In planning my first trip to Paris, I didn’t care about seeing Notre Dame. I’d read so many descriptions of it by the likes of Dumas, Hugo, Zola.
How could Notre Dame be so special? I thought.
We landed at Charles de Gaulle the day before Thanksgiving 2003. I was shellshocked from my very first trans-Atlantic flight. While MTM snored beside me, I contorted myself into every position my cursed economy class seat allowed. I never even napped, people, and I was pissed upon landing.
Europe was gray: overcast sky, spitting rain, bland customs agents, so-so train. We boarded with our bags and emerged from the dark tunnel onto a sunken railway line littered with trash and graffiti.
I flew all the way to Europe for this? I fumed to myself.
MTM pushed us off the train at Gare du Nord. “We’ll walk to the hotel from here. It’ll do us good.”
“I’m too tired to walk,” I whined. “Can we just find a bench and sleep right now?”
Humanity bumped past us as MTM dragged me from exit to exit, stair to stair. “What was wrong with that one?” I demanded when he backed up, stepped on my toe, and pivoted to another opening at the opposite end.
After three false starts, he finally, mercifully picked a stair and started up, with me bitching my way behind him.
The stair yawned into a park. Misty air hit my cheeks. Clouds parted. The sun came out and shined like a spotlight on the hulk of stone to my left.
“Notre Dame,” I breathed, tears coursing down my face. “I’m really in Paris. Not reading about it in a book.”
Because a few things are better than any book. Like seeing Notre Dame for the first time.