Tunnels of Paris

14 11 2011

Arrête, c'est ici l'empire de la Mort ('Stop, this is the empire of Dead')

A really interesting photo of a train pulled into a secret station underneath the Waldorf-Astoria reminded me of the Catacombs of Paris. A tenuous connection, perhaps – evidence of previously forgotten human uses underground in metropolitan areas, that’s as close as I can get to a segue. But the link was there in my brain, anyway.

The Catacombs are a series of tunnels underneath central Paris. Originally a series of caves, then stone mines, when Paris ran out of burial places within the city limits, a new graveyard was established outside the city – and the bones of those within the city limits were exhumed and re-interred in the tunnels.

They were artfully arranged, and they are now opened as a tourist attraction. They are lit up (mood lighting) and you can wander through in your own time. The Catacombs are not at all spooky – we went through with children and they weren’t worried at all. The queues are pretty phenomenal though – two hours waiting to get in. They only let a certain number in at a time so there isn’t a traffic jam underground – and it does mean that while there are a few people around you, there are times when you are alone in the tunnels – alone with the thousands, perhaps millions of souls whose last repose is as a tourist attraction….

Of course, as well as the areas that are open for tourists, there are other tunnels and catacombs underneath Paris. Some years ago French Police found a fully operational cinema in one, complete with a motion-activated sensor that triggered a barking dog. National Geographic also has a fascinating story exploring the Catacombs.

signs indicate which cememtery the bones came from and when

If you liked this post you might also like some more posts from France…..
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Notre Dame
French menus
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
The Louvre
Tour Eiffel (Eiffel Tower)




One response

31 12 2011
Les Grottos en France « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] the children we tried to include a range of other attractions, including the Caves of Lascaux , the Catacombes in Paris and the Standing Stones of […]

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