The Notre-Dame in Paris, France was devastated by a fire on Monday, April 15, 2019. Although the reason for the fire at the historical cathedral remains unknown as of writing, the ordeal reminds me of something I was once told, “It won’t be here forever.”
The Colosseum in Rome may be one earthquake away from rubble, the Florida Everglades are threatened, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shrinks every year. Some of the most iconic man-made and naturally occurring world sights are at risk of damage from decay, pollution, the weather, neglect, climate changes, and urban development.
Missing Notre-Dame in Paris
Each year, tourists make the fairly strenuous trek to the top of the medieval building to take in the view of the city and see the famous bell. The French Gothic cathedral has a long history of damage and restoration that coincides with France’s reputation for rebellion. Vive la France!
During my stay in Paris in December 2018, just four months before the fire, I headed to the church prepared for the 387 steps ascent up the spiral staircase. What I had not prepared for was the queue to get inside. As one of Paris’ free attractions, Notre-Dame is a crowded spot. Be prepared to wait 40 to 90 minutes to get inside.
In addition to waiting to see the cathedral, tourists also have the opportunity to pay to climb the tower staircase. This too has a queue, however, it’s digital. Along the side of the North Tower are kiosks that issue reservations in a fashion not too dissimilar to ordering at the deli.
TIP: If you plan to do both the tower and cathedral, then head to the kiosks to reserve your spot while you wait. Reservations are available for the same day and several days ahead. However, same-day reservations are likely to be hours from the request, so don’t plan to get a reservation for a tour immediately.
Being in France during the “Yellow Vest Protests” cut down conventional tourists sightseeing, as the demonstrations resulted in city shut downs. When I went back to Notre-Dame at my reserved time, the cathedral was turning away visitors. Despite waiting four hours and having a ticket, I missed my chance to see the bells.
NOTE: In addition to Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Are de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, everything was closed to the public.
Not one to give up, I went back to the church the following day, requested a new reservation (again, for four hours later). From the top of the North Tower, visitors have a 360-view of Paris, and that view was worth the three attempts. I took the same steps and touched the same stones that millions have for the past 800 years.
There is something amazing about being in a place hundreds of years old; knowing that my fingers grazed the same cool walls as people from all over the world throughout time. I play with the fantasy that my foot may step in the same location today as a king’s did a century ago.
There is no way to know when a fire will tear through a roof, a volcano will wipe out a town, or a monument will fall into pieces. You may think you have the rest of your life to complete your bucket list, but there are no guarantees. The time to see the world is now, while you can.