musical box?), where she inserted sheets of music with holes (for air?) and then wound the box. Out came the most melodious tunes and she sang along. So did the crowd gathered around her.

I remember being in a trance, standing there looking at the vivacious little lady, jumping around while playing the music. The atmosphere so lively could not have been beaten by anything but rain. Regardless, we also found a lively village right behind Sacré-Cœur, where painters stood on the roadsides painting the sights they saw, while tourists huddled in little cafés.

It was my favorite day in Paris.

* If you know the name of the musical instrument, please educate me.

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