Notes From Notre Dame

As I mentioned here I think Notre Dame is an absolutely incredible architectural beauty…

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Completed in 1345, Notre-Dame de Paris (which translates as ‘Our Lady of Paris’) is now one of the most iconic church buildings in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The Catholic cathedral (which is free to enter) is found on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité—one of two natural islands that still remain in the Seine within the city limits of Paris—which is in the fourth arrondissement. It houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics including a Crown of Thorns, one of the Holy Nails used to nail Jesus to the cross and a fragment of the True Cross itself.

(Prepare yourself…I’m about to get a teensy bit philosophical and wistful on you.)

As always happens when I walk into a church I find myself struck silent not only out of respect but also in awe. How is it possible that these masterpieces were built in a time when the constructors had only the most basic of tools? How is it possible that this much detail covers every conceivable inch? It’s amazing to see and puts into perspective just how many modern conveniences make the lives we live today so different from the lives of the people who built these historic, treasured works of art.

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Joan of Arc ^

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For me, though, the most captivating part of Notre Dame is the intricate, beautiful architecture of the structure itself which was built in the French Gothic style.

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Blonde in Grey (stripes) for scale ^

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You have to hand it to G. Very few people could capture such an amazing picture of a majestic pigeon in flight. Too bad it looks as though it’s slapping me a high five…in the face.

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Though the western-facing ‘front’ above is incredible, my favourite part has always been the intricacies of the Eastern-facing back of Notre Dame where you’ll find some of the first ‘flying buttresses’ ever built. Though they weren’t included in the original design, stress fractures in the walls occurred during construction which led the architects to build supports surrounding the outer walls of the choir and nave, a pattern that continued on with later additions and changes. Amazing to think that a mistake led to such gorgeous results!

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Surrounded on two sides by stunning gardens the Cathedral is only made more beautiful by the spring blooms that have sprung up around them! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)

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As the day grew warmer and some of us (cough *G* cough) grew tired of staring at stonework we went in search of a cooling treat and so headed across the bridge to the Île Saint-Louis, the second island I mentioned earlier on. Unfortunately, Berthillon – THE home of Paris’s best gelato – was closed for renovations but thankfully, as it’s in such high demand, it’s also stocked in other shops on the island and we were able to find some!

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Strawberry and chocolate for me, stracciatella (vanilla with fine chocolate shavings) and chocolate chip for G ^.

From there we wandered back to the ‘mainland’ to see out famous bookshop Shakespeare and Co. Unfortunately they have a strict no photos rule but imagine the most amazing bookshop in the world (bookshelves—primarily English titles—from floor to ceiling, rickety stairs staked with books that lead to a second floor reading room filled with cosy corners and cushions, tiny alleys of books from every genre and author imaginable – basically, heaven) and that is what can be found inside. With views across the water to Notre Dame and a café on site you’ll definitely want to stop in if you’re in town!

 

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