The City of Light in Four Days, Part Two

DAY 2 Paris: We Score a Touchdown At Our Lady of Paris

**Becauseitzthere is typically a hiking and outdoor adventure blog. But from time to time we will feature other sorts of travel and leisure on these pages. In other words…fu fu travel. And it don’t get no more fu than Paris.**

Day Two was perhaps our favorite day in Paris. We had in mind to visit the third chapel named after a famous football team that we had encountered on this trip to France. This one was somewhat bigger than the others.

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Note Dame de Paris, as it is officially called to differentiate it from the many churches and other institutions that bear the French phrase for “Our Lady.”

Just as we walked into the square, the bells began to toll.

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The South Tower of Notre Dame de Paris. Completed in 1260 AD, the cathedral was the tallest building in Paris for 600 years until Eiffel tower was erected in 1889.
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Norte Dame sits on an island in the Seine. The famed flying buttresses in the background of this photo were actually added a century after the cathedral was built.

Our itinerary included a tour of the towers of the Cathedral…which most tourists do not attempt, probably because one must climb 387 steps up a narrow, spiral stone staircase. There is no elevator…self-serve only.

But after eleven days of the Alps, heck, what was one mere stone tower to us?

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It doesn’t get more Goth than this…actual Gothic architecture.
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Notre Dame was built in an age where religion was the dominant institution in society, and much of Europe was still pagan. It was designed to instill a sense of respect — and fear — for the power of God.

The tour ascends the North of the Cathedrals two towers, stopping along the way in – what else – a gift shop.

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Yet another in the endless parade of ‘good doors.’

Eventually you reach a high balcony where they are fine views if the city, which might have been a lot finer in the days before they were caged in wire for safety’s sake.

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No surprise that anybody who worked here ended up a hunchback.

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Note the gargoyle rain spout in the foreground.
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View through the wire.

There are also remarkable views of the Cathedral’s spire, both towers and some of the grotesque gargoyles that adorn the church’s elaborate rain gutters.

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These figures are gargoyles, not a roofing crew taking a break.

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We stopped in for a view of a pair of the Cathedral’s ten large bells, which are impressive. Standing in this belfry is rather ominous, especially because there is a tour guide sitting in a sound proof booth wearing ear protecting headphones. You would NOT want to be here when these things start to go off.

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Too long spent in this place and you are gonna need a hearing aide.

After stopping to see the bells the tour continues to the South Tower, eventually going all the way to the top. Here, the view is truly impressive…in fact, Brian thought this to be the highlight of the entire Paris section of the trip. From here Paris appears splendid, somehow better than from the Eiffel Tower…and the feeling of exposure is great.

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North Tower photographed from the South. It is slightly larger than its companion.
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The view from the top of the Notre Dame South tower is extraordinary.
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The cage of wires was not present in Victor Hugo’s day, when a fall from a great height was thought to build character.

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Brian being told to ‘suck in (his) barriga!’

 

Despite the fact that 12 million people visit the cathedral a year — making it THE single biggest tourist attraction in THE single biggest tourist destination on the planet – the tour did not feel very crowded. It was the only place we went where we felt there was actually some room to move around without standing in the way of someone else’s continual parade of selfies.

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Self serve elevator going down.

After the tour we descended the endless spiral of the staircase and joined the endless procession of people winding through the Cathedrals front doors. NOW we felt part of the twelve millions.

Inside was more like a football game than a church. The simple lack of respect showed by many of the tourists was staggering…many weren’t Christians I am sure but, for gosh sake, it’s a house of SOMEBODY’s God, regardless of what you think. Show a little respect and put away the damned phone for five seconds.

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The vast (and crowded) interior of Notre Dame de la Paris.

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The South Rose Window, which likely dates to the 1260’s.
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The Cathedral’s impressive pipe organ, which was completely rebuilt in the 1990s
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Middle aged Cathedrals usually were equipped with at least one holy relic for prestige. The box in the lower part of this photo contains an alleged fragment of the Crown of Thorns once owned by this guy.

It should be pointed out that while the racket and commercialism in the cathedral today are disconcerting, they are not without historical precedent. In fact, during the middle ages the church might have been even MORE packed and louder still, complete with legions of homeless sleeping in the naves and merchants selling wares in the aisles. Notre Dame was probably never a peaceful place during the daytime. I sure would like to come back and see it when the crowds are gone.

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A statue of (Pope) Saint John Paul II

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Not sure who this guy is. The patron saint of dummies?

After touring the cathedral we walked around Paris’s endless maze of narrow streets before returning to the neighborhood of our hotel to do – what else? – sit in a café and enjoy the evening.

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Brian asked Sylvia to get a picture of him where he looked relaxed and spontaneous. 257 takes later we ended up with this.
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The ‘good doors’ just keep on coming in Paris.

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We had two more busy days ahead of us.

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Next Up: Day 3…We Finally Reach the Sommet!

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