Monday, August 30, 2010

Friday in Paris--The Towers of Notre-Dame

Friday morning arrived early again, thanks to our alarm clock!  Our plan--to beat the crowds that line up to climb the towers of Notre-Dame.

We metro'd over to Notre-Dame, and there were only about 6 people in line at 9:15, so we had time for a morning espresso and crepe at a sidewalk cafe across the street.  We sat along the fence, enjoying our espressos while waiting about half an hour for the tower to open.  We were in the first group of 20 to be let in--so getting there early was definately worth it.  By the time the tower opened the line was snaking around the block!

Again, we were in for a climb--this time 400 steps up, and of course 400 steps down! It was worth every single step!

We started our climb at the bottom of the north tower, and stopped for a mandatory visit to a gift shop about a quarter of the way up the tower.  Of course, this was fine with me, as I never mind a little shopping!  After a brief look around the gift shop, and a very small purchase of a gargoyle fridge magnet, we were back to those spiral stairs.

At half way up the tower, we came to a door and there we were!  Those wonderful gargoyles were right in front of us, it was an amazing sight.  These funny looking beasts represent souls caught between heaven and hell, and are said to protect the church from evil spirits.  Many of them also function as rainspouts.  There are many, many gargoyles on Notre-Dame. Here are just a few of our favorites:

We then walked across the front of the church, between the two towers.  At the South tower we took a little detour around the side to the Bell Tower.  This Bell Tower houses the cathedral's largest bell, the 17th century great bell called "Emmanuel".  This bell weights 13 tons! It is only rung on major Catholic feast days, Notre-Dame has 4 other bells in the north tower that ring several times a day.  Here is the entrance to the bell tower:

Of course, more stairs--this time rickety, narrow wooden stairs up to the bell:

Here is that famous bell, which of course made me think of Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame"

After leaving the bell tower, more climbing, this time to the top of the south tower.  The stairs in this tower are very narrow and steep, and it was not an easy climb.  Of course, the view from the very top, with all of Paris before us, was worth it.  Just look at this magnificent view:

We spent about a half an hour ot the top enjoying this magnificent view.  It was also interesting to get a much different perspective of the cathedral architecture from this angle, especially the many decorative elements and the spire:

We had overstayed our 10 minute time limit at the top, so down (and down, and down, and down!) we went--this time in the much narrower south tower spiral stair case.  We finally reached the bottom-me on shaky legs and just a bit dizzy!

No rest for the weary, though--our next stop: The Deportation Memorial.  This memorial is dedicated to the 200,000 French citizens who died in Nazi concentration camps.

It is a very stark, bleak, prison-like space; meant, I'm sure, to reflect their experience.  This hallway is filled with 200,00 crystals, each one representing a French citizen who died.  At the end is the eternal flame of hope:

It was a somber visit, but we were glad we took the time to do it.
OK, now we were hungry!  We happened upon a great little crepe shop, and watched while he made our lunch:

I even posed for a picture with him--this time it was MY idea!  He thought it was pretty funny!

Just look at this crepe--it was delicious.  We shared this one crepe--it was plenty.

Now rested and fueled, we were off to see just a couple of churches.  The most impressive was Sainte-
Chappelle, which is said to have some of the most beautiful stained glass in the world.  This cathedral was built between 1242 and 1248, which is pretty fast, considering it took over 200 years to build Notre-Dame.
The exterior of this church is quite non-descript, and it is a very small cathedral.  But, oh , the interior!
It is very different than any other church that we have been in, in that it is not stone and marble--but brightly colored painted columns and ceilings:

The stained glass was amazing:

This wonderful cathedral is in the middle of a 10 year restoration--they are refurbishing each window to protect them from further deterioration.  Some of the best windows were "under cover", but it's great that they are preserving this treasure.

By now it was certainly "sidewalk cafe" time, so we stopped to give our feet a rest and get our usual afternoon refreshement--a nice cold beer.

Our last stop for the day--Le Musee de Rodin.  It is in a beautiful old chateau, not very far from our apartment:

It houses his great collection of art and antiquities, and of course his most important works:

The Kiss:

The Thinker:

We walked home from the Rodin, enjoying the little side streets leading to our apartment. We ate dinner "in",  and decided to go for a walk to watch the tower twinkle--and it did!

Another perfect ending to a perfect day in Paris!


  1. Another Perfect Day *** beginning through ending!

  2. Great post, and magnificent photos! Thanks.