Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Highs and Lows of Paris!

Dscn9163bAugust 9: Amanda and I have arrived in Paris! We flew first class, and we had a little scare shortly after takeoff that we’d have to go back to Philly when a flight attendant announced on the intercom if there was a doctor on board. “That’s not good,” I said to Amanda.

There was a doctor on board, however, and happily, we did not return to Philly. Apparently, someone’s ear started leaking blood as we gained altitude, and while I’m sure that can’t be good, but apparently it wasn’t a big enough problem to go back. (As an aside, it’s generally not a good idea to fly if you’re sick or congested for just this reason. Your ears need to pop without blood coming out of them!)

We arrived this morning, took a bus to our hotel, and stored our bags. We arrived at the hotel hours before we were allowed to check in, but they were willing to store our bags until we could check in.
What to do? What to do? Mostly, we just needed to kill some time. The Catacombs, which are about half a mile from our hotel, seemed like a nice place to visit. We wandered over where a long line had already formed. We weren’t even sure if they were open yet, and they weren’t, but we arrived about fifteen minutes before opening time—but already, hundreds of people had already lined up. It was a way to kill time, at the very least. =)

The catacombs contain bones from about six million people. It’s a staggering number of dead people. These people have been dead for a long, long time. Apparently, hundreds of years ago, the dead that they buried in graveyards in Paris were polluting the water, so they started digging up all of the graves and chucking them into abandoned quarries under Paris. Six million in all. The bones were dug up and send here in the 1700 and 1800s.

The line started moving by 10:00 in the morning when the catacombs finally opened, but the line didn’t move fast. In fact, it moved remarkably slow. I’m still a little surprised at how slow that line moved, and we ended up standing in it for two HOURS before we finally got in. The wait was pretty boring. I had my Kindle and read most of the time. Amanda, shockingly, brought nothing to read. The fool. *shaking head* She went off and bought postcards to buy and write. =)
Closer to the entrance, a man worked on cutting out silhouettes for folks waiting in line. A silhouette, which would be done in less than two minutes, would cost just three euros. That man was raking in the cash. He had a captive audience where watching him was the highlight of waiting in line. Neither Amanda nor I posed for a silhouette, but we took pictures of everyone who was doing them. =)

Inside the catacombs, we learned they were haunted, and I have the photos to PROVE IT! There’s not really much to say about them, though. It’s really more of a visual experience where pictures really are worth a thousand words. Piles and piles of bones—million of them—decoratively build up as walls and all the other bones were thrown behind them.
The catacombs are so very awesome, though. If you’re ever in Paris, they’re well worth the visit. (If you do visit, however, I’d recommend trying to get there a lot earlier than we did so you don’t end up waiting around in line for two hours.)

By the time we finished, it was time to check in for our hotel. We stopped briefly to pick up some lunch on our way back to the hotel, then we crashed and took a quick nap. Amanda had only slept for an hour or so on the flight out. I did better with a solid five hours of sleep, but that was on top of a three-hour sleep the night before and lack of sleep was catching up with me as well.

We finally got up again in the late afternoon and headed to the tallest building around—Montparnasee Tower. We had explored the dark underbelly of Paris deep underground. Now it was time to explore it from its highest viewpoint! Most people would rush off to the Eiffel Tower, but we knew what we were doing. This building offered a better view OF the Eiffel Tower, and it was cheaper and had shorter lines to boot. Frankly, it’s pretty much better in every way than going up the Eiffel Tower itself. Just like going up the Columbia Tower in Seattle is really the better deal than going up the Space Needle.

And we hung out there to watch the sunset and the lights of the Eiffel Tower go on. The views were spectacular—they let you go all the way up onto the 56th floor and the roof of the building for 360 degree views. Absolutely wonderful!

And now it’s late at night and time to get a real night of sleep. We’ve got a big day for tomorrow!

Thanks, Trekkie Gal, for sponsoring me in the Hike-a-Thon! None of the hikes we did today will count towards our total, but I'll be starting the Camino in just a few more days!
I pose next to a large pile of human bones. We weren’t allowed to use
a flash in these areas, though, so the photos aren’t all that great.
Amanda hasn’t realized it, but a ghost is about to grab her!
See the rows of skulls in the bones behind her? It looked like
most of the bones in the front that made the decorative wall
are femurs lined with skulls. Presumably, the rest of the
bones from the body are thrown in behind the wall.

Oh, yes, she’s definitely a gonner now….
If bones could talk, the stories these ones could tell….Dscn9205bAmanda caught this photo of a ghost wandering the catacombs….


Dscn9212bI take a close look at the bones. Like my baldish head? =)
Getting out of the catacombs requires climbing up
83 steps of a narrow, spiral staircase.
Amanda was greatly amused to find a defibrillator
at the top of the “hike.” I thought she might
need it, but she managed to pull through okay…

We’ve been seeing this billboard all over the place.
Amanda says I needed a new friend after losing Wassa Jr. =(
Just in case you think all of Paris’s dead people are in the catacombs,
here’s an above-ground cemetery viewed from
the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower.
The obligatory Eiffel Tower view. =)
Amanda waits for sunset with a glass of wine.
I took this photo and showed it to Amanda—who was quite
confused about how I managed to get the Eiffel Tower
in the same photo twice. “It’s the wine,” I told her. =)
Just kidding…. There was a mirror adjacent to the window, though,
and I thought it might make an interesting perspective to get
this photo set up like I did. =) (The real Eiffel Tower is the right one,
the mirrored image is the left one.)
The Montparnasse Tower. There’s a public
observation area on the 56th floor and roof.
The blue lights change color every few seconds which
is kind of hypnotic to watch. =)


Suzi said...

Ryan..I thought I saw your ghost on the wall but it was just my curser..I thought you had left an arrow pointing to the ghost..glad it was just my curser because I couldn't see the ghost....nice hiking hair do...have a great time!

Dezert Ratty said...

Good thing I wasn't with you - we could have really scared some folks down there ha ha
You guys have a great time!
Dezert Ratty

Anonymous said...

Great blog Ryan. The first time Carlisle and I visited the city of lights was for the 2000 New Years celebration with Suzi and George. We had contemplated for months where we would go and George suggested the best place of all. It became our favorite city and we have been back many times since. Enjoy your stay!

Anonymous said...

Cracked us up that we had a similar experience as well as photos taken in the same spots down there. We visited on 7/10/12 and also got in the world's slowest moving line 15 minutes prior to opening. Best wishes for a safe and successful hike.


Karolina said...

So you had almost no hair when you started the Camino! I never knew ;P.