The view of Paris city from Sacré Coeur at sunrise



Work at the same time on sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis... Don’t be afraid of putting on colour... Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression.
— Camille Pissaro

The impressionists studied light - the way it falls, the way it illuminates, and even the way it hides and shadows. They studied a thing that is ever-changing the world around us. From the time the sun rises, to the time it sets, the light it gives off is subtly changing our environment. To capture these changes, impressionist painters worked outdoors, focusing on tone and colour at the expense of drawing and composition. 

Claude Monet knew that the light of the early morning was one of the most beautiful: haloing all those things it touches, and sending pink shivers into the sky.

Therefore, what could be more special than getting to see Paris at first light?


After listening nicely to my mother's worries about dodgy metro stations at 6:00 am, I flew out the door and onto a metro carriage (which was quite safe and full of commuters actually). The sun had not yet peeked out of her bed-covers, but I knew she would soon be waking and I wanted to be at the very tippy top of Sacré Coeur for that wonderful moment. 

Exiting the metro car, I hauled-ass up 200 or so stairs, then, urged on by a pink dawn ahead, I raced through the cobbled streets to the back of the Sacré Coeur. 

I cannot tell you how beautiful it was, seeing the day sweep over that pink and grey mass of Paris laid before my feet. 

Each small apartment was flecked with gold: the light from thousands of windows twinkling out into the darkness. And I could hear all the noises of a city preparing for the day ahead - dump trucks rumbling in the distance, and the clickety-clack of vendors opening their doors. A smell, of baking bread, wafted along from some nearby boulangerie. And I shared this scene with only a few pigeons and some bundled up travelers. 

Suddenly, flaring above the horizon, the sun graced the world with her presence. She sent her rays into the church too, casting shadows of colour and pattern on the stone walls from the windows. 

It was one of those times when I felt overwhelmed by the sheer wonder of it all.


Running to catch the sunrise at Sacrè Coeur
Sacrè Coeur before dawn, in the blue of the night
Sunrise over the city of Paris, lamps still lit in a dusky pink dawn
Three friends watch the sunrise over Paris from Montmartre
The reflections of stained glass at sunrise inside Sacré Coeur
Sunrise on the cobblestones of Montmartre, Paris