Sunday, 24 October 2010
More from Paris
First I went to the catacombes of Paris, a series of underground tunnels where a whole heap of bones have been arranged in quite (I have to say) spectacular fashion. Behind retaining walls built of femurs and inlaid with skulls in decorative patterns, lie the loose bones of about 6 million Parisians, laid to rest in an abandoned underground quarry after the cemeteries were emptied to prevent disease from spreading. I understand it was quite respectfully done -- if exhuming millions of people and dismembering their skeletons could be called that -- but even so... A sobering experience.
Second I went to Chateau Vincennes, one of the foremost medieval castles in France, former home of King Charles V. It has a well-preserved central keep, surrounded by wall and a moat. Plus all manner of adjacent buildings -- chapel, palaces built later, armoury etc -- surrounded by an additional wall. Because it is so comprehensive and nicely laid out, it's perfect for a medieval fantasy setting, should one choose to write such. Aside from that, the stone walls simply ooze history: the Marquis de Sade was imprisoned here before being transferred to the Bastille, as was Diderot. Apparently, along with the Louvre, it's one of the most significant royal residences in French history (and I had never heard of it before...).