As we’re wrapping up our time here, I’m feeling a little more relaxed about getting to see all the sights. It’s funny because last week we were rushing around everywhere to get in another neighborhood, museum, experience. This week I think we’re tired and I’ve realized that I will never see everything I want to in Paris and instead of that realization being daunting and overwhelming, I find that it’s freeing. Now I can just enjoy my last few days, soak in a bit more of my neighborhood, take some walks without a destination in mind, look out our window at the Paris rooftops each morning and evening, basically just savor the feeling of the city.
In the midst of all this savoring we did have two final sights we wanted to see: Paris Plages and Notre Dame. While we’d had so many picnics gazing up at the beautiful cathedral and spent evening walking past it, we hadn’t ventured inside and Scotty really wanted to climb up and see the view from it’s famous towers. We had also walked along bits and pieces of the beach scene set up along the Seine, even using the exercise equipment set up in one section, but we hadn’t really see the Paris Plages, or Paris beaches. The first of its kind, Paris Beaches is set up along a road that is closed down from July 14th through August 20th and turned into a beach with different sections. It’s a riot. I loved seeing people sunbathing on teak lounge chairs, kids running through mist machines, family playing in the sand. I guess that the scheme is being copied in other European cities and even Japan and is a huge success.
Next up was Notre Dame and a climb up over 400 steps to see the bell tower made famous in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. So we walk over there and I’m minding my own business when I feel this very smooth, hairless arm slip into mine. A bit startled I had a whole torrent of thoughts going through my head, first and foremost, “That doesn’t feel like Scotty’s arm.” So I looked over and completely freaked out. There was this really strange creature sanding arm-in-arm with me. He was crouched down and had this crazy head of white hair. I literally jumped off the ground and yelled “Oh my god!” Well the thing was I was in front of the entire large line of people waiting to get into Notre Dame and this nutty guy pulls this stunt to amuse all the impatient tourists. Of course, everyone was cracking up and laughing and I had to join them because I had totally been played. I didn’t get a picture with the guy but here he is minus the mask:
Next was our climb up this gorgeous landmark.
We were quite taken with the grotesques that adorn Notre Dame. Additions that weren’t part of the original cathedral but added in the 19th century, they’re so whimsical…and undeniably creepy. But I love how each has it’s own personality – some are contemplative, others grimacing, others just plain hungry. I really enjoyed the views as well, but it was the grotesques I enjoyed the most. And as a note, although these guys are often referred to as gargoyles, they really aren’t gargoyles at all. As any architecture student knows, gargoyles are decorated water spouts – often figures where the water rushes out of the mouth – creating a gurgling sound…thus gargoyles. As none of these is a waterspout they’re known as grotesques or chimeras. Interesting, no?
OK – now I’ll get to some pictures of the cathedral and the views.
Our climb to the very top was a bit frustrating as it seems both Scotty and I have something painted on our foreheads that says “Please cut in front of us. We don’t mind and won’t make a fuss. Please, really, go ahead. We don’t mind.” And apparently it’s written in neon orange because everyone cuts in front of us. And we don’t make a fuss. Even though by the time I got to the top I was boiling over inside. I don’t get it – it’s not like Scotty and I are tiny, little, or really short and people just miss the fact that we’re standing in line. We’re both pretty tall, not easily missed, but apparently entirely invisible in a line. And it makes me feel like this:
My frustration didn’t last too long though once we got to the top. It really was beautiful and fun to have a different angle on places we’d gotten to know so well on the ground.
It was a really great day. The pressure was off and we just meandered around, stopping for espressos to keep us going, picking out American accents in the crowds, trying to guess exactly where they were from. And then it was back to the apartment for some much-needed sleep.