Unless you’ve been on a strict wifi detox all week, you’ll know a cultural cornerstone of the world was almost razed to the ground on Monday.
If it weren’t for 500 or so firefighters, the heart of Paris—the point from which all distances are measured—could have ended up a scar in the ground.
As it was, the fire was put out—but not before consuming two-thirds of the iconic cathedral’s roofing, destroying a spire, damaging the high altar and calling the structural integrity of the entire edifice into question.
But as the public grieves the loss of a monument which has inspired wonder and awe for centuries (and as historians, architects and millionaires debate whether US$960 million can possibly restore Notre Dame’s intangible glory), a glance at Tripadvisor’s Notre Dame reviews proves how spoiled some travellers really are.
Full disclosure: there have been over 68,997 TripAdvisor reviews of the Notre Dame, the majority of them (69%, to be precise) leaving “excellent” ratings. However, a minority of self-proclaimed critics (2%, if we’re being picky) gave this majestic pillar of human achievement a “poor” or “terrible” rating.
If this was just a couple of contrarians taking cheap shots at a popular piece of architecture, we could let it go. However, there’s more to it than that. These ‘reviewers’ didn’t just smear one of the gothic eras most sublime creations; they proved modern-day travellers are more well ‘grammed than well read.
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Think about it: although the fierce atheists and religious fundamentalists of bygone eras were crusty dogmatists with irreconcilable differences, at least they knew how to appreciate good architecture. For this new generation of Tripadvisor critics though, it’s rare that a historical artefact can live up to the expertly curated Instagram photos they’ve already seen (from the comfort of their Dorito-stained sofas).
How do I know this? Despite not penning them on the internet, most of these lazy Tripadvisor Observations have crossed my mind around two-minutes into any bout of sight-seeing I’ve ever taken. Which suggests the number of Oblivious Faultfinders in the world may be much higher than the TripAdvisor statistics indicate.
To give you an idea, here’s a smattering.
“Much like everything else in Paris. It’s just a church, take a photo and move on.”
Ouch. But I suppose when you’ve got croissants to eat, L’Ami Louis (the ‘worst’ restaurant in the world) to visit and the Moulin Rouge to see, time goes fast. Oh, and—speaking of time—our next displeased reviewer had this to say…
“People lining up to get inside when there is no entry ticket required; many just stand there neither want to go in nor want to move away from the entrance, taking selfies and pictures making it difficult for others who want to go in.”
Not content with that little rant, he added: “Once inside, it is very dark and gloomy. It might be very old but gives one shivers and (a) spooky feeling. We just went in and hurried out. There is a small (overly priced) souvenir shop inside also crowded like crazy.”
“Not worth going in even for free,” (Anon, March 2019).
Our next sarky remark came from a man who expected it to be easy to evacuate his bowels in the middle of a 12th-century masterpiece, during tourist high season: “2 euros for toilets (not mentioning that if you don’t have change, forget it). 100 m away, in the nearest café, for 1.30 euro, you can have a coffee and clean toilets.”
The next few, spanning from October 2018 until the present day, didn’t mince words.
The worst part of it all? Just like many other fickle ‘travellers’, I was sorely tempted to post a ‘throwback’ photo to my time in France, despite spending the majority of my sightseeing tour in a hungover fugue-state.
Nonetheless, before we get caught up in rampant negativity, there were a few choice insights to be found, which—in hindsight—suggest the magic of the Notre Dame may have already been on its way out before the fire even began.
“Such a bummer—when I was a student in Paris I loved to visit Notre Dame. As with all the cathedrals in Paris, (it) would provide a sense of solitude in the midst of great beauty. These days Paris is just way too crowded and the main… attractions can’t even be enjoyed due to the crowds and behaviour of the people (noisy, constant selfies etc).”
“The line does move quickly, but does not end until you have left the church.”
“The magnificence of this holy site is now lost under an avalanche of entitled, pushy, rude disrespectful tourists ticking off sites on their all inclusive pass. I am sorry I made the effort, it’s a site that could easily be closed to the public.”
Whether you agree with them or think they’re a bunch of whiners—if you haven’t already been—you might have to wait from anywhere between three and forty years to decide for yourself, as that’s how long it’s going to take to rebuild.