A Travellerspoint blog

The Paris Catacombes

Walking amongst the dead.

all seasons in one day 30 °C
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We had a leisurely start to the day by walking down to the beautiful Rue Montorgueil, described as:

...a vibrant pedestrian area in the heart of Paris. Some of the city's best produce, meat and fish markets can be found here, along with renowned pastry shops like La Maison Stohrer, cozy bistros, boutiques, and bars diverse enough to please hipsters and traditionalists alike.

This district shows how even the busy center of Paris reserves village-like nooks. It also gives a picture of how Paris manages to be resolutely modern while preserving a rich heritage.

It was lovely to sit in one of the sidewalk cafes sipping coffee and eating our breakfast baguettes. The day started out with blue skies and was slightly cooler than yesterday. We'd even get a sprinkling of rain in the afternoon however blue skies returned by the evening.

From Rue Montorgueil we caught the RER to the Catacombs of Paris.

From the official website:

"The Catacombs of Paris (the “municipal Ossuary”) were created at the end of the 18th century. The cemetery of Innocent (close to Saint-Eustace, in the district of the "Halles") had been used for nearly ten centuries and had become the origin of infection for all the inhabitants of the district. After multiple complaints, the Council of State, by decision on November 9, 1785, pronounced the removal and the evacuation of the cemetery of the Innocent ones.

Old Quarries were selected to deposit Parisian bones; Paris indeed had just created the General Inspection of the Quarries charged with the consolidation of the public highways undermined by the Quarries. The Quarries “of Tombe-Issoire” were the object of work including masonry and consolidations of galleries, and by the digging of a flanked staircase.

The removal of the bones began after the blessing of the place on April 7, 1786 and was continued until 1788, always at night and according to a ceremony made up of a procession of priests who sang the burial service along the way borrowed by the tipcarts charged with bones and covered with a black veil. Thereafter, this place was used, until 1814, to collect the bones of all the cemeteries of Paris.

From the first day of their creation, the Catacombs caused curiosity. In 1787, Lord of d' Artois, who will become Charles 10, went down there, in company of ladies from the Court. The following year, one mentions the visit of Madam de Polignac and Madam de Guiche. In 1814, François 1st, emperor of Austria, residing as a winner in Paris visited them. In 1860, Napoleon III went down there with his son.

The Catacombs of Paris reopened on June 14, 2005 after several months of closing for work. Lighting was revised, the arches were consolidated and the walls of re-installed bones. "

I'm so glad we visited the Catacombes - very popular at this time of year - 1 hour queue as only 200 visitors are allowed in the 2km site at a time. From ground level you descend 130 steps. (83 steps to return to the surface)

At first, the site of skulls and other bones displayed in patterns obviously strikes you as quite strange. At the same time the site also feels very sacred and solemn.

From the official website:

The Catacombs gather the remainders of approximately six million Parisian, transferred between the end from 18e century and the middle from the 19e century, progressively of the closing of the cemeteries for reason of insalubrity. Along a labyrinth of obscure galleries and narrow corridors , the visitor discovers the bones laid out in a "romantico-macabre" decoration. Pillars, bells of subsidence or bath of feet of the quarrymen evoke the origin of the places, the limestone quarries, while sharpening the curiosity of the visitor. This underground museum restores the history of Parisian and invites to a voyage out of time.[b]

I couldn't help but wonder what the stories were of these remains. The bottom line is that no matter what your status, whether you were a man or woman, young or old, whether you were good or bad, every body was exhumed and transported to this final resting place.

I didn't find it disturbing but fascinating and at all times, I felt very aware that I was indeed in a cemetery.

This is a very special part of the history of Paris.

Tomorrow we leave Paris for Giverny to visit the home and gardens of one of my favourite artists...Monet.

Nearly falling asleep...night all. xxx

Posted by Anniemax 13:39 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

From Paris with Love

Touring the City by Foot

sunny 31 °C
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Here we are last night as we left our hotel for dinner - still smiling after a very long day (30+ degrees) walking around the city and The Louvre. I'd recommend doing the walking tours if they're available (and weather permitting).


We started our day with a walk down the Rue de Richelieu to the famous Louvre - about a 10 minute walk. We stopped at a delightful little bouangerie/patisserie. It was an ideal opportunity to practise my extremely bad French with the friendly owner.

This was my 3rd visit to the Louvre and I have still only seen a fraction of the 5 thousand pieces of art, sculptures and artifacts. I honestly believe that it would take years to view and learn something of the history of each piece. When I walked in I couldn't help but squeal with delight, like a child in a toy or sweet shop.

I wanted to get to the Louvre early to purchase our tickets and also to see a couple of the more famous treasures before the crowds arrived.

