la pauvre cathédrale de notre-dame de paris . . . et splendide
La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is sad. It is a church, after all, with a long, impressive, religious and secular history. Tourists, huge numbers of them, not the faithful, flock to it en masse, but not for mass.
Along with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Sacre Coeur, it is on most tourists’ must-see lists when visiting Paris. One cannot go to Paris and not see the Notre Dame Cathedral.
What do you say to a friend after returning from Paris, when he asks, “Did you see Notre Dame? What did you think?” You did not go? You decided it was not worth it. “What? You went to Paris, and you did not see Notre-Dame?” How do you respond?
A similar reaction would happen with the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. All are iconic and one does not go to Paris without seeing them.
It is difficult not to engage it. Notre-Dame rests in the middle of Paris on one of the two islands splitting Paris into the right and the left banks; and when you exit the most central metro station Saint-Michel Notre Dame, la voilà. There it is. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Arriving from any point on the compass except the west, one sees those dominating towers, as one comes closer the magnificent ornate entrance welcoming all, and then the thousands of tourists, milling about on the parking lot-like surface in front, taking photos and selfies, or who are lining up along the north side to enter. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris makes me sad. It seems diminished somehow. That history, those glorious days of another era which extends back many centuries, has settled into a backdrop for selfies and to a to-do item on a must-do list.
Having said that, I relish my visits to La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris. I make sure I see it during each visit. Furthermore, I recommend to my friends that they go but with a caveat. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Do not approach Notre-Dame from any direction but the east or southeast or northeast. Avoid seeing it for the first time from the west, from the sterile entrance grounds. Explore from the backside or the south side adjacent to the Seine River.
Few tourists venture to the backside. One can sit in a park there under some trees and relax. It is one of my favorite recommendations for rarely visited places in Paris.
As to the front of La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris, I suggest avoiding it and keep only the memories (and selfies) of the other three sides. One can say with due diligence that a visit has been paid. Check.
Start on the south side, walk along the Seine and around to the park on the east side and continue around to the the north side. Stop. Do not go any further. Turn to the right and follow some streets to the Marais.