Paris: City of Love, City of Light, City of Pastries
By this time, Caitlin and I were absolutely beat. Between the brutal weather and the nonstop pace of our trip thus far, we were ready to get fat in France. We had booked our flight from Tel Aviv to Paris (direct was worth the few extra bucks, as usual) without fully knowing where we’d be staying (more on that later), but by happy coincidence, we flew into Orly airport and our flat was closer to Orly than De Gaulle. Us 1, fate 0. The flight was just over 5 hours, and we got into Orly after 11pm. The airport was small and everything moved surprisingly fast. We noticed a bunch of people on our flight rushing and running through the airport, which probably should have tipped us off that there was something to run for. Alas, by the time we got out to the train and figured where we needed to go, the last train had already left. Us 1, fate 1.
As I mentioned in my Amsterdam post, Caitlin and I usually invite all sorts of people on our trips. Her mom and sisters joined us for a cruise 2 years ago, which was rad. This adventure to Europe was originally planned to just be Amsterdam, Paris, and maybe Morocco, and we really didn’t expect anyone to come. Until we found crazy cheap flights, sent them to Caitlin’s mom, and within a day they were booked. Sweet! So more than just being excited to get out of the Middle East heat, we were stoked that Caitlin’s mom and 3/4 of her sisters would be waiting for us in Paris.
Luckily, we live in a crazy age of technology. Yes, we missed the train, but since we had T-Mobile (free international data and texting), we just opened Uber*, got a car, and within 10 minutes we were heading to our flat. Crazy times these are.
*If you want to use my Uber code, mitchm1041ue, you will get a free ride and I will get credit as well.
Caitlin’s mom booked this flat almost immediately upon booking their flights, and we must admit, she has good taste! Booked on Airbnb, it was a bit pricier than we’re used to, but then again, we don’t normally travel with 7 people. This flat was absolutely perfect for many reasons, reason 1 being it was just nice and luxurious. It’s got nice wood floors, comfortable beds, and the biggest thing Caitlin and I needed after a sweat-drenched week across the Middle East, a washer and dryer. Beyond that though, the location was beyond perfect. We all walked to the Eiffel tower multiple times, there were 2 grocery stores very close (1 literally right down the street), and multiple metro stations nearby to get anywhere we needed. Plus the host was awesome to answer our questions and it was in a gated building in a very nice part of town. 10/10 would recommend and would purchase if rich and living in Paris for some reason.
Caitlin and I got in late, but it was super fun to see her family in freakin Paris. They had already had a long day between flying in, getting situated, and climbing the million stairs up the Eiffel Tower, they were exhausted but excited. It was pretty surreal to be sitting with a large part of the family in one of the most famous cities in the world, and we couldn’t wait to get started… after we washed everything in our bags, of course.
DAY 1: TRAIN TICKETS AND MUSEUM PASS
My number one rule on trips is we don’t get up at any specific time unless it’s to catch a flight or a tour or whatever. No matter how crowded the day ahead might be (like pretty much every day we had in Iceland), I’m not waking up until my body tells me to. And I was a bit worried that Caitlin’s family might want to get up and go at some awful early hour, but luckily we were all so tired that this wasn’t an issue. They had hit the grocery store earlier that day (another benefit of Airbnb is the amount of money saved by cooking/refrigerating/etc), so after a nice breakfast our grand adventure was beginning. I’m not sure who was more excited, her sisters or me. Probably both.
If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now: In addition to being beautiful and smart and many other wonderful attributes, Caitlin is a phenomenal trip planner. Outside of our New Zealand and Australia trip, where we basically just hung out with friend, Caitlin has planned almost every trip we’ve been on and they’ve all ruled. So when Caitlin told us we were getting museum passes, well, that was it and it was settled.
The Paris metro is awesome and not horribly priced, so we all bought packs of 10 tickets each. (Side note, we would try reusing the tickets if there wasn’t a long line behind us because we had no idea when they expired, and probably 2 times out of 10 it actually worked, so don’t immediately throw it away). We were soon at Notre Dame, which we’d heard had a place to buy the museum pass. Alas, it did not. So we pulled up an app which showed us other places. Sweet! There was one nearby! And they didn’t either.
