Containing 20 arrondissements (districts), 245 metro stations, and an abundance of sights to see, Paris is home to endless opportunities to take and places to explore. Our Tuesday here in Paris was left open for each person to delve in to. Some went off in groups to a walking food tour, and others chose to spend a quiet day in the museums. But everyone ended the day with a different story to tell. I caught up with 6 members of our group to see what they had done.
Tyler Foos: A Piece of the Past
Trekking off on his own today, Tyler, a student at Carroll Community, spent a while wandering over the bridges of Paris before heading anywhere in particular. After getting a little lost on what he called “a three-hour-adventure”, Tyler made his way to the Picpus Cemetery in the 12th arrondissement. It was a bit of a struggle to find the place, but persistence paid off and Tyler found himself immersed in history and personal thoughts.
“No one knew about it [the cemetery], not the cops or crossing guards,” Tyler said. “Robespierre executed people during the French Revolution and then had them mass buried here at night in secret. 1,306 people.”
Maximilien Robespierre was a main leader during the French Revolution and is greatly related to the time known as The Reign of Terror. Robespierre, at the height of the French Revolution during July 14-27, 1794, executed these 1,306 people at the guillotine. He then had them hauled away, clothes sold to pay for the gravediggers, then had the bodies stacked in two massive graves. These people were shopkeeps and nobles alike, and Robespierre had simply thought them to be “suspicious” in some manner.
One of the people buried here is Adrienne de Noailles, wife of the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette, as a young man, ran off from the French army to aid the American cause and the Revolutionary War.
“The big thing then was when the U.S. troops got here for World War I,” Tyler explained, “was General Stanton came to Lafayettes grave and held a ceremony and made a speech for him. It was basically to say that since Lafayette helped the Americans, now we are here to help you. And he said ‘Lafayette, we are here’. And it’s really inspiring, because these men fought for justice and need, not for glory.”
An American flag flies at all times over the Lafayettes grave to honor his assistance to the American Revolution.
“My history professor, Mr. Clemmers, referred to it a few times in class and that kind of inspired me,” Tyler said. “My grandfather was in the service and I was thinking about that and about him. It was very personal to me. There was a beautiful little chapel there, too. I went inside and sat down, and there was just an organist in there, practicing the music. I’ll admit, I got pretty teary. It was sort of a big deal for me. I sat in the chapel for about an hour and twenty minutes. Thinking. And remembering. Everything we’ve seen on the trip is great, but I would have payed for the trip ten times over just for that moment.”
Kim McShane: Visiting the Mouse
Opting for a day just slightly outside of the city, Kim visited of the more magical places on Earth and went to Disneyland, Paris.
“I really like Disney in general,” Kim said. “I’ve been to Disneyworld before and I wanted to see how it compared.”
So how did it hold up to the original park?
“It wasn’t quite as impressive as Disneyworld as a whole,” Kim said, “but the food was incredible! I got this waffle with Nutella, and I got this bruschetta that was really good, and hot chocolate. And the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was better than it was in the U.S.”
And even though she has not yet seen the film, Kim said the immersive, 4D ride “Ratatouille: A Recipe for Adventure” which opened last year, was her favorite.
“The best ride was the Ratatouille ride,” she said. “You were sat on this bar-like seat and are moved thought the scenes. It’s like you are the rat on the floor and experience it from his view. Like when the man comes to sweep, you feel the air and are moved.”
Aside from the tasty foods and fun rides, Kim also took advantage of the shops in Disneyland, Paris, and picked up a few things for her family.
“I was able to buy some really cute stuff for my nieces, and my parents. I also bought this for my dog,” Kim said as she pulled a “Lady and the Tramp” dog bowl from her shopping bags. “And some Olaf stuff for my dad. There are four girls in my dads family, and now he has six granddaughters so its all been Disney princess stuff around him! But he saw “Frozen” and likes Olaf a lot.”
Shelley Grubbs: Taking the Tombs
Shelley Grubbs started her free day in one of the spookiest parts of the city, deep in the caverns of the catacombs. These dark tunnels, formerly used as mines and quarries, hold the remains of around 6 million people. The catacombs of Paris are referred to as “the worlds largest grave”.
“You had to go through all these really creepy caves,” Shelley explained. “It was so wild! There were a whole bunch of skulls with holes in the head as if they’d been drilled through or something. It was just rows and rows and it went on and on; there was a big distance from when I went in and where I came out. This is so far down below, and I couldn’t explain the science, but there were these constant drips of water just dripping down among the skulls. Drip, drip, it was chilling.”
The catacombs are indeed an eerie place; the official website for the tombs even warns, “The tour is unsuitable for people with heart or respiratory problems, those of a nervous disposition or young children.”
Shelley continues, “There were also these dungeons, I was thinking they would be for like the people who were being quarantined down there until they could be disposed. That was really creepy, all those cold metal bars, and it was very cold and very dark and it’s all just solid black.”
The catacombs website further explains the origins of the tombs, saying, “The name of ‘Catacombs’ was given to this ossuary in reference to the Catacombs of Rome, a name originally given to an ancient cemetery situated not far from the Appian Way. The Cemetery of the Innocents had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohibit further use of the Cemetery of the Innocents and to remove its contents.” Thus, the catacombs Shelley visited were born. She considered them a very eerie yet educational part of her trip.
“I’m sure there are a lot of restless energies in there,” Shelley remarked.
Nanci Barker and William Fell: The Best Street in Paris
These two well-known faces from Carroll Community College spent their day in a very classic French fashion.
“We went to Rue Cler market,” Nanci said. “Its streets are closed to traffic, and it’s a small little place with lots of smaller shops, stands, and there was a shoe store. Rick Steves [travel guide writer] said it was the best street in Paris.”
Rue Cler is filled with plenty of places to shop for fresh foods, and Parisians frequent here daily to buy only the most fresh selections. Fresh, juicy fruits; balls, wedges, and slices of hundreds of cheese selections; butchers shops stacked with plenty of goose and phesant; the markets here a must-see for any food lover. And if cooking isn’t your thing, then you can drop into one of the many cafés and relax on a sidewalk terrace with an espresso. Nanci and William ate at the Café du Marché, and called it the highlight of their visit to Rue Cler. There is something in Rue Cler for anyone, and the relaxing atmosphere is sure to draw you in.
“It was very nice, and had almost a nineteenth century vibe,” William said. “There were just people strolling around, walking to cafes, and there is a little flower market. It’s a relaxing place. It’s not like a big, busy shopping mall.”
Nanci continued, “The people were very nice and helpful, and everyone interacted with everyone else. It was all very Parisian. It felt like we were in one of those Impressionist paintings!”
Amber Halmon: A Shopping Excursion
One of the groups college students, Amber, 19, took the day as a chance to shop her way through one of the fashion capitals of the world.
“I looked into all the different shops by the museum and the opera. A lot of the stores were really expensive! Like, I wasn’t expecting them to be that much! But I enjoyed looking at all the different styles. Some of them were super cute and I wanted them, and some looked ridiculous!”
All the way from Anne Boleyn and her then provocative hairstyles to the world famous Coco Chanel, Paris has always been home to the most desirable fashions. The Champs-Elysées boulevard is home to a plethora of luxury fashion shops, such as Louis Vuitton and Armani. And even more so, Paris has hundreds of little boutiques for more bohemian and quirky finds, everything from tiger-striped sneakers to pom-pom encrusted jeans.
Sp how would a first-time visitor to Paris describe the fashion she just saw?
“High end. People here have a very high end, bit over the top thing going on. Even the stuff that was cheaper, a lot of it was just kind of weird. I would wear it but would probably get some funny looks back home.”