July 1993. That’s when Notre Dame Cathedral’s awe-inspiring spirit touched us, but not without the usual human drama.
Dug deep into the archives. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1993.
My mom was not a big fan of the long, narrow staircase to the top. She experienced some claustrophobia, but there was no place to go but up. So, up the stairs we continued.
My dad pretended to be a bell-ringing Quasimodo, the protagonist in the 1831 Victor Hugo novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
My little brother, Francis, was a grumpy 15 year old who hated the summer heat. He just wanted to hang out in an air-conditioned hotel.
My cousin, Pier, had amassed a big collection of French chocolates in her luggage. I still think she should have given them to us, especially since she didn’t end up with the guy she was saving them for. (Didn’t we tell you about that, P?!)
My sister, Nina, made everyone walk everywhere. “It’s not that far,” she would always say to us, and after walking miles with her, we concluded that she was crazy!
I carried all of my possessions in one big backpack that year, and met fellow travelers from around the world. One of them was Tania, a young blonde woman from Queensland, Australia. We backpacked together for 2 weeks, from the Netherlands, to Belgium, to France. I think we met in Holland during a bike tour around the country’s dams. I remember we fed the ducks in a Belgian Lake with 2 young Italian men. We all sang songs — I can’t remember what we exactly we belted out (I’d like to say some Madonna?) — but a very good time was had by all.
Tania traveled with me to Paris, where I was to meet my family for a two-week holiday. Before we met up with them, Tania and I took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower. I can still remember how we exited the Metro station, turned the corner, and saw the Eiffel Tower at dusk. It was lit up in purple. It was breathtaking.
When we finally met up with my family, we visited the Notre Dame Cathedral together. We parted ways soon after that. I think she was going to Spain, and my family and I had plans to visit the French Riviera, Venice, and Rome. That was the way it was with backpackers. We joined each other for adventures until it was time to say goodbye – not necessarily because of conflict – but because we understood we were going different ways.
Tania and I kept in touch for a few years after our backpacking days. Then, as what happens when we are busy living life, we lost touch. Last I heard, she was back in Australia, and she fought off a brain tumor. Tania, if you see this, please get in touch with me through this blog! I’d love to reconnect with you again.
Those were awe-inspiring days, the kind we remember now with fondness and love. Slices of life and love pass through this ancient, majestic cathedral. We were but a handful of the millions who traversed through its hallowed halls. Oh, Notre Dame and your treasure trove of memories! Your heavenly spirit lives on in so many souls.