After my epic jaunt around Villiers on Saturday morning, I was feeling pretty tired but determined to carry on touristing and not waste the rest of the day. I had lunch back at the apartment and then off I went, fed, watered and ready to go.
Of all the things I wanted to do in Paris, Notre Dame was a biggie. I’d been to see the Sacré-Couer a couple of years ago, but we never managed to see the Notre Dame. And also there’s the Disney film… So going to see it seemed like the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
I made my way there on the métro (which I’m loving, but that’s for another post), and came out at Place Lépine, opposite the Préfecture de Police. Ordinarily I would be surprised that a police headquarters is in such a beautiful building, but after a few weeks I’m coming to realise just how important beauty is to the French. Not to generalise, but it seems really important.
I’m rubbish with directions, but thankfully, Notre Dame is pretty hard to miss and just around the corner, there it was.
As to be expected, the square outside the cathedral was packed with tourists, and the queue to get in was huge. I was quite content to wait, and was fascinated by the amazing carvings and statues above the archways. My (not so) inner nerd always comes out in these places, and I was really enjoying reading about the history and meaning behind each figure in my guidebook, when finally I reached the front of the queue. Also singing, ‘The bells of Notre Daaaaame’ in my head. That too.
Inside was beautiful, it was much less gaudy than the Sacré-Couer, and a lot darker, with a couple of huge round stained glass windows that reminded me of York Minster. I wanted to sit in the pews quietly for a few minutes, but someone was playing really sinister music on the organ, which kind of ruined the mood. And there’s not much more to say about the inside of the cathedral, except that it’s worth a visit. And to avoid the scary organist on a Saturday afternoon.
After looking around the cathedral I decided I wanted to try to climb the 387 steps of the tower to see the view. The queue outside to climb it was a bit too long for me though so I decided to give it a miss and come back another time, perhaps when the weather is better.
I knew Notre Dame was on an island in the middle of the Seine, but I hadn’t realised that there are actually two islands, so decided to explore the second a little after not being able to climb the tower. I wandered over the bridge to the Ile St-Louis, which really felt a bit like going back in time and like nothing on that little island has changed in about 50 years, which I loved. I made my way towards Berthillon, which my guidebook had assured me did some of the best ice-cream in Paris, and wasn’t disappointed. After another queue, I got my two scoops – one chocolate, the other praline – and made my way back over to the métro.
I crossed over the Pont … Something, enjoying my ice cream, and could see the tip of the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame in the distance. I’ve been so excited to be here ever since I arrived, but just then, I felt so incredibly happy and lucky to be having this experience.
And also couldn’t get ‘The bells!’ out of my head.