I have many favorite places in Paris. I think the place that is my favorite of all of them is none other than Notre Dame cathedral. I think over the last seven years, the place has become very special to me. It reminds me of my grandfather when he was on one of his adventures.
He used to foot the bill for me to travel all over the world. When I got back from Paris, I told him all about my adventures. The last time he had been in Paris was during World War II. He told me he had always wanted to go back, but for whatever reason, he never did.
I remember pausing when he said this and looking at him strangely. I was only 16 years old and I told him he needed to see the world. He needed to get out there and live the best life he could doing anything and everything he ever dreamed of doing just in case this was his only (or last) lifetime. He spent the last 15 years of his life doing just that.
This also started a new tradition after he died.
As my father went through some old photos, he found one of my grandfather wearing a beret in front of Notre Dame. It’s funny how he wore those berets until he died. It was in Paris when that fashion trend of his began.
I framed that photo and put it up in my home. I look at it every single day.
When I went to Paris a couple of years ago, I sat outside of Notre Dame watching tourists come through…trying to figure out the places where my grandfather had been. I sat out there for two hours…just taking in the atmosphere of the place, trying to see if I could feel my grandfather’s presence there from long ago, hear his voice on the wind. Trust me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. Traveling is my way of connecting to him, because I’m continuing our adventures around the world.
When I came back later in the afternoon to photograph the cathedral, I hadn’t realized that the guards had taken notice of me. I was looking for certain things there…Point Zero, the saints on the roof, the different stories the building was telling us…
It was like a treasure hunt. I was looking for things most tourists do not look for…and that’s what caught the attention of the guards. It was Point Zero that started it. No one really goes looking for Point Zero. Most tourists walk right over it, very few know about it. While it is considered the “Center of the French Universe,” it is the exact point where all distances in Paris are measured.
In mythical lore, it is one of the ley line points.
After I found Point Zero and started walking towards the cathedral, I saw three of the guards walking towards me. They didn’t say anything at the time. They started to follow me around, very closely, looking to see what I was seeing through the screen on my camera. I was so immersed in what I was doing, I never took notice of them until after I was inside and one of the guards said that all tourists needed to leave because it was time for mass.
I turned around to see the three guards behind me. One of them said I was okay. I could continue. So I continued. As they kept shuttling tourists out of the cathedral, one of them said to me, “We see what you are taking photos of. You see the beauty of this place the way we do. You can stay.”
I was so honored, but I didn’t want them to get into trouble, so I snapped a few more photos and as I walked out the gate one of the guards asked me if I got everything I needed. I told him, “How could I? There’s so much!”
The sun was starting to set, so I headed across the bridge and sat across from the cathedral along the river so I could take photos of the church at sunset.
When you really want to cherish a memory, especially one that is shared between generations, you spend the time reveling each and every crook and cranny. You try to see the beauty in every rock, cobblestone and rain drop. You try to memorize the way the light fell, or the man walking across the courtyard holding his son’s hand. This is the way I remember Notre Dame.