The sightseeing continued on our first full day in Paris. We started with a trip through the Catacombs. The tour starts in a rather nondescript building. After we passed a sign threatening police action for bone stealing, we descended deep underground on an extended spiral staircase and ended up in an old underground quarry. We traveled in a nearly straight line along the quarry for some distance. Eventually, we reached the point where the old quarry was used as a place to store the bones from cemeteries. As the Catacombs begin, the tunnel begins to meander. An incredible amount of bones are stored in the area of the Catacombs that we visited. Piles upon neatly stacked piles
of bones fill the niches in the walls of the caverns. Information about the original burial site for the bones and epitaphs are written on stone monuments placed periodically along the way. Lots and lots of dead people found their final resting place in the Paris Catacombs. Most of the bones are neatly stacked in an artful manner with patterns being formed using the leg bones and the skulls, tacked in with a little mortar to preserve the structure.
Eventually another endless spiral staircase took us to the surface. At the exit of the steps, a guard is present to check bags just in case anyone decided that they absolutely had to have a skull as a mantle piece item. We stepped out of an unlabeled and nondescript building back on to the street several blocks away from where we started with the musty smell of the tunnels still clinging to us. On the surface, we pulled out our maps and studied them carefully to determine where we ended up. We were disoriented from the time underground.
After our close brush next to death, we headed to the famous Musee D’Orsay. The D’Orsay is housed in a beautifully restored train station and holds one of the world’s finest art collections. Featured are the Impressionist works from Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Manet, and others. There was also an interesting Art Nouveau collection housed one of the lower floors. Much of the work in this collection was home furnishings.
We left the D’Orsay at closing time, having done a thorough inspection. After a pause for a beer in typical Parisian café with our seat backs to the wall watching the world go by, we crossed the Seine on a foot bridge. As the day moved towards dusk, we walked through the gardens and headed to the Place de la Concorde.
The Place de la Concorde is recognizable from the usual final stage of the Tour de France as the riders take multiple trips around the Champs d’Elysees. We boarded a large Ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde and got a good view of all of Paris’s major monuments from the air just as the sun was moving down on the horizon. It was a poor man’s balloon trip and the sights were impressive.