On this island in the Seine, the Romans set up camp more than 2000 years ago and "Paris" was born, according to some scholars.
The focal point on Ile de la Cite for most tourists today is Notre Dame Cathedral, a vast Gothic cathedral whose rear view is more captivating than any other for many of us.
A circle in the square in front of the cathedral marks 0 km, the point from which all roads in France are measured.
We were fortunate to hear a free organ recital one Saturday night at 8 PM during our visit. Check these recitals out if you plan a visit between now and the end of October 2013. The night we were there, the cathedral was full. The visiting organist was from Munich and outstanding.
We also had a Sunday morning tour with our guide during one of its 8 Sunday masses, so we also heard the organ again and a delightful soprano soloist as well, during the singing of the mass.
On the disappointing side, a large white, wooden grandstand has been erected on the plaza in front of the cathedral to celebrate the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame. While it gives visitors a chance to sit down and look at the west or main entrance, it blocks what was formerly a grand plaza that allowed visitors an opportunity to stand back and get a full photo of the main entrance and towers. Hopefully, this distraction will be torn down and removed when the celebration ends!
A word of caution to tourists: the area around Notre Dame, as well as other popular tourist areas in Paris, can be swarming with pickpockets and scam artists. Be alert and keep your money and other valuables in an inaccessible place.
These scam artists often work in pairs or more, especially small women of possible Roma ethnicity. One of their scams is to approach a person or persons with a petition wanting your signature. If you stop to look at it, another person often appears to distract you so one of them can reach into your pockets, bags or whatever. Say no and keep moving. Best to walk in pairs or groups, but always be alert.
Keep a money belt or similar in a safe location. Backpacks are an easy mark for pickpockets. Keep things on your front side, visible to you. Crowds are also good areas for pickpockets, so be aware of people pressing in around you.
Take these precautions and enjoy your trip!
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