Not Martha

My Vacation Slides: Paris Day 9, accordions and chestnuts

Sacre-Coeur and the sky

The next day we were back in Paris, it was overcast but not actually raining so we headed to Monmarte to see Sacré-Cœur, and the view from the top of the steps.

funicular rails headed up

If you take the Metro in your ticket will allow you to also take the funicular (hillside tram). The path from the Metro stop to the funicular is through a narrow street packed full of people. There are fabric shops (nothing I spied looked of interest, sadly) and clothing (maybe resale?) shops that sell goods by weight. It was Saturday and chaotic, so hold onto your bags and zip your pockets.

my boots and cobblestones, looking down

A little warning for you, at the base of the steps leading up to Sacré-Cœur and near the funicular you’re likely to run into what were introduced to me as the String Men. They are an aggressive lot of hustlers who approach you and tie a string around your wrist if you’re not looking, then ask you for money since they’ve given you something. We encountered some and, honestly, they were creepy, fast and freaked me out a bit. So, look out for them, keep your hands in your pockets or crossed in front of you, and you might not have to deal with them. This part of Monmarte, where all the tourists are, is reportedly the worst of it, the rest is a fairly normal neighborhood.

a lady dressed in a 19th-century gown wearing a flower festooned hat and playing an accordion

At the top of the funicular sat this lady playing an accordion. Check out the shoes. According to the flyer on her van she also does burlesque.

statue of a soldier on a horse

You can do a look inside the church, and it’s amazing inside, though in terms of designs I liked the interior of Notre Dame more. You have to stay very quiet, pictures of any sort are forbidden, and all men have to take off hats. We sat and watched the guard who is in charge of requesting the removal of hats for a while.

people hanging out on the steps of Sacre-Coeur

It was Saturday so there were lots of people sitting on the steps looking at the view.

two bridal parties having pictures taken, upstaing a Bob Marley singing busker

This poor busker was somewhat upstaged by not one, but two bridal parties there to get pictures.

one of the ubiquitous green trash bags in Paris

All around Paris are these metal stands with translucent plastic bags where you can dump your trash. They’re very convenient, not creepy, and stay far more clean seeming than the heavy city trash cans I’m used to.

a bag of roasted chestnuts

On the way back down to the Metro I got a small bag of roasted chestnuts. I love chestnuts.

striped upholstry on the seat of the train

The colorful striped train seat caught my eye.

out of focus Eiffel Tower, while it was flashing

That night we took one of those boat tours of the Seine on the Bateaus-Mouches. It was raining again, pelting actually, so we sat inside below (as opposed to the outdoors seating on the top). We passed a lot of beautiful buildings but the out of focus shot of the Eiffel Tower doing it’s sparkly light show best illustrates the ride. Should you find yourself in the same situation I recommend sitting on the left side of the boat, it’s actually easier to look up and see the various monuments and palaces across the river on the far side than from the right side of the inside of the boat. They have a recorded tour playing but it points out things to the port and starboard sides, and besides a few facts doesn’t add a huge amount of information.

We were soaking wet and half an hour late for dinner, but the restaurant was gracious about it, thank goodness. And so some of the best roasted chicken in my life was had at La Rotisserie d’En Face.

Stuff learned the hard way:

Paris boat tours: These are fun, but are best enjoyed when it’s not blowing and pelting rain. If you should need to huddle inside, sit on the left side of the boat, it’ll be easier to see the opposite bank from there. And when the boat trip says 45 minutes? It will take over an hour to get back and you’ll be late for dinner.

String Men: These are aggressive hustlers who seem to hand out near the stairs to Sacré-Cœur and try to tie bracelets on the wrists of inattentive people. If you spot some just make sure you keep your hands to yourself so you don’t have them a chance. If they do get an opening, refuse to pay them.

Funicular: You can use your Metro pass or ticket (as a transfer) to ride the funicular up the hill to Sacré-Cœur.

