We took a very short ride, narrated by Sylvie, to the Pompidou Centre where we would begin our walk to Notre Dame. The Pompidou is a building that is literally constructed inside-out to maximize it's interior space for art exhibits and the like. The effect, however, is an uncanny resemblance to a colourful oil refinery (which is how Parisians lovingly refer to it). An interesting competitor for Sylvie's narration: a young fellow standing near us in the almost-empty square training his pet falcon. That was pretty cool.
Sylvie led us the short distance to Notre Dame, where the outer square was already coming alive with its infamous 'gypsies' selling tin Eiffel Tower souvenirs, cheap postcards, and opportunities to get suckered into the 'my mother/father/sibling is in the hospital and I need money to get them home' scam. Some things never change, it seems. So long as we didn't make eye contact, none of these entrepreneurs were a bother.
We soon met up with Alex outside the cathedral, for we would be among the first groups of the day to trace the path of Quasimodo up the stone steps of Notre Dame. After 10 minutes of idle chit-chat, the rope dropped (that's a Disney joke, folks!) and we started our ascent of 422 stairs. Having warmed up on the first few dozen steps, however, we were waylaid in the cathedral's imaginitively-placed gift shop as the Holy Keepers of the Cathedral Gifts made change for the tourists and (presumably) readied the rest of the stairs for us. Nice touch.
Up the narrow stone spirals we went and, soon, we found ourselves on the narrow walkway that joins Notre Dame's two towers part-way to their tops. The view of Paris, the magnificent gargoyles, the blue-sky weather - all breathtaking. To see Paris from this vantage point is to risk never having the will to look away. We needed to move on, however, so we we took a detour up some wooden steps for a quick look at Notre Dame's infamous bell. It's big and I was glad that it's only used on special occasions (our visit not being one of those). Sitting next to the bell in a chair was a young fellow - likely in his late teens - whose job it was to, well, sit by the bell. I suppose if one of us had actually touched the bell, our young friend would have sprung into action. Since we're good Canadians and follow all the rules, I guess we'll never know.
As we exited the Batobus at the Eiffel Tower, Sylvie and Andrew led The Gang to a special elevator queue for those lucky enough to have a restaurant reservation. Mere mortals would need to wait in line for a few hours before their turn at navigating the Tower's tiny elevators. After (yet another) half-hearted Parisian security check, we were whisked up to Level 1 for lunch at the fashionable Altitude 95. The meal, the service, the view - simply incredible.
After our lunch, some of The Gang (my family included) opted to follow Andrew on the stair climb to Level 2. It really was an easy climb for everyone (the stairs are not steep). At the risk of runing surprises, those of us with Sherpa-blood coursing our veins were rewarded with commemorative coins for our efforts. Disney does think of everything, you know.
Being the good parents we are, by 10:30pm we thought we should return to the Hilton and check on the kids. They were about to seal the deal with Mr. Sandman when we got back, so we ended our own day with journal updates and some expensive beer from the mini-bar.