Yes, the title of this post is from a Disney movie that is based off the novel by Victor Hugo. I'm not ashamed to say that all I know about this indescribable cathedral comes from that Disney movie, but it's true. Before seeing it for myself, I knew what it looked like and that it was famous for its gargoyles, gargoyles that I really wished sang and danced like in the film. My first viewing of Notre Dame was during the night bike tour and although it was very pretty all lit up, my second viewing with the church standing against a backdrop of crystal clear blue sky was jaw-droppingly beautiful.
I don't know anything about architecture besides what I like and think is pretty, and Notre Dame is something I loved. In front of the cathedral there is a plaza where there are plants and benches and it's a place I imagine is packed on a sunny summer day. On this sunny November day there were a lot of people but not so many that I couldn't find a seat and gaze and gaze and gaze at the beauty of the church. I don't think there are any words that can describe how detailed and artistic Notre Dame is. There are hundreds of sculptures and intricate carvings on the front and the symmetry is outstanding. Sure it took 600 years to build, but even then I still can't imagine how the Parisians from so long ago were able to construct it. I tried to imagine, but since there's only so much the mind can take I had to stop. My mind would just be blown.
The inside of the cathedral was dark, but I was still able to appreciate the utter beauty of it all even if I couldn't get pictures that reflected what I was seeing with my eyes. I think my favorite part of the interior was the large stained glass windows on each side right before the altar begins. They were just really gorgeous and huge and pretty.
After I made my way throughout the whole sanctuary I exited the building and hopped in line for the climb to the towers. Because space is so limited up there only 40 people can be admitted at a time so the line moves steadily, but not necessarily quickly.
The staircase was long and spirally and I was very winded when I got to the top and my legs were definitely shaking, but the view was wonderful and seeing all the gargoyles up close was so cool!
Each one was so different and unique and although not terribly detailed, they had great facial expressions. Some were also animals or hybrids of animals instead of just scarwinged creatures or human-like creatures that have been depicted in the Disney movie or the cartoon series "Gargoyles." And as with all the things I really liked, I took way too many pictures of them.
The view from the cathedral was wonderful because I could see the two areas of the city I'd already visited (The Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur) and it gave me a different perspective of the layout of Paris.
While at the base of the bell towers you can enter the one on the right (facing the church) and go up and see one of the bells. They also explain how they are operated and how many men it takes to make them play. It was all very interesting. And of course I had a moment's flash to the movie where Quasimodo swings through all the bells to play them, and when he tells Esmerelda all the names he gave them.
After visitng the bells I then had to wait until the group at the top of the bell tower had descended before going up with my group. It was another spiral staircase and there wasn't much extra to see at the top, but it was still fun. The best part was being able to see the architecture of the flying buttresses and other elements from almost a birds-eye view.
The worst part was that you could only circle the top once and were limited to 5-7 min to see everything. Once everyone was done looking we then began the descent down the stairs to the ground.
Another part of the Notre Dame complex area was a crypt of an archealogical dig which uncovered and preserved the remains of the ancient city of Paris. There was a lot of information to get, but I couldn't grasp what the place looked like because it was so worn and it was like in a building that felt like an aquarium or zoo or something. Okay, that description sucked, but I can't really do better. I just didn't feel it. So I skipped the whole second half and headed to the Metro. On my way there I looked at the Mémorial de la Déportation which is a tribute to the 200,000 French who were deported to concentration camps. I also passed by Hotel DeVille, (and yes, I think of Cruella DeVille everytime I hear this, so what?) which is Paris' City Hall and it was pretty cool. Next stop on the itinerary...Place de la Concorde and the Musee l'Orangie.