Our Lady of Paris

“Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets- As vast and indestructible as nature itself” – Anne Rice

February 2007.

Those chilly winter days in Europe, it really does not seem that long ago. It was just a few days in France where getting off the Metro at the Pigalle stop started to feel like home. I mean that is if you were to call a seedy hotel accidentally booked in the Moulin Rouge home for a few days of vacation. I spent four days of my holiday exploring the vast boulevards of Paris on foot. Back in the day, I used to read a lot of Anne Rice. Her tales of vampires in the arrondissements were not the reasoning for booking our four-day French getaway. I think it had more to do with my love affair with cheese. 

On this holiday journey, my travel mates and I woke up early on holiday in the 18th arrondissement in Paris. Ryan ran downstairs through the Moulin Rouge to scrounge up some delicious French pastries and a few café cremes. We dressed in our warmest coats scarves and hats, prepared for the cold Paris winter wind. It was a chilly winters morning in Paris and we had a lot of site seeing to do. But first carbs and sugar. And authentic French coffee.

At twenty-seven years old it was my first trip to Europe and Paris. This was our last morning in Paris and first on the site seeing list of the day was a visit to our lady of Paris, Notre Dame. After stuffing chocolate croissants in our faces we jumped on the metro and were just a few stops away from a chilly walk to the stone cathedral. I can still remember the choir music as we walked in the doors to the majestic eleventh-century building. Obviously being an American every old church and building we saw in Europe was impressive but the huge cathedral was more enchanting than others as we walked along the pews checking out the stained glass windows and I just snapped a few photos. We had a busy morning, and the thought that twelve years later I would watch a fire gut this historic cathedral from my home over five thousand miles across the Atlantic Ocean seemed improbable.

We stopped for one last French crepe with Nutella before leaving Notre Dame behind us. I wished I could say I took one last look back at those medieval rose-colored windows but, as usual, my mind had moved on to buckwheat crepes and one last snack before we set off for the train station. It was one of those sites that seemed like it would always stand, welcoming visitors to Paris. After shoving crepes in our face we obviously had to go have one more café crème before leaving this city on the Seine and that may have lead to my best friend and I feeding each other deserts. Notre Dame

We may have been so distracted by French pastries that we didn’t have time to walk into the Louve (The line was so long by mid-morning and we had a train to catch to the airport eventually.) My biggest memory of this morning in Paris is Ryan drinking so much coffee that his man bladder almost exploded and we spent forty-five minutes of our morning searching the streets of Paris for a sale de bains (toilet) for him. Then he was distracted by shopping and we lost him in a shop and almost missed our train completely. My memories of Notre Dame were muffled unfortunately by too much French chocolate and a travel mate with a weak bladder. I wish now I had the chance to go back and just bask in the beauty of this cathedral before it was gone. I guess it’s true what they say; We will always have Paris, And too much French chocolate and perhaps one too many Café Cremes.


  1. April J Harris

    Oh I totally know what you mean! We felt we didn’t have time to visit the Notre Dame on our last visit to Paris, and had been a number of times, so we just left it. I so regret that decision. Of course, I will always remember the beauty of the times I did see it, but I never, ever thought it would not be there to see. Sharing on the Hearth and Soul Facebook page. Thank you for being a part of Hearth and Soul!

  2. Janet Parsons

    Amber ~
    After reading your experience, I had to tell you about the first time I ever visited Notre Dame. I was only 19 and the reason I was in Europe at all was that my boyfriend was on a year abroad program from Berkeley, studying in Pau,
    Anyway on CHRISTMAS without having planned the day, we found ourselves in Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a brilliantly sunny morning and so the gorgeous stained glass windows were magnificent to behold! Also there was a service going on in Latin and everyone was holding candles. The combination of hearing the service in Latin, seeing the points of light from the hundreds of candles being held, “feeling” the warmth and great beautyof the stained glass wi ndows ~ it was a very magical moment which is still crystal clear in my memory 50 years later!
    If ever you have children, the two most magical “things” you should give them, other than love and respect, of course, are a library card at the age of 5 and a passport at the age of 18. You are an inveterate reader and traveler. Both open your mind and heart to the world ~ BRAVO!
    XXX Janet Parsons

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