I see the city of Paris every day walking the streets on my way to the metro, meeting friends for an early evening coffee or walking back home after dinner. Whenever I fly to London I always pick a seat on the left hand side of the airplane so that I have fabulous views of the city from above as I fly over Paris. However, I have never seen Paris from below, and when I say below I mean underground. Well, I mean, there is the metro, with its never-ending maze of tunnels and tracks, passageways diverting off to new places and its diverse array of passengers. I travel by metro almost everyday, and as much as people say that taking the metro means you miss out seeing what's going on above, I almost think that there is just as much going on underground. On the the surface you see the city, its monuments, parks and buildings, however underground, the metro platform becomes a stage for all the city's performers and it's the Parisian people that make it come alive. I have seen everything on the metro, loved-up couples, a cat, several buskers, a bomb disposal squad, a granny wearing the biggest piece of bling I have ever seen and even a sofa.
But there is another way to venture underground in Paris. One dark and dreary Sunday back in January AM-S and I nervously descended into the underground passageways of Paris that form the Catacombs.
What started out as a dark winding tunnel, that bent slowly downwards further and further into the earth, turned into an underground cemetery packed floor to ceiling, as far as you could see, with neatly stacked human bones. This sounds eerie and completely weird and in a sense it was. The remains of 6 million of the city's inhabitants were placed into the tunnels just after the French Revolution because the cemeteries were overflowing and a new place was needed to store the dead. Years later and the bones were neatly organised, tiling the tunnels with human remains as well as the artistic imprints of the workers, paying homage to the dead.
As much as this is a place of mourning and a cemetery, it is also a work of art, and the sheer endlessness of the passages absolutely amazed us. Instead of feeling sombre we were just both absolutely overawed by how incredibly moving, peaceful and interesting this place was.
For me seeing underground Paris was a new venture, a new angle to seeing the city. Not necessarily the most cheerful of visits but definitely just as interesting as watching the daily blend of Paris's moving mass on the metro platforms.
Mood - Interested