Nothing lasts for ever. That uncompromising truth was evident as the world witnessed the burning of the famed and renowned Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France on Monday, April 15. Watching the televised blaze engulf a national landmark, brought anguish, pain and disbelief to mind, feelings eerily familiar and reminiscent of the 911 blaze at the World Trade Center in New York City. Personally, I have spent time in both places and my reaction to this tragedy is certainly warranted. Saddened by the destruction, I too respectfully want to offer to the people of France my solidarity in their loss and look forward to the rebuild.
Reminiscing of my visit to the historic tourist attraction many years ago, I hope to share some lessons learned from the ashes of Notre Dame. I hope they’ll be valuable to all trippers and teach others how to memorialize their adventures too. However, let me recount my time at the cathedral. The first encounter was on a group tour back in 1994. That year we visited attractions in and around Paris which included popular places like the wine valley of Champagne, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, The Moulin Rouge, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and shopping at Les Galleries LaFayette to name just a few. Back then I was enthralled by the culture, cuisine and haute couture fashions of France.
The Cathedral was magnificent. Works of art, relics, carvings, and masterpieces helped to make the house of worship a museum in an of itself. Without and within everything was old, dating back hundreds of years. Even with the steady flow of tourists, the sanctuary was quiet. Some were huddled in groups closely listening to their guides giving historical details in tones little above a whisper, while others sat reverently in the pews. I remember taking a seat for a few minutes too. As our guide took us on the outside of the cathedral, one of the main requests was to point out the gargoyle that helped to make the cathedral even more famous via the movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Everyone wanted to see the hunchback.
As I look at the devastation left behind by the fire which has consumed brick and mortar, and has ended a part of history, I am reminded to approach future sightseeing adventures with these thoughts:
- Strike the iron while it is hot – If traveling to a landmark building/site that is deemed hundreds, maybe thousands of years old, or that has some acclaim to fame, take the time to stop and visit. Seize the opportunity to view, peruse, inspect, handle if possible, and learn all about the attraction. Sometimes, tourists pass up the chance, or are turned off by the high prices of entrance fees to these attractions, but after traveling great distances my recommendation always is – pay the price. You will only do it once, and you’ll have a lasting memory. Look, I can still recall my visit 25 years later (wow, time flies when you’re having fun 😀).
- Collect memorabilia – Scrap-booking is a good tool for ardent travelers. Grab a piece of history by taking as many photos as you possibly can. Daily record every detail in your diary. Build a memorial of your experience via scrap-booking to tell your story of the trip using: photos, receipts, brochures, maps, postcards, etc. (I will share some of my photos of the tour in France in a future post).
- Old versus new – When old things are lost and replaced albeit by new and improved things, the thing that is lost makes the new experience never the same again. The plan to rebuild reminds me of the Biblical account of the temple of Solomon that was devastated. The elders and priests who witnessed the rebuilding, and who were familiar with the first temple mourned when they saw the new temple. The newer temple couldn’t compare to the magnificence of the former temple (read the account in the book of Ezra 3). The promised five-year building plan already declares that the roof cannot be replicated due to lack of similar material. Also, time will tell of any further damage to the priceless artifacts that escaped burning.
Surely, with all the monetary pledges for the restoration pouring in, the new and improved Notre Dame will more than likely be a state of the art, updated treasure in five years. However, only those who have visited in the past and can revisit in the future will be able to tell the difference. I hope to be one of them, God willing.
Community Peeps share your impressions in my comment box below of your experience at Notre Dame Cathedral. It would be great to reminisce with you of the iconic, world renowned treasure, as we all go through this difficult time with the people of France.
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