At this point, it was pouring rain and we didn’t have umbrellas, so Caitlin’s family found shelter under a store roof and I frantically ran around the streets asking anyone who spoke English where I could get a museum pass. Someone told me “tabac,” which I had no idea what that meant until I saw a sign over a souvenir shop that said TABAC. We were saved! The museum pass was absolutely 100% worth it for us. Not only did it get us into everywhere we wanted to go (except Versailles, which was not included), I counted the entrance cost of the places we went and we ended up saving around 30 Euros apiece. Plus, it got us out of waiting in certain lines and basically made it so if we ever didn’t know what to do or where to go, we had it covered. I would 100% recommend the pass.
MUSEUM PASS SIDE NOTE
Like I mentioned, I counted the entrance price of every place we went, and we ended up saving quite a bit of cash. However, it could also be argued that we only went to so many places because they were covered by the pass, and if they weren’t, we wouldn’t have gone. That may be true, but we honestly loved every museum and church we went into. Sure, there may have been 1 or 2 that we could have skipped, and likely would have without the pass, but the pass made it so we always had plenty of options and always had something nearby to do if we wanted.
Basically from the time I was little, I always heard how rude French people were. Then when I got into travelling, it was about how the French are not only rude, but Paris is dirty and stinky and basically awful. The first time we went to Paris, I was fully expecting to be yelled at in French as I waded through 3 feet of garbage on the streets. I was shocked that not a single person was rude, and it actually seemed cleaner to me than London. Then again, we were only there 2 days, so maybe we just got lucky. But after that first trip, I always told people we had experienced none of it and was surprised France had such a bad reputation.
This time, having been in France for a week, spending 5 days in Paris and 2 in Normandy, I can unequivocally say we didn’t have a single bad experience. People were nice, streets were clean (we stayed in a nice area, but still), and the city didn’t smell any better or worse than any others we’ve visited. I don’t know if these stereotypes are old and outdated or if we just happened to get really really lucky both times (unlikely). So basically I like France and French people are cool.
NOTRE DAME TOWER
Being with Caitlin’s family when they saw Notre Dame (well, 3 of them anyways) for the first time was really cool. Certain buildings are so iconic that it’s just amazing to see them, and Notre Dame is one of them. After buying our museum pass, we knew we could go up to the top of Notre Dame and see the amazing views. We went to the queue and there was almost nobody in line. Surely, we can’t be this lucky, right? Right, actually. (Remember, my last name means “unlucky or unfortunate one.”) We then realized you have to reserve a time to go up, and the earliest time available was about 6pm. Luckily, we had a day to explore Paris and no concrete plans, so we had no problem with that time, but my advice is GO AND GET YOUR PLACE IN THE LINE AS SOON AS YOU CAN IF YOU’RE GOING UP NOTRE DAME TOWER! It’s just a little kiosk where you scan your museum pass and get a printout for the time to come back. Very easy, very cool, VERY worth doing.
Once again, let me show you my oafishness. Just like the David and the Colosseum, I had no idea what Sainte-Chapelle really was besides a church, and no expectation. With the David, I literally didn’t want to go because, in my opinion, it’s “just a statue of some dude.” Why look at a statue of a guy when there’s millions of actual people all around? Then, of course, I saw it and it changed my life.
So maybe my experience with Sainte-Chapelle was due to the fact I’m an ignorant nincompoop. I had no expectations, or even knowledge of what this place was, which made my experience all the more profound. The entry way to the church is cool, pretty basic in the sense that it’s like all other famous churches. Nice, kinda dim, kinda whatever. I felt like it was not essential and was ready to move on. But the upstairs? Wow. It was dark, chilly, and pouring rain, so the day was quite gloomy. And yet somehow, as we climbed the stairs and entered the upstairs room, it was one of those life-definingly cool moments. I had NO idea about all this stained glass, and despite the dark day, there was still sufficient light coming through all the windows to make it feel like we were in some heavenly place. The glow of the glass was just crazy. It was a fun moment, probably made more fun by the fact that I didn’t even know there was stained glass up there, much less entire walls full of it. Absolutely astounding, and 100% on my list to do again. So bloody beautiful!
