So, as planned, we left the apartment around 10:45 and made our way to Notre Dame. It was a lovely Christmas Eve walk, from the Marais, across the Seine, to the cathedral. We went past one of the outdoor ice skating rinks. Typically jam-packed with a long line, at this hour it was closed and tranquil. Lots of people (tourists?) nearby, however, taking Christmas Eve photos in the holiday lights.
As we approached Notre Dame, the crowd thickened considerably. Arriving, we saw that the square outside was packed. The 11pm service was being broadcast outside via speakers and a huge screen. To our surprise, people were still being allowed in, but in small groups. The line to get in stretched a considerable distance. We moved to a reasonably vacant area to people-watch and listen to the service. This was the service that focused on Christmas carols and we recognized most, and were even treated to some in English. The Notre Dame choir was incredible, combining children and adults with beautiful arrangements.
Suddenly, the area in which we were standing became flooded with people. Melinda overheard some guards saying that people were to be let in from this spot! Ella was having none of that, though, thinking it wasn’t appropriate for us to go in. But Melinda and Chloe were stoked! In they went. At 11:30pm. On Christmas Eve. At Notre Dame. In Paris. Crazy cool.
Ella and I continued to survey the crowd and the spectacle from outside. From inside, Chloe sent me several text messages (apparently, this is acceptable behavior in the 21st century – on the big screen we could see several people in the congregation using cell phones, cameras and all). She and Melinda were standing along the outer area with a decent view of the proceedings. They couldn’t see the choir but they could hear them. Besides, they were inside Notre Dame! In Paris! On Christmas Eve! As midnight approached!
Soon after midnight, I received a text from Chloe that they were coming out. The midnight mass had begun and some people were being brought out while others kept heading in. I was exchanging texts with my mom in Mercer Island, which was kind of surreal unto itself. Bells were ringing in the city. Ella and I moved to the exit, arriving exactly as Melinda and Chloe came out. We wandered around with the crowd for another 20 minutes or so, taking several photos. Chloe was busy Snapchatting with friends at college and elsewhere. Then we started the walk home.
On the way, we came to a spot where people can rent bicycles. Melinda thought that would be a fun way to get home and Chloe was all in. Ella wasn’t feeling too well and once we had trouble renting more than one bike, she persuaded me to walk back with her. But off rode Melinda and Chloe into the early Christmas Parisian morning.
What a Christmas memory!