Saturday, 21 December 2013

P minus 1.

This morning was a rather early morning. I was meeting Brittany (a States friend from perspective drawing) at the Catacombs early in the morning to get in early. Every time she'd gone to go past them before, there had been a huge line. We thought they opened at 9, but they actually opened at 10… It was probably a good thing we thought that though, we were first in line!
When we were let in, we bought tickets (oh man, I had to actually BUY a ticket haha only 4€), and then it's a 137 step descent. The people behind us seemed to take a long time buying their tickets… So we found ourselves weaving through dark underground passages with pitch black offshoots alone. It's about a 1km walk through these passages before you hit any bones though. There was one particularly creepy passage that seemed to stretch on forever and got really dark in some places.
When we reached the bones section, I didn't realise there would be so many! There are about 6 million bodies there, all taken from Saints Innocents (a cemetery that used to be in the centre of France. When it became full and overflowing during the 1800's, long dead bodies were taken out and put into the catacombs - former mines under Paris). On either side of the narrow passage, there were piles and piles of organised bones. Usually, there was a row of leg or arm bones on the bottom, a row of sculls, another layer or arms or legs, row of sculls, more arms and legs, and then a top row of sculls. Thrown behind the 'wall' were all of the other smaller bones, there seemed to be a lot of pelvises on top of the piles. You're not supposed to touch them, but I wanted to know if they were all being held in place by some sort of glue or something… They're not. The bone on top just shifted as soon as I touched it, it was really light!
I couldn't describe to you how many bodies were down there, all I can say is there are a lot. The bone walls seemed to go on forever (about 1km I think), and they wound around all meandering corridors. At some points, the bone arrangers seemed to get a bit creative and had stacked bones in the middle of open corridors in the shape of large pots, or balanced them into spheres. It was so dark down there, my photos don't really give a sense of the place.
After you've passed the walls and walls of bones, there's another narrow corridor and then it's 83 steps back up to the top. When we reached the top, I said bye to Brit and decided to walk back to my hotel. I'd walked there in the morning, but somewhere in the hour of waiting for the place to open, I'd misplaced my map. I got about halfway home and then must have take a wrong main street. I realised i was going the wrong way, but just kept walking because I hadn't been in that section of Paris. I just wove through and between main streets until I came to Gare Austerlitz and caught the metro back to my stop. One of the great things about Paris is the metro. It's super easy to navigate and super quick.
Once back in the centre of town (around my hotel - the Latin Quarter, next to the Sorbonne), I did some last minute shopping for myself and walked around the area, then went back up to my room for a final pack and weigh, checked in for my flight, had a shower, and went to bed!
And thus ended my time in France.

The Sorbonne - Walking down Saint Michel

In the tunnels

All of the tunnels had names!

A small stone carving in a wall

A black line painted on the roof in the 19th century
to help guide visitors

Entering the bone section: Stop. This is the empire
of the dead.

Bones everywhere

Poked in the eyeball

(not my photo haha just an example of a pot of bones)

Shot in the scull?

Brittany and I

Exiting through the mines!

Friday, 20 December 2013

P minus 2.

I spent this morning exploring the palace at Versailles (once again, free!). I caught the RER out (about half an hour). It was incredibly impressive. I spent about an hour exploring inside the palace and about three in the gardens (I got lost). The gardens are HUGE! And, there weren't many people at all there, so it was cool to walk through them completely alone.
To both sides of the palace for kilometres and kilometres, the gardens stretch. All completely immaculately manicured. There are fifteen individual small (500m x 500m) gardens, and then there's the huge lake, all surrounded by more garden. I walked through the maze of garden until about halfway down the massive lake, then walked back up through the centre.
I then met Nat back in Paris at the Eiffel tower to climb it. There was a line this time, but it didn't take us too long to go up. The view was so pretty! When we got to the top, there was still bright sunlight, but we went right at the time when the sun was about to go down, so we got some awesome daytime, dusk and nighttime photos.
Afterwards, we headed back to a different set of Christmas markets, and then we parted ways (I won't see her again before the flight home) and I headed back to my hotel.

Entering through the main gates

The chapel

Super ornate! And so much gold!

Top view of the chapel

So much paint!

A massive bed...

The hall of mirrors

View of the gardens from the hall of mirrors

The royal bed (King Louis XIV)

Maris Antoinette's bed

Where they ate… Looks a bit poor for their tastes. 
Not enough gold

The marble courtyard

A casual sitting room, if you can get up on the chair

View over Water Avenue, down to Neptune Fountain

Looking straight down from the palace. The Water Parterre 
on either side and Grand Canal further down

View over the Orangery and Swiss Lake

Heaps of foliage

And more foliage, down to the King's garden

View back to the palace from the South Parterre

Water Parterre and palace

View from Palace steps over Latona Fountain and Parterre,
Grand Canal and Apollo Fountain

Entering Girandole Grove

Fountains and lakes in Girandole Grove

The Saturn Fountain between the Kings Garden, Chestnut Room,
Colonnade Grove, Girandole Grove, and Mirror Fountain

Mirror Fountain

The King's Garden

Chestnut Room

Apollo Fountain

View back of the palace from Apollo Fountain

The Grand Canal

Grand Canal from Apollo Fountain

Down the Grand Canal

View back up

Some interesting gardening...

In Colonnade Grove

Jardin de Trocadéro

The Arc de Triomphe is to the right

View over the Seine at sunset

Down the Champs de Mars 

Jardin de Trocadéro at dusk

Super windy when the sun went down