VIDEO: New virtual reality exhibition of Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral

Paris' Notre-Dame cathedral remains largely closed after the devastating fire that ripped through it in 2019, but now a new exhibition uses VR technology to allow people to discover the cathedral's history - from the 12th century to the present.

Notre-Dame cathedral is still undergoing renovation work.
Notre-Dame cathedral is still undergoing renovation work. But a new virtual reality exhibition will allow visitors to experience it in an entirely new way. (Credit: Orange Emissive)

The exhibition – opening on Saturday, January 15th – will allow people to engage with the site in an entirely new way: through virtual reality. 

For €30 visitors to the Espace Grande Arche de la Défense just outside of Paris can enter the exhibition space, put on a VR headset and experience some 800 years of history – from the 12th Century to the present day. This journey through time takes around 40-45 minutes. English-language narration is also provided. 

A new virtual reality exhibition tells the story of Notre Dame cathedral through key historical characters and events.

A new virtual reality exhibition tells the story of Notre Dame cathedral through key historical characters and events. (Credit: Orange/Emissive)

“Visitors will explore a digitally recreated Notre-Dame and live through a truly emotional journey through the secrets of the monument, all the while rediscovering the events and historical characters that marked its history,” according to the City of Paris

The trailer released by Amaclio Productions, one of the groups behind the virtual reality exhibition, is mind-blowing. 

Speaking to Le Parisien, the renowned French historian, Frank Ferrand, said the exhibition amounted to “a machine to travel back in time”. 

Five historians were consulted in the making of the project, which cost some  €4-5 million.

Around 30 percent of the income from ticket sales will go towards France’s public works budget, to help with the restoration of the cathedral. The organisers hope to attract 150,000 visitors this year.

The cathedral itself remains closed to almost all visitors while restoration works continue after the fire. It is hoped that the works will be finished by 2024. In the meantime, display boards outside the site show how the complicated restoration work is progressing.

Visitors experience the history of Notre Dame from the 12th century to the present day.

Visitors experience the history of Notre Dame from the 12th century to the present day. (Credit: Orange/Emissive)

There is also a free display at the site, where visitors can watch a 15-minute film about the renovation works and view a selection of photography. Various artefacts from the cathedral itself will also be on display. 

The exhibition will move to the Conciergerie, on Paris’ Ile de la Cité in the spring. In the Autumn, it will be moved again to the space underneath the large forecourt of the cathedral itself. 

There is a reduced ticket price of €20 per person for people under 18, students, unemployed people, those on RSA benefits, and people booking for a group of five or more people. 

You can buy tickets here or directly at the site. The group discount only applies to people who buy online. 

The exact address is: Espace Grande Arche de la Défense, 1 Parvis de la Défense, 92400 Puteaux.

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French AOP cheese the latest victim of France’s drought

Your cheeseboard board might have to go without a classic French cheese for some time, after production was halted due to the impacts of drought. 

French AOP cheese the latest victim of France's drought

Production of Salars – a type of cows’ milk cheese from the central French département of Cantal – has been halted for an indefinite period, as France suffers its worst drought on record.

Across the country rivers have run dry and water restrictions have been imposed – and now the cheese-makers are affected too.

The Salars cheese is an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), meaning the rules for its production are carefully defined – to be authentic, the cows’ diet must be at least 75 percent grass from pastures within the Auvergne region.

But as the drought continues, the normally fertile volcanic earth in Auvergne has gone hard and dry, and the grass has died – for the 78 AOP cheese producers in the region, their cows have not been able to graze for weeks.

READ MORE: Ask the expert: Why is France’s drought so bad and what will happen next?

“There is nothing left to eat at my place,” said Laurent Roux, a farmer at Gaec de la Calsade in Cantal, to Francetvinfo.

“In some places, the ground looks like ashes. It’s dust,” he added. Roux’ cows have not been able to graze since June 25th. 

While this is the first time a full production stop for Salers has occurred, it is not the first time the AOP has had to contend with challenging climate conditions.

Some farmers had to temporarily suspend production in 2017, and in 2019, the AOP requested a waiver to decrease cows’ share of grass in their diets to 50 percent rather than the usual 75 percent.

However, farmer and head of the AOP, Laurent Lours, said this option was not on the table this year. “It is not worth it because we do not even have 50 percent of the grass,” he told the local station of France 3

He expects production to drop by at least 15 percent this year, as the cheese is only produced on farms between April 15th and November 15th. 

READ MORE: More than 100 French villages without tap water in ‘unprecedented’ drought

For individual farmers, many will turn to Cantal cheese (rather than Salers), which has less restrictive regulations for its production. Doing so also means that they will earn less – a loss of €200 per 1,000 litres of milk.

As for consumers, they can expect a shortage in stores and increase in prices for Salers cheese.

The drought is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with the possibility of impacting other cheeses and AOP products.

In Switzerland, producers of Gruyère cheese are also worried about a lower quantity of milk production and are considering bringing their cows down to the plains earlier than usual this season.

From the mussels in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel (as a result of a lack of fresh water in the rivers) to the Espelette peppers being lost to high temperatures, drought will likely impact a range of France’s unique ingredients.