La Marais is a district in Paris, that is spread across the 3rd and 4th arrondissement. Once the home of the Jewish community, nowadays lots of art galleries, Chinese immigrants and the LGBT community call it their home. And this is the district where Lars and I stayed during 3 sunny days in October.
Lars had found us a modest hotel near the Rue du Temple, near the St. Elisabeth church.
We are both very fond of churches, or religious buildings in general. As a retired organ player, Lars is always curious about the organ(s) in a church or cathedral and I appreciate these buildings on an aesthetic level.
Afterwards, we soaked up some sunshine in a nearby park.
We didn’t take any pictures of the hotel or our room, but we do have photographs of the places where we ate!
As promised, today we post the video about our visit to the Catacombs of Paris.
What was the creepiest part of our visit to the Catacombs? Getting out! Not only did a spiral staircase of 85 steps prove to be a big challenge to our poor physical condition, the narrow and steep steps made us feel claustrophobic as well. Lars and I struggled with a panic attack and when we were outside again, we had to catch our breath again. And let’s face it: being surrounded by 6 million dead people is not pleasant…
Want to know everything about Creepy Travels? Check out this post.
Usually, people put beautiful, breathtaking and/or awesome destinations on their bucket-list. One of the places that Lars and I had on our list was quite the opposite: the Catacombs of Paris.
At the end of the 18th century, the French capital faced 2 major problems: a series of cave-ins and overflowing cemeteries. The city officials decided to dump remains in the Mines of Paris. Nowadays, the whole network of tunnels is more than 200 kilometers long and at some places, the tunnels are 100 meters below the surface. About six million bodies have found their final resting place here. Some of the skulls and bodies are scattered, others have been neatly arranged.
Before 2016, I had been to Paris numerous times, because it is not that far from Brussels. But I didn’t know anything about the catacombs, until I found this on YouTube:
After 5 minutes into the documentary, I simply knew I had to see this place! I showed the video to Lars, who quickly became as excited as I was. And earlier this year, we were in Paris, but the day before we left, I found out that the catacombs would be closed during our visit. Fast forward to a sunny day in October, when the catacombs were open…
Only a small part of these nightmarish tunnels are open to the general public. They are really easy accessible; the entrance is opposite the metro station Denfert – Rocheraud. The entrance fee is 12 euros. If you go early, be prepared for a long queue! Lars and I had to wait more than 90 minutes; we talked with some of the people around us and it turned out that they came from all over the world. You can buy tickets online, by the way, but they are very limited in quantity and you have to pay twice as much. You want to visit the catacombs in group? Then you pay even more.
After having paid the entrance fee, about 130 – 140 steps lead you 30 meters below the surface. The first kilometer or so you walk in a boring tunnel and then suddenly, you are in the “Kingdom of Death”. Or, in other words, you are completely surrounded by skulls and bones.
The thing that struck us the most was the deafening silence. Lars and I had expected to hear the nearby metro, but apart from the footsteps and voices of the other visitors, we didn’t hear anything. And that was quite spooky… Talking about spooky, in general the corridors are very narrow and the ceiling is low, adding to a feeling of claustrophobia.
I think we walked around for 45 minutes in the catacombs. Afterwards, we spent some time sitting on a bench, catching our breath and trying to register everything we had seen and felt during our stay. Yes, it is thrilling and impressive, but also sad and scary. Would we do this again? Maybe not… But Lars and I are happy for this experience!
In our next post, we will publish the video we made in the catacombs and we will tell you what frightened us the most!
This is the place in Paris that the so-called “bobos”(hipsters) call their home: the Canal Saint-Martin. With a length of 4.5 kilometers, it meanders through 4 arrondissements. Its construction took place in the beginning of the 19th century. Nowadays, it is popular amongst the local population and tourists alike, thanks to the many bistrots, restaurants and cinema theatres. Unfortunately, it also attracts lots of refugees and homeless people as well.
After our visit to Père Lachaise, Lars and I took the metro to Stalingrad (which refers to the nearby place Stalingrad) and walked towards the Bassin de la Villette. We sat on a bench for a while and observed people and their canine companions, one of our favourite pastimes.
The Bassin itself is actually the biggest artificial lake of Paris: more than 600 meters long and 70 meters wide. In summer, this is the place to be!
At the end (or beginning, depending on your point of view) of this lake, you can see the Rotonde de la Villette, a monument constructed in the second half of the 18th century.
Lars and I wanted to do some more exploring, but it started to rain and we became hungry as well. We stopped at a lock (one of the nine in total along the canal) to take our last pictures and then went back to the metro.
In our next post, you will read how we realised one of our biggest dreams in Paris! Or should I say nightmare?
What else did we do during that cloudy March day in Paris? Well, I did do something new in the Notre Dame de Paris: a visit to the Treasury, which contains a collection of precious and holy objects. Very interesting, and if I am not mistaken you need to pay an extra €3,- to get in.
The second place in Paris that Lars and I visited that day is the Montmartre Cemetery (18th arrondissement of Paris), which dates from the 18th century. Although it is lesser known than Père Lachaise, there are numerous people from the arts that are buried here. Most of them used to live in the area.
The entrance of the cemetery and part of the graves are located under a bridge. All the other graves are more or less on the same level as that bridge, on which there is a lot of traffic. Quite unusual, if you ask me…
Various details – some colourful, others heartbreaking – soon caught my eye.
Although we did not have a full day in Paris and we had to change our initial plans, we did have a lovely day there! And we can’t wait to go back!
It should have been a day in Paris, but we had made a terrible mistake when we left our apartment to go to the train station: we hadn’t taken Lars’ passport with us. So, he had to come back home, fetch the document and hurry back to the station. Luckily, we could take a train to Paris an hour later.
Since we arrived around lunchtime and we were both hungry, Lars and I decided to go to a restaurant and have a bite. In Brussels, we seldom go out to eat, because we fully want to enjoy local food and drinks during our travels.
In case you are wondering what we had for lunch, it was smoked buck breast salad with foie gras on toast on top. Foie gras? But isn’t it barbaric how they treat those beautiful birds? Yes, we know, and although we both love animals, I guess Lars and I love food a little bit more.
Anyway, around 1 pm, we left the restaurant.
Now, Lars and I usually don’t visit touristic places. But we make an exception when it concerns a really beautiful, stunning or exceptional landmark, building or monument. And I think that the Notre Dame de Paris is such an exception, especially since Lars had never visited it.
By the way, we had actually planned a completely different excursion. But the evening before we left I found out that that particular venue was closed on Mondays. Of course, this is just an excuse for another trip to Paris, hopefully later this year!
If you want to know all about the history of this medieval cathedral, just click on the link above.
I was immediately attracted by the vivid colours of the stained glass around me. So, I kept on looking up and photographing.
I thought it would be a lovely idea to get some fresh air today. And Ingrid desperately wanted a change of scenery as well… So, we went to Pas-de-Calais – in the northwest of France, one of favorite regions in la douce France.
We were very lucky with the weather. When we left Brussels, it started to rain, but once we crossed the border, the sun came out. And stayed in the sky! Ingrid took more than 200 pictures; I was very happy to see her so busy with her camera, which had become almost useless the last 2 weeks… And Ingrid feels a bit better as well.
Anyway, on the picture that I have chosen you can see one of the many cliffs of the region. We will feature some of the other photographs on Ingrid’s other website in the next days.
Photographing the backroads of Europe, exploring beauty and enjoying life at our own pace