Our fifth day of spring vacation, Wednesday, was the day we had breakfast pastries from Gerard Mulot – and they were excellent, the best we had on the trip – and as I mentioned before, we ate croissants for breakfast every single day. I was caught by surprise by John’s selection; he’d gone to choose some and bring them back to the hotel while I showered, and the items in the bag looked like our normal standards, one plain and two chocolate croissants. I took a bite or two of my chocolate one, and thoroughly enjoyed its crisp-tenderness. I commented to John that it seemed more buttery and moist than some of the others that we’d tried, and asked to have a bite of the “plain” option just to compare, and as soon as I bit into it, it exploded in oozing butteriness. (OK, it didn’t actually detonate, but – Whoa.) I noted that it was tasty but probably, for me, over-the-top buttery.
John then took a bite for himself, chewed thoughtfully, then casually remarked that he thought he probably should have gone with the “croissant naturel” instead of the “croissant au beurre” – i.e. the plain croissant rather than the butter croissant, which has extra butter folded in as it’s shaped. It was very funny, more so for me because before that, I didn’t even know such a distinction existed. Who knew? But anyway – immoderately buttery or not – everything we ate was very delicious and we highly recommend G.M. pastries.
Crossing over to the island (Ile de la Cite, on which Paris originated) we had more beautiful river views, although the morning was hazy and pale.
In this photo, you can see Ile de la Cite on the right side, at the end of the bridge; Ile Saint-Louis on the left; and the
south side left bank of the Seine in the middle, between the two islands.
The island is not big, and a few moments after we’d crossed the bridge, there we were!
And the obligatory self-portrait. (We saw so many famous places on Wednesday, I may have gone a little overboard….)
The cathedral itself was stunningly huge (like all cathedrals of its scale). It’s overwhelming to walk inside and see the massiveness of it, and to realize the effort and dedication it must have taken to create.
The rest was all gorgeous stained glass, arches, fancy brickwork and murals on the chapel walls… I have quite a lot of photos, and I will only include a few here, but maybe in the future I will post more.
There were “small” rose windows on both of the transepts’ facades:
and beautiful statuary and wood carvings and stone altars all around the aisles.
John showed me a spot from the ambulatory (in the very front of the cathedral, past the apse/altar area) from which you can see the main rose window in the front facade. There’s no other place inside from which you can see it, and most people miss it entirely. It was impossible to get a good photo with my fixed focal length wide-angle lens, but at least I got *a* photo. Here it is!
My favorite things were definitely the arched ceilings:
… the black and white checked floor that has worn away unevenly over the years:
(I don’t know what they are, but the white stone must be substantially softer than the black stone.)
… and all the mysterious little doors and windows and hallways – it looks like an explorer’s paradise, if only one were given free reign to look around. What’s behind this half-sized door in the wall?
I’ll never know. (Although at this point, it’s probably something like a cleaning supply closet, not a tiny chamber with faded papers on a desk and ANArKH carved into the wall….)
What I did not expect was the size of the crowds. I was very glad we arrived early; although we didn’t do so intentionally, at least we had a little peace and quiet while walking through. By the end, it was startlingly packed. I wonder why so many people visit it … I was there, mostly, to both see the grandeur of the architecture and to imagine Claude Frollo stewing in his tower cell, and Quasimodo scampering up and down the walls, and the downtrodden mob fleeing the molten lead pouring down the cathedral’s front face. Despite some of the nearby restaurants like the Esmeralda, and the Quasimodo…
… how many visitors have actually read the book?
And further – how many visitors appreciate Hugo’s assessment of Architecture as the great art form of Paris (and of any society) that was being degraded and corrupted, and would soon be overthrown by literature? Looking at the crowds in Notre Dame, and the way that it has had to adapt to them – not too many, I imagine.
We hadn’t decided whether to climb to the top of the tower, but seeing the line for it as we exited (and the price they charged!) we scuttled that idea, and instead walked around the perimeter. I’m very glad we did, because it is beautiful from all sides, and much more peaceful – most of the crowd stayed in the entrance area. But the entire building is amazingly, intricately worked.
Plus, it really is positively teeming with gargoyles, which were fun to look at. There must have been thousands. Most of them were very high, and hard to capture without a zoom lens, but here are a couple of good ones.
The entire building was like this – absolutely bristling with them at every point.
In the back, I attempted more self portraits (as I’ve already posted) but the sun was extremely bright by that point, so most of them look a little silly.
I crack up every time I see this one; John got a look of intense concentration – Must. Not. Squint. – and what kind of face am I making? It beats me why I didn’t just put my sunglasses on.
Another cool thing we saw by walking all the way around the building was this bridge (Pont de l’Archeveche) full of padlocks.
Evidently the tradition is that if you lock your and your loved one’s name to the bridge, it locks in the love. (Or something.) Anyway, the bridge looked cool.
Once we reached the front plaza again, I snapped a last photo of the cathedral’s facade:
… and we were on our way to Sainte-Chapelle. Coming soon!