Can we admit we may have been taking this Paris dominant monument for granted?
I was getting ready to publish some posts on Paris and other lands I’ve traveled to in past Aprils when the news hit the press, yesterday, that beloved Notre Dame was on fire. This nonstop news froze us in our seats, no matter where in the world we were seated!
The shared sorrow was palpable…experienced through cable news live updates, texts, emails, Facebook posts…all were in a flurry with this heartbreaking, difficult-to-fathom news.
I have not been a religious person for some time now…yet, I have made it a habit, over my years of travel to Paris, to stop in at least once each time I am in the city so I can take in the grandeur of this historic, lovely, majestic lady of a cathedral.
Notre Dame has become a spiritual spot for me. It affords me a personal, intimate ‘time out’ with my loved ones that are no longer on this earth. Once I take that first step across the front entry threshold, I know I will be in my zone of ‘no need to hurry’.
My calm, serene affect goes into effect. I start by taking in the smells, sounds, color, and light of the cathedral, as well as note the other visitors’ reactions, as they realize, they too, have the privilege of being able to walk amongst the history and spirit of this vast cathedral.
Several of the photos below are from my visit on a Christmas holiday season day in 2017. As you can see, it did not disappoint. In fact, it was rather unusual, as there was an exhibition, of sorts, that I had never seen the likes of on any of my previous visits.
This visit was similar to all others. I have found it takes me little time to settle into the church and make my way to the familiar corner to the right where candles have been lit by other visitors. I add mine, light them off others that are already aglow, and then I start to feel the comfort that comes over me. The quiet of the moment allows the mix of my emotions to prevail. Although I am not alone, I am able to feel alone with my thoughts….the purpose of my visit. I am able to immerse myself in my sadness for the loss of my loved ones yet able to balance that with feeling blessed to know I am able to live every day, mostly in a harmonious way, due to the strength of their love and their knowledge of life they have passed on to me.
The satisfaction of my visit reigns. And, so it goes with this visit to Notre Dame.
About 20 years ago, a friend and I lived in Paris for 5 months while doing research for a project. The rental apartment was right across the river on the Left Bank, just near the pedestrian bridge behind Notre Dame. Another friend joined us for about a week and her way of thanking us was to don the kitchen apron and turn out some flavorful tasty meals for us.
One evening, she placed a chicken in the oven and then she let us know that she was leaving the apartment just to take the garbage out. Well, an hour passed and she hadn’t returned. As the time made its way into the 2nd hour, the chicken also made its way to being ‘done’. We became very concerned, not about the chicken, but rather should we head out on a hunt for her, as we weren’t sure of her neighborhood savvy? Fortunately, that was about the time she reappeared, rather in a fog, as she seemed unaware how much time had disappeared. She explained she had been taken in by the Notre Dame bells ringing, wandered over, and ended up attending mass! I tried to picture her sitting on one of the church benches, in her kitchen apron! Apparently, she was so mesmerized by the sight and sounds of the cathedral, who knows if the apron-wearing was of any notice to her at all, just as the fact that the mass was in French and she was not fluent!
And, so it goes, another visit to Notre Dame!
On some of my other stays in Paris, I make sure I capture a table with a window view of the buttresses on the backside of Notre Dame (and the Seine) at the cafe, Le Flore en l’Ile (https://www.lefloreenlile.fr.). Brunch on Sunday is ideal, with friends, but if that doesn’t fit into my schedule…tea time, or anytime, works for me.
And, so it goes with another Notre Dame visit!
My most recent visit to Notre Dame was in September and proved a delight. Walking back with yet a different friend from the aforementioned cafe, we decided to saunter along the side of Notre Dame that is in union with the Seine. Before we were in alignment with the river, we first encountered these animated singers who made it clear they enjoyed performing with one another.
And, then as we turned the corner to make our way along the Seine, we discovered a country garden! In fact, at first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The country fresh flowers and use of rustic materials made for an informal garden which juxtaposed against the formal backdrop of Notre Dame!
Fall light and change of color showed off Notre Dame’s facade from this angle.
Scarecrows were ‘alive’ in the garden near formal statues.
And so it goes with my September Notre Dame visit.
Finally, yet, another suggested view of Notre Dame (and other points of interest) can be enjoyed from a bateaux mouches Seine River one-hour tour. (https://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/cruises/#plan_parcours)
Yesterday, the French were not alone in their grief. The world was grieving with them. We are already assured she will come alive again….that lady of Paris! The donations are flowing in. Solidarity is in place and we all benefit from the ‘feel good’ emotions that tag along with knowing we are, at least for now, having a moment of being ‘in synch’ with one another.
And, so it goes with another way of having a visit with Notre Dame….and looking forward to more visits, watching the progress of the restoration of Notre Dame….