Fabric stores: Sarah gave tips on where to find the fabric shops in the comments below: “As for the fabric shops, the good ones are found on the opposite approach to the basilica. From the metro (past the funicular), down the street that runs in front of the basilica, and to the right. There’s an intersection with loads of gorgeous shops that charge way more than you would ever want to pay (euros to dollars makes everything very spendy) for beautiful fabrics. I’m sorry you missed them!” Thanks Sarah!

Previously: Day One arrival and beating jet lag; Day Two big impressive monuments, unexpected meetings, needing to pee; Day Three The Metro, a museum, and French onion soup; Day Four dogs in paintings, startlingly large arches and towers; Day Five pastries and scoldings; Day Five the bit about the mangosteens; Day Six trains and vegetables; Day Seven, Ye Olde-est Pub in England and a giant space suit; Day Eight rain gods and cake for elevenses

Next up: Day Ten McMacarons and not going to Versailles

· comments [21] · 03-25-2010 · categories:travel ·

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 nazila // Mar 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

    I like taking the funicular up and down and then walking back to the center of Paris by foot. Amazing how hilly the city is, isn’t it? We stayed up by the red light district on our first trip, we had no idea – and very close to Montmartre. The area is much cleaned up, but still chock a block full of charm.

    Haven’t tried the McMacarons – may try it next trip – in two weeks.


  • 2 Sarah // Mar 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I too found the string people really aggressive. I had no idea our metro ticket would be good for the furnicular! We paid twice. :( We walked back down though.

    As for the fabric shops, the good ones are found on the opposite approach to the basilica. From the metro (past the furnicular), down the street that runs in front of the basilica, and to the right. There’s an intersection with loads of gorgeous shops that charge way more than you would ever want to pay (euros to dollars makes everything very spendy) for beautiful fabrics. I’m sorry you missed them!

  • 3 jo-anne // Mar 25, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Just reading about the “string guys” made my skin crawl. We have some time planned for Monmartre and I’ve made note.

    I’m hoping to find some vitnage fabric gems at the Port de Vanves flea market!

  • 4 Lori // Mar 25, 2010 at 10:57 am

    The translucent-bag trash receptacles are supposed to be a deterrent to terrorist bombs. What a world we live in.

    I’ve been enjoying your posts. They bring back memories of my past trips there and make me look forward to going again.

  • 5 Jeannette // Mar 25, 2010 at 11:02 am

    LOL! This post cracked me up.

    a) I got attacked by the string men. Had no chance. He physically grabbed my arm and started twisting his string. I refused to pay, he followed me, and followed me… We gave him 3-4 euros, didn’t seem to be enough. I never went down that way from the top again.

    My hubby and I stayed in Montmartre, at the tippy-top, and man..we got the exercise routine of a lifetime. Up, down, up, down, up, down…etc. It made the stay a lot fun though.

    When we first got there (Liam had warned me to not ‘overpack’ as I always do – but did I listen? hell no!) I had my big suitcase on wheels, plus a carry-on, plus my purse. We went up a million stairs to get to our place. It was a nightmare. This was a turning point in packing for me. I was forced to take a ‘packing light’ class through Rick Steves. It sort of changed me – sort of. But I do now pack a LOT less.

    Thanks for sharing your trip!!

  • 6 Natalie Mikolajczak // Mar 25, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I am near tears missing Paris so much. I want to go back so bad. It is, by far, my favorite city.

  • 7 Lynn in Tucson // Mar 25, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I see Lori already mentioned this but the plastic bags appeared in the days following 9/11. We left Paris on 9/10 that year, spent a week in the south of France, and by the time we returned, almost all of the public trash cans had been replaced with bags (or bolted shut if there was no way for them to accommodate a bag).

  • 8 Marianne // Mar 25, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Sigh, you’ve made me so nostalgic for Paris. Monmartre is my favorite area, though some parts leave something to be desired. And others have already pointed out the sad reasons for the light plastic trash receptacles. I remember being in London and walking for blocks and blocks looking for a trashcan, post 9-11.

