Khoasimodo and the Bells of Notre Dame

Update: A massive fire broke out in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on April 15, 2019. Before planning a visit, check for current updates.

Perhaps it was luck – perhaps it was fate that our first trip to Paris ended up being with a friend whose name is Khoa. Pronounced Kwa, it’s not surprising that an easy-going prankster like our friend would become the target of countless jokes revolving around his name. Basically any word that starts with “qua” is fair game.  That said, I suppose it really doesn’t take a genius to come up with the nickname we bequeathed to him during our trip to Paris.  I couldn’t stop laughing the first time Travis announced we’d be visiting the bells of Notre Dame with Khoasimodo.

Funny, right?

During our first night in Paris, we proudly shared our clever joke over drinks with Khoa and his lovely wife, Bailey. Chuckling politely, Khoa allowed us to think it was original for some time before finally gently informing us he’d heard the joke before.


Too impatient to wait for Khoa to leave the table and return, I nudged Travis with a smirk, indicating he should give him the next one-liner:

Khoasimodo, I had a hunch you’d be back.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

The morning of our visit to Notre Dame, Trav and I met Khoa and Baiely in front of the cathedral.

We admired it from the courtyard before falling into a quickly growing line stretching along most of the southern wall of the church.  Because of increased security after the recent terror attacks in Paris, our “skip-the-line” tickets we’d bought online in advance didn’t allow us to actually skip the line.  With only one entrance and one line to climb the narrow stairs up into the towers, we waited along with everyone else for entry.

I didn’t mind so much, except for the bitter wind that made me regret not wearing a coat.  The weather man had promised sunshine!

Fire that weather man.

Waiting in line to climb the towers of Notre Dame isn’t so bad when you can look up and admire the fantastic chimeras and gargoyles of the French Gothic cathedral.

Finally at the head of the line, a hulking but friendly security officer scanned the folks in front of us with a wand before passing them through in small groups.  When his partner started to pass in front of him to return to her post, he automatically raised his wand to scan her as well before realizing who it was.  A small chorus of laughter ran through those of us at the head of the line as he grimaced bashfully at his own oversight, ushering us through with a giant grin.  Even the security personnel in Paris are friendly!

A few minutes later, we reached the top of the first set of spiral stairs in the tower, allowing us our first aerial views of the city.

A chimera keeps watch over the Eiffel Tower from the lower levels of Notre Dame.
Few Gothic cathedrals we’ve seen offer such fantastic animal shapes like the elephant and stork perched here on the facade of Notre Dame.
From below, the entire upper portion of the towers of Notre Dame looks quite small. From this vantage, though, one realizes the cathedral is much taller than it looks from the ground.
Towers of Notre Dame

Returning to the stairs, we climbed a series of wooden steps spiraling up inside the tower to the bell tower.

The Marie bell in the south tower was added fairly recently. Named after the Virgin Mary, she pays homage to the cathedral’s first bell from 1378.

Of the two bells in the south tower, it was Emmanuel we’d come to see.

Famed for its purity of sound and craftsmanship, the 13-ton giant is Notre Dame’s bourdon bell, the largest of all its bells and the one with the lowest tone.  Though it’s been recast several times, it originally dates from 1681 and is the church’s only bell to wholly survive the French Revolution.

When France was liberated during World War II, the news spread across Paris with the ringing of Emmanuel.

Khoasimodo rings the Emmanuel bell of Notre Dame, the one rung by Victor Hugo’s fictitious Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

After climbing all 387 steps, one final set of spiral stone steps led us to the top of Notre Dame high above the belfry.  To the west, we could see the Eiffel Tower from its own vantage above the Seine.

The city of Paris is spread out below Notre Dame. A line stretches across nearly the entire Notre Dame courtyard for folks waiting to enter the main cathedral.

To the east stretched the length of Notre Dame and the tip of Île de la Cité, the small island in the Seine on which the cathedral was built.

The Twelve Apostles adorn the rooftop of Notre Dame.
Netting and plexiglass surround the upper walkways of Notre Dame for safety, but money pooled in this gargoyle is proof that at least some find the challenge of tossing in a coin too much to resist.
The Eiffel Tower and the Seine River stretch west of Notre Dame.

With a final glimpse toward the Eiffel Tower, we plodded down the stairs in a long line of other visitors, only to fall in line in the courtyard to enter the main portion of the cathedral.  The line moved surprisingly quickly, and once again we were grateful for the relative warmth of the church’s inner sanctuary.

Low light glitters inside Notre Dame Cathedral.
Ceiling of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Leaving Notre Dame, I found myself in a khoandary.  I was khoasi hungry, but when we finally settled on a cafe from an impressive khoantity of options, I was appalled yet again that the prices were khoatro times the amount they should be.  I had no doubt the khoality was excellent, but how much could a khoassant possibly be worth?  What a khoagmire.  Wondering if they had khoafish on the menu, I glanced out the window and could’ve sworn I saw Oliver Khoamwell in khoatchless pants khoassing the street before realizing I’d slipped into a speech impediment.  Clearly I needed a cup of coffee to clear my head.  Khoando our drinks arrived, I eyed Khoasimodo’s cappuccino with envy, wishing that a cup of coffee still cost only a khoarter.  Ahh well, c’est la vie.

Planning a trip to Notre Dame in Paris?  If you’re not traveling with your own Khoa, we leave you with this little word challenge.  How many puns can you come up with that have “Khoa” in them?  Feel free to share any clever ones in the comment section below!

Hats off to Khoasimodo and Bailey for so graciously tolerating all of our incredibly cheesy jokes.

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Know Before You Go
  • Entry into Notre Dame is free except to climb the tower stairs, which is €8.50 per adult.  Though the interior of the cathedral is pretty, I much preferred climbing the towers to see the church’s bells and views of Paris.  Just beware that it gives the ol’ khoadriceps a workout, and go slow if you have khoalms about heights!  A fall could leave you a khoadriplegic.
  • Official site for Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Paris Visitor’s Bureau site for Notre Dame – We bought tickets in advance on this site, which is a fantastic website, but this is the one sight we visited in Paris where the advance tickets didn’t save us any time.  Because of increased security as a result of the recent terror attacks, Notre Dame isn’t able to offer “skip-the-line” tickets like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
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