July 16 – the Catacombs

We met up with Smith in the morning to talk about our final project proposals, so we did not have time to do much that day. After the meetings, we all met up with Smith to visit the Catacombs. The Catacombs used to be outside of Paris. It was located at the southern gates of Paris – nicknamed gates of hell.

The Catacombs used to be illegal sandstone quarries. The quarries led to a lot of holes in Paris, which later led to a lot of problems.

King Louis XVI commissioned an inspection of the underground Paris. The ‘Inspection Générale des Carrières’ (inspection of mines) was the outcome of that commission. This led to the rule that there would be no more mining in Paris. The inspection was to find where the mining holes are. And to use a form of adaptive reuse, the city decided that churches with mass graves really needed to empty out those graves to make room for more dead people. So the city dug up all those bones and put them in the old quarry tunnels. So the city puts lots of bones in there and in 1810 it became a tourist attraction based on death. There are 6 million bodies in the catacombs and we did not see all of them.

This form of adaptive reuse kills multiple birds with one stone (or bone).

A view of the old quarry filled with bones.

A view of the old quarry filled with bones.

Skulls and femurs were in the front. It allowed for support and for designs. The other bones would not stack well together, unless they were all jumbled in the back (which they were).

Skulls and femurs were in the front. It allowed for support and for designs. The other bones would not stack well together, unless they were all jumbled in the back (which they were).

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July 15

The day after Bastille day we went to the Sewer Museum and Musée d’Orsay. Very different museums.

The Sewer Museum is one of Smith’s favorite museums. It was very interesting despite the horrid stench.

Every street has a mirror image underground. That means that running water and electricity all run directly under the street. Clean and drinkable water comes far away from Paris via canal system and aqueducts .

In the sewers there are basically these huge balls. The balls are made of wood and are hollow and they help get the sewers unstuck with the pressure. They are supposed to be dropped upstream so that there is pressure for the ball to go through the sewer. Because it is made of wood, it can float to the service after it has done its job. Smith calls it the “giant plunger Indiana Jones style”.  All sewer lines have to round for this to work.

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The Giant Plunger

 

And last but not least, you cannot redesign a city without the sewer system – Props to Haussmann.

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Because this is Smith’s favorite museum, she got a sewer rat. It’s super soft.

 

The Musée D’Orsay looks like a 19th century train station because it is. It was originally built as a train station and opened for the first time at the 1900 world’s fair. It was built in the Beaux Arts style.

The architect of the Musée D’Orsay uses some advanced technology with glass, steel and sandstone. Sandstone to match the surrounding areas, the glass and steal to bring out the Beaux Arts style.

It was built as a short train station. By the 1930s it became not an ideal stop for trains and by WWII it closed and no one did anything. In the 60s, people wanted to demolish it. Monuments Commission proposed to make it a museum. In the 70s, it was decided to be a museum and then opened in the 80s. It works very well as a museum because it is airy.

Downside? No linear visit. You have to go in and go out to get to exhibits rather than walk down a hallway. Each experience is a different experience partially due to the light from the glass roof.

This was my first visit to the Musée D’Orsay and I really enjoyed it. Especially the section that focused on just the Opera Garnier.

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Model of the stage in the Opera Garnier.

 

Model of the interior of the Opera Garnier.

Model of the interior of the Opera Garnier.

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The Bells of Notre Dame

Day 17: the bells of Notre Dame

 

Bonjour,

 

So this morning we woke up super early, up by 6:30 and out the door by 7! We were on a mission this morning we were going going to Notre Dame on our own to go up into the bell tower.

 

Yes we have been here before but we came back here specifically because the bell towers have have own tour and the line is always super long! We go there around 7:45 and the gates or Notre Dame had just opened. The square was almost completely empty save for a few other break souls like us coming out in the wee hours of a Friday morning.

 

As we wandered the square we saw everything just like last time only the experience was a hundred times better and if you ever can go to the Notre Dame please make your way over in the wee hours of the morning it is worth it. The doors of the church also open at 7:45 go inside. The experience completely changes from feeling like a museum to feeling like a church. It is so worth it plus the stained glass is beautiful in the morning cloud cover it shines very brightly.

