Last day in Paris: Catacombs, the Louvre Again, and England

Aug 08

Last day in Paris: Catacombs, the Louvre Again, and England

Our very friendly hostel night manager in Barcelona, Fran, had told us to do the Paris Catacombs tour (among many other great recommendations). One quick Google Images search later and I was sold. Bones after bones after bones after bones PLUS it was underground. I seem to love anything underground. It was a ‘must visit’ type of thing for me. We started off the morning of the 8th with our daily vanilla macaroon ritual at a bakery down just down the street from our AirBnb rental and then some cappuccinos at a café nearby. There was room to sit outside and we thought it’d be a nice place to sit and journal for a bit, but as we quickly realized, outside seating attracts the smokers. Not surprisingly, smoking in Europe is much more common than in the US and in California in particular and there’s nothing quite like a deep breath full of unwanted cigarette smoke while you’re trying to enjoy a cappuccino. We downed our drinks, went inside to pay, and took the metro to the Catacombs.

As we stepped out of the metro, the line to get into the catacombs didn’t look very long. What we didn’t see was that the line wrapped around the corner of the street and then some. An all too common sight in Paris around this time of the year. Compared to the Louvre or Versailles lines, the length of the Catacombs line seemed like it would be a piece of cake to wait through. There’s a 200 person limit on the catacombs though so the line moved slow. We got in line at about 11:45 am. At half past noon, another English speaker was walking around telling anyone that would listen that we probably wouldn’t get in based on our position in the line. The day before he had stood in line at about the same spot for 3 1/2 hours before getting in and the kicker was that they stop letting people in at 4:00 pm each day. We contemplated heading straight to the Louvre and forgetting about the Catacombs or staying and possibly wasting our time if we weren’t to get in. We decided to push our luck and stay. We met a lovely family from Canada who, just the day before, joined the line too late and were cut off from entering. The line moved quickly for a little while and then it slowed down for quite some time. I went searching for some water and lunch to consume while we waited in line, and ended up finding baguette sandwiches with a bonus of another vanilla macaroon 🙂

We ended up making the cut and were let in at 3:30 or 3:45 pm. We descended 130 steps and walked about 1.5 km before we saw our first bone pile. It was quite amazing to see as many bones as we did, in such huge quantities and in such a short period of time. Starting at the end of the 18th century, 6 million Parisians were buried there, but they weren’t buried as you would normally think a person would be buried. They separated the bones and placed them together according to the type of bone. Most of the bones we saw were large ones, from the legs I believe, and skulls. It was very creepy to see thousands of skulls in half an hour.

We left in a somber mood and trekked to the Louvre to run through a highlight tour with an audio-guide . The Canadian family was leaving the next day so they let us have their Museum Passes which let us skip the lines again, and also let us not have to use the tickets we bought. Amanda told me we’d have to make a trip back to use the tickets as we have two years to use them and I suggested we learn French before so that we can read the placards instead of trying to guess at the meaning.

We took the metro to the Louvre and ate a dinner that was much more expensive than we’d been used to paying (since it was *in* the Louvre). We walked right in with the Museum Pass, and picked up an audio-guide. The audio-guide highlight tour led us through the same area we had checked out two days earlier but this time we were understanding what we were looking at and the significance of it. The tour lead us through the the room that the Salon was held in which we had walked through before but didn’t realized what it was. Amanda was ecstatic to find this out. We’ve now opted to get audio-guides where ever possible as we learn so much more than just walking through and reading signs which may or may not have English translations.

We continued on to learn more things about different painting and statues and then headed home for the night. I was limping and in major pain at this point. I think I messed up my foot somehow while walking on the cobblestone in Versailles and then made it worse with all of walking in the Catacombs and the Louvre. I limped home and Amanda got me all set up with an icepack and some Aleeve (thank you Tawny for making us take the Aleeve) and a bottle of wine. Just kidding, I don’t mix pain killers and alcohol 🙂 I stayed off of it for the rest of the night and woke up feeling great.

The next day, our train to London was scheduled to leave at 9:13am and we needed to checkin at least 30 minutes early as the Eurostar trains require. What I had failed to recognize when calculating how much time we’d need to get to Paris Gare du Nord was that the metro line we needed to use was under construction and we would have to take a bus between two stations. That threw off our timing and we got to the checkin area about 10-15 minutes too late for the 30 minute minimum checkin. We were still there before the train had left, but they wouldn’t let us checkin. I was angry at the thought of possibly wasting $220 in non-refundable non-exchangeable tickets. For some strange stroke of luck, they let us get on the totally uncrowded next train that was leaving an hour later. We killed some time in the lounge reading and boarded the train at 9:53am.

I’m not quite sure how fast the high speed trains go in Europe but what I do know is that it’s a little scary when you pass a train going the other direction in less than a second. It’s almost easier to hear when you pass a train rather than watching it. We arrived in London and took the Tube to the Victoria station and  waited for our next train. Keith picked us up in Margate a couple hours later took us on a quick tour through Margate on the way to their home. It was a little bit nice to be in an area where all the signs are in English and everyone speaks English. I know Amanda is really enjoying the lack of a language barrier.


One comment

  1. Stace /

    Love reading about your adventures! Take good care. XO

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