Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The skeletons in Paris' basement

So, on our third and final morning in Paris, the early-morning attraction du jour involved over a kilometre of underground tunnel-walking and thousands upon thousands of human skeletons.

Make sure you're ready if you head down to the Catacombes.

Yes, reader, by this point in the holiday, I'd given up on makeup...

To be honest, it is kind of foreboding. Apparently Paris has a massive network of underground caves and tunnels, which are of course forbidden to the public because, for one thing, it's really easy to get lost.

But I did hear a rumour that a bunch of people got busted for setting up a secret cinema down in one in the 80s, and stealing electricity to power it.

Anyway, this is what you walk down once you're through the gates. For quite a while.

Then it gets more warren-like. In order to navigate, workers painted a black line on the ceiling of the tunnels which, when candle-light was shone upward, showed the way.
We're following this route.
Every now and then, you see a brick with some initials and a date on, like this, to show who laid this particular brickwork to uphold the tunnel, and when.
These amazing handmade sculptures, replicas of Parisian cityscapes were dedicated to a man who used to work in the caves but who had been accused of a crime. I was enjoying the story, until they revealed that the man in question later died during a 'cave-in' down here. A CAVE-IN!
Anyone suffer from claustrophobia?

They built wells down here, so that workers could wash/drink without needing to go back above ground.
After some time, you come to this. See the black line?
The rest of your walk underground is sobering and shocking simply because of the sheer numbers of the unnamed dead who finally came to rest here.
It's not like there's one room of skeletons.
They are stacked over 6 feet high, bones upon bones, and the walk takes at least a further 20 minutes to cover wthout stopping.

At the end of the tour, they actually check your bag. Apparently people have stolen bones in the past.

Needing something light like Retail Therapy after our morning, we hopped on a metro, only to discover the market we wanted to go to wasn't on today. We eventually found a vintage/flea market and whiled away an hour haggling in French.

Then it was on to Montmartre, where we climbed some steps to view the Basilique du Sacre-cour
and this lovely landscape, but mostly, we did what has to be one of the best things to do in Paris and went to a cafe for lunch.
I had snails, Eric had beef. We both had chilled red wine which on a hot day hits the spot.

Sadly, after some book-shopping for Eric (he bought authors who are amongst those buried in the catacombes) and one last drink at our local, it was time for the metro.
A bientot, Paris!


Shammickite said...

Hey Becky... when we were in Paris 3 yrs ago, we took a trip down in the Catacombs.. I was absolutely amazed that such a place existed. All those skulls and leg bones and arm bones.... all arranged in pretty patterns, I was GOBSMACKED!
You must be on your tour with Cabaret by now... good luck and break a leg!! :-)

glenda said...

Becky we are going in march to Paris what kind of price was on the hotels-did you guys love spending time their