1-Moulin Rouge-RSYNOPSIS:  The Basilica of Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge and the Red-light District of Place Pigalle in Montmartre.

Flying through a night that gets cut by 6 hours and “waking up” from little more than sore muscles and a headache with which you have to face a full day has never been among my favorite things to do.  But it’s the obstacle you have to overcome going overseas.

Half the day had passed by the time I left Charles De Gaulle airport and after checking into my hotel there was little time to do much of anything.  I picked a site in the neighborhood and went to see the  Basilica of Sacre Coeur.  From one of the tallest mountains in the city Butte de Montmartre, you look across town and even the Eiffel Tower looks just like a small chimney in the distance.   Couples lounge on the grassy mountain and vendors are trying to sell more kitsch than imaginable.  Inside the church a choir of about 8 nuns was trying to get through a vesper service but rude visitors had to be shushed every minute by some ushers; to no avail.  It was a circus.  Tourists!  A world I try to avoid, but in Paris you just become one of them.  And so I joined them in taking pictures of the church while the service was unfolding.   The nuns had pleasant voices.  This could have been such a spiritual moment; but not at Sacre Coeur.

At the foot of Sacre Coeur, stretching all the way to Place de Clichy, the red light district unfolds.  Contrary to the clean delineations we like to make in the States between low and upper class neighborhoods, shopping districts, or commercial downtown areas – things here mingle a lot more freely.  This was a neighborhood as well as a red-light district.  There are bars next to strip clubs. There are clothing boutiques adjacent to sex toy stores.   And there are ordinary people, including children walking along the streets, not just horny customers and scantily dressed prostitutes.   Thank goodness!  As I had no idea when I started out where I was heading, I was able to blend in and “get through”. 

Not to be missed in the middle of this district, sparkles the Moulin Rouge, famous and known to me through the Impressionists.  I never knew it sported a windmill!  The symbolic significance of it escapes me.  Is it the futile chasing of love or the even more futile fight of imaginary enemies, as in the comic duel between Don Quixote and the blades of the windmill?  I have no clue.  I assume it still functions as a turn-on revue of sorts.  I was not about to find out.  

But what I found out was that after 8 PM most stores are closed and even the corner grocery shut its doors.  And so dinner consisted of a bottle of water from the hotel vending machine and a dry roll I had picked up at a bakery earlier in the day, with hopes of supplementing them with red wine and cheese…  Good night.