My first stop was the beautiful Mona Lisa. The first time I saw her I must admit that I was a little disappointed.
She was much smaller than I'd imagined. Having overcome the shock, I've grown to appreciate her beauty and decided that this is an example of where size really doesn't matter.

The first time I visited the Louvre was in 2004 with my four children. To get to see this beautiful painting we had to wait in a long queue. On this occasion, we were able to walk up to the barrier and view her at our leisure. It's surprising how relatively quiet Paris is at this normally busy time of year. When I was here exactly 2 years ago the area was full of tourists - perhaps the economy has something to do with it. ?



Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

Acquired by Francis I in 1518, acclaimed by artists of the day, the Mona Lisa – also known as La Gioconda – only earned her worldwide fame in the 20th century, more on account of her "adventures" theft (1911–14), stoning (1956), travels to the United States (1963) and Tokyo and Moscow (1974) — than her outstanding qualities. Da Vinci’s dazzling, almost magical technique models the forms through his use of glazes (very diluted, quasi-transparent layers of paint), playing with light and shade effects by making the contours hazy ("sfumato"). Aerial perspective, moving from brown to blue, creates, through the density of the air, an abstract landscape made up of earth and water. What a pity that the colors darken as the varnish ages: the sleeves were once saffron yellow. The model’s identity has given rise to the oddest suggestions at times, even going as far as to say that she was a man. It is probably a portrait, begun in Florence between 1503 and 1507, of Monna ("Mrs.") Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo. Her smile could thus be a symbol of her name, "gioconda" also meaning "cheerful."
While this is one of the period’s largest portraits, painted on a single, very thin (12 mm) poplar board, it is not an ostentatious image of a rich bourgeoise lady, although her pose and attire and the absence of eyelashes and eyebrows are in keeping with the elegance of her station. It is above all an ideal portrait, reflecting Renaissance interest in Platonic theory, when the beauty of the body was seen as that of the soul.

From the Louvre we made our way to Place Saint Michel where we met with our guide and started our walking tour.

Lion spouting water -Fontaine Saint-Michel - Place Saint Michel, Latin Quarter - constructed by Gabriel Davioud 1855-60

Lion spouting water -Fontaine Saint-Michel - Place Saint Michel, Latin Quarter - constructed by Gabriel Davioud 1855-60

The walking tour took us all over the city:

• Notre Dame de Paris
• The Latin Quarter
• Ile-de-la-Cité
• Pont Neuf
• The Louvre
• Palais Royal
• Haussmann's Renovations
• Eiffel Tower
• Tuileries Gardens
• Les Invalides
• Académie Française
• Opéra Garnier
• Musée d'Orsay
• Pont Alexandre III
• Napoléon's Tomb
• Assemblé Nationale
• Champs-Élysées
• Arc de Triomphe
• Grand & Petit Palais
• Place de la Concorde

The commentary was both informative AND amusing - even on a very hot day!

Obviously in 3.5 hours you don't get to go into all the places above, you do become orientated and have a good idea where to return to for a more in-depth visit.

Some of the sights on the walking tour:


This is the current Paris Police Headquarters (Prefecture de Police) - once the Nazi Headquarters during the occupation in WWII. It's located on the Ile de la Cite - one of two natural islands in the Seine. Bullet holes from French resistance fighters are still visible on the building.




Once the walking tour was over we returned to The Louvre for another 4 hours.

We walked back to the hotel, freshened up and went out for dinner - at least I managed to stay awake until 11pm.

Paris is a beautiful city.

Posted by Anniemax 13:05 Comments (0)

Paris in Summer

Hotel - Mercure Paris Opera Cusset

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After arriving at Gare du Norde, it took an hour waiting in a queue for a taxi to our hotel. There was no mistaking that Paris was in summer!

Our hotel is 'quaint'. I chose it for its proximity to places I wanted to visit rather than for its charm (or its mixed reviews on 'tripadviser'). I was pleasantly surprised. Our room has been recently renovated. It's small but adequate and bigger than others I've used in Europe.


The bathroom was clean and white, the bed linen was clean and white AND so we discovered last night, the Louvre is at the bottom of the street. We found a little supermarket a short walk away so I've just started my day with juice, yogurt and fruit.

The hotel building is 'very, very old' according to a man at the front desk. "How old?" "Hmmm, I would say 18th Century." Sadly he couldn't tell me any more. There is a lift that fits one person and your luggage which is fine - better than dragging everything up the stairs! The old staircase with its wood and stained glass is deliciously spooky - I love old buildings.

