Much like you can’t see all of the Louvre in one day, I couldn’t bear to put our Paris week in one post. Since we have access to wifi in our hostel (and a ton of public spaces), I can share our visits & experiences in bursts!
We slept until 9ish after the bike ride at took breakfast at the hostel. Then, we made a list of places/things to do in Paris (recommendations wanted – put them in the comments) and decided on the Catacombs & Notre Dame for day 1.
First – Paris is so bike friendly and safe. New York, Alaska have nothing on separated bike lanes, special routes cutting north/south and the general respect from drivers. A public bus moved over an entire lane to give us space on one stretch of block. Amazing.
So we biked to the Catacombs yesterday, across the Seine. The quick history: the underground space was originally a quarry, who’s use goes back to medieval times. Eventually they were abandoned and disrepair lead them to collapse and caused panic among Parisians. They were stabilized and left alone again. Then, there was an issue with overcrowding and unsanitary gravesite in/around Paris. So, they exhumed all the bones and threw them underground. And then, someone decided to make a proper ossuary and that was what we toured.
Down over 100 steps, below the Paris metro line we went! Not for the dizzy, faint of heart or claustrophobic.
After the Catacombs, we grabbed street sandwiches and got in line at Notre Dame. Notre Dame has two lines – one for the cathedral, owned by the church and free admission. The other is for access to the towers, owned or managed by the French National Monuments agency. Admission is still relatively inexpensive but you pay for it in time. We waited for nearly 2 hours and it was so worth it!
There are ~400 stairs to climb in the towers of Notre Dame visit. You scale and scale and scale a spiral staircase until suddenly – you’re on an exterior walkway, along the chimera, high above the square.
Quick tangent: when I was a kid my parents brought me to an Atlanta Braves baseball game. When we came through the hallway to the steep walls of the seats, looking at the field, I froze and couldn’t handle the heights. Dad, Liz – while I didn’t freeze in place, my reaction here was a lot like that time at Braves Stadium…. Memories!
Anyway – the entire walkway is very protected and really beautiful. And from the chimera we went into the belfry to see “Emmanuel”, the historical cathedral bell.
And then – we climbed the next leg of stairs to make it all the way to the top of the south tower for a panoramic view of Paris. Also a bit tough for my nerves but amazing.
To round out our afternoon, we picked up wine, cheese and olives and sat in a park by the Shakespeare & Co bookstore and walked along the Seine for a little while. Late dinner, a few drinks & live music at the hostel and here we are today – heading into the Tour de France finish soon!