No Bones about it, The Catacombs are a sight like no other!


Bones, lots and lots of bones!

Bones, lots and lots of bones!


I entered the building. A long stone spiral stair case lead me down into the darkness.


   At the bottom, a small gallery that opened up on a long tunnel, which turns into another long, dark tunnel going downwards at a slight incline. The wet gravel of the floor crunched under my feet and I had to duck to avoid the occasional light fixture. I approached my destination with a mixture of dread and excitement.  I was now some 25 meters under the surface of Paris. I finally reached a stone entrance.  Above the door, a plaque announced: “Arrête! C’est ici l’empire de la mort” (Stop! This is death’s realm). I had reached the entrance to the Catacombs of Paris.


 The Catacombs are actually old mining tunnels, some dating back to the Romans, that run underneath the city so calling them catacombs is incorrect since they were never meant for burial purposes.  It would be better to refer to them as bone-warehouses.  The tunnels run for some 300 km, only a small portion of which is open to the public, although there is an entire cast of urban explorers devoted to exploring the catacombs.  The mining, mostly chalk, was stopped in the 1813 after a few incidents involving houses, and sometimes parts of streets, which had disappeared overnight, sucked 30 m deep underground.  So what do you do with 300 km of empty tunnels?  Why not stuff them with the bones of 5 or 6 million people?


As I walked in, I was greeted on either side by what at first appeared to be rows of cordwood.  It took me a few seconds to realize that these were actually bones, stacked neatly and punctuated by the occasional skull whose black, empty sockets follow me as I walked by. 


My first feeling was one of exhilaration and I couldn’t help but think of the old “bring out your dead” Monthy Python sketch.  But after about ten minutes of walking and seeing the endless rows of bones, four to five feet high and six feet deep in some areas, another feeling set in – the most eerie feeling that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. 


As this feeling grew, I made a few realizations.  One, that there are a hell (excuse the pun) of a lot of dead people in here.  Two, that all looked the same.  Men or women, white or black, handsome or ugly, smart or einsteiningly challenged, I couldn’t tell! And strangely, it didn’t matter.  These were people once, like me, with dreams and hopes and love.  People who paid taxes (or avoided to) and got up grumpy on Monday morning to go to work.  Yes, people like me… It might as well be my bones there, and would anyone remember I even existed?   This was my moment of Kenshō, my moment of realization.  Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May this was the message for me here, a message written in bones for the world to see.


So, If you have been putting things off in your life, waiting for the “right moment”, then this is a great place to visit.  No other place will remind you quite so sharply that the clock is ticking for all of us and that your need to make the most of your time here.  Because life after all, is only for the living…





Kensho – enlightened moments

Kenshō is a Japanese term for enlightenment experiences, glimpses into the true nature of things. This is why I write.  This is what I travel for.

Nobody travels to see things.  You don’t go to Paris to see the Eiffel tower – you have seen it a thousand times in movies, magazines, tv shows.  No, you go to Paris to stand in front of the Eiffel tower in person, to experience that moment of amazed enchantement.  You go there for that first glimpse as you round the corner of the Trocadero; for that moment when you stand at the top of the tower and look down on all of Paris.  You go for that precious moment when it hits you: “I AM REALLY HERE!”

It is moments like that one, where dreams become reality, which makes it all worthwhile.  You forget the 7 hour plane ride, the $3000 + you spent to get there, the boss, the bills, and the problems waiting for you back home.  For that one fleeting moment, you are fully present, immersed in the experience and feeling more alive than you have ever felt. 

Travel is about self-discovery.  Because in those rare moments, you also catch a glimpse of yourself, your true self, the “you” unencumbered by the responsibilities and pressures of everyday life.  You see who you could be, and that quickly becomes addictive.  You want to experience more of those moments and you become a travel junkie.

I fully intend to share some of those moments with you and I hope they will entertain you at the very least.  But my greatest joy would be for you to come to my blog and share some or your own moments of kensho.  And if you don’t have any yet, what are you waiting for. Life is for the living. Pack your bags and bring along a note pad!

Hope to hear from you soon!