After wandering around inside we got a quick breakfast and then went and got in line. We were near the front and Inc Inc opened the line moved very quickly. We got our tickets and then made our ascent up 400 spiral stairs then got smaller and smaller as you made your way up. By the top my whole foot didn’t fit on the widest part of the step. If I learned anything in paris it’s that Parisian as obsessed with spiraling staircases!!! So many!

 

After finally making it to the top the view was phenomenal. You could see all across the city. It was early enough that you could see the line for notre dame start to form below. It was absolutely breathtaking. From the top we were on the same level as the gargoyles which up close were amazing you could see the marks from the masons you were so close. Also from this level you could see the flying buttress from above which was cool as the water spouts were on these.

 

After this we went inside two small doors into the bell tower in here were a set of old wooden stairs taking these we made it to the top where there were two bell they were huge!!! After finishing this level we took more small stairs up to the tops of the bell tower. This was the highest point! Best view of the city on par with the Eiffel Tower.

Overall if you get the chance go early and go up the Notre dame it is so worth it. The view is beautiful and you get to see the inside of the towers of Notre Dame which is a site to see!

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Splish Splash Don’t Crash

Sunday was a fun day. We saw Diana’s flame, which was really cool. It was really peaceful there, even though it is in the middle of the street. After we had a moment there talking about Diana and wondering how her death affected her family, we moved on to the Statue of Liberty. We found this park, I don’t remember what it’s called, but it was really nice with some fountains and there were people dancing and working out. Seeing the statue was pretty fun, but my favorite part was on our way from the statue to the Tour de France. I was leapt on multiple times by a bulldog. Igor was convinced he was going to come home with me in my pocket. If his owner wasn’t so nice, I might have stollen him. I don’t think I would have gotten very far though, Igor is quite chunky. At this point it had started to rain as we headed to the Tuileries. We had planned to find a spot and sit down in the park, I am not entirely sure why we thought that was going to work. We ended up across from the Norwegian corner, those people were really fun to watch. We got to see the tail end of the women’s race (and a crash where like ten women went down) and then stand for three hours in the pouring rain waiting for the men to come through. We did get to watch the sponsor’s caravan, which was really fun, but since it was raining the chicken sponsors didn’t throw out chicken like we throw candy out at the 4th of July parades. So even though it wasn’t a preservation day, but it was super fun!

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Rainy Sunday and I feel like Owen Wilson from Midnight In Paris

I was on my own today in Paris. My friends decided to stay in on this cold rainy day, so it was a good time to see some art. Sundays in Paris, where stores are notorious for being closed, makes it the best day to go to museums. Sundays in Paris are also days where people spend time at home with loved ones. It was 65 degrees here and rainy, so I put on my sweater and my walking shoes, and prepared myself to do this whole metro thing on my own. I planned on going to the Musee l’Orangerie first and then spend the rest of my time at the Musee d’Orsay, and I knew how to get there. However, I found that the metro line C that I needed was closed! Being alone and all and terrible at directions, I freaked. Thankfully, some of the RER Information people helped me out, and I was on my way again. I got out of the metro by the Tuileries to find that the street I needed to cross was blocked off due t the Tour de France bikers who had to make their way down that very street. I found my way across via an underpass, and got to the l’Orangerie. The best part is, I got in for FREE! How, you may ask? I don’t even know. I am not a Parisian student, but the museum workers must think I am. The l’Orangerie was amazing, from Monet’s water lily collection to the Cezanne, Modigliani, and Picasso collections below. While it was a small museum, it was worth the trip over. 

I then proceeded to the Musee d’Orsay. I have already been once before with class a couple weeks ago, but I wanted to go back and take my time by myself. Last time, it was hot, and I felt very rushed because I was with friends. This time it was different. I first made my way to get coffee due to my caffeine withdraw headache. Being right next to my favorite wing, the Impressionists, I started there. Being completely honest, I almost cried looking at Monet’s Haystack painting. It looked as though there should have been a source of light coming from somewhere onto this painting, but there wasn’t, he painted the light. It was unbelievable. It was magic to me. I got very sad right before I left the museum, because I realized that this was the best museum I have ever been to in my life, and I may not be able to come back for a very long time, if ever again. 

All in all, it was a very relaxing and wonderful Sunday afternoon. I felt like Owen Wilson in the movie Midnight In Paris, who wanders the streets of Paris by himself and finds Paris to be the most beautiful in the rain. I had had enough of being by myself by about 5:00 though, so I went home. 

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