Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 9- Sewers, Walls, and bus ride. A rainy day in Paris

What better way to spend a rainy day than walking through the Paris sewer system (the egouts)? The Paris sewer system was made famous (at least to Americans) with Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables when Jean Valjean carries Cosette’s boyfriend, Marius, through the sewers after he is shot. Hugo knew Bruneseau, the Paris sewer inspector, who had walked through the maze of Paris sewers and mapped them.  Hugo’s description is based on his conversations with Bruneseau.

We made our first trip on a Paris bus to get to the sewers.  They are large, comfortable, and not very crowded.  Also, frequent.  The bus schedule shows reduced frequency  for two weeks in July and August, when everyone is on vacation.



Des Egouts de Paris (Arrondissement 7) is next to the Seine.  The only indication of the museum is a ticket booth.  Down the stairs, and you are greeted by a sewer smell, and arrive at  the actual sewer system.

 Soon you see and hear the water rushing down the  tunnels.  The tunnels were are beneath us, with grates covering them.  As we continued our visit, the sound and turbulence of the water increased, and sewer employees were rushing about having conversations in rapid French. Close to the end of our visit, the workers closed the museum, presumably so that they could deal with all of the water from the rainfall without the interference of tourists.

Rainwater coming into the sewer.

This is a boat that they use to clean out the sewers.


The museum included an exhibit on the history of the Paris water and sewer system for the past 2000 years, beginning with the island in the middle of the Seine (the location of Notre Dame).

By Napoleon’s time, it was a mess. Disease was rampant, and the water supply woefully insufficient for the city. Plus the fountains, which were the locations for people to obtain their water, were far from many residents.  This led to the water boy profession which employed 20,000 boys to carry water to the homes.

Napoleon decided to clean things up.  Like modern politicians, he realized that there is little political gain in making infrastructure improvements, but knew it needed to be done.  He described his sewer project as one of the greatest services he rendered the Nation.  Thank him the next time you flush a toilet in Paris.

Eugene Belgrand (1810-1878), Head of the Water Board, designed the system that is still in use today. Thank him also when you flush.

                                                           Belgrand's bust in the museum

 There is a gift shop at the end of the tour, where one can purchase a stuffed sewer rat. Not a real stuffed sewer rat, a cloth stuffed sewer rat.

On to the Louvre- for location 4 in Ina Caro’s book- Paris to the Past.  By the Middle Ages, Paris had developed and expanded. Prior to Louis the Fat, the  French king travelled to his next castle, when the smell from the garbage and human waste got too strong where he was staying.  Louis was too fat to travel about, and settled in Paris.  His grandson, Philip Augustus, built a three-mile, 30 foot high wall around the city for protection. 

A remnant of the wall remains- in the basement of the Louvre between the museum and a shopping mall. There is a small plaque in French, but nothing else to explain its significance.  You also see one of the towers.  (note: we discovered later that there is much more to see of the wall. see a later post)



We spent no time in the actual museum.  It appeared that every tourist in Paris had come in out of the rain, and was standing in line to get in.
On to Bus 69 after lunch- another formule with sandwich, beverage, and dessert.

Bus 69 takes one from just west of the Eiffel Tower to the eastern edge of the city, past many of the famous monuments, and through several neighborhoods. A cheap way to get an overview of the city. Rick Steve’s Paris book has a description of the route and sites along the way.
Invalides- the first military hospital in Europe, and is still in operation today.

 A portion of the Louvre along the Seine.

Locks put by lovers on a bridge over the Seine.

The Paris Opera House (there are 2; this is the new one; the old one is the setting for Phantom of the Opera and MUCH prettier)

On the bus ride home, we passed a Lidl, which is a competitor of Aldis. We decided to stop in, and found the prices a bit higher and the store not as nice.


 "Pulp Fiction" was correct.  France in on the metric system, like almost all of the world, so they don't have Quarter Pounders.  They are Royal's.


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