12 Days in Paris: Day 5

Sundays in Paris are very different from NYC.  Everything is closed!  Well, not exactly everything (some shops in the Marais are open), but elsewhere the supermarkets, department stores, and small shops are all shut.  In light of the rest day, Charles and I slept very late and then headed to the Catacombs.  I read about the Catacombs online and thought it would be cool to visit.

The tunnels reminded me of the border crossing scene in the movie "El Norte," but at least there were no rats.

The Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels, which house the bones of six million dead people, who were transferred in the late 1700’s, when the city’s public burial grounds became overcrowded.  My cousin tried to visit a few weeks earlier and said the line was over two hours.  Luckily, the line was only about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Before entering, a sign warned that the Catacombs are not for people with claustrophobia or nervous conditions.  We descended down the long twisting staircase and began the self-guided tour.

Monument in the Catacombs

Another monument

For the first 20 minutes of the tour, we walked through generic tunnels and saw a couple monuments to workers who died during the construction of the tunnel system.  Then we reached the ossuary.

Bones and skulls arranged in decorative patterns. Some of the skulls still had teeth!

Bones, bones, and more bones!

The ossuary was the creepiest thing I have ever seen.  You can’t tell from my photos, but the rows of bones go back hundreds, if not thousands of feet and there are rooms, after rooms of bones.  I have never visited a concentration camp, but the vast number of bones and the seemingly never ending rows reminded me of the Holocaust.  I found it particularly strange that the bones were arranged in patterns.  Although the tour was supposed to take forty-five minutes, we rushed through the oussary and finished ten minutes early.  A security guard at the exit checked our bags and I saw that he was sitting with three confiscated skulls.  I was completely disgusted that people would steal bones and skulls!  Across the street was a gift store with related memorabilia.

Skull and bones themed gift shop

The original plan was to make a picnic for lunch, but due to our late start and the fact that the supermarkets were all closed, we ended up buying cheese sandwiches from a truck and eating in a small park near the Catacombs.  After lunch we visited Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is a lovely neighborhood with lots of upscale shops and famous cafes, formerly frequented by existentialist philosophers.  I was surprised to read in my guide book that the revered bakery, Pierre Herme was open on Sundays.  I tried to visit on my last stay, but the line was ridiculous.  Fortunately, this time it wasn’t too bad.  Charles and I bought rose, lemon, chocolate, and carmel macaroons.  We liked them all, but we both agreed that they weren’t better than Ladurée (and I prefer the interiors of the Ladurée salons).

Macaroons!

We walked around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but almost all of the shops were closed.  We did visit an impressive historic church and saw the cafe La Palette, where Ernest Hemingway, Jim Morrison, and Picasso used to drink (Charles made the very astute observation that it seemed like Ernest Hemingway drank in every bar in Paris).  I forgot to take a photo of the cafe, but I photographed the gorgeous mosaic facade of the fish restaurant, La Boissonnerie, which we passed along the way.

This photo would be prettier minus the cars.

We finished the day at the Luxembourg Gardens, which is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Paris.  Marie de’ Medici built a palace there in the style of the Pitti Palace and it is now an art museum.  I just realized that we forgot to visit the Medici fountain, but I highly recommend it.  Definitely one of the most romantic places in Paris!

In front of the Luxembourg Palace

Luxembourg Gardens

Please stay tuned for day six!

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1 Comment

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One response to “12 Days in Paris: Day 5

  1. The catacombs look amazing – I must put it on my to do list!

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