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Gerster Trip to Paris, Part Two

continued from Part One One of the most rewarding (and breathtaking) experiences you can have in Paris is taking the Metro to the northern part of the city and taking the hike atop Montmartre. While Montmartre is a relatively recently established district (established in 1995), it's been inhabited since Gallo-Roman times. During the 17th Century, excavators found Roman baths dating back to the 2nd century A.D. and coins dating back to the 3rd century. These days, it's become one of the artsier districts in the city, which is no surprise. In the past, it's been home to the studios of notable artists like Dalí, Modigliani, Monet, Mondrian, Picasso, Pissarro and Van Gogh. Artists flocked here around the turn of the 19th Century because of the bohemian scene, but would soon leave, largely at the outbreak of World War I. Though some of these famous artists left, the district has retained this characteristic. The area derives its name from a 130-meter hill that, if you have the wind to climb, is home to the beautiful Basilica of Sacré Coeur, a Roman Catholic basilica on which construction began in 1875 after losing the French-Prussian War and was finished in 1914.
Basilica of Sacre Coeur Montmartre Eric Gerster

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur

It's the highest point in the city and can be viewed all the way from l'Arc de Triomphe. As such, from its base, you get some incredible views. Here are some pictures I took from the Basilica: Eiffel Tower Distance Montmartre Eric Gerster The Eiffel Tower from Afar
Eric Gerster View of Paris from Montmartre

The view from Montmartre is magnificent

The hill itself is called Montmartre, which translates to the "Mount of Martyrs", a nod to St. Denis, a bishop who was executed by Romans for preaching Christianity in the 3rd Century. Though the Basilica of Sacré Coeur is definitely the most well-known structure on the hill, it's also home to a much older structure, the Church of Saint Peter of Montmartre. It was supposed to have been founded by St. Denis in the 3rd century, but had to be rebuilt in the 12th century by Louis VI.

Gerster Trip to Paris, Part One

Ah, Paris.

The city was founded in the 3rd century BC. by the Celtic Parisii tribe, from which its name is derived. Its location made it a convenient waypoint for goods and the Parisii traded with merchants from as far away as Spain. Soon enough, it attracted the Romans, who conquered it in 52 BC and transformed it into a quintessential Roman city, complete with a full range of Roman amenities like forums, baths and temples. Since then, Paris has been considered a cultural center, not just for its food and wine, but for its leading role in certain ideological movements. Of course, it has earned its title of the "City of Light", which refers both to its role in the Age of Enlightenment but also because it pioneered the widespread usage of gas lamps—by 1870, the city had installed over 50,000 gas lamps.

These days, Paris remains a cultural center, and its forward-thinking persona manifests itself in many ways: architecturally, aesthetically, gastronomically, etc. Without plunging (or ascending, dependent on perspective) into a long-winded philosophical discussion of French nombrilisme, here are some of our favorite parts of our trip.

The Eiffel Tower

The tallest structure in Paris (~1,063 feet), the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 as the entrance to that year's World Fair, which was hosted in Paris. It's named for its architect, Gustave Eiffel.

Eric Gerster Eiffel Tower Cloudy Day

The Eiffel Tower is just as impressive under a cloudy sky.

When we got there, we took the elevator to the second floor and were instantly reminded of the Eiffel Tower's open-structure design. The winds kicked in and gusted at around 30 miles per hour, compounding the low temperature, which was hovering in the high 20's. Pining for a couple of chocolat chauds, we decided to make the descent.

Eiffel Tower Lit up at Night Eric Gerster

The view from beneath the Eiffel Tower at night.

Not realizing how far we had come up, we took the stairs. All 250+ of them, only to realize that we still had to wait for the elevator to get back to ground level. However, we were rewarded with a magnificent view at the bottom. The structural beauty and architectural genius wasn't readily apparent until we got to the bottom and looked up to see every beam, arch, and support lit up by massive lights. It's really a beautiful structure, and one can only imagine how much more impressive it was at the 1889 World Fair, before the world became accustomed to skyscrapers.

 Walking Tour - Dessert Edition

Talk to most people about Paris and you're liable to find yourself in a heavily nostalgic discussion about food and wine. Naturally, we had to have ourselves a tasting of some of Paris' best. We took a walking tour of chocolate and pastry shops like Gérard Mulot, La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Hermé, Pierre Macolini, Un Dimanche à Paris, etc. Given that words—English words, at that—would not do these justice, here are some pictures.

Gérard Mulot Macaron Tower Paris France Eric Gerster

An enticing display of macarons at Gérard Mulot

Pierre Marcolini Sign Paris Eric Gerster

Pierre Marcolini Chocolate

Poilane Bakery Paris Eric Gerster

Poilâne bakery

Check back here for Part Two: Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur!