I’m still trying to absorb today’s news about the fire at Notre Dame, and the potentially-devastating damage to a building that is not only an historical and religious treasure, but the literal heart of the city of Paris. My husband and I sat at the dinner table tonight sharing memories of our own visit to Notre Dame, and came to the conclusion that it’s one of only a handful of places in the world that truly touched our souls and left a mark.

Why? I’m not really sure. But both of us experienced something when we were there. I’m not a very religious person (despite years of Catholic school), but I actually felt God in Notre Dame. In the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows, and the dust motes dancing in the air. In the stones worn smooth underfoot, and the quiet murmuring of worshippers. The building itself, the physical place, had a power that left a mark on me.

Which led me to a related thought.

In all of my travels, I can think of only a handful of places and experiences that touched me like that. Places that moved me to tears, and made me stop in my tracks and feel something. Sometimes very unexpectedly. Here is my short list. I’d love to hear yours!

  1. Notre Damesee above
  2. Iguassu Falls – I’ve seen water falls. I’ve been to Niagara. Whatever. Right? Wrong. Stood there drenched in mist, crying like a baby, with all my senses completely overloaded.
  3. Budapest – Final night of a Danube River cruise. Sailing through Budapest at night, on the sun deck, wrapped in blankets against the November chill, sipping wine, marveling at the buildings all illuminated in a million white lights, tears streaming down my face
  4. Seeing the David – I’m totally not a museum person. We’ve all seen Michelangelo’s David in our art history books. I knew what to expect, and I “had” to go to the Accademia Gallery because I was leading a group tour in Florence. And yet I found myself standing there with my mouth gaping open, completely struck dumb by a statue.
  5. Kruger National Park – Africa moved me in many ways, but the moment I’ll never forget was when we were racing through the pitch dark, in an open vehicle, off the trails, crashing through the brush, listening to leopards roar, spotlight swinging crazily from tree to tree, trying to spot the cats and their kill, while not getting beheaded by a branch. Equal parts terror and excitement, but 100% alive.

Here’s to more moments like these!