Dec 072010

December 7 (Day 6)

It’s our last full day here in Paris and we intend to make it a busy one. We made a tight schedule to hit the last of our must-dos before everything closed for the day.

First on our list was The Catacombs. Deep underground Paris, even under the metro lines, lie a series of tunnels containing a cemetery full of bones. The tunnels were originally Paris’s mining tunnels, but when the government decided to close down the old abandoned tunnels, one man had the idea to use them as a burial ground. Somehow the idea stuck and later on in the 1800s, another man decided to actually turn the bone repository into a decorated series of tunnels. He directed workers to arrange the skulls and femur bones mostly in interesting patterns. Also any tombstones or other cemetery decorative objects were used in the arrangements. The tour was rather interesting.

The exit to The Catacombs left us on a different street than the entrance and across the street was a little tourist shop. I found an interesting postcard depicting several of the bones with a tombstone that said “Catacombs of Paris.” I delighted the guy running the shop because he was able to tell me the story of how he took the photograph and created the postcard. I was delighted to hear his story. There is no tombstone with those words in the Catacombs, so he took many photos of various letters and then arranged them to form the words on the postcard. I think this postcard is now one of my favorite because I got to hear the story behind it. =)

We went back underground to the metro and emerged near the Paris Sewer Tour. And it was snowing! Well, it was snowing/sleeting and it was a mess. Thankfully the sewer tour was underground as well and we went down below to learn how the Paris sewers work. I know you are all laughing out there in internet-land, but this was one of the main attractions Paris had to offer us engineers. =) Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the tour. Though there was plenty of information, I wanted to know much more than was presented. But then what else would you expect from a civil engineer? The Paris sewer system is one-of-a-kind and consists of a series of tunnels through the city carrying not only all the wastewater, but the storm water too. This is a pretty foreign concept to me. Also, the tunnels have lines for both potable and non-potable water, and now even carry some of the electricity and other utility lines. I might have to pick up a book on the topic and learn more about the sewers.

When we emerged, it was still snowing, so we dashed back underground into the metro and found ourselves at the Musee des Artes et Metiers or the Science Museum. By now the weather was a mess of snow and rain mixed together and we stopped nearby to have lunch while watching the winter mix. The Science Museum turned out to be very similar to the Museo Galileo in Rome with a history of scientific instruments. First, though, we started with the temporary exhibit, Musee de Games!

In the games exhibit we found old gaming systems, consoles, and games displayed. We were amused to see consoles like the original Nintendo here on display. I told Mark that we have some old relics that could be donated to a museum now. The main room of the exhibit had about 50 screens connected to old consoles where we could sit and play old games. I had fun remembering the tricks to Nintendo’s first Mario. There were also old Sonic the Hedgehog games, pong, atari games, pac-man, mario kart, and many many more. We sat and played games for quite a while before moving on. There was even a game cube here! Game Cube isn’t even that old, is it? 😉

If that wasn’t enough, there was also a room of arcade games up for grabs including a sega hologram time traveling game. We had fun with this temporary exhibit.

The main parts of the museum had several different departments including, but not limited to, scientific instruments, transportation, construction, communication, mechanics, and energy. We saw a history in each department from the 1700s to now. There was even an original Ipod in the museum!! Ha! We stayed until closing time and then headed out into the rain.

We stopped our underground tour by visiting the Eiffel Tower next and going high into the air. First we viewed the tower from the Trocadero which is pretty much the best view of the tower. Too bad it was raining and I was sans tripod. I tried to take some photos though. We’ll see how they come out. The top level of the tower was closed due to fog/rain/snow, but we could see pretty from from the 2nd level. We can now check off, “climb the Eiffel Tower” off our life to-do list. The dark made for some pretty views, but the rain and cold made the trip slightly less than perfect.

I think now we’ve just about done Paris. We hit all the big stuff and also some not-so-big stuff. For dinner tonight, we ate near our apartment at a yummy restaurant serving classic French dishes. We both had the menu which means we had appetizer, entree, and dessert. My pot de fer appetizer was rather odd. Basically it was cold, shredded beef, in a gel served by the slice. It was almost like eating gefilte fish with the gel, but with beef instead of fish. Mark’s profiteroles with goat cheese were tasty. For dinner, I had the beef bourguignon, a classic French dish, and Mark had a duck roast. Dessert was of course the best and we had very very tasty profiteroles. These are pastry puffs filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce. The chocolate sauce was as rich as melted candy bars, and everything underneath was amazing. Mmmm, mmmm good.

We closed down this French Restaurant and were one of the last people to leave around 11pm. I’m still not used to eating so late, but I hope when I get back to Houston I can get back to my normal 6p dinner time. =)

Tomorrow we have the morning free and then we fly to Marseille. It’s our last full day together and hopefully it’ll be another relaxing day. From Marseille, Mark flies home to Algeria, and I fly home to Houston (both on Friday morning).

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