We decided to stay in the heart of the city, at the Hyatt which made it easy to get to the subway and move around Paris (public transit is fantastic).
Walking out of the hotel we received our first big Paris experience – the cold. It was hovering around –2 but there was wind chill. As a family of Canadians who have not seen a Canadian winter in 2 years, we found –7ish crisp VERY cold (how quick we forget).
Paris is littered with great food shops. As we walked to the subway stop we noticed these truffles in the window. Note the price for the white truffles. These are not Cadbury truffles (smile).
Our first stop was the Paris Catacombs. We had to wait in line for a half hour and noticed these protestors in the park next to us. The boys went up and asked what they were protesting. Turns out they were protesting smoking, although I wonder if they were protesting people who smoked or the Paris smoking ban?
The line slowly moved forward and after a short wait, we entered the catacombs:
The Catacombs of Paris or Catacombes de Paris are a famous underground ossuary in Paris, France. Organized in a renovated section of the city’s vast network of subterranean tunnels and caverns towards the end of the 18th century, it became a tourist attraction on a small scale from the early 19th century and has been open to the public on a regular basis from 1867. The official name for the catacombs is l’Ossuaire Municipal.
This cemetery covers a portion of Paris’ former mines near the Left Bank‘s Place Denfert-Rochereau, in a location that was just outside the city gates before Paris expanded in 1860. Although this cemetery covers only a small section of underground tunnels comprising "les carrières de Paris" ("the quarries of Paris"), Parisians today popularly refer to the entire network as "the catacombs".
The catacombs are massive. We exited at least 6 blocks from where we entered.
I found this sign at the entrance quite interesting. Who would steal bones? Turns out lots of people. At the exit the security guard had a stack of bones and skulls that he had confiscated from people. But he doesn’t bother calling the police.
It is roughly 135 steps down to the catacombs, and then it is through a series of tunnels. My camera instantly fogged up (and kept fogging) because the humidity was very high, with water dripping from the ceilings. The ambiance was quite effective and unsettling.
After a myriad of tunnels, you finally arrive at the catacombs. The Quarrymen’s foot bath is where the workers would draw water for personal use. The water was a rather eerie green.
And then there it is. The bones of 6 million (estimated) Parisians. Initially, the bones were simply thrown into the tunnels but during Napoleon’s time it was ordered that they be arranged. The front bones are in neat piles, with the rest jumbled in behind. It is genuinely creepy (but a must see).
Various designs adorn the bone ‘walls’.
Part way through the catacombs you come upon a sculpture carved into the wall, Port Mahon gallery, carved by Decure, a veteran of the armies of Louis XV. The town of Port Mahon is in Minorca, where Decure was kept prisoner by the English.
There are few bodies that were actually buried in the Catacombs. Those killed during the massacres of September 1792 were:
The September Massacres were a wave of mob violence which overtook Paris in late summer 1792, during the French Revolution. By the time it had subsided, half the prison population of Paris had been executed: some 1,200 trapped prisoners, including many women and young boys. Sporadic violence, in particular against the Roman Catholic Church, would continue throughout France for nearly a decade to come.
An amazing start to day 2 … and a final bone design to close …. creepy.