Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hanging out with Quasimodo

One of the most fun things to happen to me on any trip happened in Paris. Our hotel was very near Notre Dame and on our second visit to the Cathedral, we took the tower tour. This is a very basic sort of thing - for $20 each, you wait in a very long line, then climb up a whole bunch of stairs in the north tower. Upon reaching the top, you are funneled into the narrow bridge connecting the towers. Very tall chain link fences on either side of the walkway prevent the tourists from tumbling over the side and locked gates keep you from going anywhere except along that walkway and directly to the stairs of the south tower, where you climb back down again. 
The day we took the tour was beautiful. It was cold and sunny and clear and we waited in line with a hundred other people, climbed a bajillionty steps with them, and finally reached the top.
We oohed and ahhed and then I noticed the gate right next to us. I gave it a shove because that's what I always do when I see a gate and to my complete surprise, it opened. I am not one to ignore an invitation.  Five seconds later, I'm through the gate and it's magical. There are no fences, there are the creepiest gargoyles I've ever seen and they're RIGHT THERE. 

The kid and the guy followed me and it was just the three of us romping around the tower.  

We hung out for quite a while, poking around, touching gargoyles and taking pictures.  

At one point, I realized that I'd left the family behind and when I went back to find them, I saw the guy taking a photo of the kid holding a broom. They'd found it leaning against a wall of the tower and it had the name Quasimodo burned into it. 

By this point, a few other people had trickled through the gate, maybe five or six in total.  We hung out for a while and then I continued around the tower. Now I could see the walkway, packed with people and to my right, an open door. I stood there for a second, wondering what I should do when a guy in overalls came out the door and stopped in surprise. We kind of stared at each other for a second and then he said something in French.  I have no idea what it was but I'm pretty sure it ended with a question mark.  I made my very best Lost and Confused face.  He asked something else, I still didn't understand and then we stared at each other some more.  A second later, another guy came out the door, this one much older and clearly in charge.  He took one look at me and started yelling, arms waving, face going red, the works.  I was still doing Lost and Confused and then I added Feeble Shrugging. The older guy yelled some more and marched over to a gate that opened onto the walkway where everybody else was. I followed meekly behind and just as he's unlocking the gate, two more people pop out from around the corner behind me. The guy completely lost it. He pushed me through the gate and locked it behind me. Then he stormed the people behind me, yelling and shooing the other stragglers back around the tower and through the first gate we'd all come through. I could hear him yelling the whole time. He locked the gate, yelled some more, and stomped off. The kid and the guy found me on the walkway eventually, we took some tourist-approved photos from the tourist-approved location and that was it. We were safely part of the group and our self-guided tour was over. 

Always look for the unlocked gates.

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