  • 9 Kim // Mar 25, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you for all the tips! I’m going to Paris this Summer and have been taking notes!

  • 10 barrie // Mar 25, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Seems like these string men are a lot like the people in Israel, except sub out men with little old ladies – and you’re in the holy land right next to the friggin’ Wailing Wall. There’s no escaping them and there are already so many people around you, that when they corner you you just take it, give them some schekels and move on your merry way. Remember when Madonna and Demi Moore made Kaballah all the rage? They wore those red strings. Supposedly it brings good luck (or bad luck if you rip it off yourself).

  • 11 Michelle // Mar 25, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Ugh, the string men got me in Piazza Navona when I lived in Rome. After I refused to pay, the young guy called in an older guy who seemed very capable of causing harm. The older guy then started aggressively suggesting that if I kissed the younger guy they’d let me go. It was one of the few times I felt concerned for my physical safety.

    I wound up throwing 5,000 lire at them (those were the days) and losing myself in a crowd of German high-school students, who were all too happy to keep me safe in exchange for letting them practice their English.

    So, yeah: stay away from string men at all costs.

  • 12 joy the baker // Mar 25, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    i will remember not to pay for a string that i did not ask for. thank you for sharing the lovely photos.

  • 13 kaitlin // Mar 25, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    the string men are everywhere in paris. in fact, they are not just men. but yes. going to paris is about learning to say, non, merci. a lot.

  • 14 pam // Mar 26, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Hi there! I just recently discovered your blog. I just wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed seeing your travel photos. We were in Paris several years ago and I always love to see it through someone else’s eye with photos. I clearly remember the stunning view from Monmarte and all the people sitting on the steps. Oh and the random people playing music and the artists painting. So lovely!

  • 15 Celia // Mar 26, 2010 at 8:57 am

    My husband constantly caved and paid attention to the string men, I just completely ignored them and walked on…they get the hint. There are also really aggressive souvenir sellers at the eiffel tower, I just do the same or hold my hand up indicating a ‘halt, lemme be.’ We caught the sacre coeur first thing around 8 am to bypass the string guys, it truly proved to be the best time of day. Good to know about the fabric shops, I had it marked as another shop(s) area to visit while there, now I won’t! Thanks!

  • 16 pam // Mar 26, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I just have to say, I hope this vacation never ends. I’m really enjoying it. :)

  • 17 megan // Mar 26, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Pam – Aw, thanks. Sadly I only have one more day of vacation and one more day of travel to report on.

    Thanks for the tips on where to find fabrics as well as the warnings for other String People, yikes.

  • 18 Tay // Mar 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Looks enjoyable, and you have pictures to look at years from now and remember how much fun you had.

  • 19 Mary-Lynn // Mar 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    The string guys were the only negative thing in my entire Paris experience. I was prepared for them but they were so aggressive and right in my face and grabbing my arm that I was really freaked out (I was entirely on my own). I barely stayed to look at Sacre Coeur and just walked around a bit and then went back to my apartment and stayed there the rest of the day quaking. I’ve lived in NYC and traveled alone a lot and nothing has ever wigged me out so badly.

  • 20 Genevieve // Mar 27, 2010 at 4:20 am

    As with all hustlers in Paris (and maybe elsewhere too), best to just keep walking. Don’t accept anything they try to give you and don’t respond (or say non, merci) when they ask if you speak English. Once you stop, they’ll think they have a chance and keep annoying you.

    I love your photos & insights from your trip. Looking forward to the last day!

  • 21 Julianna // Apr 6, 2010 at 2:35 am

    The string men sound like the street hustlers in the middle east… I got to the point where I would scream at them, cause a scene, and/or smack them with a shoe. My husband is from the ME so he taught me the best way to deal with the inappropriateness. Only took about a day and I think word spread that I wasn’t to be touched.

    I have a quick, unrelated question. Where did you get that fabric for the skirt in this post? It is lovely :)

Leave a Comment