on March 1, 2012
I asked many people to tell me the one thing they remembered the most from their Paris trip. My niece, who was 16 at the time of her visit, was most impressed with the tour of The Catacombes. I convinced one of my friends to go with me. We arrived 30 minutes early and I highly reccomend that. We were #12 and 13 of the first tour group of 20. When we entered the small green building that is the starting point of the tour, we looked back and the line was half-way around the block. I have heard that the line wraps around the block during peak hours. The Catacombes were started when mines beneath the city were abandoned and the cemeteries of the City were literally overflowing. Bodies were stacking up, falling into water supplies and generally creating an enormous health hazard. In 1786, undercover of dark, bodies were dug up from cemeteries and brought to the catacombes where the bones were seperated out. Femurs and skulls were used to build walls along the mine tunnels. The other bones were used as back fill. There are some decorative structures built along the way. Certainly not a pretty sight, but awesome to realize you are in the presence of generations of royal and regular Paris citizens. Before the Revolution, the royalty would hold concerts and parties down here. During World War II, the French Resistance was headquarted here, Clever idea as it would be easy to hide (or get lost) in the many side tunnels. Yes, it is creepy. Water leaks from the walls and ceilings and lighting is dim. Occasionally along the way a guard is posted. Believe it or not, some tourists try to appropriate souvenir bones. Our journey ended at a long spiral staircase several blocks from the entrance. On the top few steps were some bones that had probably been abandoned by souvenir hunters.
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