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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

The Hunchback at Notre Dame

About 15 months ago my father and I made a trip to Paris followed by a roadtrip to Normandy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. It was an amazing holiday and one I won’t soon forget. It was a great time spent with my father doing something we both love: traveling.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting Notre Dame Cathedral. When planning the trip I shrugged it off as something I’d like to see, but didn’t think that it was exactly a vital part of the vacation. Needless to say, I was wrong.
We visited the cathedral three times in our four day visit to Paris and I know I could’ve easily spent more time. It certainly didn’t hurt that our hotel was nearby, causing us to walk by the church as we left, but we would’ve made the stops regardless. It was a wonder that we both enjoyed. I absolutely loved the inside of the church as I wandered around looking in the nooks and the separate side museum. I was in awe in this building as I thought about the history that it has seen over the centuries. And as my father pointed out, the uneven floor stones we walked on inside could have a great history of their own to tell.
The best of the three visits to Notre Dame was when we went up the bell tower to see the gargoyles. It was definitely worth the couple of Euros it cost us and one of the best parts of the trip for me. I loved looking out on the sprawling city of Paris and imagining how it was when the cathedral was first built; or, even more so, how it must’ve looked for Quasimodo as he swung from the bell towers during his lonesome existence.
Yes, I’m fully aware that Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a fictional novel, but it’s so well written that I can’t help but wonder if there’s any truth in it’s tale. After all, legends are derived from some element of truth so why not this one too?
As we waited in line to go up for our visit with the gargoyles I pulled from my camera bag Hugo’s novel and savored every page that I was able to read in the shadow of the giant cathedral. It’s not often that such opportunities arise where it’s possible to read a book at the place it was written about and I wanted to take full advantage. This was definitely one of the few times I was happy there was a lengthy line.
My father gabbed with some other Americans, and I tried to be polite and join in on the conversation on occasion, but reading Hugo’s book at Notre Dame was something I had wanted to do since the first time I picked it up, and I did not want to be deprived. I just had to read the tale of Quasimodo, Esmeralda and Claude Frollo under the watchful eye of the gargoyles while I had the chance.

I’ve thought about this opportunity many times since having done this, and it’s always brought joy to me. And I can’t help but think how it would be to read other great novels, in their entirety especially, in the places that are depicted in them; Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Moscow, or Joyce’s Dubliners in Dublin, or maybe even Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on a lazy riverboat ride down the Mississippi.
For me, it’d be a great treat with any one of them because I don’t know if there’s a better way to enjoy traveling than by reading about such places in literature while immersed in the very surroundings the story is about. And if ever given the opportunity, I highly recommend snatching it while it’s there, even if for only a few pages, and imagine what the author was thinking or looking at as they wrote their tale.
I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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3 Comments on “The Hunchback at Notre Dame”

  1. Claire 'Word by Word' March 12, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    I read Victor Hugo’s ‘Quatre Vingt Treize’ (Ninety Three) a reference to 1793 and the french revolution in the weeks before I went to the theatre to see a play of the same story, ok not quite like visiting a country, but almost, the play was naturally all in french, but I read the english version of the book and am pretty sure I would have been lost without it, especially as there is a large cast of characters which in the play were played by 4 people, so they played multiple roles, not always the same sex either. But I defintiely recommend the process and think reading books about a country/location is a wonderful and important thing to do.

    I recall reading ‘Paradise of the Blind’ and ‘The Sorrow of War’ while I was in Vietnam and both gave me a great appreciation that I would never have got from any guide book, also because they are written by people from that country and not outsiders.

    May you have many more such experiences.


  1. A Stained Glass Window in Notre Dame | Jason's Travels - September 14, 2012

    […] of the giant stained glass windows in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestStumbleUponEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like […]

  2. Travel Books to Read if You’re Not Traveling | Jason's Travels - June 3, 2014

    […] Jack Kerouac wrote a great many books. Perhaps his most recognized is On the Road. I thought I’d hate it, but picked it up because it’s one of those things you’re supposed to read if you like to read and write about travel. My preconceived notion was quickly pushed aside, largely because I now live in Denver and Jack wrote a great deal about his time here. If you’re unsure of how you’ll receive it, come to Denver and read it here. See the Kerouac sites as you turn the pages. After all, reading a book at the place it was written is always a great treat; I did it with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. […]

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