An Ode to Notre Dame

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

A deja-vu connection.

The fire at Notre Dame is devastating. A loss of history and an international icon. For me it brought up many feelings.

A view of Notre Dame past.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2017

My first trip to Paris was with an exchange group at the age of 16. Though I had been oversesas with my parents before that, this was my first trip without them. I had studied French in high school and the text books had many photos of France. And I still remember, vividly, standing in front of Notre Dame, on that first trip, and thinking, “Wow. It’s like my text book has come to life.” It was such a staggering sensation to see my very first international photo come to life in front of my eyes. As if the page had taken on dimension and I could touch it, walk next to it, go inside it, it was real!

“A fire that burns deeply in everyone.”

That first trip to France was what gave me my life’s desire to travel and learn languages and meet new people. Seeing that symbol burn was like burning away a part of me. That first summer in France, a group of strangers from around the US became some of my best friends, one of whom I am in touch with to this day. I lived with a host family, on a farm, in the middle of nowhere. A native New York girl, with, at the time, no siblings, spent a month with 7 sisters and 1 brother and host parents that I still visit every year. All this happened at a point in my life where I was quite depressed. This experience, especially my host mom, pushed me back into the seat of my own life.

France is the country where I fell in love with cows. I explained in another blog post that a cow in Normandie, Amazonie, became my very first real pet. She made me feel wanted, and seen and like I had a friend every moment I spent with her. France is also the place of my first “true love.” Paris has been, for so much of my life, a home, a respite, an escape, a connection to creativity, friends, wine, food and shopping. I have gone to France almost every year since my first time there. I love driving by each monument in the taxi from the airport, or walking by them along the Seine. Around the world, any of you who have been to Paris and loved it, surely you have a story about Notre Dame. The famed gargoyles, the beauty along the river, a mass…this fire blazed through all our hearts.

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