Do you dream of Paris? I find myself doing this every now and again. After a conversation with a friend who was recently there for the first time and hearing her gush over it, I thought back to my one and only visit to the City of Lights…
It was early June and I had been in Italy for a couple of weeks. I arrived via train at Gare de Lyon and walked for a good 20 minutes to my hotel in the Latin Quarter. After quickly freshening up and consulting my map, I made a beeline. I had to see Notre Dame Cathedral. Don’t ask me why this was so damn important. But if I had to guess, I’d have to blame Miss Mueller, my 11th grade world history teacher. She told us stories about so many places that she had actually visited, showing us slides in class at least once or twice a week. Notre Dame with its flying buttresses and Rose Window fascinated me. So, off I went to this Gothic Cathedral.
I walked down the Rue Mouffetard with its market and all its shops, not stopping to window shop. I was on a mission. I made my way to Île de la Citè in the middle of the River Seine. There it was – Notre Dame! The statues and gargoyles on the façade stood guard as a handful of tourists milled about outside taking pictures. I took a few photos of the detailed façade then made my way inside. My jaw dropped to the ground. Stunning! And – there was a mass in progress. Tourists and worshippers alike under the soaring Gothic ceiling – the congregation praying and the tourists gawking quietly (it was a respectful crowd).
I wandered through the massive building, photographing the incredible architecture. It truly is gorgeous. As I made my way toward the alter and across from the famous Rose Window, something came over me. I began to cry. I almost started laughing at the same time. You see, I’m a fallen Catholic so the very idea that I would be moved to tears in a Catholic Church while mass was in progress is a bit of a paradox. I turned away from the other tourists, feeling somewhat silly that I was tearing up. But, as I thought about it, I realized that being raised Catholic and being in one of the great Catholic cathedrals kind of got to me. I was also looking at something that I had only seen in pictures and had long dreamed of seeing in person. And, here I was – dream come true! Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful churches on this planet. It’s a magnificent piece of art in my humble opinion.
On my last evening in Paris, I made it a point to see Notre Dame one last time. I made the familiar walk from my hotel to the cathedral, saying “bonjour” to some of the shop owners I had come to know. As the great cathedral came into view, I still felt the same excitement I did on that first day. I stood along the River Seine, drinking in the flying buttresses, the Gothic spires, the Rose Window. At that moment I vowed to come back to Paris and Notre Dame – a promise I intend to keep.