Paris I have an inability to sleep in late. I can be going to bed at three in the morning after a night out and find myself awake again in five hours unable to turn over and drift away again. I had planned to sleep in slightly on the Wednesday but sure enough there I was a seven o’clock blaring about the bathroom.

Flicking through the guide book, I found the only tourist attraction open at eight in the morning was Notre Dame Cathedral. I’d planned to skip this. My home city had one of the greatest cathedrals in the world. They all tend to look the same after a while, and I wasn’t that interested. But at 8:30 in the morning I’m trudging towards it’s thudding immensity.

There is a queue leading to the tower. I remember having been up the Eiffel tower and the Arc de Triumphe. I wonder how much more of Paris I can look at from on high and pass in favour of the inside. But again they were there, the tourist groups. As I attempted to navigate through a group from Sweden I was reminded of the moment in ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ when our gang are cornered and surrounded by thousands of braying orcs. All are taking photos, but of each other, very close up. They could be standing anywhere. In protest I throw off some shots of the gargoyles. Although none of them are singing, strike one against the Disney interpretation.

The light inside is very low. As I enter, the loudspeakers inside, all winy and unfocused are telling us ina variety of languages not to make to much noise so that we disturb the worshippers for whom this is their local church. I buy one the many official; gudie books and start to walk around.

To one side are trees of candle holders. I leave a donation and light a candle. I’m not religious in the traditional sense. Nondenominational spiritualist if you must know. So I stood by the candle and thought about how the world could be a better place if we just talked honestly to each other instead of resorting to violence all the time. I mostly did that because the loud speaker came on again asking everyone to be quiet, and two teenagers were yabbering incoherently into mobile phones.

The guide book isn’t easy to follow. Although it’s been translated and re-written well in English, the actual directions aren’t very clear. At few times I sand by statues reading the blurb only to find I’d been looking the wrong pieces. Some of the stories do resonate however – the reason there is so much so so art in there is because every year for a particular festival something would be donated. They were the equivalent of giving a tin of Co-op Baked Beans to the school harvest festival.

After a while I realize I’m not actually enjoying myself. The cathedral is spectacular and everything in it amazing. But I’m just looking at things. I’m not actually taking anything in. And whenever I am interested in something, someone else comes and stands in front of it, or a guided talk sweeps by and I’m distracted. About halfway through I glance at my watch and decide I’ve seen everything I want to see. I’m longing for the peace and quiet of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. It’s simpler, but more contemplative.

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