Monday, December 15, 2008

What I Did in Paris.Part 45..Highs and Lows

Tour Montparnasse

The Tour Montparnasse is your typical skyscraper that would be quite at home here in downtown Nagoya or rubbing shoulders with other nondescript structures found throughout Japans urban morass.However as you can see from this shot taken from Montmartre it really does stick out in low rise Paris.

On the top of the Tour Montparnasse is a 56th floor exhibition space and bar/cafe that offers great views of Paris below as well as exorbitantly priced coffee and sandwiches to match the heights.On the 59th floor above the exhibition area and bar theres an open air terrace with 360 degree views of Paris.Here you can see a shot from the terrace.Behind the Eiffel Tower you can see La Defense an area of skyscrapers on the edge of the city.
While I suggest you should look out the windows in the warmth of the exhibition centre Id avoid the cafe due to its prices.I'd also recommend a coat if its windy or winter when you venture to the 59th floor terrace.
The day I was up there I had the place virtually to myself.This was probably due to the fact it was so cold and visibility wasnt the best.
Admission was around 9 euros which was a litle steeper than most museums and other attractions I'd visited.Still it was worth it given the uninterrupted views and the rather strange notice I found in the toilets.Im still pondering what it means.

In the same Montparnasse quartier as the Tour Montparnasse you can visit the Catacombes.While I wouldnt put it on my list of "must sees" if you have some time to kill its certainly an interesting option.Particularly if its cold and you are looking for somewhere sheltered for an hour or so.

From the entrance,(where you will no doubt have to queue,though being the low season the wait was bearable), you wind your way down 130 odd steps to emerge at the start of a series of underground tunnels.Various signs and displays explain the tunnels history and how they came to be used to store the corpses of the citys cemeteries in 1785.

Each of the narrow passages and small alcoves you walk through are lined with bones and skulls all neatly stacked up in rows and different patterns.Its certainly creepy and mind numbing to consider how many corpses have been used and moved to their final underground resting place.
Because of a basic sense of decency and respect flash photography isnt allowed.
Given the low light levels this made getting photos without a flash somewhat of a challenge.I found the best results were those I took near the lights or exit signs
You eventually emerge after walking about one and a half kilometres of these macabre subterranean passages at the exit.I was somewhat surprised to be asked to open my bag as I emerged from the exit.Apparently stealing bones is viewed as a grave offence and those caught are taken to the police.
Obviously such a ghoulish attraction isnt to everyones taste nor would I recommend it to people who are claustrophic as the passages are narrow in places and the ceilings somewhat low.

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