After Sainte-Chapelle, we had a few hours, and the rain finally let up. Roaming cities, particularly great ones like Paris, is one of my great pleasures, so it was heaps of fun to roam around with Caitlin’s family. We went into stores and shops and grocery stores (my ultimate traveling addiction) and it was fun. The best part? We, like true Parisians, bought baguettes, cheese, and (me at least) a dozen Red Bulls and sat in a park and ate. Paris may be the one city in the world where bread and cheese is the only thing I want to eat.
From there, we pulled out our phones (we’re all on T-Mobile, which was rad because we were never lost and always found cool stuff close by) and were only a few minutes walk from the Pantheon, so off we went.
As usual on this blog, for stuff that’s easily found on Wikipedia or in-depth info on other, cooler, better travel blogs (such as the Pantheon), I won’t go into great detail or give you some boring walkthrough. I try and provide original info, so if you want to know everything about the Pantheon, Google it. I will say, the crypt of the Pantheon is super cool. Also, I know nothing about architecture but I love the layout and the way the building looks and feels. It just feels important, if that makes sense. There’s lots of natural light inside, all sorts of cool statues, and a giant pendulum that was pretty mesmerizing. It was well worth the 10-minute walk between Notre Dame and the Pantheon. Plus, it was just awesome roaming the Paris streets, looking in every shop window, and buying pastry after pastry. Yes, we all got fat on this trip. Yes, it was worth it.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
After the Pantheon, we still had time and we didn’t want to go home since we would have had to immediately leave again. Luckily, as I’ve said, the museum pass was rad and we decided to go see yet another amazing French icon, the Arc de Triomphe.
I’m not going to pretend to know much about it, mostly just that it seems cool and I wanted to climb it… granted, by the time we got to Notre Dame tower, I was regretting every step I’d ever taken in my life… but it was worth it in the end.
There was a bit of delay as we waited to go up the Arc, and there was a cool movie playing showing the history while we browsed. The Arc has heaps of cool sculptures and it apparently sits between like 12 streets or something. It was a fun atmosphere around it, with all the people selling stuff and chaos of the cars and police and everything else happening. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was really cool, and all the names on the walls from the French Revolution and other wars were fascinating to read. But the highlight, minus the many, many stairs, was the view from the top. I am still not sure if it’s a better view from the Arc or Notre Dame, but I don’t think you can go wrong either way. We stayed up on the top for ages, mostly to see Paris from every angle, but also because my legs had basically stopped working. So worth it but ever since Egypt’s Great Pyramid, my legs just didn’t work right. I know, I know, it’s a hard life I live.
NOTRE DAME TOWER… FOR REAL THIS TIME
After eating and roaming and Pantheoning and Arcing, it was time to, like Quasimodo, climb the tower of Notre Dame. (Quasi does that, right? I’ve never seen it). Like so many other things in Europe, there were no elevators, so we trudged up and up and up. As I’ve complained about on every blog so far, I was crazy sore from our Egypt trek up the Great Pyramid, so it took me a minute to get to the top. But holy x was the top amazing!
By this time, it was a pretty clear evening. We were able to see the sun as it was heading down and the views from the top are so cool because it goes in a full circle. So from each angle we could see a different part of Paris. It was fun looking for the Louvre, Sacre Coeur, and other stuff that was on our agenda. Plus, there’s a massive old church bell at the top which is fun to see. It was an awesome ending to a really fun day.
SIDE NOTE: AT THE FLAT: PHASE 10 DIDN’T HAPPEN
Now, just as an aside. We had some decks of cards and some Phase 10 cards, and since we were all usually so tired by 6 or 7 at night from all the walking, we would head home, cook and eat dinner, clean up, and hang out together in the flat’s amazing family room. You may hear some crazy, evil, wicked, mean-spirited rumors that I, your humble author, got killed in Phase 10, much to Caitlin and her sister’s delight. Killed, as in, Mitch being on phase 2 and every other player on phase 6. These hate-filled rumors seem to continually pop up at family events, even now. Just know, it didn’t happen. It’s all a vicious lie. But, that being said, it’s fun to bring stuff like that along to make the evenings enjoyable. We didn’t watch a second of TV and aside from me working in the mornings and evenings, it was all about chillin’.
