When you hear the word Paris, what's the first thing you think of? Probably the Eiffel Tower or maybe even the Davinci Code. For me, one of the first things I ever learned about Paris was flying buttresses. I have no idea where or why I learned about them but, for this reason, when I think of Paris, I think about the church of Notre Dame.
I did the Notre Dame visit during my last trip to France but, even though I'm not really a church-type of guy, I wanted to see it again, especially after having visited so many other Gothic churches. From what I understand, Notre Dame is the finest example of French Gothic architecture and probably one of the most famous Gothic churches in the world. The inside is nice mostly for the massive amounts of stained-glass windows and Gothic arches.
Where it really shines in my book is on the outside--especially 'round back where you get a great view of the flying buttresses:
The buttresses are the arch-shaped "wings" that extend from the walls out to columns built up from the ground. I'm not an architect but the flying buttresses are built this way to allow the walls to be both thin and have large openings (for lots of stained glass windows) while simultaneously preventing them from collapsing outward under the weight of the structure itself. Like I said, I have no idea why I learned about them when I was a kid but I'm glad I did and am even happier that I got to see them for myself.
In addition to the buttresses, there are some other cool things to see outside and near the church. For one, I love this super-so-eerie statue of Charlemagne, which because of his rough look, could be Charlemange:
Finally, in my previously-unannounced quest to find every location in Europe that has a painting or sculpture of a headless John The Baptist, I was glad to find one that's right outside the front door of Notre Dame:
Enough of this French architecture and culture crap, let's go get some chocolate!!!