Our very first trip here in Europe was to Paris the weekend we moved here. We rented a van because we didn't have our car yet, and drove to Paris. No reservations, no plans, just an idea and four kids. Read about that here. A lot has changed since that first trip. The kids are bigger and we've seen about 22 countries since then. Even though so much is different, so much is the same. We still get blown away by just how much there is to see here. We get blown away by the history and the beauty of Europe. I don't think that will ever change.
Our first trip to Paris was so spur of the moment, it wasn't planned very well. We left Paris still wanting to see many things so we always knew we would be back. Our first stop on our second trip was the catacombs under the streets of Paris.
Actually, our first stop was the line outside the catacombs. Even in the middle of coldest February the wait was over two hours.
The Catacombes de Paris are in old, abandoned underground stone mines and quarries on the Left Bank of the Seine river. The entrance is outside of what was considered medieval Paris, but Paris has grown to overtake the entrance.
The catacombs hold the remains of about 6 million Parisians. Paris didn't always put their dearly departed down in mines.
In the 1700's Paris experienced an overcrowding problem in its cemeteries. In fact, neighboring buildings to the cemeteries had corpses busting through their foundations the cemeteries were so packed. Ewww...
After the dead started infringing on other's basements, Paris officials knew that something had to be done. The decision was made to place all of the remains of Paris' cemeteries down in the mines. It took two years to unearth all of the departed and to deposit them down in the catacombs. It really is quite interesting. The front rows of the bones are neatly stacked skulls and femurs. But everything behind is just thrown back there. There is no organization or pattern and a lot of the bones in the back are broken. It still is really interesting to visit the final resting place for the citizens of Paris for several centuries. I didn't find it creepy or weird at all and I recommend a visit to it if you are in the area.
Of course while in Paris one must eat French pastry.
And we did other things.
Like visit the Eiffel Tower again.
It was really nice to visit Paris and not feel all this pressure to "see everything." Since we had already been there, we took a much more relaxed view to this trip. So relaxed that we bought a ball and went and played soccer across from the Eiffel Tower.
A little posing by the tower.
This is the Musée National de la Marine, or the maritime museum across the river from the Eiffel Tower. There are parks and greens spaces just behind from where I am taking this picture. (Don't let the blue skies fool you, it was freaking cold out.) While we were playing soccer, we had a couple of women come up and ask if we spoke English, to which we replied, yes, we do. They then went on to ask us if we could recommend a good restaurant in the neighborhood. Matt and I looked at each other and kind of shrugged. We mentioned the crêpe cart that we had just bough yummy goodies from smothered with Nutella, but other than that we really had no idea of where to eat. Next, we had an older married couple ask if we knew how to get back to the Métro. We DID know where that was so we directed them on their way. This kept happening while we were hanging out here. After four different groups of people asked us questions of where stuff was or how to find something, it hit me. They thought we were locals! And why shouldn't they! Who comes to Paris and plays soccer in the park by the Eiffel Tower instead of seeing the sights?!
I'll tell you who. We do.
After finishing our Nutella crepes and giving out subpar answers to tourists questions ("I'm really not sure what time the metro stops running...") I looked west and saw a beautiful sunset descending over Paris. There is a reason it was so beautiful. That dark grey cloud at the top was getting ready to drop hail all over the streets of Paris. I kept telling Matt, "I think we should go. It looks like it's going to rain." To which Matt answered, "Nah. We'll be fine." Five minutes later the skies opened up and people ran for the nearest cover. We found shelter under the awning of a cart selling sunglasses and mini Eiffel Towers. (Much like my answers to tourists questions, the awning was subpar in what we were looking for.)
So we ran for the Métro.
And we found shelter and warmth upon it.