Tag Archives: catacombs

Underbelly of Paris – Les Catacombes

There is this incredible little pastry shop in the middle of Paris – quite possibly the middle of the map (though of course this depends on where you place your map)… And it is right opposite the entrance which goes down a stone spiral staircase that opens up onto thousands upon thousands of human remains. You know, location location location. (The bakery was really lovely though, don’t get me wrong!)

Bones

Les Catacombes, the Catacombs of Paris, France, are home to what seems to be an infinite number of old human remains that were dug up a couple decades ago from churchyards around the city, and placed, according to custom and set rules and regulation (because they have rules for how you stack bones, naturally), in the old underground quarries from even longer prior to that. People are weird. Maybe we were weird for being so intrigued and enthralled and captivated by it?

Greenstick fracture

This place is immensely creepy. Thankfully, I, unlike my crazy travel partner, had not watched “As Above, So Below” before going into the twisting, dark, dank tunnels, so I had no fear of imminent supernatural about to attack, but that didn’t make it any less freaky.

Tunnel

 

But enough of those childish descriptions. The information down there was great: I had no idea there were underground quarries below the densely populated city of Paris, and I got to learn a heck of a lot about the methods behind it. Also, how crazy miners are, and the people who don’t think things through, resulting in some ceilings of the tunnels collapsing. How do you not see that coming? Have you never built a sandcastle on the beach before (or in any sand whatsoever)? Silly…

Stone-masonry

What was not silly, was the fact that there was information in ENGLISH as well, for a change. It was a really nice relief to actually know what was going on down there. Except for the creepy Latin inscriptions as you head into the tunnels which house the actual skeletons – which makes it even eerier (grown up words!).

Typically people don't appreciate or respect others, or the dead, and they go and vandalise history... Spooky though

Typically people don’t appreciate or respect others, or the dead, and they go and vandalise history… Spooky though

It was really something nice and different to do in Paris. They are open until fairly late, the place is extremely accessible, and we even got a student discount, which is always great! The only problem (apart from having to do even more stairs) was that you come out somewhere quite different to where you go in, and we forgot to familiarise ourselves with the route back. It was fine, we were in Paris! Stunning little sight-see, not too busy, absolutely worth the visit!

666 graffiti

 

Oui went to Paris

We went to England for his first time overseas. He wanted something exotic for his first time though, so I figured why not hop on over to Paris for the weekend. After all, it is just around the corner.

Surrounded by history is the city of Paris

Outside the Army Museum: Surrounded by history is the city of Paris. It really makes me wish I had taken the noble subject of History, even if only at school level

The city of love, of lights, of overpriced restaurants, too much vandalistic graffiti, and enough litter in the sheets to tower over Le Toer Eiffel. I guess that’s how it’s always been though, a city of start contrasts. Our visit to The Palace of Versailles highlighted how lavishly the French Bourgeoise lived, while the proletariat went starving. Walking through the narrow lanes and alleyways of Paris, and suddenly, out of the cobbled streets, will rise, gold and grand, some immense building of some significance or other. And then it’s back to uneven paving and spray painted tags, where some French kid thought he was being cool by cussing in English.

Paris is full of rebels, even if it is just a way for them to declare their undying love

Paris is full of rebels, even if it is just a way for them to declare their undying love

The first time I went to Paris, I went by ferry, and it gave a stunning view of Dover (and boats are always fun). This time, we caught the Eurostar, for £72 one way, and £56 for the return trip. I expected more from the train trip, but hey, it was efficient and it delivered us safely to Gare du Nord train station, a short bus ride from our accommodation. If only we knew how to catch a bus in France… Luckily, the French folk were really helpful, contrary to my limited past experience. I still don’t know how to catch a bus though.

Beauty is in the sunglasses of the South African

Beauty is in the sunglasses of the South African

We booked our accommodation through Air BnB, which is pretty much my new favourite travel website, on par in usefulness with Skyscanner.net, We stayed in a 6th floor, one bedroom apartment which had windows that would have been completely perfect if their view had been one of the Eiffel Tower. Also, if they had curtains, especialy with the sunrising at 5am, setting at 11.

Check: he's holding the Eiffel Tower!

Check: he’s holding the Eiffel Tower!

The highlights of this trip:

Day 1

  • Arc de Triomf
  • Champs Elysee
  • The Louvre (and getting in for free)
  • Walking to Notre Dame
  • Grabbing a Quick burger
  • Walking to the Eiffel Tower; climbing the 700 stairs to the second level and then catching a lift to the top
  • And finally catching bus home
The classic French dinner: Sirloin and Pommes Frites (French Fries). The irony that they are called Poms...

The classic French dinner: Sirloin and Pommes Frites (French Fries). The irony that they are called Poms…

Day 2

  • Oversleeping, meeting some Americans on a train, and waiting nearly an hour to get into the Palace of Versailles, walking through endless illogical halls-come-bedrooms then corridors of said palace, being very hot walking through the extensive and gorgeous gardens
  • Returning to town for a trip through the Catacombs,
  • Dinner in Paris
  • Sunset from the Sacré Cœur, and
  • An evening stroll home along Place de Clichy (think red light district and “cabaret”)

Overall, it was a really lovely trip. Quite an expensive expedition, but that’s what you get when you visit one of the most popular world tourist destinations. We walked 15km on each of the days, excluding the walk around the inside of the Palace of Versailles, and excluding walking around the Louvre. We were only there for 3 nights, but we really made the most of the limited time that we did have there.

Paris has this uncanny ability to be an amazing fantasy before you get there, somewhat awful and scruffy while you are there, and then still manages to leave you feeling as though you went to this magical place of beauty and excitement when you return to reality. It’s bizarre and I like it.