July 27: The Charming Sparrows of Notre Dame

Today we set out to visit Notre Dame cathedral. Anticipation was high -- Benny read a sanitized version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame before we came to France, so he knew the basics: hunchback, creepy priestly dude, gargoyles, and bells. Sadie also had a strong desire to see Notre Dame, whether she just liked the pictures she'd seen, or just its prominent place in brochures and web sites... I'm not sure. We used the Metro to jet over to the Chatelet stop. This meant we could cross the river at Pont Neuf, where D'Artagnan tried to protect Constance from the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers. Which was awesome for *me* but no one else has read the book at this point.

For all the sight-seeing we are doing in Paris, we have been warned balefully that the lines will be long and the waits intolerable. We are, after all, doing Paris in the absolutely worst possible month/week/whatever to do Paris, so we should just decide now that we're going to spend the week in a line. Notre Dame was not too terrible though. After gazing for a while at the facade, we went inside very quickly.

A million people better than I am have taken pictures of the inside of Notre Dame, and I refer you to them for spectacular photography. Of the ones I took, this one is a favorite, however. Sadie sat down on this little curve on a pillar, and she said, "This is a good seat for a little girl" and I said, "It's possible that a little girl sat down on that seat a thousand years ago." I mean, not REALLY, right? But almost. She was sufficiently awed by that.

We went back outside and Benny won the "find the guy with no head" contest, and we located the line to climb the towers, which stretched right down the block on the side street on the opposite side from the river. Wow, it was a real throat-stabber of a line. Benny and Dan sat in the line while Sadie and I rummaged around in the conveniently (?) placed souvenir and ice cream establishments across the street.

We finally got in and started up. I thought the most beautiful part of Notre Dame was the eastern end of it, the exterior of the apse, where you can really see those flying buttresses. I didn't take a picture of it, but here's one someone else took. As we climbed the towers, we had a view of these statues, which I thought were just lovely:

Here's my picture of the famous gargoyle that people like to think is Victor Hugo's narrator:

Here's the entrance to the bell tower, where Quasimodo would have ducked inside to climb up and operate the bells:

Here's Benny with the big bell, not the same one that would have been there when Victor Hugo toured the church, but of a similar dimension:

But the best thing of all happened when we got back down and outside, because we found these amazing clouds of sparrows that would sit on the children's hands and eat. It was so interesting and delighting that we stayed forever. However, Sadie was not able to get one to light on her hand -- she was a little afraid and didn't really stretch out there. Here's Benny holding a bird:

Here's Sadie on the subway going home. She loved, loved, loved the Metro and insisted on standing up all the time, hanging onto the pole like a real urbanite. It was pretty adorable.

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