Published: January 20th 2011January 19th 2011
I feel like I really got to know Paris today. Even though it sounded like a depressing way to start the day, I started with the Catacombs. The Catacombs of Paris were used when the government excavated a lot of cemeteries, because they were overfilled with the dead and started to spread disease to the living. They moved them all into a mass "grave" here in the Catacombs deep under Paris. Mass piles of dark clothes, bones, and corpses were carried through the streets of Paris to the Catacombs, with priests saying the prayer of the dead alongside. The way starts with stairs deep under ground and then about 15 minutes of walking through what seems to be a mine shaft. It was actually pretty creepy and I could've sworn I hear a scream once or twice. The first rooms you get to are before the mine shafts and tell about how the ossuary was there before it was used as a grave. Down the mine shafts and you reach another small room telling about a photographer in France a while back who wanted to photograph the bodies. This was before anyone was aloud down, but he received permission to come
down for 5 hours. It must've been soon after the bodies were moved, because he set up the bodies for the pictures and they weren't just bones... Into the Catacombs!
At last you go through an archway that says in French, "here lies the empire of the dead." I knew I had reached it at last. One more turn down a hallway and I was there. The walls were bone. Not all the way to the ceiling, but over half way. Skulls, legs, arms, everything. The hallways went on forever. It took about 30 minutes walking fast and some passages were blocked off, but you could see that the hallways continued in even more directions. Every so often there was a small monument or even an arrangement of bones in the walls, like a design of skulls. It was really an eery experience, but I would definitely recommend it on the top ten of things to do in Paris. It was really a unique experience. There's no flash photography aloud so it's hard to get decent pictures without a tripod with the lighting they have inside. The tunnels really were quite long because when I got
out I was two metro stops away. The oldest church in Paris and Deportation Memorial
From there I took the metro up a few more stops to the oldest standing church in Paris, Saint Germain. I could tell from the outside that this was an unusually old church. It showed quite a bit of wear and tear, but the inside was still beautifully intact. I took another metro to the island in the middle of Paris to see the Deportation Memorial for all the French citizens sent to concentration camps during WWII. It was partially outdoors in a small park east of the Notre Dame Cathedral. From the park you take stairs down into a stone area with spikes coming out of the wall near a hole where you can see the Seine. Then through a very narrow passage you head inside where theres a small room with etched writings on the walls and a small candle burning in the middle. My favorite part was a really long dark passageway with small lights on the sides. Each light represented one of the French citizens deported. It was a nice monument and definitely worth the visit. Notre Dame and this time I go inside
Since I was right next door and the sun had come out I decided to inspect Notre Dame again, this time in the light. I love the flying buttresses on the east side of the cathedral and noticed this time the green bronze statues on top near the third tower. I decided to go inside today and the cathedral has some of the most outstanding stained glass windows. It's really huge inside and had a lot of side displays and architecture to see. Looking up, down the middle, you see big stained glass windows on either side very high up. It was really a beautiful site seeing all the light filter into the cathedral through such beautiful windows.
I had been told the towers of Notre Dame were closed during the winter, but what's that I see?? Camera flashes coming from the top of the towers?? I have to get up! Unfortunately, you have to have exact change to get up. Not so unfortunately, I was hungry anyway so I sat down at a cafe nearby to watch the Parisians pass and get my exact change.
got my change and joined the line to go up into the tower. After all the stairs I reached the top and walked out next to the gate. There was a gate all around the top and it was, in most places, really narrow and right next to the tower. The gargoyles were absolutely awesome! There were tons and all had unique faces, features, and actions. I'll post pictures of a few of my favorites. The ledge went around both the main towers, which gave me an awesome view of the third pointy tower and the green bronze statues. You could also climb into one of the bell areas, which were made of wood and built so that the bells ringing wouldn't crack the statues. I also had an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower from the top. Too bad the panorama part of the towers was closed. Usually you can go all the way around them.
