An old story goes that the Cathedral of Notre Dame was wired with dynamite by the Nazis near the end of World War II. A low ranking soldier was commanded by his superior to trigger the detonator and blow up the Cathedral as the Nazis withdrew from Paris. As the Nazis evacuated Paris that low-ranking private just kept looking at Notre Dame in all its beauty. He looked at this building that had taken two centuries to build. And he couldn't bring himself to trigger the explosives. He couldn't bring himself to blow up Notre Dame. He couldn't bring himself to blow up something of such great beauty and grandeur. He unplugged the detonator, packed up his stuff and evacuated with the rest of his unit.
Notre Dame is truly that beautiful. At all times of day. At sunset it glows pink with the reflection of the sun.
It is free to enter the church. But we wanted the full experience and purchased timed tickets to climb the bell tower. Another day, another climb of very old stairs. 387 steps! Over a hundred more than the Arc de Triomphe. Paris was getting us in shape.
Since our tickets were timed we didn't have to wait in line. We sat and enjoyed a tea and coffee at a cafe directly across from the north bell tower until it was our turn to go up. Notre Dame uses an app to notify you when its time for you to get in line. Very convenient.
We climbed up the winding staircase and exited into the first bell tower. Huge bells. Old and ancient and impressive. Then we walked along the terrace between the two famous bell towers. This provided great views of the city and of the roof of the chapel. Then the bells began to ring and they were awesome. It was awesome to be standing there by the bell towers as the old bells rang.
But we weren't done. We climbed even more stairs up the south bell tower. We went all the way to the top of the tower which provided even more spectacular views.
We eventually made it down and exited the tower section. We then got in the line, which moves pretty fast, to enter the actual cathedral. Just massive. Gothic cathedrals were specifically designed to make you look up. These massive buildings were designed to make you feel small, to know your place in the universe. To know your relationship with God.
I've been in a lot of Gothic cathedrals but this one was special. It's the oldest one I've seen. It's also the biggest I've seen. The ethereal light of the rose windows was...well, I really don't have the words.
We bought our son a copy of Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris, more commonly known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He likes reading and we thought he'd enjoy a copy of Hugo's work actually purchased in the bell tower of Notre Dame.