Once again, a busy few days. After spending a not-so-restful night at the Budapest airport, we continued our journey at much increased speed, hopping in just a couple of hours over half of Europe, and landing in Paris. Quite a change after four and a half months of slowly winding our way over more than 6000km. It was quite fun, really. I always forget how much I like flying. And despite our worries and going crazy making sure we packed everything that might be considered a liquid into our checked baggage, they didn’t even ask us to give up our water bottle.
Andrea and her boyfriend, David, were kind enough to pick us up at the airport. When we found them, they were searching the arrivals screens to try to find our flight. Apparently, as far as airport systems are concerned, our flight actually didn’t exist, as it wasn’t listed there, and additionally, when we’d checked in, we were just guessing as to which lineup to go to, since the screens didn’t indicate that they were actually checking anyone in at all. Leaving the airport was also a bit of fun, since the police had found an abandoned bag, and had to detonate it. We were waiting in a lineup of cars for about an hour before things finally got moving.
So far, we’ve been enjoying Paris immensely. I’ve been here a few times before, and Kathy had passed through and done the three hour, whirlwind minivan tour on her first trip to Europe. We’ve spent a fair bit of time going around to the major, can’t miss sights. So our first day, we visited the API Call ErrorLouvre. It seems really busy when you arrive, but it turns out that if you’re not heading for the Italian Paintings section, the crowd thins out really fast. We debated renting an audio guide to do the DaVinci Code tour, but decided that was a little hokey, and ended up spending most of our visit in the Objets d’Art section, including API Call ErrorNapolean III’s apartments, which were amazing, and then visiting the API Call ErrorNorthern European paintings section, which I didn’t find so interesting, but definitely beat the French paintings that we walked through to get there. We’d also walked through the “Oriental Art” section, which turned out to be near-east antiquities, which might have been interesting, had we not already seen similar specimens before in the Egyptian, Syrian, and Greek museums that we’d visited.
After go-go-go in Budapest, we’ve been really tired, but there being so much to see here, we tried to push on, and visited the Montmartre district the day after the Louvre. It turned out to be quite exhausting, despite only stopping a couple of spots, and we returned to Andrea’s maybe 4 hours after we left. We felt it would be wise to take Tuesday off entirely, which did, admittedly, make for a fairly dull day, but left us with a lot more energy to get going again this morning.
And so, for today’s main event, we headed back underground into the API Call ErrorParis catacombs. These were originally dug as quarries which were used to produce stone to build the city over several millenia. In addition to the quarries, there are loads of tunnels, including natural caves, the sewers, utility tunnels, the metro, cellars, and various test holes dug for testing ground stability which criss-cross the ground under Paris at various different depths. In the late 18th century, disease was rampant in the overcrowded city above, and to solve this, they exhumed all the city’s cemeteries and moved the bones into some of the underground tunnels, which continued to be used as burial sites for several decades afterwards. We’ve read interesting accounts of people who’ve made less than legal trips through this system, which sounds like a lot of fun, but being the wimpy and law-abiding types that we are, we chose to stick to visiting the section that’s open to tourists.
Our trip into the catacombs started with a dizzying walk down a steep spiral staircase, descending to around 20m below street level. The bottom opened up into a narrow stone-lined pathway, which wound around for quite some distance. It was interesting to see the underground street signs, indicating what streets lie above. This part was probably the most frightening of the visit, largely because we were quite concerned about how we’d react once we did actually reach the burial section of the tunnel. Unlike the labyrinth in Budapest, there was no over-the-top attempts at scaring us or anything, just the effect our own minds can have. As it turns out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as were expecting. Between how neatly the API Call Errorbones had been arranged, and just the shear number of them, it really didn’t bother us much. They were all marked with what cemetery they had come from. I suppose there’s not much to tell, essentially we just took a walk through a boneyard 20 metres underground, and then climbed our way back to the surface, but it was a, well, memorable experience.
That about summarized what we’ve done in Paris. We did wander around the city a bit today, found out, much to Kathy’s disappointment, that we’d missed a performance of Mozart’s Requiem at L’Eglise de la Madeleine, which happened last night, and will happen again the night after we leave for London. But we’ve got a couple more days here yet, and Kathy wants to go out to Versailles tomorrow, and then on Friday, we’ll probably go to Musee d’Orsay and wander a bit around the city some more.