Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame

A Weekend Holiday to Paris, Sacré Cœur and Versailles

Travelling Round Sacré Cœur Sightseeing and Exploring


A City Of Revolution

Slept in and late for my morning run along the Seine. It’s full of Dace too cunning to be caught. Dodging remnants of Saturday drinkers slouched in quiet enclaves.

Breakfast was much less hectic but you have to keep watch over guests pouncing and devouring croissants. Staff replace in small quantities to stem the tide.

Weather set fair for our 9.30 coach to Sacre-Coeur, the Montmartre Basilica built as memorial to the 58,000 French killed in the Franco Prussian war of 1871. It took 46 years before completion in 1923.

Priests pray for the dead 24 hours each day. Visitors gather here for imperious views of Paris at sunset. There’s a funicular railway to help you to the top.

Driving through the Soho area pointing out the Moulin Rouge, the cabaret and dancehall providing spectacular theatre for the tourists. It’s as old as the Eiffel Tower and immortalised by Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.

Weaving through the streets of Montmartre, the former wine region, forever associated with the Bohemian life styles of Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali and Monet. The artist quarters where cheap accommodation sought after the expensive modernisation of Paris engineered by Napoleons nephew and Baron Hauseman. The medieval narrow streets demolished to be replaced by open spaces, wide avenues and neo-classical facades. An Urbanisation programme to design away sanitation hazards and rebellions barricades.

SacréCœurWe walk up cobbled streets flanked by cheap tourist’s paraphernalia. Up hundreds of steps to Sacre-Couer pursued by fervent street sellers with trinkets “Are you Johnny Wilkinson?” There’s a pungent smell of pissoir as we ascend steps.

Pilgrims congregate to the Sacred Heart a multi-domed marble obelisk. Imposing in its size and simplicity, not by luxuriant exuberance. Inside you keep moving remaining quiet. There’s no hats and no photographs. Tourists marshalled and bundled in a procession like a funeral cortege in hallowed respect – a shared communion with God. You can light candles for lost souls. A house of supplication for the faithful.

Meandering round the cobbled streets of Montmartre with artist displaying their works in progress. The Mecca for artists. The gathering place for eccentric people where poverty liberates them from normal standards of behaviour. Coffee and tea in Montmartre for €9.80. Fellow customers down rounds of espresso fixes. Lost in the back streets of the artists quarter we miss our coach pick-up but successfully commandeered at traffic lights.

On to our boat cruise along the Seine in a giant flat bottomed leisure craft holding 1,000 passengers. A river excursion at €10 for over an hours sailing. Commentary in a variety of languages, unheard at rear of boat. Sat on the top deck basking in rays and cooling breeze. People capture memories on digital. Exchanging waves in a reciprocity of welcome. A flotilla of boats follows at a discreet distance as we round the two islands in the Seine, creating a natural one way system.

Impressive close-up views of Notre-Dame, passing Paris Plague, the summer beach by the river. There’s inviting promenade walkways along the bank. It’s all large scale leisure cruising. Eiffel Tower remains in sight. The best view is from the river. In proximity you can see lifts and walkers.

Road traffic is light as shops shut en vacation. You can see parts of Paris which were Manhattanised in 1970’s. You can appreciate the space and avenues brought to Paris by Napoleon III and the Prefect of Paris. Town planning as a scheme to discourage barricades and revolutionary activity.

The first republic proclaimed in 1792 inaugurating the Reign of Terror orchestrated in the Committee of Public Safety by the triumvirate of Robespierre, Danton and Marat. Robespierre the sexless fanatic inspired by Rousseau as the tutor of the human race. Father of modern terrorism and timeless defender of the poor and dispossessed.

Sacré CœurThe revolutionary terror ended with Robespierre being hoist by his own guillotine choking on the blood of the condemned Danton. Accused of conspiracy to restore the monarchy Danton’s parting remarks “I leave it all in frightful welter ….. show my head to the people. It’s well worth seeing”.

It was Dr. Joseph Guillotine who invented civilised and humanitarian beheading. First used in 1792 it claimed 2,600 victims.

Marat was murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday. Short in statue, deformed in person and hideous in face Marat is immortalised in Peter Weiss’s play Marat Sade. An extraordinary performance of his assassination by asylum inmates under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.

The revolutionary spirit returned in a different form with the self-governing elected Commune of Paris in 1871. A prototype for workers democracy inspiring the works of Marx and Lenin. After 72 days brutally smashed by national troops with thousands of rebellions citizens killed. Order restored and birth pangs of workers government crushed in its infancy.

The Left bank synonymous with Pairs café society, made famous by writers and intellectuals who held court here in first half of 20th Century. You could do the Disney attractions with the Haunted House and Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney welcomes 14.5million visitors every year.

In the evening joined the pavement society and enjoyed French cuisine at the local restaurant, The Cardinal. Relaxed, friendly atmosphere shared with Parisians, dogs and cigarette smoke wafting in the breeze. Enticing fish selection offered by helpful, interested waiters. A three course meal for €30 each. A proper café experience. Parisians are defined as casual but chic. Their reputation for rudeness is unjustified.