In the Wake of Notre Dame

I’ve always felt a sense of urgency when it comes to travel. I want to see as much of the world as quickly as possible. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job in my 29 years. I’ve been to 26 countries, some common, some as obscure as you can possibly get. However, as my world expands my to-see list only gets longer and longer and overwhelming if I’m honest. Sean’s the same way, so we always try to jam as much as possible into any itinerary. This is why in 2012 we embarked on a whirlwind around Europe, our first stop being Paris.

The trouble with packing so much into an itinerary is it becomes easy to breeze by so much and not really take time to soak in the experiences. I feel like that with our all-too-brief visits to Prague and Krakow. I feel like that with Paris too, to some extent, but luckily even at the young, naive age of  22, I managed to soak in the experience of visiting Notre Dame.

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As a child of the 90s, I grew up on Disney movies, and I remember having a particular soft spot for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I loved the colorful animation, the story, the girl with an attitude, and it was my first exposure to the French and world landmark that is Notre Dame. I knew I wanted to visit it someday, even if I didn’t fully grasp what that meant.

When we finally arrived in 2012, a new camera in tow, I spent much longer than our allotted time taking photos of this centuries-old architectural masterpiece. I think it’s impossible to visit here without being in complete awe. It’s massive. And beautiful. And you just feel the weight of it all as you gaze up at the gracefully arched ceiling. Cathedrals don’t always strike me in such a way, but this one stayed with me.

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When Sean texted me at 9:59 p.m. last night and said “Notre Dame is on fire” my first thought was “it’s not football season” followed by “wait, you can’t possibly mean the church…” but he did. I looked it up, and my heart sank. The images were staggering. This beautiful cathedral, completely engulfed in flames.

I feel the same way about these photos as I do about the Twin Towers burning. Circumstances are entirely different I’m aware, but that gut-wrenching realization that something so monumental that means so much to so many is gone is the same. I feel lucky that I was able to see it for myself before this tragedy.

The destruction of Notre Dame, for me, had done two things: 1) reignited that feeling of urgency when it comes to travel. I want to see it all before it’s gone because destruction can, and does, happen anywhere. And 2) made me remember to take pause as we plan our whirlwind trips. I don’t want to slow down, I just want to smell the roses and appreciate the experiences even more than I already have.

Feel better, Paris. The world’s hearts are with you.

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