DAY 2: VERSAILLES
For some reason, I’m obsessed with the French Revolution. I find it so terrifying and fascinating, and am amazed at all the good (and bad) that came from it, only to have Napoleon become much like the rulers they thought they had deposed. The last time Caitlin and I were in Paris, we only had a couple days, so we did the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Notre Dame (not to mention a miserable extra trip out to De Gaulle to recover a lost phone). Back then, I liked the French Revolution but I didn’t love it. We just didn’t really care about Versailles.
Now, I was prepared. I read a couple awesome books on the Revolution and Marie Antoinette. I still wasn’t fully sold on Versailles until my friend told me, “You see that, and you’ll understand why the French Revolution happened.” Sold!
Versailles IS on the museum pass, but it’s a bit more tricky to get to than most things in Paris, which is why Caitlin and I skipped it our first time around. Plus, aside from my obsession with the French Revolution, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see some big gaudy palace… I mean if you’ve been to Rome you’ve seen enough of that, right? But the family spoke, and I listened, so to Versailles we went.
Getting there is only one step more than usual. We took a train to a little train stop specifically for the Versailles train. It was super easy, but the Versailles train is a few Euros, no big deal. We also had heard that having the Museum Pass would let us skip the line. This was NOT true, which was the only downside to the day. The lines were obscenely long, and I think we ended up waiting over 1.5 hours to finally get in. But, once we did, it was rad.
Again, I’m not going to give a step-by-step of Versailles, you can find heaps of cool stuff online. We all loved it, particularly the Hall of Mirrors. It was hard to even comprehend how crazy it must have been back then, and to imagine this insane standard of living. We loved the paintings and just the amazing details we would find, like the carvings and ceiling artwork, etc. We probably spent about 3 hours walking through, stopping to read everything we could, and basically just marveling that this type of place even existed. We got some great photos, and when we came out, it was beautiful weather and we sat on the walls overlooking the gardens and made our game plan.
Me, being the scrooge I am, didn’t really want to pay more to go wander around Versailles gardens. There was another long line and I thought I could see all I wanted to see from the walls above. But, alas, the family spoke, and to the gardens we went. It was actually probably the best part of Versailles, so don’t be a miser like me and just go. Caitlin tells me we only had to pay because it was a musical fountain day…I have no idea if that’s true but she’s usually right (just don’t let her read this please). Aside from being beautiful, it was fun to walk around to the different fountains and watch the water shows. It felt like a giant maze, and we continually were having to text each other to not get lost. But it was so worth doing, and we really loved the whole vibe. The lake/pool thing at the very end where they have boats is really cool, and we got some great ice cream and snacks at a shop in the middle. A bit exhausting to walk so much, but there were plenty of places to sit and lounge. After the gardens, it was back to the Versailles train, back to the subway, and back to our flat for a night of hanging out and not playing Phase 10.
CASH MONEY: A QUICK NOTE
If you haven’t heard, it’s been said Iceland is rapidly progressing towards a cashless society. I loved it, we barely had any cash there and it was nice. We love our Chase Sapphire card for many reasons, one of which is there are no foreign transaction fees, so we want to use it everywhere we can. Egypt barely took cards, Jordan was a bit better, Israel was good almost everywhere, and France was almost universally accepting of credit cards. I mention this because I hate carrying large quantities of cash, but I also hate foreign ATM fees, so I never know what to bring and how much. Exchange too much, and you get killed on the exchange rate and fees, especially if you have leftover money and have to change it back. But do too little and you’ll be frantically looking for an exchange place when you run out. In France, we used our cards at every restaurant, grocery store, and bakery we tried to use them. The only place we needed cash was as we were out and buying food or pastries at some of the small street side vendors. My advice is take a bit of cash but you shouldn’t need it very often.
DAY 3: MUSÉE DE L’ORANGERIE
Day 3 was cool because, thanks to our museum pass, we were going to check out several places Caitlin and I hadn’t been. I mean, come on, if you’re in France, you have to see some impressionist art, right? And seeing Monet’s crazy big paintings is pretty rad.
