Friday, May 20, 2011

Climbing Notre Dame

Its taken a few days for me to update this since I've been busy wrapping things up in Paris and traveling to Belgium, Brussels to be exact.  In my last post I mentioned that I was planning on climbing Notre Dame with some intense students who were looking for more adventure.

I remember taking a group of students to Florence a number of years ago for Washington University in St. Louis where I taught for a few years.  The suggestion of climbing Notre Dame instantly reminded of climbing to the cupola of the Duomo.  That climb is a brutal one.  Consisting of over 400 stairs, the dome is tight climb and at points the stairs follow the curved structure of the dome.  When returning from the top you often cannot see several steps in front of you as the stairs curve so severely you have to lean backward to avoid falling forward.  I remember walking the spiral staircase, over and over again until I felt dizzy.  We would often have to stop and everyone was winded and slightly claustrophobic.  By the time we arrived at the top, everyone was sweating and glad to be outside seeing wonderful views of the great city.

For those interested, I read a book during that trip by Ross King entitled, Brunelleschi's Dome.  The book is an incredible read and I enjoyed it as much as his other books. King goes into great narratives describing the contest to procure commission and an array of mechanical inventions that were necessary to resolve placing the dome.

I was thinking about that climb and wondering how Notre dame might compare.  Several students and I got off a metro stop early and we slightly got mixed up in locating where the church was from the stop.   Once there, we had to wait in line before starting the climb.  Once inside, we climbed a little before reaching a bookstore/ gift shop where you could stop to buy souvenirs. Here's Annie, Andrew, Britt and Adam stopped to look and a pic of the dome inside the shop.

The climb was lots of fun, at least as stair climbing is concerned.  Luckily, after climbing Montmartre, Notre Dame pales dramatically from the Duomo.  You do seem to walk in a rhythmic cadence that seems to go on forever.  Here's a vid of the last few climbs before coming out on the first level.

Once on top, the view was really magnificent. At first, we believed this to be it- that we had reached the highest summit we would be allowed to climb.

It was great to Sacre Coeur's Cathedral, where we had just been, on the horizon line to the right.

I thought it might be interesting to give a bird's eye view of the height from this level so I wrapped the cord around my wrist and held it out over the ledge.

Here are some additional pics that are a little more rare.  I love the fact we were able to see these views!

As we started climbing yet another level, the bells began to ring.  It was incredible to feel the vibration under our feet.

Once inside, you could climb some wooden stairs to see one of the bells that was inoperable.

Back out we continued to climb the whole way to the top providing the most stunning views of Paris!

In this pic you can see Sacre Couer in the background on the hill.

One last pic of the Notre Dame Climbers! Andrew, Britt, Annie, Adam and myself.

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