"" Writer's Wanderings: Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

Friday, October 30, 2009

Paris - Notre Dame Cathedral

One of the best guidebooks I would recommend for any European trip is a Rick Steves’. We bought the one for Paris and stuck little adhesive bookmarks in the places we were most interested in visiting. Armed with that book and a good map of Paris, we set out for Notre Dame Cathedral, the start of the historical walk outlined in the Steves book.

Notre Dame is impressive from the outside and beautiful on the inside with its huge arches and intricate stained glass windows. Bob had downloaded the audio walking tour from the Rick Steves’ website (yes, we really like this guy) so we donned our earbuds mine attached to the MP3 player, Bob’s to his Iphone and began our tour.

As we stood in front of the huge cathedral and looked up at the twin towers, we admired the various points of interest pointed out to us all the while keeping an eye on the hunchback who was looking for tourists ready to pose for a picture—for money of course.

Moving closer to the front entrance, we located Point Zero, a plaque set into the square that is the center of France from which all distances are measured.

Entering the cathedral, it takes a moment for your eyes to adjust to the dim light but once inside, you begin to take in the huge arches and the richly colored stained glass windows. A single voice chanted serenely, the angelic tones floating through and around the huge pillars of the sanctuary.
This is a Gothic cathedral. Heavy pillars support the arches. The walls are gray except for where paintings or wooden reliefs adorn them. The stained glass windows appear delicate in contrast.
Outside again, we walked around to the side of the cathedral and peered up at the flying buttresses, the gargoyles, the fancy downspouts of the era. They represented souls caught between heaven and earth. Thankfully we didn't have to worry about them spitting out rain water at us. But for just a few moments, I had to think about Victor Hugo surveying the same area and imagining his precious hunchback hanging out on them as he put together his famous story.

It was time to move on and we started our recording again and rechecked our map. Just behind Notre Dame is the Deportation Memorial built to remember the 200,000 French victims of the Nazi concentration camps. Unfortunately it was closed this day. The Steves guidebook describes a long hallway illuminated by 200,000 lighted crystals. Borrowing from a Chevy Chase movie, "I can see it in my mind." The picture in the guidebook helps too. Onward. . .

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