Last night we went out for an early dinner and walk. We stopped and had a cool drink at one of the typical French bars that line the streets in this area. By 9pm I had faded. I'm normally a night owl but due to the fact that we'd been travelling for 2 days my body said 'sleep time'. I expected to be wide awake at 3am and start my day which is typical when I travel however I managed to stay in bed until 6. Comfy bed and pillows!

Time to start our day. Outside Paris is beginning to awaken. We're off to the Louvre for an hour and a half, then to do a loooonnnnggg 3.5 hour walking tour and we'll return to the Louvre for lunch and more paintings and sculptures. David sighs audibly.

Posted by Anniemax 22:01 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

London to Paris

The French countryside looked like a beautiful patchwork quilt in shades of green and brown - a beautiful summer day

sunny 25 °C

We wasted no time picking up our luggage and transferring to Terminal 4 at Heathrow where we managed to get a flight immediately on Air France.

We went from 1st class on Qantas to tiny seats in the back row on a small twin prop Air France plane.
This was a no frills thrills flight. A long time since I’ve flown in a plane with a prop.

The clouds cleared as we flew across the Channel and over France. So beautiful! The fields below us looked like a geometric patchwork quilt in shades of green and brown.


I’m writing this from a train as we head towards the city from Charles de Gaulle Airport. One taxi ride to go. It’s been 32 hours since we left home with about an hour to go. I feel remarkably good considering the length of time and change in time zone.

The temperature is in the mid 20s – lovely summer’s day in Paris.

Posted by Anniemax 07:48 Archived in France Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

A little more food, movies and a little less sleep

2nd leg – Bangkok to London (11 hours) Departing 3am Sydney time.

It’s been 24 hours since I left home. We are currently flying over Russia – Moscow is a little to the north. 3.5 hours till we land in London. Once at Heathrow we’re going to try to get an earlier flight to Paris rather than spending 3 hours waiting in the terminal. 7 months ago when I last landed in London it was dark and freezing. I’m hoping it’s going to be warm and sunny this time.

After disembarking at Bangkok we really only had time to walk to the transit area then walk back again to go through the security procedures to board the plane. 45 minutes isn’t much time.

Annie & Milo (my Year 4's mascot) in transit - Bangkok

Annie & Milo (my Year 4's mascot) in transit - Bangkok

I smiled at the parents trying to pacify tired children in the terminal – completely out of their routine. Some of them were crying. If the truth be known, I’m sure many adults would love the freedom to throw a little tanty out of tiredness on long flights! It doesn’t feel that long ago that I’d be rushing through a terminal with 4 little kids trying to catch a flight. I was lucky. My children were always good travelers and learned to just ‘go with the flow’. I loved those years. Now they’re all adults and Mum gets to travel up the pointy end of the plane – I still remember the adventures 30 years ago when the aircraft was a Hercules and the flight attendant, a burly loadmaster – no Neil Perry menu in those days – a cardboard box with a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a drink – no wonder I was lighter!

Speaking of food, once on board again we’re offered supper. I wasn’t hungry – I wonder why!!! I don’t usually eat this much food in a week. I did try the Parmesan Biscuits with Red Pepper Hummus and Herbed Olives canapés.


The Salad of King Prawns with Marinated Leeks and Currents for entrée was delicious but I passed on the main and dessert, even though they looked very tempting.


I did manage to get a few hours sleep. The sky beds in first are very comfortable. After visiting the bathroom, I returned to find my seat reclined to a total horizontal position. On top of the ‘bed’ is placed a mattress with a sheepskin layer and then a white linen fitted sheet and finally a doona and 2 fluffy pillows. Yes, I felt spoilt. When Sarah (16) and I last travelled together the flight attendants even offered to sing her a lullaby – which she declined.

Brekky is about to be served – I wasn’t joking when I said I’ve eaten my way across the globe.
I have the choice of several different juices although I usually go for the ‘energiser’ which on this flight is Mango.
Next there’s fresh fruit salad, Bircher Museli, a variety of cereals and yogurt & honey. I like the Bircher.
From the bakery: toast, croissants and banana muffins.

OR, if you really want something hot (which I don’t) there’s scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, grilled bacon, sausages, braised beans, potato cakes, sautéed mushrooms and tomato relish.

Could anyone even think of squeezing in Apple and Maple Buttermilk Hotcakes with Cinnamon Yoghurt???

The cabin crew has been beautiful on both legs and I’ve felt very spoilt.

I watched the remainder of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – promoted as a thriller – once I was awake enough to read the subtitles – an interesting tale. My book club read the book a few months ago – I didn’t get to. Perhaps that was a good thing. Often movies disappoint after reading the book.

Apart from movies, food and sleep…what more is there to write about on a flight?

Posted by Anniemax 07:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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