Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Four Hour Line (Paris #4)

There was a 10% chance of rain the next day in Paris, so I left my rain jacket at the hotel. We walked to Gare du Nord to take the metro to the Catacombs, and when we came out of the metro station, it wasn't just raining, it was POURING RAIN. What a bummer. We waited inside the station for awhile until it mellowed enough to cross the street, then headed to a cafe for some breakfast. 

So. We had purchased online tickets for the catacombs for the 10am time slot, having been informed that if we purchased tickets we could skip the line at that time (the catacombs open at 9am). When we picked the tickets up at the tourist office the day before, they told us again that the tickets were skip-the-line, and that we could go at any time, not just our 10am slot. 

Not so. We went to the front of the line and were informed that to skip the line, we would need to purchase an additional 26 Euro ticket. The wait, they said, would be about two hours long. Since we'd already spent money on tickets, and had already seen most of the things we wanted to and didn't have tons to do that day, we opted to not pay the money and just to wait. It rained off and on as we waited, miffed about the incorrect information. I'm still not sure why they would tell you to reserve a time slot, if it doesn't even matter. 

Our two hour long wait ended up being FOUR HOURS. They were letting everyone who showed up willing to pay 26 Euro cut in front of everyone in the long line waiting, and also let only about 20 people in at a time, which is just a really poor system. Finally, after four hours and five minutes, we made our way into the catacombs. 

In retrospect, we would not have purchased tickets ahead of time, unless it had been those expensive, actual skip-the-line tickets (still really confused about that, and we went up and asked the workers like four times just in case our wait could have been shorter). Had we not purchased the tickets beforehand, we wouldn't have waited. We also wouldn't have stayed, even with spending the money, if we'd known it would be four whole hours. The catacombs were nice to see, but four hours? That is a very long time.

We walked down over 100 steps to the catacombs tunnels, surprised that we saw NO OTHER PEOPLE down there. They probably could have let more people down there at a time, because there really weren't many down there.

The tunnels are long, and it is cold down there. We walked for a long time before we came to the bones themselves. 

The Catacombs are basically mass graves that were built when cemeteries were found to be overflowing in the 18th century. Bones from graveyards were moved underground to these catacombs, and one of those was the cemetery of the Holy Innocents, which was the largest cemetery and contained bones that are thought to be from as far back as the 12th century, including some that were believed to be from the Black Plague.

When we left the Catacombs, the man at the exit checked our bags. We asked why, and he responded that sometimes, people have STOLEN BONES. How gross is that? We had noticed (and you will too if you scroll up) areas where there are missing skulls. I can't imagine doing that though - who wants a creepy skull? There was a gift shop at the exit (which is pretty far from the entrance; the Catacombs network is extensive) which had all kinds of skull related things. 

After that experience, we were hungry. We'd spent an hour underground after our four hour wait, and it was now 3 in the afternoon. We visited a bakery and grocery store to gather our lunch: a baguette, some salami, Boursin cheese (way cheaper in France than in the States!), and a couple of dessert items we couldn't resist. We decided to eat them in the Luxembourg Gardens, and passed a Bubble Tea place along the way. I've never had bubble tea, but have always wanted to try it, so Jaime ordered for me and it was delicious. I had what she had - black tea with passionfruit bubbles.

We joined lots of other people sitting on this grass as we ate our lunch. Oddly enough, there is a "keep off the grass" sign that all of us were ignoring to sit there.

Luxembourg Palace.

After we'd seen Notre Dame, we were hot and tired, so we went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner... which I'll have in the next post!

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