On the way to Normandy – Jonah and I met up with my Dad for a quick 2 day multi-generational trip to Paris. Actually, it felt a bit like I was in some lame movie – when we made plans to meet in front of Notre Dame. Dad was pretty much landing at Charles de Gaulle in the morning about an hour before Jonah and I were leaving Grenoble – some 600km away. Thanks to the TGV we arrived at Gare de Lyon, took the metro, and got to Notre Dame about an hour after him.
We got two-day tickets for the Batobus – a hop-on/hop-off boat that rolls up and down the river Seine. Highly recommended. We used it before when we were in Paris with Susan’s mom when Alma was just a baby – and I think it’s one of the best ways to get around the city. Especially if you have limited time -and are dealing with kids, tired people, jet-lag etc. You get from one place to another on a leisurely cruise- rather than trying not to lose kids transferring from one metro to another in a crowded station with the warm-damp air that smells of human urine blowing on you. (don’t get me wrong – I love the Paris Metro – but it’s not a place I’d want to lose a kid.)
We had about a day and a half – so it was a bit of a whirl-wind tour.
We actually hit up quite a bit in those hours.
One cool thing that we’ve never done in Paris is the tour of the Catacombs.
Much of the limestone that was used in the construction of many of the buildings in Paris in the 16th century and on, came from a collection of mines – most of which were just outside the city. Also, many of the cemeteries had been established – some as early on as the 5th century, but some of the remaining ones in the 12th. The city continued to grow which lead to two issues- the cemeteries were full, and the city grew out on top of these abandoned, forgotten about horizontal mine shafts.
By the 1780’s there were occurrences of mass-graveyard walls collapsing in some parts of the city, and buildings collapsing into the ground in others. Two birds – one stone. The city set up a department to explore, map, and secure the mines. Then – they decided to use a few sections as a massive underground mausoleum.
The section that is part of the visit is 130 steps down – and about 2km along – some 20m under the streets of Paris.
The whole thing is rather surreal.
We saw Sainte-Capelle – the small church on the Isle de la Cité which was built as King Luis IX private chapel in the early 1200’s.
The church has some of the most extreme and well kept examples of high-gothic architecture and stained glass anywhere.
We swung past the Louvre (just to look at the building and gardens), wandered past Centre Pompidou, the Palais Garnier, and so much other stuff that I lost track. Considering my Dad was just coming off 9 hours of jet lag – I’d say we hit the ground running.