Ever since I was a little kid, my parents have had at least one Monet print in our home. So growing up, since I knew almost nothing about art, I always felt some connection to Monet because I’d recognize his style in class, and occasionally I would see the print we had at home and would get all excited. So, funny enough, from that tiny thing, I guess I became a Monet fan. And the highlight of the Musee De L’Orangerie, in my opinion, is Monet’s massive massive massive set of paintings called Nymphéas, AKA the Water Lillies. It’s pretty stunning because it’s a big white room (2, actually) with cool lighting and these huge paintings on the wall. There are benches, and even though I’m far from an art critic, I loved walking around, seeing the different angles and perspectives. That alone made the museum worth it, and was one of my favorite art experiences in Paris.
The building itself is gorgeous too, with a bunch of glass on the walls and ceiling, which, on our beautiful day, made it feel perfect. There’s also a bunch more cool art, including some famous Picasso pieces, but the Monets were the highlights for me.
JARDIN DES TUILERIES
Right outside the Musee De L’Orangerie is the Jardin des Tuileries, which is basically a massive public park. Like the prepared people we are, we’d packed bread, cheese, chocolate, and vegetables (along with some peaches, which were life-changing and amazing and you should eat 500 in Paris) and sat at a picnic table in the park and stuffed our faces. I can’t hammer home the point enough how great French food is. I would never eat plain bread and cheese in America, but in France I insisted on eating it for every meal. Sitting in the gardens, eating amazing food, watching squirrels and birds and doing some awesome people watching, it was as perfect a moment as I can remember. Yes, that sounds cheesy and cliché and whatever else. No, I don’t care, it was awesome.
Our next stop was the Musée d’Orsay, about a 10-minute walk from where we were eating. The Musée d’Orsay is another gorgeous building filled with a bunch of French impressionist art. I’ve made this point a million times by now, but when you’re seeing the world (whether waterfalls in Iceland or museums in France) it’s crazy how quickly and easily you can start to take things for granted. I remember distinctly after my third day in Rome thinking, “I couldn’t care less about another chapel or statue or painting.” Then when I got home I was sad that I hadn’t seen more. And yes, I felt bad for even thinking it. And in France, it was similar, where I was starting to get museumed out, even though we were only on day 3. Luckily, having Caitlin’s family there made me get out of my stupidity and realize that seeing this priceless art was not something I should take for granted, so on we went.
This museum has Starry Night, among heaps of other cool stuff (as a non-art critic, I basically get excited when I see something I recognize. And as a colorblind person, I get really excited when I see a color scheme that my brain likes, no matter how non-traditional). But I think the coolest part of the whole museum is the actual building. It’s this massive hall of glass and a huge clock on one side. I know, it might not sound cool, but it is, and just sitting in the lobby was fun.
After the Musee D’Orsay, I was tuckered out. Or, more accurately, I felt like the sickness that had been threatening my body, as usually happens on trips or any other day of my life, was finally winning. So I took a train back to the flat to lie down and get off my feet for the first daytime rest in what felt like years. Caitlin and the whanau, however, were just getting started. They stayed at the Musee D’Orsay quite a bit longer than I did, and from there, they took a 15-minute walk over to Luxembourg Gardens.
One of the many, many, many things I love about Europe is the fact that they seem to value public spaces. There are so many cool parks and gardens, and from what I heard, Luxembourg Gardens was yet another spectacular one. It’s got lots of pretty stuff and a famous fountain, but (not) surprisingly, when I asked Caitlin about it recently, she only mentioned the ice cream they got there. So apparently there’s good ice cream among all the beautiful scenery.
EIFFEL TOWER AT NIGHT
Once everyone got back and we ate, I was feeling ready to once again party and party hard. So Caitlin and I took a romantic stroll through the streets of Paris. Yet another reason our flat was perfect, as mentioned, is its proximity to the Eiffel Tower. It was maybe an 8-minute walk, and the night was perfect. We went and I must say, the first time we went to Paris, I thought the Eiffel Tower was dumb and cliché. Granted, it was pouring rain and I was freezing and sick at the time, but I left less than impressed. This time, however, at night, sitting on the Champ de Mars with all the crazy liquor hawkers and cheap souvenir hawkers and basically among all the weirdos, the Eiffel Tower was bloody amazing. Sitting right by it at night with it all lit up and beautiful, it was awesome. Perfect. Wonderful. Whatever you want to call it. Apparently, Caitlin’s family went and saw it “sparkle” one night, which I guess it does every hour. They loved that. We didn’t see it, but it still ruled. Caitlin and I FaceTimed some family members from the lit up tower, which was super fun. Great ending to a great day.
