Notre-Dame and Île Saint Louis

Trip 38, Day 13

Our major excursions today were to see the progress on reconstruction of Notre-Dame. From the fire of April 15, 2019; the fire broke beneath the roof of the Notre-Dame cathedral. By the time the structure fire was extinguished the building’s spire had collapsed, most of its roof had been destroyed and its upper walls were severely damaged. There was a superstructure of scaffolding on part of the roof as it was undergoing restoration. No definitive cause has been established, though an investigation has established that six electronic bells – which were apparently intended to be temporary – had been installed in the spire, with cables running from them in the roof space, may have short-circuited and started the blaze. The historic significance of this cathedral is hard to underestimate, it is intertwined with Paris’ and France’s history, the first stone was laid in 1163.

This is a picture from the exhibit lining the walkway that cordons off the structure. It’s hard to believe the entire thing didn’t collapse.

Notre-Dame during fire
Technicians hanging on ropes must disassemble and remove the 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that collapsed during the fire. Rope technicians work 24 hours a day.
No spire, yet. Lots of missing structure, no roof and scaffolding on at least three sides.

French President Macron reiterated his pledge that the cathedral would be rebuilt by the deadline of 2024 (2024 Olympics are to be held in Paris), and said that officials aim to hold the first service April 16, 2024. It took more than two years of cleaning and stabilization to get to the point where reconstruction could begin. Debris removed from the cathedral is being stored in a 25,000 sq ft warehouse. Obviously, it’s not possible to go inside (video) and the task of reconstruction is massive– every piece of the cathedral being removed is being cataloged, massive numbers of specialists are being used to clean and restore, where possible, sculpture and structural components and replace those that cannot be with new but historically accurate reproductions. Eight 100-year-old oaks will be used to construct the base of the new spire. “The Forest” of the Notre-Dame Cathedral was made up of over 1300 oak trees, some dating as far back as the eighth century.

Restoration and removal of debris had also brought about some surprise discoveries, such as the lead sarcophagus found 65’ underground. While it is to be studied in more depth, it could date from the 14th century.

Reconstruction itself is hazardous duty. Aside from workers hanging on ropes to remove the scaffolding in place prior to the fire (spire restoration) , they have to wear respirators because of the lead particles released during the fire and the pollutants that came from the fire.

But reopening doesn’t mean everything will be finished. Inside, it’s hoped that everything will be practically finished, that the roof will have been repaired, that the organ (which was not damaged by the fire) will have been remounted and tuned, and the interior design will be done; and the public will be able to revisit the cathedral and hold services.

The public has pledged enormous sums for reconstruction and two of France’s most wealthy businessmen have individually pledged a combined 300m€; nearly a billion dollars has been dedicated to repairing the cathedral.

From Notre-Dame (located on île de La Cité) , we walked across one of the bridges spanning the Seine to Île Saint-Louis (there are two natural islands in the river – Île de La Cité and Île Saint-Louis). We wanted some Berthillon glace (ice cream). It’s relatively quiet here on Île Saint-Louis today, the crush of summer tourism has not yet begun.

rue Saint-Louis en île

Some small shops are open, but a number are closed or only open a few days during the week.

Planning to travel with cheese? They can help!

As soon as you cross over the bridge to le île, cafés are advertising Berthillon. Our quest for Berthillon glacé demanded being at Berthillon itself. Which is closed until May 10th, three days after we leave. 🤨 We sacrificed and had some Amorino gelato, not instead, because there is no instead. It’s very good gelato, but not what we were looking for today.

From Île Saint-Louis, we crossed back over the Seine to walk by le Hôtel de Ville (city hall) , which is decorated with the Olympic Rings (Summer games) and to finally visit BHV. But walking along the Seine, you’ll see some things unique to Paris

Les Bouquinistes (book sellers)

And a unique soccer enclosure

BHV, it’s a department store that I’ve read about for many years but just never visited (across the street from Hôtel de Ville). I had the impression from what I’d read it was mostly hardware/home goods. But it’s really a lot more than that. Though not quite as chichi as Samaritan, it’s upscale and sells a lot of things like arts supplies (on one floor) you’d just never see in an American department store. Yes, they do sell hardware (basement) and you can mix your own colors of paint, buy cabinet fixtures, etc. No garden center😉.

From BHV, we walked to a nearby Eataly (Marais) for a snack since we had not eaten since breakfast. They have expanded to (at least) a few places in the US. Then back on the Metro to make it to Eric Kyser before they sold out.

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