I walked up to Sacre Coeur, and took the funicular up to the portals of the church. Environs of church: memento shop, image shop, church accessory shop. Tickets for entrance to crypt, belfry, and tower. The horrible unfinished look of the front, with aged hoardings and scaffolding. I was not much impressed by the interior. Mass was just finishing. I noticed a small-boy-acolyte, dressed up and murmuring at the altar. Concentration of lights etc. round about main altar. Sparse congregation. Woman collecting at door, and regularly shaking her bag at two-second intervals. Meanly dressed clerks taking holy water at door and crossing themselves. Curious effect, both interior and exterior, of church being built of large blocks of stone; it looked as if these stones were imitation stones in wallpaper, like the old-fashioned wallpaper in halls of small houses in England. The effect of the dome was goodish, akin to that of St. Paul's, but marred by the new yellowish-cream tint of the masonry.
I then came out and surveyed Paris from the front. I could distinguish most of the landmarks - Notre Dame, Pantheon, Invalides, Gare de Lyon, St. Sulpice, and Louvre. Never before had I had such a just idea of the immense size of the Louvre. I could also see the Opera, (that centre of Paris qui s'amuse) with its green roof (? copper). And it looked so small and square and ordinary. And I thought of the world-famed boulevards and resorts lying hidden round about there. And I thought: Is that all it is? For a moment it seemed impossible to me that, as a result of a series of complicated conventions merely, that collocation of stones, etc. (paving stones and building stones) could really be what it is - a synonym and symbol for all that is luxurious, frivolous, gay, viscious, and artistic. I thought: "Really, Paris is not Paris after all; it is only a collocation of stones." The idea, though obvious enough, was very striking for a minute or two.
|View from Sacre Coeur|
|Renoir: Bal du Moulin de la Galette|
Schwob said that in the evenings it was the resort of whores like other bals. A tremendous climb (we had a difficulty in getting a driver to take us). Inside: stuffy. All the walls seemed to be covered with trellis work on which creepers grew very sparsely. Crowded dancing hall, with a sort of aisle for drinking on either side. The monde ouvrier was certainly there, dancing clumsily and perspiringly, and colliding with itself. Not nearly so graceful as the Bal Bullier. Band very brassy. Schwob said there were plenty of scoundrels - maquereaux, thieves, apaches, till-robbers etc. but I doubt it. The company looked innocent on the whole, though I thought I saw a few wrong 'uns (men). Afterwards we climbed up into the garden, and I saw the old wooden windmill (with its date 1295) garlanded with electric light apparatus.
Much the same view of Paris here as at Sacre Coeur but better. One could see Mont Valerien, a 'frowning height', and one had also glimpses over the hill of Montmartre to the north - of factory chimneys and then hills.
All this part of Montmartre (north of the boulevard exterieur, that is to say) had a character of its own. It was like a place by itself, a self-contained village. Not many cabs got up into those steep picturesque streets, nor omnibuses. Schwob said it was 'old Paris'.