The line to tour Notre Dame and climb to the towers was insanely long. Unfortunately, Notre Dame is also one of the few places that doesn't give priority access to Paris museum pass holders. But fortunately, the time for tours is extended in the summer months, so we decided to do an exploration of the Marais first to let the crowd dwindle.
The Marais is my favorite "boutique" neighborhood in Paris. I absolutely love the clothing and jewelry stores and paper shops, and I could linger all day on a few streets window shopping and popping in and out of les petits magasins.
We spent an hour or so wandering the Marais, and on our walk back to Notre Dame, we stopped at Pont de L'Archeveche, which is behind the cathedral. Pont de L'Archeveche has an amazing view of Notre Dame and the Seine, and it's also one of several lock bridges in Paris.
I don't know when this "custom" started, but the idea of putting a lock on the bridge with the love of your life and then tossing the keys into the Seine is cute (even if this article points out the obvious flaw in the idea). There were couples on either side of the bridge, "locking" their love and throwing keys into the river. How sweet. But the best thing I saw while we were there was a photo shoot taking place with a model dressed in black holding bolt cutters above one of the padlocks. Clever.
When we got back to Notre Dame, the line was shorter as we expected because it was around dinner time. We only had to wait for 30 minutes before we could enter the church and start climbing the 400 steps up to the top. That's right. Four hundred steps.
It's tiring, for sure. And because the sizes of the steps vary a bit from one to the other, and because so many people have walked up and down the spiraling steps to the point that grooves have formed in the stone, one's balance is a little thrown off. I held onto the rails and walls as I climbed up, and I admit that I did have to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. But the walk to the top is well worth it.
Once at the top we climbed more steps up the bell tower to visit see "Emmanuel" -- the name of the 13-ton bell (the main bell) in Notre Dame. I like to imagine Quasimodo ringing this beast of an instrument. And after ooh-ing and ahh-ing at Emmanuel, we walked back down the rickety stairs and continued our tour around the cathedral towers.
The towers of Notre Dame offer some of the best views of Paris and the Seine River. The view of the Eiffel Tower is gorgeous, and the river looks beautiful as it flows between the banks and beneath the bridges of the city. The Parisian rooftops alone are so picturesque that you could spend hours just staring at the colorful building tops. I think it would be fabulous to be one of the gargoyles sitting on top of Notre Dame, looking down at the awesome city below.