Today was a busy day! I started with a baguette with apricot jam and black tea for breakfast and I felt very French–looking out over the Seine, with the barges and little cars honking their horns…it was très picturesque! Justin, Claire and I then had coffee at McDonalds (McCafé), which is a very different experience compared to getting coffee at an American McD’s. First off, you get served in real porcelain cups. The interior is actually nice too, apparently akin to a Starbucks, where people just go to hang out and drink coffee and use their laptops. I also learned the French don’t typically walk around while drinking coffee either–it’s meant to be enjoyed while relaxing at a cafe, or wherever you’ve ordered it. I guess they have a lot of leisure time in France!
After coffee we headed to the Catacombs–underground tunnels full of old bones! “The Catacombs were created at the end of the 18th century to serve as an ossuary. It was decided that bones from all of the city’s cemeteries would be stored in disused limestone quarries in the Tombe-Issoire district.” We walked down below the streets, below the plumbing, below everything through some rather boring rock tunnels, and then into tunnels lined with the bones of the long deceased. The bones have been organized and stacked efficiently and at first it was almost like they weren’t real. I think we’re so disconnected with death (or at least dead bodies) that it was easy to forget that these are actual parts of people who used to be alive.
After the Catacombs we popped into Starbucks (of course) and talked more about French culture and lifestyle. Students don’t have school on Wednesdays!
Claire left us to register for classes and Justin and I headed over to Notre-Dame–quite impressive. Alas, there was no hunchback, but there was about a zillion tourists! They have a large balcony in front of the church so people can take photos in front of the church (naturally I decided to be one of those people), but it was hard to get a good shot of the church itself without also capturing the swarms of people. Inside was even more packed with people and their iphones and fancy cameras, shuffling about and taking pictures of stained glass and arches and organs and religious relics. I’m really not interested in the religious aspect of the church (though I did wonder how some people felt about all these tourists gawking at their place of worship), but I did admire the massive stained glass windows and the huge chandeliers and such.
Below the church they had a little “Archaeological Crypt” area that you could tour (for a few Euros, of course), which contained ruins of some older buildings that were built in…older times. They were mostly piles of crumbled stone, and some archways, but apparently they used to be homes and courtyards and stuff. “Converted in 1980 under the square in front of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral to display archaeological remains discovered during excavations from 1965 to 1972, the crypt provides a unique overview of urban and architectural development of the île de la Cité, the historical heart of Paris.” (Says my pamphlet). None of my pictures are really worth showcasing, but Justin and I did have fun playing with the 3-D, Sim-like, models that they had, displaying what these ruins looked like in their hey-days. The displays had little people walking about the town, and even naked dudes chilling in the bath houses. Yes, we’re mature.
To be continued…