Paris, Day 2

Today started with another quick and easy Uber ride — this time to the catacombs. We had purchased tickets in advance, but I’d read you still needed to be early because they only let 200 people into the catacombs system at a time. We were in line and waiting by 10:30 for our 11:00 tickets, and we still didn’t get down until 11:30.

The remains of over 6 million people were moved here in the late 1700’s in an effort to empty the cemeteries. Also, the year 1774 saw a series of cave-ins with the mine and tunnel system Paris had going, and creating the ossuary was part of an effort to reinforce and create structurally sound tunnels.

The black line on the ceiling once led the way through jumbled mine tunnels

Elizabeth points to one of the reinforced structures put in place to brace up the old mine walls and keep the catacombs from collapsing

Julia listening to the audio guide that gave a good history of each stop

For two years in the late 1700’s, Paris emptied its cemeteries and placed the remains in the catacombs

Many bones were stacked in artful formations as honorable tributes to the dead

Sometimes crosses or tombstones marked from which cemeteries collections originated

An old well

Mike near one of the stones marking the dead from one of the French Revolution battles

Looking up near one of the exits: vaulted ceiling with arched support for the previously collapsed tunnel

Mike was fighting a cold, so the miles we would be walking to our other destinations just felt like too much. He decided to work out the Paris bike sharing system. The girls and I started walking and found both an outdoor market and a grocery along our way to the Luxembourg Garden, a beautiful outdoor area originally created in 1612 by King Henry IV’s widow, Marie de’ Medici, who lived in Luxembourg Palace on the grounds. Today it was a nice place for a picnic and a break.

Looking for lunch

One of the smaller gardens just outside the Luxembourg Gardens

Picnic with the Luxembourg Palace in the background

Original model for the Statue of Liberty

Mike continued his bike ride and met us a mile away at Notre Dame Cathedral. He had downloaded Rick Steve’s walking tour of Notre Dame, so by the time I had decided to hop into an English tour, he was already inside and doing his own thing. This was a good thing because our tour guide, while very thorough, spent a lot of time outside discussing the exterior of the cathedral. To speed up our time inside, when she finally got us through the entrance, we joined up with Mike who gave us his own highlights tour of the building’s interior. Julia declared this her favorite cathedral so far because of the rose windows and the beauty of all of the smaller chapels. I thought it was quite dark and dreary compared to many we had previously seen. I was intrigued by the story that Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame included many sections about the gothic architecture of the building and ultimately may have renewed interest in the cathedral itself and saved it from demolition at a time when many were considering tearing it down and reusing the stone.

Mike with his Rick Steves audio tour points out some structures on the outside of the cathedral

At one time, distance in Europe was measured by how far it was from this spot in front of Notre Dame

One of the rose windows

Panel depicting the life of Jesus Christ

Moving back across town, Mike again used the bike rental system while the girls and I had a walk along the river. We met up at the Musee d’Orsay, a beautiful museum with collections of mostly 19th and 20th century art. Our museum passes again let us use the short entry line, and we soon found ourselves trying to decide what to see in the two hours the museum would be open. After visiting the Van Gogh room as a family, we decided to split up and meet at the Statue of Liberty in an hour. This was a great system for this museum because it let us explore on our own time. Also, the layout of the museum with its long central gallery made it nearly impossible to get lost.

Crossing the street and seeing Mike fly by us on a bike almost tempted us to try riding through the busy streets of Paris

Center gallery of the Musee d’Orsay

The Four Parts of the World Holding the Celestial Sphere, by Carpeaux: The piece holds the phrase, “Why Be Born a Slave?” and shows the figure for the Americas finally crushing the chain wrapped around Africa’s ankle

I love the simple layout of this museum

The Angelus, by Jean Francois Millet, is a familiar sight in our brother and sister-in-law’s home

Looking at this one closely because in an episode of Doctor Who, scary monsters were creeping around in this painting. We can give it the all-clear, though. No obvious monsters.

Van Gogh, Self Portrait

Noon Rest, by Van Gogh, hung over our fireplace for years

One depiction of the Paris Opera House

Starry Night, the more serene version painted before Van Gogh was placed in an asylum

Woman Bitten by a Snake, a very scandelous work of art in 1847

Painting depicting the excommunication of Robert the Pious after his marriage was not approved by the Pope

The center clock captures attention

This was a really long day, and we did a lot of walking, so we returned home, made our own dinner, and fell asleep early. A nice bonus, though, was planning out the next day while listening to the light rain outside. Just before sunset, we were treated to a beautiful rainbow over the rooftops. 

Rainbow outside our window

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