Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Piece of Paris Beauty

When traveling through Paris, it is a must that sightseers visit the beauty that is Notre Dame. Not visiting this sight is like not visiting the Sistine Chapel while in Rome. This piece of Gothic, French architecture stands at well over 400 ft tall and has 422 steps for visitors to climb.

West Facade of Notre Dame
Don't think that 422 steps wasn't going through my mind when I learned that we would be climbing to the bell tower. This is why I suggest to anyone who wishes to visit Notre Dame, please do not do it on the same day you visit the Arc de Triomphe. Unless you have legs of steel and thrive on the gym's stair climber, you will regret doing them back to back. This was a lesson I learned the hard way on my little trip.

Nevertheless, the line that forms outside the cathedral, you will see is for all those willing to take on the 422 step task; all so you may see a breathtaking view of Paris, from atop the bell tower. Given that you will experience amazing views when atop the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomph, looking out onto the Paris skyline and streets below, when standing atop Notre Dame; it is a sight that every tourist should see.

When climbing your way to the top, you will travel upward in a spiral motion. If you are unsure as to why I mention this little tidbit, it is because when you get to moving on steps like these, especially ones that are so close together, you tend to find yourself climbing at an enormous rate. It is almost as if you feel you will fall forward if your feet don't keep up. A little over halfway up, I had to stop due to my lungs feeling like they were about to pop and my legs feeling as if they might buckle at any moment. Please do not read this and convince yourself that it is not worth it if you have to endure this kind of climb...I assure you, I did not die and after a few minutes of deep breathing and waiting, I finished the climb and was presented with a beautiful Paris view.

Stepping onto the bell tower area, your eyes take you immediately to the outward view, overlooking the west side of the cathedral. Those down below will see the two large towers standing before them, statues depicting Christian apostles, the bridge that connects the two towers, and the infamous west rose window.

For those standing atop the bell tower, the sights of the gothic gargoyles are enough to make some wince with fear, while others stare in awe of their beauty. Half man and half beasts, these creatures prove to be one of the most popular and notable aspects of the cathedral itself.

Moving along through the narrow walkways, you may get a small glimps of the bells that live in Notre Dame. Both towers have bells that are rung for holidays and/or church services. Don't expect a close look as there is only a small space that you  may look through. And unfortunately, you won't find Quasimodo standing in there preparing to ring the bell while yelling out the words, "SANCTUARY!"

South Rose Window
Making your descent down the steps, you once again, reach ground level and are now able to venture inside this ancient building. Naturally, the feel of peace and serenity overcome you and you are transported into a holy sanctuary where numerous historical and religious events took place. The great organ is the largest in France and sits in front of the west Rose window.

Visitors can find unique paintings, elegant furniture, and more statues inside the cathedral, such as The Pieta. The original is said to sit inside St. Peter's Basicilia in Rome, but a copy of it sits inside Notre Dame. A large cross sits behind a saddened Mary who is sitting with her arms open while a dying Jesus lays in her lap. In my humble opinion, it is one of the most powerful and humbling depictions I have ever seen. For anyone who is a Christian, this statue brings about a slew of emotions. Then, so does being inside one of France's greatest religious structures.

"The Pieta"
Leaving the cathedral, I felt a sense of excitement wash over me, realizing that I had just been inside such a historical place. If you haven't gathered by this point, history and I go hand in hand. To be able to visit these historical sights and actually see and feel the places where so many historical figures stood, you can't replace that feeling or memory. Even for those who are not history buffs like me, Notre Dame provides so much for visitors to see and experience...even if part of that experience is climbing 422 steps!

9 comments: said...

do you mind if i print out a few of your pics for our homeschool study of france? my pics are old & not digital & seem to be missing! got to spend a month in paris when i was close to your age- now 40! teaching my kids about it & sharing all the travel i can with them even if it has to be more local adventures most of the time!

Nicole said...

Sure! I don't mind :)

Chunky Knubby Navel said...

Oh, I am so jealous of all your traveling!


Hostel Tinktinkie, Santa Rosa de Calamuchita said...

Hi Nicole, you are quite right! I was limited for time and did both in one was too much!!!! Notre Dame is a must see...if you haven't seen it, you haven't been to Paris :)

Love your photos!!!


Jet-Setting Divas said...

Wow! 422 steps?! I take the elevator to the 2nd floor! (Lazy I know lol) great photos! I love the architecture ans stained glass. Found you on 20sb travel junkie group. We have a travel blog too but we haven't been to paris or italy yet! Hope you can check it out!

Meri said...

Love the photos from the bell tower- well worth the climb! I'm not afraid of a few stairs :)

And what would a travel blog be without a Mark Twain quote? Ever read "The Innocents Abroad?"


Nicole said...

No I haven't but I'll have to check it out! Thanks for the add and the recommendation :)

Ada said...

Notre Dame is great! Unfortunately the bell tower was closed when I visited. I was bummed to miss the gargoyles, but sounds like my legs were spared! Great pictures!


Hi, I'm Rachael said...

I love all things Paris! Thanks for sharing your experiences! Glad to be following your blog!

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