Paris point zéro

Embedded in the paving stones on the ‘parvis’ or square just outside of Notre-Dame de Paris on Île de la Cité is the point from which all distances in France are measured. This special paving stone bears the inscription ‘POINT ZERO DES ROUTES DE FRANCE’.

The stone is a symbol of Paris as the centre of the French universe. Just as all roads lead to Rome, all routes in France lead from Paris: more than one million kilometres of highways and byways both national and regional. Places all over the country are identified in terms of their distance from it. It is just one example of how the cathedral is the very heart and soul of France.

Officialized by royal order in April 1739, its central symbol is a ‘rose des vents’ or what we call the points of a compass.

Thousands of tourists find this discreet bronze marker and take souvenir photos of themselves or their feet by the famous stone. Thirty-three years ago this month, I was one of them. Shortly after arriving at Charles de Gaulle, armed with a few words of French and a deep conviction that living with my French fiancé would do the rest, I stood there and felt for all the world like I was at the centre of the universe.

I was far from home and far from feeling at home. That would take years. But I knew, somehow, that I had arrived. That year in Paris became the ‘point zero’ for the rest of my life.

Have you seen the famous stone in Paris? Or do you have a special time or place that became your own personal point zero?


13 thoughts on “Paris point zéro

      1. Really ? I discovered this key sentence in my main source of inspiration, “The fabulous Furry Freak Brothers”, a Californian comic of 70 I highly recommend ..This essential truth is said during a night trip by the chief, Freewheelin’ Franklin, my guru .
        Like Jesus taught the masses, Franklin does too . Each pearl of wisdom was announced in special posters like this :

        Freewheelin’ Franklin says :
        “Dope Will Get You Through Times of No Money, Better Than Money Will Get You Through Times of No Dope” .
        Just an example of the enlighting knowledge of this Master of the Big All .

    1. Those Great Lakes are rather awe-inspiring… I can relate to that as I grew up by Lake Ontario and was gob-smacked by Lake Superior. Hopefully you will visit France one day!

  1. Probably my favorite meeting place in Paris–especially meeting those new to Paris: “Find Point Zéro in front of Notre Dame. See you at 2:00.” (or to meet at the Stravinsky fountain…). One year our entire family was meeting up in Paris before boarding the TGV south for a long family stay in an old mas in the Luberon. We found each other @ Point Zéro and made our way to dinner at Place Contrescarpe. The stuff forever memories are made of.

    1. As you say, those are memories to treasure indeed. A family trip by train to the Lubéron — what fun! Having my entire family come to Paris for our wedding is one that stays with me. I wish I’d known then about the famous meeting point!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s