Paris Catacombes and Notre Dame.
highlights: Paris catacombes; stupid people touching and violating the bones of the dead; dude skating on a fountain; finding the Lux garden; St Sulpice; Rue St Germain; River Seine and the tourist shops; Notre Dame; falling asleep in the cathedral.
Today, I planned to see two things: the Paris Catacombes and Notre Dame Cathedral.
When I left the hostel, it was already midday. I walked down to Barbés-Rochechouart station and headed to Raspail where the Catacombes are. I was looking for a roundabout, as the entrance to the catacombes was around this area. I saw a green building, not unlike an electric substation. There was a long line of people standing there, the queue snaked around the bend where I could not see any further.
I walked around to the end of the line, around 100 metres from the entrance. I thought for sure it would take ages to get to the front. Sure enough, it did take a while but far less than I had anticipated, the total wait time was 1 hour and 15 minutes. Thankfully for those of us waiting in the queue all exposed to the elements, the weather was kind enough to keep to a mild chill and extended periods of warm sunlight.
During the wait in the queue, I tried to pass the time by playing Tetris on my phone. I kept losing, so I quit that and simply stood there staring out into nothingness. A group of Spanish teenage girls in front of me started singing. Oh god, it was agonising. At first they were singing some songs in Spanish then they went on to sing some English ones. A few of them were getting all giddy around me and I think the singing was an attempt to impress me. Eew.
I paid just €4 as a youth under 26 years of age. Yes! The stairs on the way down were extremely tight and winding, all 167 steps to the bottom.
The exhibition was well laid out, there was information on the geological layers and some fossils found during the excavation. The way was dark, but it was not so cold. I believe the breath from the hundreds of visitors must keep the air quite warm- which makes me realised I was breathing in someone’s halitosis.
There was an artesian type well called the Feetbath, or something along those lines. The well still has water, however the steps down to it are closed off.
There were some signs on the walls that indicated an approximate location on the surface. It was indeed strange to see the street names while down in the earth, but very interesting to get a sense of where you were in relation to the city above.
The ossuary, just a fancy name for bone collection, is a hallowed and sacred place. Of course it is! But that didn’t stop people from touching, tapping, poking, leaning up against, rubbing, and just overtly violating the bones. There are signs mostly everywhere in both English and French that say:
- No flash photography this I believe is to prevent any damage caused by exposure to light
- No touching or taking of the human bones or risk prosecution
A group of Americans (I could tell from their accent and loud boisterous disposition) were tapping on the bones and saying “Oh yeh, its really fragile.” Another group of young Americans were sticking their fingers in the ‘noses’ of the skulls and taking pictures with flash photography. Disgraceful! I was feeling rather angered by this blatant disrepect for the remains of the dead.
I managed to keep to myself on the rest of the tunnel. At the end, there is another staircase of around 85 steps. There was a lady who started climbing just before me, she had a larger than life sort of body. I made sure not to pressure her, so I always stayed at least 5 or 6 steps behind, more than enough for her not to see me coming up from behind her on the spiral staircase. She made it though, I was rather quite proud of her!
I walked to the main road and again tried to find my bearings without pulling out the tourist map, but alas. I could see on the map that Notre Dame was really not that far away, maybe 30 minutes walk.
My landmark was the Fontaine de l’Observatoire, where I saw a skater skating on the fountain itself. It was pretty cool. It made me think about empty pools that skaters used to skate in.
The garden path directly behind the fountain went straight down to a large gate in front of what looked like a palace. It was the Jardin de Luxembourg. Beautiful! Seriously, just one word to describe it. Well manicured lawns, beautifully kept sandstone walls on the castle and a large pond. There were people sailing remote control boats in the fountain, it was quite a nice sight.
There was a sign that showed the direction to the Orangerie, where Monet’s masterpieces are now kept. I went in the direction that the signpost indicated, but later found out when looking at the map that the Orangerie was really no where near the Lux garden…. Why would they put a sign there???
I walked past the Sainte Sulpice, though I am not too sure on the historical or cultural signifcance of this cathedrale.
I walked down the Rue St Germain, where the high fashion stores line the street and there are at least four cinemas in the same section of road. I may go back there to catch a film- there is one coming out called La terre des ours and it is a French documentary on bears!
I walked along the River Seine which was lovely, there are many pop up shops along the river selling paintings and other artwork. A few of them even sold old postcards, they are black and white and very authentic- some even have messages on them from the past!
The Notre Dame was really quite nice, I wouldn’t say stunning though. The interior was incredible, the stained glass windows are so intricate and colourful, it must be seen to be believed.
I walked around once and found myself a place at the back of the cathedral. I spent some time in there to say a few prayers- it seems like my tour of France is quickly becoming a Church tour, ha! I had my eyes closed and I think I accidentally fell asleep, LEL. They started mass but I did not hang around for that due to being tired and all.
I think I am quickly becoming an expert traveller of the Paris Metro, I can now travel to where I need to go with looking at the metro map once only.
I’m going to have an early night tonight, I think.