Room with une vue manifique

Tonight I had a rare glimpse inside a Parisian apartment, overlooking one of the oldest treasures in France – Notre Dame Cathedral.  The story begins in the city centre, near Boulevard St Germain on the Paris Left Bank.

Paris enhanced 21These are some of the many upmarket apartments lining the River Seine as it winds its way through the historic heart of  Paris. All roads here lead to Notre Dame. The Gothic-style masterpiece on a tiny island in the middle of the River Seine.  Construction began in 1163.  It took 100 years to complete.

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One of those lucky to be living in this area is Madame Anny Duthoit (above).  Several generations of her family have occupied a riverside apartment on Quai de Montebello.

We met by chance.  On my first night in Paris, I was photographing Notre Dame from the street.   I turned and spotted her across the road,  struggling to push her shopping trolley through the front entrance of her apartment building.

I ran and offered some help. I then asked if she knew of somewhere high where I could take more photos of Notre Dame.  She thought for a moment, and then kindly offered to get me inside.

It turned out she had an apartment at the very top, on the 5th floor.  And amazingly, she invited a complete stranger to see the view.

But first, we had to get up there. Madame took the coffin-size elevator – I had to struggle up five flights of stairs

Paris enhanced 24Here is her amazing living room, packed with family heirlooms and treasured memories. There are three sets of French doors in this room.  They all open onto a single balcony with jaw-dropping views of the Cathedral, the river and Paris. Wow.

Paris enhanced 25This is the amazing view I got when she opened the first set of doors to the balcony. From the living room  she has a clear view along the entire length of the cathedral. In the centre, you can see the Cathedral’s famous (and massive) south Rose Window – a gift from the French King in 1260.

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