I had briefly seen Notre Dame from the shuttle after arriving in Paris on the way to my Hotel and the people were thick outside waiting to go in!! This morning I arrived at about 8.15am and there were very few people around at all...
My first glimpse as I came around the corner of the beautiful facade was breathtaking...more stunning than I had imagined!
I walked into the church and they had beautiful music playing and the sense of presence inside was overwhelming...it was truly magnificent, I was inside a church that was built in the 13th Century!
I wandered through and saw the amazing arched ceilings. the circular rose windows, the statue of the Virgin and Child known as "Our Lady of Paris" and the stunning alter. I have to say it was truly spectacular. There were those who had gone to pray as well as the growing number of tourists.
Afterwards I investigated outside and around the buildings to try and find the steps up to the towers as I wanted to see the famous gargoyles and chimeras that adorned the edges of the buildings. These had originally been built to help the runoff from falling rain stay off the stonework of the walls to protect them. I couldn't find any open gates...only a sign written in french which I found out later was the entrance.
I explored around the entire area and found at the rear of the church there was a beautiful park with fantastic views of the architecture of the buildings.
Eventually I made it back to the front and asked about the tower climb...it didn't open until 10am. The gates were still closed and no one was there so as it was now 9am I decided to go across the road and have a cafe au lait. NEWSFLASH...Don't buy anything across the road from a tourist attraction in Paris...haha...A coffee cost me 5.60 euro ($7.50)...the earlier one had cost 3.50 euro ($4.60)...a bit of a mark up for the view!!! Luckily it was a nice coffee!
New found friends ...I chose to sit outside the cafe to have my coffee and chose a seat at a table near a couple who were chatting and two men who were sitting together...as I sat down the two men began talking loudly to each other...they were two very "Ocker aussie blokes" whose language was very embarrassing for this australian who was sitting near them...I decided to sit very quietly and pretend I couldn't understand them and just drink my coffee. I glanced at the other couple sitting nearby and caught the eye of the lady who was listening to her brother make comments in english about our two friends...he of course got caught out because he had assumed I would not understand him but I smiled at his comments and then a smile of recognition passed their faces and we whispered to each other to ask if we were also aussies...which of course we were!! A conversation about the image of the australian tourist that these fellows were portraying made us all laugh and cringe!! We began our own conversation and the two aussie blokes realised that we were speaking english and their conversations became much quieter!!! Hahaha..it was a very funny experience indeed.
The positive spin from all of this was my introduction to Lesley, from Adelaide and her brother Peter who had come from the States to visit her and celebrate her birthday... We sat and chatted for almost an hour and I thoroughly enjoyed their company.
As it was now 10am I left to go through the gate to climb the towers....or so I thought!!
Had I waited at the gate while it was empty I would have been first in what had now become a very long line or so I thought! Chatting to people near me I discovered that this was really only a very short line...the previous day they had arrived to find the queue going down the street and around the corner...so I was thankful once again for starting the day early.
The queue waiting to climb the tower
I waited for about 30 minutes to gain access to the tower and began climbing some stairs...the pace was fairly slick as people from behind were coming and they didn't want to go slowly...the stairs went on and on and on and on some more...getting steeper and narrower as we travelled higher and higher...400 steps in total...huff, puff, huff...I must do my research a little better next time!!!
I was thankful that it was a fairly mild day, about 24 degrees, but unfortuately the humidity levels were very high...by the time I got to the top I was dripping wet!! (and puffing, just a bit) The interesting thing was that once you started up you couldn't turn back and they didn't check peoples ability to be able to make the climb...the lady in front of me tried to climb with a cast like boot on one ankle...fortunately for her...and everyone else... she found a little space to stop and have a rest on the way up...I have no idea whether she made it down again or if she is maybe still there!!!
Fortunately the climb was worth it ... the views from the top were spectacular despite the cloudy skies! And I was very excited because I got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance...
The Montparnasse Tower is almost where I began my day's walking...
The gargoyles and chimeras were just as magnificent as I had hoped they would be!!!!
Now for the 400 steps down again and to try and find a drink of water...I'm thirsty!!!