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''Hunchback'''s Notre Dame is undergoing renovation

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What do you get when you cross the third most frequented monument in Paris with a movie-merchandising monster? Try a tourism opportunity that towers way above even Madison County’s covered bridges — not to mention the City of Light itself.

Come June 21, when Disney releases the animated Hunchback of Notre Dame, kids who normally find travel beyond the local Burger King a big bore might be begging for a trip abroad to visit France’s most famous church. ”I think the movie will bring more young people [to Notre Dame Cathedral],” says George Hern, spokesman for the French Government Tourist Office in New York City. ”I hope they aren’t disappointed.”

But little ones hoping to catch a glimpse of a singing hunchback may be: Notre Dame is undergoing a two- to three-year renovation that has — quelle horreur! — closed the towers where author Victor Hugo’s fictional Quasimodo rang bells. ”They’re not going to get up there to see the gargoyles, Victor and Hugo, I’ll tell you,” says Hern, referring to the film’s stone sidekicks.

Still, French officials expect a rise in tourism to France this summer, due to cheaper airfares and a strong dollar. Disney is capitalizing by offering American Express customers a travel package that includes a stay at a Disneyland Paris (formerly Euro Disneyland) hotel and a guided nighttime tour of the cathedral, which is about 20 miles from the theme park. ”It’s going to be a way for adults to encourage their kids to see the more cultural side of Paris,” says a Disneyland Paris staffer. Would you like a passport with that popcorn?

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