Over the past 16 years as a tour guide, I’ve been lucky enough to spend collectively 8 months in Paris almost all of which I stayed walking distance from Notre Dame. During this time leading trips for Travel For Teens, I’ve led hundreds of students and adults to the top of the bell towers and through the cathedral. Yesterday, my social media feed was filled with alums from the program describing how they remember visiting perfectly. That is the power of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris at twilight seen on summer teen travel program

When we travel to new places, there’s a good chance that if there is an important religious building there such as a church, shrine, or mosque, it probably will be on our itinerary. We build these places up to be special ahead of the visit. The real power comes from a spiritual place that is unforgettable. 

Notre Dame sits in the literal center of Paris on one of the two islands occupied by the Parisi tribe for which the city is named.

Teenage travelers bike by Notre Dame Cathedral and River Seine on summer youth travel program in Paris

As you approach Notre Dame from any angle in Paris, the sheer size and beauty of the cathedral overwhelms any visitor. Most visitors usually just go inside while the more intrepid traveler climbs up the spiral stone staircase of the towers for a birds-eye view of Paris as well as an up-close view of several of the gargoyles, the massive bells, and of course the spire.

Teenage travelers relax at Notre Dame River Seine on Paris youth summer travel program

As you enter inside Notre Dame, the scale of the building, the vaulted ceilings, massive columns and brilliant stain glass takes your breath away. As you walk around, behind the naive and through the colonnades, you realize you are seeing something that is not only 800 years old but quite possibly the most stunning building you’ve ever been inside.

As those of us who had visited before watched the fire rip through the building and fell the spire, all of us mourned the loss of something special and beautiful. The connections we form with places we only visit once can stay with us for our lifetime. What’s more is that at the time, we recognized it was beautiful but no-one could fathom at the time they visited that it was something that might not be around forever.

This summer I will return to Paris with another group of students. I will bring them to Notre Dame and this time, their experience will be one of learning about the legend of Notre Dame in the aftermath of tragedy. We must all remember that some of the most important things in this world are never as permanent as they appear.

Ned Clark

TFT Vice President & Program Director

Note: This article was featured on Conshohocken’s local news site. Check it out here.