Thursday, August 04, 2011

Notre Dame - Underground and Up to the Top!

***No quilting in this post, I am continuing with my Paris Tour!***

On Tuesday morning, Naomi and I got up early, ready for our first day of "real" sight-seeing. We had decided the night before to take the easy road and eat breakfast at our hotel instead of struggling with trying to find a cafe. So down a set of spiral stairs we went, not sure exactly what we would find, but comforted in knowing that we would be able to nourish our bodies before starting out on the days adventure. We were thrilled with the breakfast available - fresh juice (the best orange juice ever, we both wanted to drink the whole pitcher!) yogurt, cheese and ham slices, and wonderful coffee! After we seated ourselves at a small table a hostess came and brought us each three rolls on a plate - one hard roll, one regular croissant and a chocolate croissant! Yummy, yum, yum. There was no one else in the breakfast room and we contentedly ate and chatted, planning our excursion of the day. I think another family came in midway through, but they were not american, so did not visit with us.

After eating, we set out for the metro, this time fully confident we could find our way. I believe this is the morning that we spotted our banks atm machine, just down from the stop - very convenient! We boarded the metro, (thankful for knowing the stop this time) - we wanted to find the Tourist Office, but only knew the metro stop. So we bravely got off at the Pyramides station and exited. We were momentarily lost, but quickly spotted our destination, stepped inside and purchased our 4-day passes. I highly recommend purchasing one if you plan on doing a lot of museum hopping as we were. Not only did we save a lot of money, but we also saved a lot of time, as often we were able to enter the museums through a special line without waiting long. Not everywhere unfortunately, but at many places.

We entered the courtyard of Notre Dame, and unfortunately I had forgotten my headphones so we were forced to use the guidebook instead of the audio guide. This was a little more difficult, but fortunately the entire guide is the same, so it worked out. We both enjoyed learning the history and reading details about what we were seeing, so it was something we enjoyed and we felt like it gave an added depth to our experience. It's impossible to tell the scale of the church from pictures. It's absolutely breathtaking, not only the sheer size, but the detail is awesome.

As you can see we arrived earlier than most of the crowds! For the rest of the day this courtyard was jam-packed with other tourists! I am glad we were able to get some pictures before it got busy - this is me, with the same big cheesy grin I wore for most of the trip. This is near Point Zero - the center of Paris.

This is a close up of the statues at the bottom of the rose window at the entrance of the church. It depicts Mary cradling baby Jesus, with Adam and Eve. It was fascinating to read about all the statues and carvings! After spending some time just taking in the front of the church we took a quick detour to check out the Archeological Crypt. It was fascinating to see the remains of Roman ruins and see how the city of Paris began hundreds of years ago - there were some signs and explanations in English, but a lot was in French, and most of the interactive displays were broken. It was included in our Museum Pass, and didn't take long, so we didn't regret our visit, but were ready to see Notre Dame from the inside!
By the time we re-entered the courtyard a line had formed for entry. We joined the line, which seemed quite long, but in reality only took about 15 minutes. The inside of the church was so lovely - very large, and despite the people there was a very hushed and reverent atmosphere. I took a lot of very blurry photos, but like this one of one of the windows. All of the windows tell a story, so one can spend a good amount of time, just looking at those. There are many statues (we spotted another Joan of Arc!) and historical artifacts to be seen.

Outdoors once again we walked around the right side of the cathedral where there is a small park with benches where you can sit and relax. As this day was a rainy one we didn't linger long, but enjoyed taking a few more pictures and proceded to the rear of the church to use the facilities, then around to the left to join the line to climb the tower! The line stretched around to the rear of the church, but wasn't moving very quickly. After seeing the lady in front of us finishing up a sandwich we decided to do the same and eat our lunch in line. The lady turned out to be from Australia, and we ended up having a very fun chat - both of us happy to find someone who speaks English that we could share with! Naomi came back with lunch - Croque Madame, and Ham and Cheese Crepe. Yummy! I never would have thought about adding a fried egg to a sandwich, but it was delicious. The rain came in little spurts, but not too bad. I was glad for my raincoat! Unfortunately the Museum Pass does not give you an advantage here and we had to wait in the same line as everyone else.Every once in a while the line would move forward in bursts. We later realized that they can only allow a certain amount of people up at a time - the tower is only so big and can only accommodate a limited amount at once. It was a nice wait, and good company with our new friend!
I was really glad it didn't rain hard, if it had we would have had to move away from the side of the church, as these chimera would have started spitting water on our heads! Finally we rounded the side of the building and entered the gate to climb the tower. To get there we had to ascend a very narrow (just over the span of my arms!) spiral staircase up about a million stairs! And then you are just in the gift shop! At this point our new friend discovered that she had waited for two hours to climb the stairs when she though she was going in the cathedral - wonder how many people this happens to? Pretty easy mistake to make as there are no signs outside!

Once in the gift shop you wait until enough people have cleared that the next batch can go up to the tower - an even narrower staircase - you can feel the wear in the stairs and your foot barely fits on the actual step! Another million steps, the stairs just go round and round with an occasional small window. You have no clue when you will get to the top so you just keep climbing and climbing because there are people behind and you don't want to look like an old woman that just turned step out a small door and look out on the most spectacular view! I had to stand for a while and just breath. My legs felt like rubber and my heart was pounding so fiercely I was afraid they would have to carry me down (how in the world would they do that down that little stair case?) Whew....but it was worth it! After catching my breath I was ready for the final assault to see the bell - wasn't going to miss that after making it all this way!
The spire of the cathedral from the tower. The green statues include the 12 apostles along with the architect of the spire. He is looking toward the spire, the apostles look out. Interesting, right? Although everything is still wet, it was just overcast and drippy. Now it's time to go back down the stairs...easier, but I was more worried about taking a tumble on the way down.
And a look up at where we had just been! 387 steps to the top, not a million. Still, a hard climb, and just the beginning of all the stairs we ended up climbing during our trip!One more look as we continued on our walk of Historic Paris. As you can see the clouds are starting to break up and the day is getting more pleasant!

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