Paris - Day 5 - Catacombs, Notre Dame, Wall-E

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
1
75
77
Trip End Sep 01, 2008


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of France  ,
Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yawn. So tired.

Relaxin' at the house, then out the door ... two blocks away to The Catacombs of Paris. What an experience! After waiting in line for 30 minutes or so, we made our way down a REALLY tight spiral staircase. Down below the street, below the metro even ...down down down to the Catacombs. Hundreds of thousands buried here. The story about the place is creepy and cool. As we head in, we see that the author of Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood rests here ... I point it out to the kids. They think thats cool. Through the looong cramped tunnels, I have to duck at several spots to avoid hitting my head on the low, damp ceilings. You can feel the place shake as the Metro goes by. Pretty spooky. ... And finally, we arrive to the caverns that hold the bones and skulls of the dead. Wow. As we walk around, it occurs to me that each of these people had parents, hopes, dreams, hobbies, etc. And then they died. And some of them had actual graves that were probably visited for a while. And then, as time passed, they were utterly forgotten. And now, they are a tourist attraction. A skull. A bone. In a deep tomb with a labyrinth of access tunnels surrounding them. For the vast majority, nothing remains of their life. For a minute few, maybe something they invented or wrote or painted. But nothing of themselves. .... Pretty bizarre.

Samuel and Ella are slightly frightened by all the bones. But not much. Just enough to walk with some trepidation. Ella spies a skull with bones crossed below it and yells out, "Daddy! The Pirates of the Cat-a-beanin!" .... "Yes baby...." ....

We walk and walk and walk some more. Over a mile of tunnels. Definitely a sense of claustrophobia. And the skeletal remains go on and on.just as long as the tunnels. In some places the stacks and piles of bones go back as far as the light, at least ten or fifteen feet.

Finally, we ascend some stairs and pop out somewhere in Paris, a mile from where we started. Its a quiet residential street. You'd never suspect what lay below. As we exit, our bags are searched. My mom is shocked to see that other tourists have actually stolen bones from the Catacombs. At the security station, they have several bones and skulls recovered from rascally tourists displayed as proof that they're search is necessary.

Back up to the light of day and after a quick potty break at Starbucks, we snag our first bus ride in Paris on to our next stop: Sainte-Chapelle and across the street from it, the Notre Dame.

We arrive without any trouble and enter the Sainte-Chapelle to find yet another tight spiral staircase leading up to the main sanctuary with views of the the beautiful stained glass windows. First goes Janice and the kids, ... then me and another tourist woman ..., then my mom. Hike hike hike. Up we go. I hear my mom talking up a storm behind me. Singing actually, "Following the leader, the leader, the leader ..." Think Disney's Peter Pan. And then, the song takes a twist. I didn't hear the words exactly, but something about, "... pinching the butt, pinching the butt, ..." ... and then a stranger's shriek, "OH!" .... and then my mom again, "Oh my gosh, I am so embarassed. ..." LOL! SOOOOO FUNNY. We were dying as we got to the top and my mom was apologizing again and again to the woman who had snuck in between us on our way up. Apparently my mom thought she was climbing the stairs behind Janice and gave a playful butt pinch to the stranger's rear end. How funny is that? ... So we are laughing hysterically as we exit the staircase while all the OTHER tourists are being respectful and silent since after all, we ARE in a sanctuary. We receive a well-deserved "HUUUSSSSHHHH!!!!" from the sanctuary attendant. Which of course makes us laugh louder and be more embarrassed about everything.

Saint-Chapelle is gorgeous for sure. But at this point of our trip, I feel like I'm definitely on cool cathedral overload.

Outside, we walk across the street and explore the Notre Dame for ten minutes or so. After seeing Paris from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumph at night, ... we decide to forgo the trip to the top of the Notre Dame since there was a good 45 minute line.

The kids are exhausted, so I take them home to rest a bit while Janice and Mimi take off to eat and explore the Orsay Museum.

