This photo was taken on the first day of my first trip to Paris in 2004. Probably the first picture I have of myself in France at all. I barely knew any French as I had only been in a three-week language immersion class at Berkeley up to that point. (Not that I'm perfectly fluent now, but surely I've improved...)
We had just taken an overnight, nonstop Air France flight from San Francisco to Paris in late June. I must have been in Paris for only a few hours and, naturally, Notre-Dame was one of the first stops. This one took me a while to find as it was shot on film, and I only digitized these prints a few years later. But given the Flickr lockout, I only have copies on Facebook now. (I guess FB is still good for something.)
I don't have many words about what Notre-Dame specifically means to me (as many others indeed have specific memories and stories to tell). But I wouldn't even know where to begin with what Paris means to me. Beyond this snapshot, it served as a landmark in the background for every trip or time I've lived there.
I must have walked across Pont Notre-Dame countless times when I lived in the 13eme, and I walked everywhere when I lived in Paris—not only to save money but because I just loved it. How can you NOT love having the opportunity to walk past Notre-Dame—or La Conciergerie, Musée d'Orsay, or Sainte-Chapelle—on a *daily* basis?!
Certainly I take that for granted with some spots in New York, but I truly don't believe I took it for granted in Paris. I thought about it every single time I walked by, even if the thought didn't go much deeper. I didn't need to share it with everyone constantly, but I certainly smiled to myself that I had the good fortune and opportunity to be in the presence of history and architecture that has withstood centuries of madness. I'm relieved that the majority of the structure will (hopefully) stand centuries more.