After starting our cultural exposure to the Gothic masterpiece of Notre Dame Cathedral, we moved to our top Paris bucket list item, the des Catacombes de Paris. I’m not sure why the catacombes appealed so me, but I am certainly morbidly fascinated by the life and death of Parisians across time. The children and J also seemed deeply interested and the catacombes was high on our list, right up there with Disneyland Paris.
We left Notre Dame before lunch time, eating some snacks along the way. We stopped for a few photo ops and passed the Le Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. It was beautiful from the outside of the gates, and I reassured the children that we would spend some time on the beautiful grounds and gardens on the way back.
Little did we know that shortly after we would arrive at the des Catacombes de Paris and find a monumentally long queue circling around, and around, and then a little farther in a massive circle around the entrance to the underground tunnels and ossuary. At first we cheerfully stood in line. J went and fetched us a couple of meat and cheese baguettes and coffees from a bakery and cafe across the street. The children played in the little park around which we queued. Then, the Monkey broke out his book and started reading. People. We waited in line for FOUR hours! FOUR hours! But the kids really wanted to see the catacombes.
So, after four hours, we finally arrived at the doors. The reason for the long queues was the limit of only 250 people in the underground tunnels at any one time. Strictly enforcement resulted in long, long queues. But we were finally here. We paid for our tickets and climbed down the stairs to the awaiting tunnels.
Wow. That was intense. Lots of bones. Lots of dark tunnels and dark chambers filled with bones. There was a strange dichotomy for me as a mother to see human bones stacked to the ceiling along the wall while my four young children skipped along trying to read the French signs.
Finally, we emerged from the dimness to the blinding light. The children immediately asked for food. We stopped at a nearby park and bought some crêpes jambon fromage (ham and cheese) and sucre et citron (sugar and lemon) minus the citron and sat in the little park as they finished off the food.
Sadly, the day was almost over. It was shortly five o’clock and as we headed back past the Le Jardin du Luxembourg we saw that the gates were all closed now and the remaining visitors streamed out. I was sad that we had missed our chance to walk through the gardens as we would not have time to return. We stopped for a photo outside a fountain and that was the end of our first day! We ended the day with ice cream and some back up hot dog baguettes for later in the evening and the kids watched some French Scooby Doo on TV.