On Sept 15th, 2011, I began the lifestyle that would define me for the following months; that of a backpacker. My goal was to explore the world, learn about other cultures, and meet new people solely through mobile applications and social networks. Armed with an unlocked iPhone and 7 days worth of clothes, I made my way around based on the recommendations of friends and followers.
On my second day in Paris, I gave up trying to find a constant connection for my devices and decided to knock as much off of my checklist as possible and planned to leave the next day. So I got up early and found my way to the Catacombs. Lis Rock and others were pretty adamant about it too
I had long heard about Paris’ dramatic underground tomb & tunnel system, so I made it a point to get to it on this trip. The cost of entry was 8€ + 3€ for the audio guide. The walkthrough is entirely self-paced through an unguided pathway. Any diversions in the tunnels are gated off to prevent visitors from getting lost. The path has very few modern signs or notes, and very few are in English, making the audio guide well worth it.
The combination of the calm voices of the audio guide and the long walk wound up being a relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of the Paris streets. Rather odd when you consider that I was surrounded by the remains of thousands.
After walking up the 83 steps back to the street level, I immediately found the gift shop across the street (surprise, surprise). There I picked up some postcards and a bottle of Absinthe. On my way out, I decided to ask the gentleman working there where in the area I could get a sandwich. Immediately after asking I could see the excitement on his face, he let me know that his absolute favorite place in Paris was just three blocks away on a little corner by a roundabout. He quickly jotted down directions and emphasized “best sandwiches in Paris. No tourists.” This was exactly what I wanted to hear.
I took his advice and headed up the block and over to a little place called Le Pain d’Auguste and found there was only one other customer. After she finished ordering, I attempted to ask for a sandwich in the crudest, most gratingly awful French ever spoken. The girl behind the counter laughed and told me, in English, that normally she wouldn’t have time to make a sandwich from scratch, but she would for me since there was no one else around. A few minutes later, I was eating the most delicious ham and cheese ever on the best French bread ever. Well done, Catacombs gift-shop guy. Well done.
After that, I needed to recharge mentally and physically, so I stopped at a Starbucks, got on Wifi for a bit, and caught up with the world and took suggestions for the evening.
From there, I went back to Notre Dame like the day before. This time I quietly explored the area while mass was in session, and I marveled at the amazing stained glass work from the inside. I then relaxed in the plaza for a while and then decided to take the advice of Tim Dreyer on Twitter to check out the Musee de l’Orangerie and see their impressionist collection. With that in mind, I used my map and found it to be on the other side of the Louvre courtyard area, so I headed off that way. However, by the time I arrived, it was closed. I looked at the signs, and it wasn’t supposed to be for another hour. I don’t know why but they had closed early this evening. Damn. Out of luck and unsure what to do next, I headed towards the riverside to watch the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower.
Out of ideas for the evening and more exhausted and hungry again, I took a walk along the riverside. Eventually, I came to the Musee d’Orsay—which was also closed—and I stumbled upon a statue of Thomas Jefferson and a street vendor grilling sausages. I stopped, bought a water and a sausage and just as I went to leave the vendor asked me (in very broken English) if I had been to the Tower. Not wanting to get into semantics about when I was there (two years ago), I told him I had. He then handed me a silly purple souvenir Eiffel Tower keychain. I thanked him for his generosity and headed in for the night to work on photos and relax at the hostel as I was getting up early the next morning to head to Munich.