After descending I headed into the Archeology Crypt right next to Notre Dame for a history on the city of Paris and some excellent artifacts. They had excavated the original Roman ruins that used to be Paris and they were right inside
not mirrors! there's chandeliers all the way down. Inside Versailles
the crypt in their original positions! Versailles?!
I wasn't planning on visiting Versailles at all on this trip to Paris. I only had 2 full days and 2 half days, but I realized that tomorrow my flight doesn't leave until 9:15pm. I realized I have more time than I need to see the rest of the sights I wanted, so rather than risk missing my flight tomorrow (I don't know how long it'll take to see Versailles), I decided to go today instead! I have seen Linderhof Palace and Neuschwanstein in Germany twice this year, which were both somewhat modeled off of Versailles. So now I get to see the original! The original that started all this copying!
I took the RER to the Versailles stop and walked down Avenue de Paris, which goes straight down the front to Versailles. It was enormous! Linderhof was like a mini model! Everything gilded! And a big statue of Louis XIV right out front. I walked through the two golden front gates and got in for free since I have a European visa for more than 6 months. I took a tour through the castle almost too quickly,
because I had seen that the sun came out and the gardens out the windows looked absolutely stunning in the sunlight. If you didn't notice, I skipped all the gardens in Paris, since gardens tend to be a tad depressing in Winter, with all the plants dead and all. But these gardens looked fantastic! We went through a hallway past a room with a huge organ, then down another hallway leading through a couple of rooms with some really beautiful paintings on the walls. After climbing a marble staircase we go into a room about the history of France and it's kings. After that is a few more chambers with paintings and then into a big room with a full ceiling painting done. It was the biggest ceiling mural I've seen yet and it was stunning. After a few more rooms we entered one of the most impressive rooms of all. It was a room full of chandeliers. I'm not sure what it was normally used for, but it looked like I was looking into a mirror that was facing a mirror and just seeing a reflection of a chandelier 10 times. No, it was for real. Tens of chandeliers
in three rows all the way down this grand hall. With the longest
ceiling mural I've ever seen all the way down. Golden statues lined the sides and the windows on the right showed the gardens.
Off to the left halfway down this grand hall were the king's bed chambers. I instantly recognized the bunches of ostrich feathers on the four corners of his poster bed from the copy at Linderhof. King Ludwig II did the same thing in his winter retreat palace and I remember the guide telling us he copied it from Louis XIV, King Ludwig II's favorite king. The ostrich feathers were a symbol of power at the time. One more room with three larger than life paintings on the walls and then it was outside to the gardens. I thought of them as three different gardens, because they were so big; left, right, and center. I made my way to the center one, which had an incredible view, because this was the longest garden. There were a couple small ponds and many incredible statues. The sunlight was just what I needed after so many rainy overcast days in Paris and I really enjoyed the time
in the garden. Enjoying the food of the Odeon area
After the 30 minute ride back into Paris I went to the metro stop Odeon. It's a superb area to walk around and explore with little cobblestone streets, cafes, and restaurants all around. I had a small dinner in a restaurant nearby and then decided that if I was ever going to try a crepe, it should be here. I found an awesome little place selling them and got a banana nutella one. By the end it was getting a little too sweet, but the rest was delicious. The only other time I'd tried crepes was in my high school French class! and a bit more exploring
I needed a bit of time to digest my food before going to the gym (I found one of my gym chain's Paris locations) so I walked towards a toward that I had seen from Notre Dame, that I really wanted to know, what exactly it was. It's a beautiful building and apparently its L'institut de France. I'll have to look up what it is later.
With a little bit of time left I
obviously must've been soon after these bodies were put down here, but one photographer was aloud down into the catacombs to photograph the bodies
went to see the Pantheon. I knew it was already closed and the sun had already set, but I wanted to see the outside and know where it was for my visit tomorrow. I found it and it looked like it was straight out of Greece. It holds the tombs of a lot of famous French people like the Curies, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Rousseau. I can't wait to see inside tomorrow!
So my plan for tomorrow, my last day, is this: (not in order)
Inside of Le Louvre
Champs de Mars
There are more photos below