A Tribute to Notre Dame

Notre Dame will always hold a particularly special place in my heart. Here’s my personal story about it:

I was in Paris five years ago, on my very first solo trip. I didn’t have a set itinerary for my two days there, and I preferred it that way. I knew I wanted to climb the Eiffel Tower, I knew I wanted to take a French wine class, and I definitely wanted to visit Angelina’s.

I did all of those things, and the rest went unplanned.

I happened to go on a river cruise down the Seine, and it was during that two-hour ride that I saw a good amount of the other icons and buildings in Paris, including Notre Dame. I was maximizing my short amount of time in the city, so seeing only the exterior suited me well enough. I had no real intentions of going inside the cathedral.

On my next visit to Paris, I thought.

The following day, I was wandering the streets without a plan or a direction in mind, when suddenly I could sense that someone was watching me, and then I spotted someone actually following me.

From store to store I went, pretending to browse the trinkets and touristy souvenirs, but keeping one eye on him the whole time. He followed me to each store, never taking his eyes off me. Never smiling, never saying anything, just eerily staring at me.

Naturally, I internally panicked — I’m alone, in Paris, I don’t speak French, I don’t know anyone here, and now I’m being followed by this creep.

I needed to lose him.

But how? If I run back to my hotel, he’ll know where I’m staying. And what if the streets become less crowded and then it’s just me and him. Could I out-run him if I had to?

All of these thoughts were flashing through my brain in an instant. I quickly decided I needed to stay near the crowds. Maybe I’d have a better chance of losing him in the masses.

I left the stores and headed toward the nearest attraction I could find: Notre Dame.

I jumped on the line of people heading inside, watching to see if he was doing the same. He didn’t. But he parked himself on a bench outside and watched me on the line.

I tried to act cool and unbothered, and I talked to some of the families on the line with me. When I made my way inside Norte Dame, I realized it was a Sunday — and a mass was being held.

With plenty of time to kill (and a stalker to ditch), I decided I would stick around and listen to the mass being given beautifully in French. I sat down and stared at the architecture. I admired the people lost in prayer. I felt thankful for being in that present moment, alive and well and traveling on my own.

When I eventually exited Notre Dame after some time, my stalker was nowhere to be found. It had worked, I was so grateful.

And I’m still grateful, because I’m here and I’m okay. Because nothing bad happened. Because I was able to think quickly and trust my gut. But also because I got to see the beautiful architecture, history and original grandeur of Notre Dame that is now no more.

I’m not that religious, but I do feel I was meant to go inside Notre Dame that day. I thank God or the universe or Notre Dame itself for being there exactly when I needed it.