Notre Dame

Notre Dame is burning. Surreal pictures of red flames glowing inside the tower before it fell dominate my News Feed. The magnificent landmark from Paris will never be the same. New Yorkers saw their skyline change on 9/11 and it touched all Americans.  Parisians are watching the same thing happen–the fire is irreparably scarring the skyline of Paris, and people around the world mourn the tragedy.

My heart bleeds for the residents of Paris. I remember stepping into the historic Cathedral. The flying buttresses and gargoyles are so unique, and the beauty of the place–a house of worship, a repository for treasure, and a tourist destination all at once.  I, for one, am grateful to have experienced the cathedral in person. I marveled at the Arc De Triomphe and strolled down the Champs-Elysées, admired artists along the Seine, and thrilled at Paris spread before me from the steps of Montmartre, but Notre Dame impacted me.

I’ve never made a Bucket List, but this tragedy caused me to pause and wonder what landmarks I would like to see before they are gone.  I was blessed to take a once in a lifetime trip to Europe shortly after graduating from High School. It’s the only time I’ve left America, and I can still feel and hear and smell some of the experiences on that trip.

Living in a “young” (200 year old) country, I was amazed by the ancient castles and cathedrals in Europe. Climbing the worn stones up spiral steps inside a turret of Blarney Castle to emerge and survey the rolling green hills of the Irish landscape are etched in my memory. (Of course I laid down on the cold stone, grabbed the iron rail to lean over backwards and kiss the Blarney Stone. I have a certificate to prove that I received the ‘Gift of Gab’ as a result of following the ‘tradition.’  That’s part of the fun of travel, following local traditions and superstitions so you feel a part of the place you’re visiting.)

I visited the Tower of London and saw the Cathedral where Princess Di and Prince Charles were soon to be wed as it was being acid-washed to reveal the glistening white stone. I have a picture of the guard who spoke to me near Buckingham palace. I kept and reread the book a passenger on an overseas flight gave me when I completed my book.

I learned about the people, places and cultures before my trip and then learned so much more while I traveled. I talked to fascinating people–fellow travelers, residents in the cities and towns, and the employees at tourist destinations, tour guides, shopping centers, and hotels. I think of the families I stayed with and the people I met along the way, making the world seem smaller.

Now, I’m wondering what I really WANT to see or do around the world before the chance is gone. Is there a place you’ve visited I should add to my list? Or a place that you wish you hadn’t spent the time and effort to see? If you could only take ONE international trip, where would you go and what would you do?