According to Sarah, the Catacombs of Paris are technically a museum, which means our Museum-A-Day streak is still alive! We also went into a patisserie today, so I guess I can add those to the tally board.
Great. As I said, we visited the Catacombs of Paris today. We arrived at noon and waited in line for an hour and a half before finally descending into the pits of–I mean, the catacombs. Catacomb. It’s like honeycomb and catastrophic put together.
Basically, you go down a narrow spiral staircase until you’re dizzy, and just when you think you might fall over, you reach the bottom. Then you walk. And walk. You think you see something behind some bars to your right, but it’s too dark to make out. Then, because you stopped to check it out, everyone behind you also stopped to check it out. They’re all squinting and craning their necks, trying to see what they think you see, until someone’s camera flash goes off and it turns out it’s just a wall. You all continue on, disappointed.
Eventually, you come across something actually worth looking at. It’s not a skull like you expected. It’s a sandcastle. Well–a stonecastle. There are a couple of them, and you think, hey, maybe this won’t be too boring after all. But just as soon as you think it, they’re behind you and you are once more making your way through narrow passageways with claustrophobia-inducing low ceilings with gravel to walk on, stone for walls, and water falling on your head from stalactites every once in a while.
Then you see something ahead. A table with some rocks on it! In the dim light, they all look the same although the labels say otherwise. There’s a cool shell-thing, but it’s just a plaster cast apparently. So you continue on through some chambers, finding a couple of cool wells and some french quotes about death from people who are now dead. And once the mood is fully set, you go through a doorway, and there they are.
Tons of them. They go on for ages. Every skull once held a thinking, feeling human brain. They were once people, with jobs and loved ones and their own set of mannerisms and now they’re a tourist attraction.
Yesterday, our Ghost Tour guide talked about how creepy it was that people used to get all dressed up and go watch a beheading. But I get it. It seems creepy that they did that and in the Victorian Era, dead people would be photographed as if they were alive. Hell, it is creepy. But it’s just as creepy for tourists to pay to parade through underground tunnels full of human skulls and femurs that have been strategically placed as decoration. Humans are weird and creepy. So yes, I understand how someone might have gone out to view a beheading followed by dinner at a nice restaurant and a glass of red wine.
I was not disturbed by the presence of the bones of dead humans. I mean, they aren’t that different from the bones of live humans, and I’m around the live ones constantly and I even have my own full set! I was not disturbed by how neatly and carefully they had been arranged, clearly meant to be looked at. I was not disturbed by how more recent people had capitalized on the bones of long-forgotten people. I was not disturbed by tourists making jokes, wondering how certain holes had gotten into certain skulls, and smiling for pictures.
I was disturbed by the fact that none of the above disturbed me.
It was raining when we got above ground again. I started walking and Sarah followed. I didn’t know where I was going, but neither did she. We got lost. Again. A nice lady pointed us in the right direction (which was 180° from our original direction) and we headed to the city.
We visited Shakespeare & Co. bookstore again. I went to the reading room which is one of the most inspirational places I’ve ever been in in my entire life. I sat down, took out my notebook, and before I knew it had written over a page, forgetting that Sarah was waiting for me outside. I hurried off, stopping only to buy a notebook on my way out. Then we walked to a cute little cupcakerie near Notre Dame that we’ve passed twice before. Once, it was closed, another time we just didn’t have the time.
So we each got a cupcake and drink because we were hungry and none of the restaurants opened for dinner until 7pm. From there we returned to our hostel room and I started loading the pictures for this post right away so what happened yesterday wouldn’t happen again today. At 7 we went to an Italian place we passed this morning that had smelled so good. We got ourselves some excellent pizza (Italy is officially on my To-Do list!) and then we came back, full and tired.
Today was good. I wonder what’s in store for tomorrow?
Also, if you read yesterday’s post and wanted to see the details on the art I was talking about, you can check some of them out for yourself with these links:
My Favourite Which I Didn’t Mention Yesterday
(The camera and computer ruins the colours and doesn’t do it justice at all, but it’s good anyway.)
(No, it’s not my favourite because of the Doctor Who episode.)
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