Paris vs. London…What Say You? (Part 2)

(See Part 1 for infographic and backstory.)

St. Paul’s Cathedral vs. Notre Dame

St. Paul's Cathedral and Notre Dame

  • If, like me, you watched with wonder the fairy tale wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer all those years ago, you will want to visit the actual site of that notorious event—London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.  (Even if you didn’t watch the wedding, you will want to plan a visit!)  The magnificent 66,000-ton dome, designed and constructed by Christopher Wren in the late 1600’s, soars above the city at a height of 366 feet.  The cathedral’s interior boasts ceiling mosaics (commissioned by Queen Victoria), an ornate canopied altar, and a number of monuments.  The crypt, located in the bowels of the building, is the final resting place for some of Britain’s most notable heroes, including the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Horatio Nelson.  It also houses a nice gift shop and a small cafe, where we paused for a quick lunch.  The highlight of any visit to St. Paul’s (in my opinion) is the climb to the lantern situated atop the dome.  From ground level, there are 560 steps which pass through three galleries.  The first is the Whispering Gallery, famous for its acoustics…two people can stand on opposite sides of the dome, whisper something against the wall, and be heard by one another.  It is not quite as simple as it sounds, but with persistence—and a little guidance from the employees stationed around the gallery—you can do it. Next, is the Stone Gallery, an open-air space 174 feet up that affords wonderful panoramic views of the city.  The stairs end at the Golden Gallery, a narrow perch encircling the base of the lantern 279 feet up.  The view from there is quite incredible.  For more information or to plan your visit to St. Paul’s, go to https://www.stpauls.co.uk/visits/visits.  My only complaint, if you will, with my visit was the regulation against photography inside the cathedral.  That is always a disappointment.
  • Notre Dame was at the top of my sightseeing list while in Paris but, due to time limitations and its location, we were unable to actually go inside.  Unlike most of the famous landmarks in Paris, Notre Dame does not accept the Museum Pass and, thus, no one is allowed to by-pass the line.  We had walked from Les Invalides, stopping at various landmarks along the way, and arrived at Notre Dame around 5 o’clock.  The line was wrapped completely around the square (Place du Parvis) and the wait to enter was going to be several hours.  With precious little time remaining before flying to Ireland, we opted to admire the iconic church from outside and hope to return and go inside another time.  We were fortunate enough to hear the bells chime while we were there, so that was a small consolation of sorts.  The exterior facade of the church is quite amazing.  The rose window, Kings of Judah, gargoyle waterspouts, and flying buttresses are exquisite and worthy of close examination.  (The history behind these architectural features—especially the twenty-eight Kings of Judah—is intriguing and worth researching before your visit.)  I have been kicking myself since realizing that I completely forgot to look for Point Zero—the center of France—near the front entrance of the church.  I’m sure I walked right past it, but my attention was on the crowd rather than focused on the ground. While I would have loved to see the cathedral’s interior and make the 400-step tower climb, the view from the outside was impressive and will have to hold me over until my next visit to Paris.  For information on touring Notre Dame, go to http://www.notredamedeparis.fr/spip.php?rubrique70.
View from St. Paul's Cathedral, London

View from St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

My pick:  St. Paul’s Cathedral… This choice may seem skewed since I didn’t actually go inside Notre Dame, but I am sticking with St. Paul’s unless and until a return visit to Paris changes my mind. I am partial to domes, however.

Check in tomorrow as I weigh the Seine against the Thames

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