June 2, 2015
As a kid I loved Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and this morning it was my first stop…too bad everyone else in Paris had the same idea. As a very popular tourist attraction all the books say to arrive early and I did not so I faced a massive line to get inside. Luckily it moved pretty quickly (inside within 10 minutes) and it’s 100% free to marvel at the architecture, stained glass windows and statues.
Fun fact: I learnt that Notre Dame’s famous gargoyles are actually the stone creatures that help drain rainwater from the roof and chimeras are the half human-half beast decorations that gaze out over the city.
After a 360 view at the very top of the tower it’s time to work your way back down again and once on the ground you can really appreciate the masterwork of thoughtfulness and architecture that is Notre Dame.
To continue the slightly creepy theme for the day, the Catacombes were the next (and last stop). After waiting in line for close to two hours (again!) I bought my ticket and started going down and down and down. And then, you’re all alone in a dimly lit passageway. The people in front of me had moved quickly and the people behind had stopped on the stairs to catch their breath. It was quiet, except for the crunch of my feel on the stone and the dripping of water from the rock ceiling.
Following little green arrows down alleys and around blind corners I kept expecting someone to jump out at me like an old school haunted house, but the trail just kept going until I finally heard hushed voices and the chambers opened up.
The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of femurs and tibias stacked with all the skulls. My research later estimated that there are roughly 6 millions sets of bones buried in the catacombes and it made me a bit sad to think that none of them are complete skeletons. A lot of the bones had been stacked in patterns, like hearts and crosses, and you could see where some were damaged or had been removed. Although the wait had been lengthly there was absolutely no rush once inside and there were times when you were completely alone with the bones, no crowds and no pushing, just the whispers coming from the next chamber.