I watch in horror from an “I’m not with him” distance as he, while standing next to a sign that reads “please no photo,” is blatantly holding his camera up, high up, to capture the ceiling of Basilique du Sacre-Coeur. True, it’s probably the most beautiful basilica (or structure of any kind) we’ve ever visited—but still, if it’s bad to fib in church, isn’t it equally bad to openly break the rules?
Unlike Notre-Dame, the Sacre-Coeur experience is reverent, calm, serene. The nuns’ airy singing fills the domes as tourists quietly tiptoe up the side aisles to peer into the transepts and around the ambulatory. No “Oy Jean! Look over here!” or startling camera flashes. Well, none except for Chris’s.
Nothing could have prepared us for the beauty of this place. Not even its external splendor that captivated both of our cameras on the walk up Butte Montmarte from our hotel.
Apparently, the structure’s exterior contains gypsum that oozes calcite when it rains and bleaches it bright white. But it is more than bright white. It positively glows. And although two of our guidebooks state that Sacre-Coeur is worth a visit for its view of the city and not for its interior (which they claim is less impressive than those of other churches in Paris), we disagree. This place is worth a visit for its own striking beauty.
High upon the dome, which we climb entirely by foot up a claustrophobia-inducing spiral staircase, I turn to encourage Chris to now go mad-crazy with the camera, only to see that he’s made a video of the trek. All 234 steps. Mom, dad…please accept my apologies now. From this vantage point, we enjoy city views from the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
After descending the steps, we walk through the crypt that marks the Stations of the Cross. We play on the front steps, dance a bit in the yard, and head on back down the butte, our hands stuffed deep in our pockets to avoid the hand-tying dudes (those of you who’ve been here know what I mean).
Just before Sacre-Coeur dips out of sight I ask Chris if he wants to take one last photo.
“No,” he says. “I think I’m spent.”