The Paris Catacombs are a maze of tunnels and crypts underneath the city streets where Parisians placed the bones of their dead for almost 30 years. In 1780, Paris’s largest cemetary was closed for public-health reasons at the request of local residents. It turns out that people living near the Cimetiere des Saints-Innocents, located in the Les Halles district, were getting sick. Improper burial methods of decaying bodies led to water seepage and contamination of the water spreading disease. Thus, the catacombs of Paris were created at the end of the 18th century to serve as an ossuary. The quarries continued to be used as the collection point for the bones from Paris’ cemeteries through 1814 and now contain the bodies of roughly 6-7 million Parisians. Even before the last bones were moved in 1814 the underground crypt was a visitor attraction even being used as a mini-concert hall in the last 1800’s.
In the north of downtown Paris sits on the hill of Montmarte, ( the name deriving from Mount of Martyrs or from Mount of Mars), 130 metres high. It is famous for being the highest point in the area and for the white-domed Sacre-Coeur Basilica at the top, a monument that stands in stark contrast next to the mostly Romanesque, French architecture. From the top of the Dome, there is a panoramic view in all directions extending over 30 kilometers. Even with the extrememly polluted air of Paris, the building has been able to retain it’s pristine white appearance since its construction because of the Chateau-Landon stones which were used for the construction of the Sacre-Coeur. The stones secrete calcite when it rains having a natural bleaching effect.
On the first Sunday of every month enterance into the Louvre is free. Seeing the scarily long line that looked as though it could easily take hours, we hesitantly joined the cue. In line we met a couple of ladies from New Jersey. We talked about our two year trip and one lady reminised about her Europe travel in 1971 that cost her merely $600 for one month of travel. She hitch-hiked herself everywhere; there was no Eurail pass back then. It was funny to found out that she too had lived off the same grocery list as us: bread, cheese, peanut butter and water. As for the Louvre itself, it was a place to see the famed Mona Lisa and to witness the largest collection of art in the world. The Mona Lisa was easily the saddest piece in the place and we were much more impressed by the collassel findings from the Palace of Darius in Iran.
The famed Arc de Triomphe was erected by the Emperor Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate France’s military prowess, the Arc de Triomphe crowns the west end of the prestigious Champs-Elysees at the star shaped juncture known at the Etoile where 12 avenues radiate from it. (In Greek mythology, the Champs Elysees are the places where heroes stay after death). We behaved ourselves and bought only one item on arguably the most expensive shopping strip in the world. It was a 6.50 euro Crepes-creamcone.
We visited the Eiffel Tower at night and took the cheaper route (four euros) or the most expensive staircase ever. Here’s some interesting facts we found out about the tower:
- The Eiffel tower is 320 meters high and weighs 7000 tons. It has 1710 steps. The first floor is at 57 meters and 360 steps from the ground, the second at 115 meters and 1060 steps from the ground. The third floor at 274 meters from the ground is only reachable by lift.
- The Eiffel Tower shrinks too when it gets cold. It shrinks six inches in fact.
- It took only one year and a month to build the Eiffel Tower. (Aprill 1888 – May 1889).
- Protecting the Effel Tower from rust takes 50 gallons of paint every seven years.
- The Eiffel tower was very nearly demolished in 1909. It was saved by its use as a telecommunication tower.
- The top of the tower can increase up to 18 centimetres due to thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun.
- The tower sways to six to seven centimetres due to wind.
- One person died in the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
- It is dark brown.
- In 1925, a con artist sold the Eiffel Tower for scrap – twice.
Thank you to everyone who offered their helpful suggestions