On the way home, the kids and I grab a baguette and some rotisserie chicken that was so good. I don't know if its because its been a while since we've eaten familiar food or if this is just the best place for rotisserie chicken on the planet or what, but MAN it was good. For six euros, they pulled the roasted bird off the rack and put it in a to-go bag ... asked me if I wanted sauce ... to which I replied YES ... so they poured a bunch of sauce right in the bag. "Uhhh.... ok." Not quite what I had thought, but I can't complain. I get home to find that the sauce is a Terriyaki soy sauce and has permeated the chicken PERFECTLY. So good. So so good. The kids and I feast, then rest at the house. Checking my email, I find that Philippe (the neighbor who had rescued me from being locked out our first day here) has invited us for drinks at his flat this evening. We coordinate our schedules, and its settled. We will be by just before 8pm.

Around 5pm, we reunite with Janice and Mimi and head out for a ten minute walk to a huge nearby movie theater. Its through a part of town that we didn't even know existed. We pass a huge shopping mall, the Montparnesse Tower, and tons of shops and cafes. To the ticket line, where we find five tickets waiting for us (for free!) to see Wall-E in English! Woo-hoo! Xavier, our new friend from Paris who Janice and I met yesterday over lunch, has treated us to the movie. The kids are psyched, and having the tickets given to us as a gift makes the whole experience extra special. We all enjoy the movie to bits, ... I think little Sam Sam even cried at one of the romantic scenes. So cute to see our kids growing up ... smiling at kisses instead of wincing. The only disappointment of the movie experience? No buttered popcorn! Instead, you have a choice of salty or sweet. ... One cool thing though, in the theater itself a woman came by selling sodas and treats sort of like what you'd find at a baseball game. Neat idea.

Back home, we rush up to Philippe's flat trying not to be too late. We follow his instructions, "2nd floor, last door on the left" ... only to have a stranger answer our knock on the door. Aha! Yes, in Europe, the ground floor is "0", which makes their "2nd Floor" comparable to a 3rd Floor in the States. Doh! We apologize for disturbing the neighbor (who thinks its very funny!), ...and scurry up the stairs to find Philippe and his girlfriend Caroline happy to see us. They welcome us in to their home and show us around their large 4 bedroom flat. Same building as we are in, ... but the fact that they live here shows, as the house feels comfortable, inviting, and relaxing. They are able to maintain a very artistic feel to the house by keeping their children's rooms upstairs. So the art and cool furniture is downstairs, kids stuff upstairs. Our kids are bummed to find that Philippe and Carolines respective children are away this evening, ... but on the good side, they get free reign of the toys as we adults sit and drink and talk downstairs. After enjoying some good white wine and snacks (Carolilne treats us to a family recipe of tomato and onion and egg spread on toast), we talk through the basic questions of where we've traveled to, what we do for work, where we were born, etc. And inevitably the conversation turns to politics and the upcoming presidential elections in the States. Too much to recap here, but two highlights I remember is me sharing what Inigo had told me in Spain ... that he believes much of Europe has a relationship with the States like one might have with their older brother. A sort of love/hate relationship. On the one hand, you look up to his strength and successes. On the other hand, you may be envious and ... And this is where Philippe interjects, " ... and he is always meddling in your business when you don't want him to!" ... Aha. Yes. This is a sentiment that we've encountered throughout our trip. Later in the conversation, Philippe (a radio talk show host) shares a more powerful thought. He tells us that he believes it would be good for America (the US) to consider an ancient African proverb that says, "If you don't know where you are going, don't forget where you've come from." ... to which Philippe adds ... "And you come from mass murderers. Don't forget that." I was taken back. In the context of what we were discussing, I think it was a little overkill, ... but I was trying to understand his position. Seeing the surprise on my face, Philippe softened the pointedness of his statement a bit by adding ... "We all do. We all have mass murder and violence in our history. We need to be humble." ... and with this I can agree 100%. .... We keep talking, ... about Obama, Bush, and McCain ... and on to welfare policies ... and immigration issues (France and Spain face similar challenges as the US does with Mexico from their southern border with poor and often desperate African countries). We both agree we'd do the same thing the Mexican and African illegals do if we were in their shoes ... and we both agree that its a very difficult and complex subject. ... And before we know it, its 10pm. The kids are tired, we have to pack, and Philippe and Caroline have an evening event to get to. We thank them for their kindness, and head downstairs.

Packing, cleaning, sleeping. Our last night in Paris consists of two great experiences provided to us by the kindness of French strangers. So appropriate for how this whole trip has gone. Tomorrow, we pack up and head out of France. But we will be back someday ... thats for SURE!
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: