When I turned eight, one of my friends gave me a toy set from that summer’s hit Disney movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” for my birthday. The central piece: a plastic replica of the world-famous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, the setting for the story. I remember playing with it until the colors faded from the characters’ pieces and parts of the cathedral broke off, which was also about the time I moved on to “Hercules” and “Mulan.”
Now, two decades later, I was standing in front of the real thing, majestic and historic and nothing at all like the bright orange toy I once played with. Even on a rainy Friday morning in October (post-Paris Fashion Week), the brick street leading up to the entrance was full of tourists who were awkwardly bending themselves backwards to get a picture of the towering cathedral.
The trek to the top of Notre Dame isn’t for the easily tired or claustrophobic—with about 200 steps up a winding stone staircase after standing in line for more than an hour—but the reward of seeing the intimidating gargoyles and chimeras up close is worth it.
Not up to the (physical) challenge? Use your time to walk through the main floor of the cathedral and gaze (most likely in awe, like I did) at the intricate stained glass masterpieces illustrating famous people and events in Christianity.