Friday, May 13, 2011

Paris in a Day: Part 1

We took a day trip to Paris and boarded the Eurostar train from London St Pancras to Paris Nord du Gard.  The trip took about two and a half hours and 35 miles of it is underwater.  I slept through most of the train ride but from what I can remember it was comfortable and a really easy process to get through immigration etc.  There's something really old world and romantic about traveling by train.

We took the first train out of London which meant we reached Paris at about 9 in the morning.

We quickly located an ATM to get some euros (we'd been told by many travelers that this is the easiest method and you get a decent conversion rate) and then not so quickly found the metro station.  The Nord du Gard station is huge with various levels and of course most signs are in French so it took us a while to orient ourselves.

The metro was easy to navigate once we figured it out and we headed straight for the Lourve (along with hundreds of other tourists and school tours it seems!).  We made a beeline to see the Mona Lisa and B really liked the Egyptian artifacts.

After that it was on to the catacombs which was really incredible but not for the faint of heart.  Or for children or those with a nervous disposition as the sign suggests.

The catacombs are in a nondescript neighborhood area of Paris and if it weren't for the huge line around the block we probably would not have found it.  Since they only let in 150-200 people at a time, we stood in line for around an hour and a half before finally getting to the front.

There were about 100 steps going down and back up and the whole walk through the caves took about 45 minutes.  It was a cool and damp 55 degrees down there, the pathways were sandy/rocky at times and with the minimal lighting, we really didn't encounter anyone else down there.  It felt like we were in a cave all by ourselves.  Which made the last third of the tour especially creepy for me when we reached the area where the bones were displayed.  Evidently the Paris cemeteries were excavated in the 1700s and the remains were carried back to these caves at night complete with chanting and ceremonies to honor the dead.  Then for some reason, the bones were stacked according to size and type and arranged in an artistic but macabre way.  The tunnels were less than 5 feet wide and bones were stacked from floor to ceiling on each side.  There was an erie beauty to it all but it was really overwhelming to take in at once.  Needless to say, I was hustling out of there as fast as I could (it was a good 15 min brisk walk to get out of that section) and B says that he's never seen me climb stairs that quickly!

After the catacombs, it was on to the Eiffel Tower.  We chose not to go directly to the site but instead took the suggestion of a friend to head to the Trocadero metro stop instead where you can get a great view of the tower from a distance.  It was really neat and a bit surreal to see this iconic landmark and a definite highlight of the day.

Next post: Paris in a Day: Part 2

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