An all too familiar noise blared from the table across the room: the sound of both my watch and my phone hammering their alarm tones. We’d made a plan last night and were determined to stick to it and that meant getting up at a respectable hour. Thankfully the half day we’d spent lazing around yesterday meant we were mostly up to the task, slowly getting ready before we trundled down stairs to face the day and the hotel breakfast. After we were fed and watered we made our way down to the closest Paris Metro station and were off on our first journey all by our lonesome in the city of love.
Our first stop was a must-see attraction that numerous people had recommended to us: the catacombs of Paris. I had read several people mention that showing up after it opened was a sure fire way to lose 2+ hours and so we arrived at 9AM sharp in the hopes it would only cost us an hour wait. After circling the block several times trying to find it we eventually figured out that the small line of people, which I had initially dismissed, was actually the line for the catacombs. It was good we showed up when we did however as by the time the doors opened the line was around the block. Not 5 minutes after it opened we were in and descending down into the underground labyrinth.
I was first struck at the magnitude of the place, a giant network of tunnels buried under the bustling city above us. You always see things like this in movies and pictures but it’s a whole other thing to experience it for yourself. Then you come across the catacombs itself and it’s just awe inspiring. We spent so long looking at the piles of bones, seeing the different types of skulls and my wife translating the (admittedly extremely morbid) French writings on the walls. Definitely worth the early start and the hour spent waiting in line.
Afterwards we figured that going straight for the Eiffel Tower would be a bit of a crap shoot so we headed over to the Louvre. Despite what many people had said online the lines to get in where fine, maybe a 15 minute wait to get a ticket but then you were free to roam around the museum as you pleased. Again I was struck by the sheer scale of the place with multiple wings and levels all full to the brim with historic artifacts and art pieces. We made a beeline for the ancient Greek antiquities section (since I kinda dig Greek mythology) and spent hours perusing the collection.
Of course we hit a few of the main attractions like the Venus De Milo and the Mona Lisa. Frankly the scene that I saw at these works of art angered me in a way I never thought I would be.
I get it, you want a picture to show you were there. You need proof to validate the fact that you were within a stone’s throw of an iconic piece of art. But that picture will likely never see the light of day or go unnoticed in a mass uploaded album with the 30+ other pictures you took of all the art you saw. None of these people who you see stammering for a photo took even a few seconds to stand back and appreciate the art for what it is, they were all concerned about capturing it for later when that later will never come. It really does sadden me that this is what iconic art is reduced to for some people: a status symbol that conveys no status.
I did have a lot of fun photographing the crowds that were taking photos, however!
After a pit stop for some lunch at a nearby cafe we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower after successfully navigating the convoluted route that Google Maps had put us onto. The lines to get into the tower weren’t so bad in the mid to late afternoon although getting to the summit took us at least an hour shortly after. The views of Paris, even from the second level, are quite stunning, highlighting just how big the city is. You can see all the big attractions from up there and even size up the Eiffel Tower against all the other tall structures of the world. Surprisingly Telstra Tower even gets a mention, being about 2/3rds the size of the Eiffel Tower. After we’d spent a good amount of time at the summit we descended back down and made our way back to our hotel.
If I’m honest I expected at least one of the activities I described above to go belly up due to any number of reasons. The weather has been pretty fickle of late and it was threatening to rain all day. We seemed to have lucked out however with the rain only coming down when we finally decided to leave the comfort of our hotel bed in search of dinner. Hopefully our luck holds for the rest of the trip.
Tomorrow will probably be a much lazier day as we’ve already hit our big 3 and what’s left are things we could easily go either way on. Plus I’m not particularly looking forward to a repeat of today’s walking performance (my UP3 reports a total of 21KM today). I’m sure we could do more if we wanted to, and if we really wanted to splash the cash on a few things, but we’ve still got the rest of the holiday to look forward to and I don’t think either of us in much of a rush.