Paris: City of Light, City of Love, City of the Dead

Paris round two was strange, frightening and just generally really nice haha. To preface, I went three days after returning from Italy, my bank card was expired, communication overseas was, well, almost non-existent and I was alone (more or less). But it was something I needed to do. And something that was beautiful to explore for just one more time. And it was well worth it.

The City of Light (La Ville Lumière) did not disappoint. I’m not sure why I didn’t see the Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel) sparkle before this trip, but I don’t think it would ever get old. Ever. All of a sudden I feel like I’m five again. And there’s some magic in that.


To explore the City of Love, journey with me to four wonderful experiences.

1) Shakespeare and Co. Why? Because I love books and English and reading and writing more than most things in this world. This is my kid in a candy shop scenario. And I spent almost two hours in this small little shop, wishing I had the money to buy, well, anything.


2) Notre Dame

Now, I’ve actually been to Notre Dame de Paris before. HOWEVER, I’m telling you right now, you have not been to Notre Dame cathedral unless you’ve been inside while there is a mass going on. Because it fundamentally changes the energy of the whole place. It feels warm and powerful. There is that sharp, yet soothing smell of incense mixed with voices rebounding perfectly off stone walls hundreds of years old. It is no longer the austere, cold, grand cathedral I knew beforehand. It becomes a true place of worship so much greater than the awe of its size.


3) The Louvre Museum

And specifically, my favorite sculpture of all time. Cupid and Psyche. I sat here and just wrote some poetry. Because what else do you do when faced with beautiful things at every turn?


4)”Les Mille et Une Orchidées” (The Thousand and One Orchids)

This was an orchid expo in the Jardin Des Plantes close to the Panthéon (which is coming up soon). Let me say two things about it. A) I never realized there was such a variety of orchids and B) it was probably the most beautiful, most wonderful smelling building I have ever set foot inside. Ever.


And now, the City of the Dead.

1) Père Lachaise Cemetary

I actually got kicked out of here before I could thoroughly explore the cemetery (which is a laughable statement because the thing is completely gigantic). However, I did find Oscar Wilde’s tomb. And boy, it’s the most…extravagant one I saw.


2) The Panthéon

This thing used to be a church until the secularists took it over and made it into a shrine for the revolution. But really. The sign below reads “Live Free or Die.”


However, cool as that may be (and a little strange in my opinion, but whatever), the coolest bit is the tombs under it in which are buried Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Marie and Pierre Curie, Louis Braille (inventor of Braille) and many others. Basically, it’s a history/literature kids dreamscape.


3) The Catacombs

Possibly one of the least-known cool things in Paris, the Catacombs are way more than just a bunch of bones or tombs. It is at once a place to learn about and experience history, a work of art and, yes, there are the bones of about 6 million ancient Parisians in there too.


The Catacombs of Paris are an ossuary (bone storage place) with the bones of some 6 million people in them. However, before that they were limestone mines. In fact, the mines stretched under Paris, following good veins of limestone for the construction of the city above it (most of the stone used in old French buildings is limestone). That all worked out great until the city literally started caving in and the King sent a commission down to shore up the mines.

One of the excavators did this from memory after looking at it from his prison cell for so long.
One of the excavators did this from memory after looking at it from his prison cell for so long.

This of course created an large space under the city that was “stable” and unused. So what would anyone do in that situation? Right! Take the bones out of the dumping pits around the city, dump them in the mines and then continue to expand the city with the now-available real estate!


And it gets better! Soon after they moved the bones, some people had the bright idea to stack them up and make the whole thing a tourist attraction. Yay capitalism!


Paris. A city of beauty and of the not-so-pretty. A city of day and night, light and dark. But I think most interestingly, a city of history.