I always go to Notre Dame first when I'm visiting Paris. I no longer know why; I just always have.
I had purposely picked Paris for this vacation-not quite a vacation just because I know it so well, and I've done all the touristy things before and I can sit in the Tuileries and read a book and not feel that I'm missing out on all the amazing glamorous activities everyone around me seems so caught up in. You can hardly call Paris settling, but after too many years with no vacation followed by the disappointment of the big glamorous Egypt adventure that never happened, and the year running out and vacation days waiting to be used, I picked it simply because it isn't an adventure. Been there, definitely done that. No stress, no bother. I know how to be in Paris. And if something happened at the last minute and I couldn't go, I'd be disappointed but I'd just plan something else some other time.
So definitely no pilgrimage to Notre Dame was required this time. I woke up the first morning tired and jet-lagged, and my hotel was up near the Opera, and I decided to go somewhere else instead, probably a cafe, anywhere with coffee. But the weather was beautiful, perfect October, and before I knew it I was on Ile de la Cite, shuffling my way into the cathedral with thousands of tourists to look at something I'd seen dozens of times before.
I made my way up the aisle and sat down, grateful for the dubious comfort of the stiff wooden seat, and tried to ignore the flashing cameras and whispered conversations around me. Why had I come here exactly? Then I looked up at the rose window.
Joy seized me.