Those who remember 'Asterix and the Golden Sickle' might remember Asterix and Obelix visiting Lutece.
They're not alone in their enchantment of this bustling city: every day, thousands of tourists smudge their noses against tour bus windows and walk hand in hand in admiration of the same site: Lutece is the heart of Paris, Ile de la Cite.
The growing metropolis had an insatiable requirement for building matierials. In the Asterix frame, we see the Butte de Montmarte - which would be eventually rendered hollow, carved from the inside out for its gypsum. Likewise, the surrounding areas of Paris were heavily mined for their sandstone.
As the city grew, things started collapsing into the empty quarries, and the catacombs were formed in 1777, to attempt to reinforce the underground. Since then, the extensive network of tunnels served as routes for smugglers, German and French resistance bunkers, mass graves, wine cellars, mushroom plantations, and even recently an escape route from Paris' notorious Sante Prison.
Naturally, these spaces intruige visitors and locals. The modern 'unofficial' catacombs attract the intrepid adventurer and the 20-something that wants to drink and get high underground. Rooms are carved out. Parties are thrown. Tunnels are dug. Graffiti is scrawled.
I've always found it hard to appreciate the catacombs. As impressive as they are, they're not the most welcoming of places. When you're not with a group of friends, there's the distinct odour of stale cigarettes and turned beer. Everything is cold and wet to the touch. You're almost always far from an exit.
Others, however, are addicted. Moses Gates is one of these such people, and on his recent trip to Paris, convinced me to go down with him and to spend the night 'hobochicing it out'.
I'd prefer to sleep on the street, in a park, on a bench - anywhere - before sleeping in the catas, so paradoxically, thought it'd be a good idea.
We went down, shared a few drinks, talked about girls and exploring, and eventually made our way to the 'Double Cabinet' to sleep. It's a room that's rarely frequented, due to the fact you have to belly crawl for a good 50m to get in. And this time, it was very, very muddy.
Eventually covered head to toe in white paste, we arrived in the room, and set up to go to sleep. Thirty minutes later, Rex announces: The walls are closing. I gotta get out of here.
So, tired and bleary-eyed, we marched back out, getting out in time to take the first metro.
There's nothing quite like taking a metro when you're covered head to toe in mud. Everyone - everyone - on the train despises you. Women hide their children. People change wagons. People glare at you, like you're a piece of trash. They have no idea where you've been, who you are, or certainly why you've got a silly grin on your face, but certainly, it's as if your very presence is an deep insult.
And being subject to this disdain, you can't help but realise it's the same judgement that the homeless are submitted to every single day.
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