The quintessential Parisian experience that tops everyone's list of things to do is to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower and see the entire city at your feet. What many don't know is that you can see an even better view from the top of Notre Dame Cathedral.
When my family visited Paris in 2008, my sister and I really wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. However, seeing as it costs €13,40 per person to take the lift to the top, my mom vetoed the idea. After a little research, we found that Notre Dame Cathedral offered a chance to climb the 387 steps to the top of the South Tower and see the city from a height of 228 feet — for no charge! So we went up the well-worn stairs, tracing the path traversed by hundreds of others since the cathedral was finished in 1345. (Note: High heels are not conducive to climbing these steps.)
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As we emerged from the stairwell, we were confronted with a breathtaking view of the city, ironically dominated by the Eiffel Tower. The gargoyles snarled at us from their eternal perch, and the apostles looked upon us with sage eyes. We could see over all of Paris, the vista marred only by the mesh fence put up to keep children from falling over the railings. The Seine flowed serenely past as birds darted overhead and cars slowly inched along the crowded streets. It was truly breathtaking. Back into the stairwell, we went up another flight of stairs to see the giant bell stored in the tower. My sister ducked under the rope and ran up to touch the bell, much to the annoyance of both my parents and the officials there to prevent that very occurrence. Back down the one flight and out again to walk around the top of the cathedral. I happened to glance toward the inside, away from the city and saw the green statues of the twelve disciples (one of them is backwards) along the top of the main building. Originally copper, they turned green over time.
Finally we had to go back to the ground. As we started down the spiral staircase, which was as well-worn as the one leading up, my sister made a troubling discovery. Because she was wearing Heelies©, she had difficulty getting down without slipping and falling down the rest of the stone steps. Perhaps it was divine retribution for touching the bell. After we reached the bottom of the stairs, we emerged back into the hustle and bustle of Paris and left the gorgeous cathedral behind us. The view, however, will remain locked in my memory.
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