MISSING THE SOLAR ECLIPSE
A brief note: While we were in France, not sure which day, the massive solar eclipse happened. We went to try and see it but saw absolutely nothing. Apparently, according to people here, it was rad. I still would take Paris 10/10 over a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse, but that’s just me.
DAY 4: LOUVRE, BABY!
Sometimes I fantasize about living in London or Paris (which our friends did live in London and made me full of jealous rage daily… hi Morgan and Melissa). I imagine how amazing it would be to finish work early and be like, “Hmm, nothing to do, let’s go check out priceless art at the Louvre or the British Museum.” Just crazy to think about. And the last time we were in Paris, the Louvre was basically our whole experience, and yet we felt like we missed so much of it.
I feel like the Louvre would take many visits over an extended period of time to truly understand, digest, and fully appreciate. Like I’ve said a million times, after so many incredible paintings and sculptures, I tend to get blasé about stuff and by the end of the day I’m like (bored sarcastic voice), “Oh. Cool. Another statue. Great.” Luckily, this time we were with 3 people who hadn’t been to the Louvre, and that excitement is totally contagious.
I’m not going to give some walkthrough of the Louvre when there’s heaps of better places to find that. Suffice it to say this… the Mona Lisa is, in my humble opinion, the Kardashian of art. Why exactly is she so famous? Because she’s so famous. I remember the first time seeing her and being like…” Her? What, is she funny or something?” I was just much more impressed by about 10,000 other things before the Mona Lisa. Plus, I had no idea how tiny the painting is. And I tried to keep that opinion to myself, so as to not taint the views of the others seeing the most famous painting in the world for the first time. But inevitable, my fat face let out this opinion and I’m sure it probably ruined her for the others. Sorry. But I still can’t quite figure it out. I thought maybe seeing her a second time would change my mind, like maybe I missed something the first time. Like, there has to be some reason she’s so famous… right? Meh. Kardashian of the art world, and you’re not changing my mind. Still fun to see for the sake of seeing, but I liked lots of other stuff much better.
Seeing the famous Nike statue, all the Egyptian stuff, and lots of gorgeous sculptures was all awesome. I truly think I could go to the Louvre another 10 times and still feel like I missed stuff. Everything about it, from the famous glass pyramid to the cool stone wall and the layout and the building and everything else is just awe-inspiring. I want to live in Paris solely to go to the Louvre every week. But alas, I’m stuck inside of Lehi with the Paris blues again.
My favorite thing about the Louvre is just the sense of wonder. I’d been there only 5 years ago, but everything felt new. It was incredible to see the zenith of human achievement, and every time I look it up online, I see another 10,000 things I somehow missed. Needless to say, I’m going back every chance I can until they put me in the ground.
Some of my favorite memories include wandering the streets of Hong Kong, totally lost (my sense of direction is… shall we say… terrible) at 6am, or talking to a kid in Edinburgh who, for some reason, had a lifelong dream to visit Utah (Bonneville Salt Flats, he saw my driver’s license and freaked out). I like to go to grocery stores, preferably at weird hours and multiple times per day. Yes, my obsession is foreign grocery stores. Yes, I know it’s weird. Yes, Caitlin hates it. But I love just seeing local foods, buying stuff I can’t pronounce, guessing at what things are, trying to communicate to other people in foreign languages… basically I just love it all. If you want to even know more (I know you don’t, but indulge me), I am obsessed with foreign drinks. Mars milk. Irn Bru. Whatever weird ripoff Red Bull they have in Prague, which I’m pretty sure I drank enough of to see through time and space. I buy a minimum of 2 foreign drinks (not alcoholic, just soda) per day. Every day. So after the Louvre (and after pretty much everything else we did, and pretty much every morning also), we all went to a grocery store. Ahh, Metro. The greatest place known to man. We bought obscene amounts of pastries, snacks, cheese, noodles, and basically just indulged our every want. Or at least I did. One guy seemed to be making fun of the amount of Banzai noodles (their version of Cup O Noodles) I was buying, but it was in French so whatever. I was in heaven. That night we made an awesome meal, cleaned up, and definitely did NOT play Phase 10. So far, the trip had been perfect, and we were stoked for yet another crazy day to come.
