Updated: Reader response: Memories of visiting Notre Dame

A detail of the Notre Dame cathedral, captured by the husband of managing editor Rebecca Tobin during a Celebrity Cruises shore excursion in 2002.
A detail of the Notre Dame cathedral, captured by the husband of managing editor Rebecca Tobin during a Celebrity Cruises shore excursion in 2002.

We asked readers on our website, eNewsletter and social media platforms this week to send us their memories of visiting the iconic Notre Dame. Here are a selection of stories. UPDATED: Friday, April 19. 

'It didn't matter that I wasn't Catholic'

About 10 years ago on one of my many trips to Paris, I traveled with a group of three female work friends on a "girls' trip."  Saturday afternoon, the other three, all Catholics, said they wanted to go to evening mass at Notre Dame.  Knowing that I am Jewish, they didn't want to force me into going to a church service. They didn't know how much I love new experiences, and I surprised them by telling them that of course I wanted to go.

We arrived after the service had started, and the sanctuary was very full. The only available seats were in the rear, and we could barely see the altar. But we could hear the angelic voices of an all-female choir. The music stirred my soul in a way that I didn't expect from being in a church. It didn't matter that I wasn't Catholic; the singing made me feel closer to God and to all people. And since the priest spoke in French and Latin, I was the only one in my group who could understand anything: None of us understood Latin, and I was the only one who spoke French.

This was one of my most magical travel experiences. When I watched the fire devour Notre Dame on Monday, I was devastated. I felt as though I had lost a dear friend. -- Gail Sherman, Food & Wine Trails, a division of Adelman Travel

A lifelong dream, fulfilled

It was my lifelong dream trip to go to Paris, and in 2017 it finally happened. I remember walking in to Notre Dame and tears immediately started streaming down my face. I had never felt more connected to God in my life; it was the most surreal experience. My husband and I attended mass, which is one of the most powerful memories I have, and we lit a candle and prayed to God to be blessed with a child. A few months later I was pregnant, and we now have a beautiful son. Notre Dame will always hold a special place in my heart! -- Missi Wilson, Brentwood Travel

The first stop on an annual trip to Paris

For 20 years, I have treated myself to a trip to Paris to celebrate my birthday. My first stop has always been Norte Dame, where I sit in the wax-scented, peaceful quiet and offer a prayer of thanksgiving. I light a candle for those I've lost, and then I just allow myself to reflect on the millions who have filled this blessed space over the centuries.

A statue and votive candles at Notre Dame.
A statue and votive candles at Notre Dame. Photo Credit: Victoria Ward

A few years ago, two friends and I stayed at a hotel on the Ile Saint Louis directly behind the cathedral. I chose the hotel for dramatic effect, because we exited the metro at the Saint Michel Notre Dame station, and Notre Dame was the first thing we saw when we came up the stairs.

I flew across the ocean just to hear the gasps from my dear friends when they saw where we were. 

From our third-floor window we could see Our Lady, and she reminded us on Sunday morning we were tardy for services with her lovely voice resonating from her bells. -- Victoria Ward, Rox Travel

The energy in her stone columns

My mother and I visited Paris in 2006. It was my first time in the City of Light.  We had taken the train up from Lyon and had been on the Metro underground almost the entire ride through the city. When we finally got to our stop and came up into the sunlight, I turned around, and there was Notre Dame in all her glory, not 20 feet from me! I got goose bumps and tears in my eyes as I finally realized I was in Paris. I cried out in delight, "Mom! We are really in Paris!"

The next day we toured the cathedral, and I remember putting my hands on the cold, stone columns and feeling the energy from so many centuries vibrating through them. I'm not a religious person, but there is something about the artistic, historic and cultural significance of buildings such as Notre Dame that draws me to them. I sat in one of the pews and just listened to the silence of the walls whispering to me through the years.

I hope to go back and visit and maybe help her heal. -- Jennifer Brown, Atlas Travel

A life-changing moment for a college student

As a college student backpacking across Europe in 1975, I stayed at a tiny hotel on the Ile Saint Louis. I don't remember the name, but I remember looking out the window of my teeny tiny room on the top floor and seeing the flying buttresses of Notre Dame. It was a moment I will never forget. When my hands touched those ancient doors and I sat in her pews, it seems like my life and my view of reality changed forever.

After a 21-year detour through corporate America, I now send my clients to Paris with the same passion and clarity that I experienced so many years ago. -- Gloria Hobbins, Global Village Travels

"This Is Paris"

My last visit to Paris was just about 2 years ago in the month of April. I remember standing outside Notre Dame late afternoon as the setting sun illuminated the beautiful facade and thinking "This Is Paris." I shared this visit with a fellow co-worker who has since then passed away, so it makes the memory even more precious. -- April Powell, Ocala Travel

Stumbling upon a Le Diner et Blanc in front of the Notre Dame cathedral.
Stumbling upon a Le Diner et Blanc in front of the Notre Dame cathedral. Photo Credit: Sandra Gonzalez

A magical dinner party

I stumbled onto this huge Le Diner en Blanc [a series of invitation-only, alfresco dinner parties where all the guests dress in white] during my last visit to Notre Dame. I will never forget her grandeur and grace as she looked over everyone in attendance. She will rise again! -- Sandra Gonzalez

The spiritual connection

I was just in Paris for the first time ever just a few months ago and feel a connection. We visited Notre Dame in all its glory. I had taken French class in high school and college, and so of course I knew the important monuments, one being Notre Dame. I remember when my husband and I walked in, I was overcome with spirituality. I haven't been as spiritual in my adult life as I was in my growing-up years, but this was special and oh so different! I lit a candle and prayed to God that he would watch over my husband and daughter, my family, my friends and my coworkers. I listed everyone I could think of, as I knew this was the place and time. As we walked around inside, the beauty and the history were both amazing; the pictures I was taking could never do it justice.

Now I'm just so sorrowful that this beautiful monument is broken and hurt, but it has withstood the test of time over and over again, and so I am sure it will be magnificent and miraculous once again.  -- Karen Jensen, Sysmex America

Send your stories of Notre Dame to [email protected], and we'll continue to print a selection of responses here (submissions are edited for length and to conform to Travel Weekly style and standards). 

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