THE VIEW FROM NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS

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On the horizon to the north: the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre.

On Monday 15 April, Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris caught fire. As pictures and videos of the conflagration circulated on Twitter, it seemed as though everyone, including me, was in shock.

I lived in Paris for ten years, but it wasn’t until after I’d moved to Belgium in 2011 that I returned to climb the south tower of Notre-Dame [ETA: Then again, looking more closely at these pictures, it might have been the north tower] as research for a short story I was writing for the mosaic/anthology Zombie Apocalypse: Fightback, created by Stephen Jones. In my story, a British fashion blogger describes a zombie takeover in Paris, which forces surviving humans to flee to the Île de la Cité, in the middle of the river Seine. The narrator and some of her friends take refuge in the south tower of the cathedral, from where they can see the whole of Paris. I recorded the view in these photographs. It was a late afternoon in October, and I was very lucky with the weather, which provided clear but interesting skies.

The mass trauma and heartbreak of seeing a world-famous historical landmark in flames subsided somewhat in the days after the fire, as it turned out that the brave Pompiers de Paris (who always seemed to be doing push-ups, usually stripped to the waist, on the concourse of their fire stations when I walked past – not that I’m complaining) had managed to save the cathedral’s essential structure, including the two bell towers, and several billionaires stepped in to offer eye-wateringly huge amounts of money towards the restoration – incidentally making many of us non-billionaires wonder why they’d never done the same for world poverty, or for planet-threatening climate change, or for the three black churches destroyed by arson in Louisiana. But hey, billionaires gotta billionaire, I guess.

ETA: The variations in exposure are due to some of the photos having been exposed for the sky, and others for the ground; when I was taking them, I did both. I used a mixture of Apple Photos and the Nik Collection to adjust shadow detail. Sometimes I decreased the saturation. I was using a Panasonic DMC-LX5 which has a superb Leica lens. Lately I’ve fallen into the lazy habit of taking photos with my iPhone, but if I’d taken these with an iPhone I would never have got anything like the same sharpness and detail, especially with the zoom.

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Looking down at l’Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu, Île de la Cité.

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Looking north: directly below the gargoyle is l’Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu. Behind it (to the right and in front of Sacré-Coeur) the Tour Saint-Jacques.

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Looking north to Sacré-Coeur. Slightly down and to the left is l’église Saint-Eustache (round the corner from the road with all the Agnès B. shops) and immediately to the right of that: the glass roof of Les Halles (which has since been refurbished). In the middle of the photo, the structure that looks as though it’s covered in scaffolding is the Centre Pompidou, otherwise known as the Beaubourg arts centre.

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Looking north towards Sacré-Coeur, le Tour Saint-Jacques and Beaubourg, with Notre-Dame’s Galerie des Chimères on the right.

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Looking north-east. See that white structure just to the left of the base of that central statue? (I think the white must be some kind of covering for restoration work.) That’s l’église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis on Rue Saint-Antoine. For two years I lived right next door to it; I could hear organ music from my toilet.

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In the foreground to the north-east: the église Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais, in the 4th arrondissement. The radio tower on the horizon in the background is the Tour hertzienne at Romainville, Les Lilas.

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To the north-east: l’église Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais, with the Pont Louis-Philippe on the right.

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A better view of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis on Rue Saint-Antoine, with its distinctive dome. So that’ll be Le Marais to the left of it. Not sure what that wooded area to the north is. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, in the 19th? (Too big for Belleville, and Père Lachaise is further east.)

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Looking north-east over the rooftops of L’Île de la Cité towards L’Île Saint-Louis.

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Looking east over the Île Saint-Louis and the 4th arrondissement. If you look very closely (about two-thirds of the way across, just below the horizon) you can make out the green Colonne de Juillet in the Place de la Bastille. (Not sure what that large modern structure is to the right of it; seems too big to be the Opéra Bastille.) Beyond that are the 11th and 12th arrondissements.

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Looking east at the 19th century spire that was destroyed in the fire.

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The spire of Notre-Dame, which collapsed during the fire. Luckily the statues had already been removed during the restoration. At the easternmost point of L’Île de la Cité is the underground Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation. Looking east beyond that: le Pont de la Tournelle, le Pont de Sully and le Pont d’Austerlitz. The modern buildings in the background by the river are part of the 12th arrondissement.

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Looking south-east, from the 5th arrondissement to the 13th, which starts at the Gare d’Austerlitz. The big poster on the left is on L’Institut du Monde Arabe. Just behind it is the arch of the Viaduc d’Austerlitz, and behind that the covered Pont de Bercy (traffic AND métro). What looks like twin towers in the background are in fact the four towers of the Bibliothèque François Mitterand, right next to my favourite Paris multiplex (which you can’t see here). The dark and ominous-looking high-rise building is the Tour Zamansky, or Tour Jussieu, surrounded by the notorious Jussieu campus. It took nearly 20 years to remove the asbestos from it; I think the place might be back in use now.

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The wide angle has warped the horizon, but I’m including this photo for completist reasons. Looking south-south-east over the 5th arrondissement, from the Jussieu tower, via the high-rises of the 13th arrondissement in the background to l’église Saint-Étienne-du-Mont to the left of the dome of the Panthéon.

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To the south: the Latin Quarter and the dome of the Panthéon, last resting place of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola and (belatedly, in 2002) Alexandre Dumas, among many others. I used to stay in the Hôtel des Grands Hommes, in the Place du Panthéon, chiefly because the name amused me. But there are also a few “grandes femmes” interred in the Panthéon, including Marie Curie and Simone Veil.

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The Panthéon, to the south.

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Looking south to south-west over the 5th and 6th arrondissements, from the Panthéon to the Tour Montparnasse, which marks the cusp between the 6th, 14th and 15th arrondissements, more or less.

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To the south-west: l’église de Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and le Tour Maine-Montparnasse, more commonly known as le Tour Montparnasse. As the old joke has it, the top of this monolithic high-rise provides the best views of Paris… because you can’t see le Tour Montparnasse from it.

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The 5th and 6th arrondissements.

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Looking south-west: l’église de Saint-Séverin.

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To the south-west, just in front of the gargoyle’s nose: l’église de Saint-Séverin, with the twin towers of Saint-Sulpice in the background to the right.

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Looking south-west, from the Tour Montparnasse to Saint-Sulpice to Les Invalides.

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To the west, to the left of the Tour Eiffel: the golden dome of Les Invalides, site of the tomb of Napoléon Bonaparte.

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Looking west over le Pont Saint-Michel and the beginning of the Place Saint-Michel.

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On the horizon to the north-west: the high-rise business district of La Défense.

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That building in the foreground is the Préfecture de Police, where I had to go to get my Carte de Séjour. Across the river, in the background to the right: the Louvre. On the horizon, to the north-west: La Grande Arche de la Défense and the business district of La Défense.

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Looking down at the Parvis Notre-Dame; opposite the Préfecture de Police; Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu to the right.

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My short story Paris When It Sizzles (rather an unfortunate title given the events of 15 April) was commissioned by Stephen Jones for his mosaic/anthology Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback, published in 2012. Please click on the cover image to be taken to amazon.

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Paris When It Sizzles can also be found in Amuse-Bouches, a selection of short stories by me, available for download from smashwords. Please click on the cover image to be taken to the smashwords page.

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One thought on “THE VIEW FROM NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS

  1. Pingback: BLOOD PEARL: CAMILLOGRAPHY VOLUME 1 | MULTIGLOM

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