Alison Goes to Paris - 2/02THE CATACOMBS
Tiptoeing through the catacombs under Paris, with Thom and Olivier saying, "why do I feel like I'm in the French version of "Scooby Doo?"
After Miles of empty caves, (Olivier hopefully calling out "Bin Laden?") we come to a doorway. Thom is in front, not due to bravery but in an effort to be the first to the exit. He stops cold in the doorway and screams at the top of his lungs. We've reached the catacombs. The sign says "Arrette!" (stop) "Come No Further, You Are Entering the Empire Of The Dead". We of course go in - I have to push Thom. The guy who guards the place reminds us that screaming is not allowed. (Who are we going to wake up???)
It's really quite marvelous. OK, it's six million dead French people, but you really should see it. Historically, it's a big deal. They were originally gypsum mines built by the Romans and the French decided to start storing bodies down there when the cemeteries got too crowded. They're all stacked quite neatly. For miles. There's a separate wing just for people they killed during the revolution. The French resistance his out down here during World War II. The Nazis NEVER came down after them. Why not? Well, you go down there and take a look and you won't have to ask. ONE: It's the spookiest place in the world. Nazis were a superstitious bunch and didn't want anything to do with six million ghosts. TWO: Lots of nooks and crannies and blind tunnels. If you don't know where you're going, you're dead. (And they may not find your body for years.) And if there's a bunch of crazy French people who do know where they're going down there, you're ambush central. THREE: You try walking down seven stories of stone spiral staircase in black high heel leather boots. Go ahead. Try it. I did it in sneakers and my feet hurt for two days.
The catacombs are full of plaques honoring the dead in several languages (none of them English). The last plaque reads you the riot act about how we're all going to die some day and you'd better be living your life to the fullest, cause you'll be down here soon enough. We took the hint.
You walk out, (after climbing the staircase from hell again), into blazing sunlight, in a completely strange neighborhood. They don't tell you that when you enter the catacombs you will exit miles from where you entered, nor do they tell you at the exit where you are or how to find your way back to your car. This is apparently the French's idea of a great practical joke. (Ha ha! We make you walk through five miles of dead bodies, then dump you in the middle of nowhere! Have a nice trip!! Come back soon! Hahahahaha!) Even Olivier had a time of it finding the car. By ourselves, I think we might still not have been heard from.
Upon finding the car, we crank the stereo and it's Steve Vai's "Genocide" from the "Fire Garden" album: "HEY HI. WE'RE RACING WITH TIME TO GET SOME KICKS BEFORE WE DIE. HEY HO. AND IF YOU DON'T KNOW, WE WILL STAND TOGETHER ON THE OTHER SIDE." This seemed rather appropriate "post catacomb" music. I recommend having this or something else you find suitable to listen to right after the catacombs. Trust me, you'll need it.