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Paris Walks - Catacomb Tour

On Tuesday we did the Paris Walks Catacomb Tour. This two-hour tour, offered a couple of times a month, takes a small group (I think we had about 19), down into the catacombs giving the history not only behind their creation (as limestone quarries) but how they were turned into one of the largest burial grounds ever (6 million people - three times more than the current population of Paris). Oh, and I should note, this is one of the few Paris Walks Tours that you must pre-book and pay (€15) for ahead of time.

catacomb sculpture
Underground Sculpture in Catacombs

We met our guide, Chris, at 11:00 at the entrance to the catacombs at the Denfert Rochero metro station. Actually, we were a few minutes early, so we gathered on a bench with the other Americans and Canadians waiting for Chris who apparently went for a cup of coffee. He did arrive on time though, pulled us into a group, checked us in, and collected our money for the entrance fee to the Catacomb (not included in the group tour price €6).

One extremely nice advantage of this tour (besides the humorous Chris and his history lessons) was the line-cutting aspect. The line for the entrance, snaked around the corner of the square and they only seemed to let about 10 people in at a time. After Chris gave us our above ground information, we cut the line and headed in.

The first few rooms are well lit and airy with pictures and information about the catacombs but eventually you get down into the tunnels, often walking single file as you snake your way through the darkened passages. Most of which are now twice the size in height than they were during the days of the limestone quarries.

You cover almost a mile underground, most of which is bone free (though fossils from 45 million years ago, and the sea that resided here then can sometimes be found/seen), before you hit the ossuary filled with bones. This was the part Sammi dreaded - the thought grossed and freaked her out, so she kept her eyes tightly closed from the time we passed under the sign that said, "Stop! This is the empire of the dead," until we emerged on the other side and made the climb out.

Did I mention this by the way? The climb? The catacombs lie lower than the cellars, metro lines and RER lines of Paris so be prepared for the steps. Oh, and as I said, when you leave the catacombs you're about a mile down the line from the metro station at which you arrived.

We said our good-byes to Chris, and headed over to a cafe for some lunch before we returned to the inner arrondissement.

This tour cost us €15 a person plus the €6 entrance fee and we found it fun and interesting and would definitely recommend it.

I shot some video of our time below but as you can imagine, it was quite dark, and hard to capture much on film. Of the 15 or so minutes, most of it was dark but I've got some clips below. Oh, and one other thought, some people brought pen lights with them on the tour - I thought this a bully idea.

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Other Thinks (4)

sheri:

Sounds very cool,Kim!

I don't blame Sammi. I visited a catacomb in Naples not realizing it meant there would be hundreds of skulls piled up. Never again for me. Glad you found it fun and interesting. Enjoyed watching your video clip but fast forwarded during the skull part.

sandrac:

When I did this several years ago, I think I was more freaked out by the climb down and being so deep underground, than I was by all the skulls.

Your comment about the flashlights made me realize that altho we used to carry a small flashlight with us on vacation, now that we live in Italy we never think to take one with us! Many (most) churches are dark, and then there are the caves, crypts and stairs that always seem to be dark! I need to put a small pnelight in my purse! Thanks for the reminder, and I'm glad you're having a good time in Paris!

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