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.
These 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 was built on a tiny island in the middle of the Seine. Construction began
in 1163. It took 100 years to complete.
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
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
Here 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.
This 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.
This is a wider view from her balcony. Imagine waking up to this every day?
A blue Christmas tree stands at the front of the Cathedral.
An extreme wide view, this time looking west towards the city with River Seine in the foreground.
It wouldn’t have been right for me to leave with all my belongings intact. After we exchanged bonne
nuits, Madame Duthoit was forced to chase after me, to return a beanie I had left on her dining table.
Fortunately she was faster going down in the elevator than I was on the stairs.
We’ve exchanged emails. She’s looking forward to seeing the photos.