DAY 5: SKULL CITY IN THE PARIS CATACOMBS
Someone told us the Paris Catacombs were not worth it. That person was wrong and should feel bad about both themselves and their travel advice. I would shame them publicly but I don’t remember who it was. That being said, the catacombs are so freakin’ rad!
First off, IF YOU ARE GOING TO THE PARIS CATACOMBS, BUY TICKETS IN ADVANCE AND PRINT THOSE TICKETS OUT ONTO PAPER! If you’ve seen the lines outside the catacombs, you’ll know why. The lines literally seemed to stretch for blocks for those who were waiting to purchase tickets. Yes, buying online is slightly more expensive. Yes, it’s worth it 1000%. Even the line for those who had advance tickets was long, about an hour’s wait, and we thought we were there early. It was very chaotic, not much order and lots of line cutting and lame tourists. But since Caitlin’s little sister was under 14, she got in free, with a 5 Euro charge to skip the line like we did. I think we were supposed to book that part in advance, but we didn’t and it caused a bit of a delay at the desk. Luckily, they were cool and we had some cash.
Also, PRINT OUT YOUR BLOODY TICKETS! They said they worked on mobile devices. They lied. Or rather, when we got to the front, they told us no until we argued a bit and they ended up writing down some code from them. It took extra time and they told us we should have printed them. Save time and just do it. We were stupid not to do it, but we eventually got in and descended the stairs into the pit of skulls and misery.
I don’t remember if we paid more for the audio tour (I think we did) and I would say it wasn’t worth it. By the fourth or fifth stop, I was ignoring it and eventually just turned it off. Probably my favorite part was hiding around the gate you go in to get to the skulls. I jumped out at Caitlin but ended up scaring some Brazilian guys and hearing some colorful Portuguese words. Good times.
I think what I loved most is reading the info on the walls before getting to the actual bones. It was so fascinating reading the history of Paris and how they basically had too many bodies. Also, famous people like Robespierre, one of the most interesting people of the French Revolution (to me) are supposedly down there, so it was fun trying to guess which skull was his.
My only issue with the catacombs is it was a fairly short experience for about 30 Euros. The good thing about it for us is we’d paid months in advance, so it didn’t feel like we even spent money since we hadn’t missed the cash for months. Seeing so many skulls and bones is almost hard to see as real. It seems like a giant Halloween decoration. We’d been to Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora near Prague as well as Capuchin Crypt in Rome (by far my favorite and one of the best things I’ve ever done), so we were prepared for what was coming but it was still nuts. So many skulls had holes and it was interesting to wonder if they were from bullets or just from wear and tear over the years. More than anything, it was weird and kinda creepy yet inspiring in a very strange way to think that this is how we all end up, rich and poor, old and young. It was weird to think someday I might be a skull in a museum (OK probably not, despite my enormously large head, which is only enormously large because it houses my enormously large Einsteinian brain), but kinda inspiring to think that if we’re all gonna die, we might as well live and live hard until we’re just bones, right?
“It’s crazy how many dead people there were. Lots of dead body parts everywhere,” according to Caitlin’s youngest sister. And I would have to agree with this profound statement. There were lots of dead body parts everywhere. It’s fun to come up the stairs from the creepy, dimly lit catacombs to the bright sunshine of Paris. It kinda feels like… rising from the dead?
Speaking of profound, a couple months after returning from Paris, I sent all of Caitlin’s family this email:
“Hi family, please answer this 1 question about our Paris trip, and PLEASE send me photos if you have any like online or something. I’m about to start my 30-page rambling on Paris and I want to include stuff you guys liked/didn’t/etc.