Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

This is a bit unusual, but when I was in my senior year of high school and studying Spanish IV, I got to go to Paris with the French Club. They needed extra people to go on the trip, and because I was a considered by my Spanish teacher to be “gifted” with foreign languages, I got to go, even though I spoke not one word of français.

That bears repeating.  I did not speak any French at all.

We took the bus from my small hometown in Maryland and traveled to JFK Airport in New York. From there we flew to Paris. I think it was some time in the morning when we arrived at Orly. I could be wrong. All I remember is that before you could even say “jet lag,” the French teacher whisked us off to Notre Dame Cathedral. For a mass. Which may have actually been held in Latin. Or maybe it was French. No matter – I wouldn’t have understood a word either way.

Combining jet lag with a church service in a foreign language is a surefire way to send me off to La La Land. My head fell forward and I started snoring. My friends’ elbows found my ribs, and I tried to focus on the priest, only to fall asleep again within just a few minutes.

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Finally, it was over, and we made our way outside the church to the plaza. I needed to find a bathroom and was trying to ask my friend how to inquire about the facilities, but the French teacher was demanding everyone’s attention. She asked us a question (I use the term “us” loosely because I had no way of knowing what she said). My fellow students nodded their heads and said “Oui!” with enthusiasm. I figured she had asked if anyone needed a bathroom, so I said “Oui!” too.

Off we marched, back inside the cathedral, up a stone staircase that twisted and turned. Up, up, up. Imagine my surprise when we emerged at the top of the cathedral — where the gargoyles are!

So, dutiful to my parents’ instructions that I get pictures of myself in front of Paris landmarks, I got this picture taken up there.

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I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m sneering a little because (a) I still needed to go pee, (b) I’m afraid of heights, and (c) the gargoyles were really quite creepy.  In retrospect, however, this was really a cool experience and I’m glad I did it.

I was so happy to return to the plaza, and for the rest of my time in Paris, I made sure I knew what I was being asked before I said, “oui.”

Notre Dame Cathedral is located at 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France. The cathedral is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm.  Free tours are presented in a variety of languages at designated times; check the web site for full information.  Touring the towers of the cathedral is available for a fee.

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