Call me crazy, but seeing Notre Dame Cathedral was not on my Paris bucket list prior to arriving in France. What was I thinking? Peter and I actually passed by it the first time without even stopping and accidentally stumbled upon it the second time, only drawn in by the crowds and bleachers out front. Though many times while traveling, large crowds equate to a Disneyland-like attraction, this was different.

Notre Dame may not be the largest Catholic cathedral in the world, but it might be one of the most beautiful and famous with an estimated 14 million visitors a year.

14 million and one if you now include me.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

We got into the growing line, which surprisingly moved rather swiftly, to enter this masterpiece of French gothic architecture. At the entrance doorway, I reached for the Euros in my handbag prepared to fork over a handful in order to witness what was inside. But, there was no cashier, no ticket booth and no charge.

It’s free to get inside of Notre Dame Cathedral. Go.

Stepping into this spiritual place took my breath away. It would be hard not to be impressed by its high arched stonework, ornate hanging chandeliers and spectacular stained glass.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

As at most churches we have visited while traveling around the world, we lit candles for our special grandmothers who had passed on. It truly is a time where I feel closest to my nonna, knowing how religious she was.

Doing this always reminds me of something she said to me while she was knitting blankets for the needy, a few weeks before she passed away, “I’m ready whenever God is ready to take me”. There is something comforting about knowing she was ready to leave us, even though I was not ready for her to go.
Annette White at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

After the lighting of the candles, I was taking a picture of the public mass times displayed on the wall vowing to return the next day during the specified services, when bells started to chime. We were at the Notre Dame cathedral at exactly the right time to attend mass.

Seriously? That never randomly happens to me. 

We took seats in a faraway pew where photography was still allowed. Though, we quickly ended up moving to the second row from the front for a better view. The service was completely in French, which I do not speak an ounce of, unless you count bonjour and oui, oui.  Those two words did not get me too far in this mass, so I simply tried to follow the appropriate Catholic church procedure: stand when others stand, sit when they sit and hum when they start to sing.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Even though I didn’t understand a word, the echoing of the sermon, the chandeliers dangling overhead and the many other worshippers being present made this a spiritual experience not to be forgotten and that’s why it even made my list of 45 Amazing Things to do Before You Die.

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DETAILS: There are hundreds of tourists Notre Dame Cathedral, but work your way through them. You won’t be disappointed. We arrived in the middle of the afternoon when the crowds were at the peak and though things moved swiftly, I would recommend going to the first mass at 8:00 am when the crowds may be a bit thinner.
Bring a zoom lens if you would like to take photos of the mass up close because they only allow them while you are sitting quite a few pews back.
Address: 6 place du Parvis Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cité, Paris, France | Map
Website: Notre Dame Cathedral 
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