One of the reasons I chose our hotel was it’s proximity to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is France’s most popular attraction and I wanted to make sure that I was among the millions of visitors to experience its magnificence.
We are not a religious family and convincing my family to visit this landmark wasn’t going well. Finally, Kai agreed that “you do not have to be religious to appreciate a beautiful church.”
We walked over first thing in the morning to beat the lines. Fortunately, there was no line to enter the church other than a quick security check. Kai and I joined hundreds of curious tourists in touring the interior perimeter and chapels of the massive church. The interior corridor has constant church services or which we were able to hear a portion of one. It was all very spectacular.
I was really most interested in climbing the 400 steps to the belfry, so upon exiting the church, we set out to find the entryway to the stairs. We found out that we needed a timed ticket and that the next available slot wasn’t for several hours. We booked the slot and then walked uptown to reconnect with Kiki and Jeff.
They spent the morning to visiting the Centre National d’Art et de Culture George’s Pompidou, an iconic modern art museum named for a former president of France.
Featuring works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, Edward Hopper and more, the Pompidou was a favorite stop for both Kiki and Jeff.
Kai and I had enough time to take the 10¢ tour before meeting up with Kiki and Jeff at the Stravinsky fountain, followed by another delicious lunch (beers!) at a sidewalk cafe.
This was turning out to be a marathon day. Kai and I had paced ourselves well, finishing lunch just in time to dash down to Notre Dame with minutes to spare for our entry time to the belfry stairs. I am so glad we made it!
My body was aching terribly from the uptick in activity that my old lady body had seen the last week. I thought the stairs were going to kill me and was resolved to die on the Notre Dame stairs, however I was pleasantly surprised. Both the of us took the stairs in stride with our dozen or so stair buddy compadres. The initial climb of 300 or so stairs took us to the roof level, complete with the iconic gargoyles and a sweeping view of the Paris skyline.
It was simply amazing. A must see sight. The route snakes you and all of the others along a narrow meshed in open-air corridor in which you can look down upon the roof of the church or outward toward the city and the river Seine. Around a bend, we came to one of the two belfry towers, with a tiny arched door to crawl through and two flights of rickety stairs leading to the two massive bells. I couldn’t help but imagine Quasimodo hiding Esmerelda right where we stood. I hope she wasn’t wearing heels.👠 Sheesh.
When we arrived at the opposite corner, I assumed it was to descend back to the square. But I was wrong. Another 100 or so spiral stairs took us to the exterior rim of the belfry for more gargoyles and more amazing views. I admit that imagining each wedge of a stair as a giant slice of cheesecake 🍰 gave me the mental fortitude to make it that last little bit. And, of course, it was all worth it. Up and down, round and round with no shin splints. (I’m talkin’ to you Saint Paul’s Cathedral 😕 circa 2015.)
As if all of the above were not enough, our time in Paris was running dry and we still hadn’t made it to the Louvre. So…. Jeff and I returned the kids to the safety of the hotel for a marathon visit. This time, I had much better luck with the Metro, riding just a few stops and emerging directly across the street from our destination. We entered through the secret squirrel entrance (thanks Chrissy for the tip) and immediately began searching for the Mona Lisa. It was a journey, winding through some of 35,000 pieces to the Italian paintings wing.
Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci between 1503-05, the Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Therefore, it is also the most popular painting in the museum, with six million visitors yearly.
We waited our turn for a glimpse. I am so glad we did.
Jeff and I may not be serious art buffs, but I’d say that we have more than the average knowledge and appreciation for works of the masters. We also have quite the knack for renaming works in such a way that kept us both cracking up in a very Beavis and Butthead sort of way.
Damn, Americans. 🇺🇸
You thought we were done for the day, didn’t you?
Oh no, my friend. We still had a boat ride on the Seine to accomplish. So, we collected the kids from the hotel and attempted to take the Metro to the Eiffel Tower area.
The good news is that we found the correct train. The bad news is that after two of the scheduled three stops, the train stopped and announced that service was terminated and that we were to disembark. Furthermore, from what we could tell, there would be no train to our planned destination for another 45 minutes. We had a boat to catch, so we found our way to the surface and hoofed it the rest of the way.
What we did not know at the time, and would discover later in the evening, is that the Metro workers had a planned “intermittent” strike. It was supposed to begin at midnight, but ‘eh, 20:00 is close enough, no?’
We found the tourist boat without incident. Unfortunately, we were not the only ones with the idea of crushing the river at sunset. The lines were massive and the boat was crowded. Initially, it was, quite frankly, a hellscape.
Once we settled in, it was a nice peek into an electric “run-of-the-mill” Wednesday night in Paris. Every bit of the river bank was alive with excitement. From the dinner parties occurring on the boats moored along the walls, to the never ending groups of picnicking couples and groups of friends with blankets, beers and baguettes. There was music galore. From school band style groups, to drum circles to swing band orchestras complete with swinging dance parties. And all along the way there were cheering, laughing and happy people. I was so mesmerized that I didn’t take any pictures.
By the time we returned the city was lit up with lights and the Metro was boarded up. 😯
Luckily, though we were unaware of the Metro situation, the taxis were fully aware and were queued up around the boarded closed Metro entrances.
We grabbed a taxi back to our neighborhood, had a fantastic late-night Italian dinner and were off to bed by 1 am (Paris-style).
When all was said and done, I had walked 24,000 steps (9.73 miles) and climbed 51 floors today.
Tomorrow, it is au revoir Paris, Hello Dublin.