Day eight was the only day I spent primarily alone. Although I loved showing Monica and Charles around, it was nice to take a break from playing tour guide and do some random exploring, without feeling the pressure to hit as many sites as possible. I directed Monica to the Louvre and headed to Montmartre, which is both the name of a hill and its surrounding arrondissement (neighborhood). Montmartre is known for Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which sits atop the hill at the highest point in Paris. The area is also famous for its bohemian and artistic heritage (Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Van Gogh, and Picasso all worked around Montmartre at some point). I had seen Sacré-Cœur’s facade on previous visits, but had never been inside. I chose to walk up to the basilica, although there was also a funicular.
Sacré-Cœur was packed! The golden mosaic interiors were impressive, but my favorite part of reaching the top of the hill was seeing the spectacular panoramic views of Paris. It was also fun to observe foreign couples having (mock?) wedding photos taken on the steps. After touring the basilica, I wandered around Montmartre and visited boutiques. I was a little disappointed to see some of the same stores that were in the neighborhood where I was staying. It reminded me of NYC where we have the same chains everywhere, except the boutiques were smaller in size.
My next destination was La Pagode theater in the the 7th arrondissement. La Pagode is an antique-style pagoda that was built by the owner of Le Bon Marché as a gift for his wife. The structure was intended to serve as a ballroom for their home next door, but now houses a movie theater with a charming garden cafe. I stopped by and enjoyed a lovely pot of green tea from Mariage Frères (the best french tea!). After tea, I walked around the 7th arrondissement, which is a very upscale residential neighborhood that contains many government institutions and foreign embassies. I passed the École Militaire (a prestigious military academy), Invalides (Napoleon’s burial site), and UNESCO’s headquarters, the latter of which I really wanted to tour, but requires a three-month advanced appointment.
In the evening I met up with Monica again and we had dinner at a family friend’s house. Afterwards we went to Oberkampf, which is an area with a lot of bars and lively nightlife. Oberkampf was a short walk from where we were staying, which was great because the Paris metro does not run all night (this and air conditioning are the only things the MTA has on Paris). We had drinks at Ave Maria, which is a very kitschy and cute bar that was recommended by my Timeout guide. We ordered kir royals and I was impressed that the drinks were reasonably priced and you could pick from a variety of fruit flavors (to be added to the sparkling wine). I would definitely go back (if I was still in Paris)! Thus concludes day 8.