Paris. Croissants. Art. Fashion.

21 June 2011

No, I’m not relieving myself. That’s my frightened look.


Well, Mike and I are standing in the queue waiting for the Paris Catacombs to open. Following the black plague, the land above was at a premium, so they dug up les cemetieres and placed the bones of the long-deceased in these catacombs – in bone-type order, no less – an ossuary (the knee bones are no longer connected to the thigh bones).

One million, that’s a lot of bones!

To quote the sign, “the tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of nervous disposition and young children”.

Yep we are ghouls, but with a two-hour wait in the queue, we are not the only ones (we are smart travelers, we are 5th in the queue). Thanks for the warning, Ken.

We have had 50/50 with the weather, sunny, then overcast, never really raining. Last update we were sunning ourselves around the pool in our olive grove. We finished up with a day’s drive around the Gorges du Verdon, the largest canyon in Europe. Twenty-five km of hairpin bends looking down a 750 metre drop to the aqua waters below – not an easy road, tackling trucks and impatient French drivers on a road designed for one. Definitely white knuckle driving – my hands started to cramp after two hours. Seriously. But definitely worth it!

Gorges du Verdon

We finished our stay with a walk up to our hilltop village, Callas, for a last long lunch before we split up with Erin, Ken and Papadum. A fantastic lunch for all, although ‘les escargots’ did not appeal to Papadum. Everything was going well, until Mike said “I can’t believe April eats snails”. Well, the expression on April’s face was priceless; it was like she understood what Mike said. Her eyes almost popped out of her head, then the snails, cheese, bread and everything else she had been fed for the previous hour popped out of her mouth in a steady stream. Didn’t bother her, she was her happy little self straight after.

It was sad parting with the Knight family as our time together was a feast of cheese, wine and dried sausages in multiple flavours including roquefort, pepper and smoked (courtesy of Ken the Sausage King). The laughs continued from start to finish in our little stone farmhouse. However, we had a train to catch, the TGV. We drove to Avignon, dropped off Florian our hire car and caught our TGV to Paris. A sleek French-designed train, which travels at about 300 km per hour. So the view flew by and was extremely blurred.

That takes us to Paris … and our apartment in Bastille and the four flights of stairs with too much luggage.

That brings me to the luggage. Our suitcases and several bags of food we never finished from our farmhouse. One which Mike was carrying had some particularly smelly cheese. Every time Mike moved on the TGV, our passengers nearby had the treat of some very cheesy odors. A blue (or maybe goat?) judging by the smell. No amount of cologne would cover that one. We had to throw away the bag as our wardrobe was starting to smell like a fromagerie, and our fridge still does.

{Catacomb tour completed …}

Well, that was amazing. Under the city there are kilometres of dark tunnels, water dripping off the rock roof. Lined to the ceiling with neatly and artistically arranged passed Parisians. Passages of the dead from cemeteries exhumed to make room for the next victims of plagues, wars and old age.

The tunnels were originally underground quarries. They were also used by the WW2 resistance and during the French Revolution, battles raged through the catacombs. Needless to say the casualties didn’t have to be moved far.

In another queue now. This time for a pee. Unisex toilets under the Jardin du Luxembourg. $1 for the attendant, what a job. Suppose none of you are interested in that last part, well it’s all part of the Parisian experience.

But it hasn’t all been bones and pee pee.

Mike and I have done the morning flea and fresh produce markets in Bastille, and a SHOPPING day.

It was a rainy day and it seemed like a good way to keep out of the rain, all ten minutes of it. It’s Paris and everyone looks so fashionable and we had to fit in.

Au Printemps

Ok, who am I kidding. You all know me. It was fashion and I love to shop. However, after walking for eight hours, carrying all that shopping, no food … I WAS OVER IT. Poor Mikey.

No, don’t jump to conclusions – I wasn’t snappy Tom, just silent and unhelpful: “Yes, you do look good in that … I know I said that about the last ten suits you tried on”.

Have I mentioned how much everyone smokes here. At any age.

I’m sure they have cigarette machines in their pre-schools and nursing homes. No wonder the population is so thin. The women have the ability to walk with a cigarette in their mouth, talk on the phone, wearing jeans, tennis shoes, a t-shirt, a scarf around their neck and an expression on their face like they just trod in dog merde (French for shit), which on these streets they probably have have trod in, yet they still look chic.

Time for lunch and maybe to share a cigarette with the restaurant’s surrounding patrons.

About Freoroamers

Richard has worked in hospitality and travel for almost three decades and has been a regular traveller since childhood. He now travels for both work and pleasure, and is a Senior Contributor to Trip Advisor and other digital media travel platforms.
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