Our first view of Paris was late in the evening on Saturday. Exhausted from a day of traveling, I didn’t expect to enjoy the ride to our flat in the 3rd arr.. I wanted more than anything to take a hot shoer and go to bed. But riding in our taxi, I couldn’t help but take it all in, staring, gaping out the windows as we drove past Notre Dame through crowded streets. Restaurants were packed with noisy rugby fans, or so we were told by our driver when we heard the hoots and hollers. Each turn of our taxi revealed another amazing view filled with lights, cobblestone and traditional Parisian architecture. The cab ride itself proved to be worth the cost in what we saw.
When morning came we scurried out as quickly as possible, forgetting that Europe sleeps in on Sunday. The streets were nearly silent and a light, still fog hung in the air. We took our time walking to Notre Dame Cathedral, grabbing warm, cinnamon crepes and coffee for breakfast on the way.
The cathedral was grand to say the least. We counted ourselves lucky that there was no line, and slipped during an early morning church service. Hushed, we made our way around, listening to French recitals of scripture. Each wall was adorned with imagery and culture from its past. Walking a loop around the inside, we were provided the history of Notre Dame, its construction and everything that happened on the inside and out.
And I can’t lie, I did think a little about the hunchback when the bells sounded.
Up next we walked to the Catacombs. The stroll there proved to be way shorter than the line outside which wrapped around the small block and took nearly two hours. Practicing quick math facts with the boys got us through a good portion of the wait. Then we debated whether or not we should have lunch right after and the boys started jumping in place, fighting with each other, and singing Minecraft songs at the top of their lungs. When we finally went inside, we were ready.
We trailed down eight flights of spiral stairs so quick I thought I’d be sick from spinning. But with droves of other people in front of you and behind you, the pace at which you travel isn’t an option. At the bottom of the stairs we passed through long, damp hallways until we reached the rooms that held the remains of six million people.
The Catacombs, at their construction, served as a solution. With bodies piling up, and mass graves already packed to the brim, the former mines were renovated to hold the remains. Haunting as it was to think about the fact that all these skeletons were once people, seeing the works of art blew me away. There was fountains, figures, and ornate columns all made out of skulls. I marveled at the time and precision it must have taken for the individuals who constructed such a grave.
The air was thick and cold. Moisture from the roof of the mine dripped and made the ground muddy under our feet. The boys walked through wide their eyes wide, pointing out shapes, or oddly large skulls. Walking ahead of Tyler and I, they liked to spot things and report them back to us so we could take a picture.
We came out of the mines a few blocks away from where we entered, squinting as we adjusted our eyes to the sunlight again. “I think I have dead people on my feet,” Evan announced, looking at his feet. Sure enough, they were covered in mud, but I assured him it wasn’t dead people.
We walked back to our flat for a break before embarking on our third adventure of the day… the Eiffel Tower