How I got into the Notre Dame after hours (and how you can too)

What did you get up to this week? Me, I was lucky enough to go on an after-hours tour inside the Notre Dame cathedral. You may have seen it on my Instagram stories.

While those stories have disappeared by now, one thing that’s remained is the look of wide-eyed wonder on my face. It. Was. Incredible.

So how did this all come about? Well, here’s the full story. In a recent podcast episode about luxury travel in Paris, my guest Leah Walker was talking about “the wizard of Paris”, Philippe Hertzberg. He runs a company called Secrets of Paris that specializes in exclusive guided trips.

Anyhow, Philippe heard talk about my podcast, got on the phone, and invited me to try the Notre Dame tour as his guest.

The idea: Every Tuesday, there’s a concert after hours inside the ancient Notre Dame cathedral. The performance, typically by a choir, starts at 830pm. The guided tours start after the cathedral closes its doors to the public for the day at 6.30pm and when the choir starts to practice.

Check out this two-minute video (and subscribe on YouTube!)

So imagine this, the cathedral was absolutely empty, except for the children’s choir in the centre of the building and except for us. The guides let us go for a little stroll alone first, like flaneurs. It was incredible to walk the aisles with the sound of the choir in the background and not a tourist in sight.

Then we were being shown around by a historian who is quickly becoming my favourite brain in the city of Paris, Quentin Henric.

If you think he sounds familiar, that might be because you saw him walking me around the perimeter of the Notre Dame when I did all those live videos recently.

Both Quentin and Philippe showed us around, paying particular attention to the renovation work that the Notre Dame had gone through over the centuries. And would you believe it, my main man Eugene Violet le Duc, who did all the restoration work at my favourite town Carcassonne, played a big part in the Notre Dame’s facelift too.

A particular highlight of the visit was getting access to the organ balcony, which gave us a magnificent view over the entire cathedral interior. And with the choir singing below, you’d be forgiven for also thinking you’d died and gone to heaven.

What can I say? Notre Dame is one of the wonders of Paris and it was brilliant to get to see it without the masses of tourists. If you fancy adding an exclusive element to your next trip to Paris, I’d recommend it.

If you want to take the same tour that I did, visit the official Secret Journeys website here. And keep an ear out for Philippe himself, the Paris wizard, on The Earful Tower podcast soon.

PS: If you were following on Instagram, above, you’d have seen this tour as it happened 🙂

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