You’ve been there: the crowds of tourists trekking up from the Anvers or Abbesses metro station, climbing the stairs from that famous scene in Amélie where the object of Mademoiselle Poulain’s affection hopelessly follows the flèches bleues up to the top of the hill. If you’d like to avoid the possibility of having a bracelet slyly tied onto your wrist and then being asked for money, let me suggest a more tranquil route to Sacré Coeur.
Take line 12 to Jules Joffrin and exit the station at Place Jules Joffrin. Walk south on rue du Mont Cenis (away from the church) which takes you uphill to rue Caulaincourt. Here at the beginning of the stairs you will find a group of charming cafés: Café Francoeur, Café Mont Cenis, and Francis Labutte, but no flashing cameras in sight. If you are hungry or thirsty, you may choose to stop at one of these places for some pre-hike refreshment, but there is more ahead.
Walk up the stairs and past the leafy green trees to rue Lamarck and you will find Au Relais on your right. Open seven days a week and equipped with free wifi, this bistro is popular with the locals who come to share a bottle of wine or the seafood cassoulet. There is plenty of seating outdoors to enjoy day or night. Across the street is a wine bar called Les caves de Lamarck where you can learn about the popular Bourgogne from the resident wine connoisseur.
Take the next flight of stairs and l’Ecole des garcons du XVIIIme arrondissement will be on your left. A plaque dedicates the building, which is now an elementary school, to the memory of Jews deported from the school from 1942-1944. If you look back, there is already a nice view of the city below.
As you continue up the last two sets of stairs, you may hear opera music coming from one of the apartments right next to the stairs. You might also catch a glimpse of crystal chandeliers in spacious living rooms and wonder who is lucky enough to have so much space in such an expensive city. You may even see one of the lucky residents punch in their code and enter one of these prized buildings.
After much huffing and puffing, you have now arrived at the basilique du Sacré Coeur. Now, you have two choices: you can hang a left on rue du Chevalier and squeeze through all the paintings and postcards and tourists, or, you can head back down the stairs to one of the aforementioned cafes and quench your thirst with a well deserved beer. Le choix est à vous.
© 2011 Pasa’s Paris