Since the last Tuesday Teaser that was posted here, I am happy to say that I have been having a very enjoyable time reading Parisians : An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. The book has managed to weave its historical facts together into what reads like a highly engaging (& entertaining) collection of narrative fiction. While I was reading the book, I came across something which I wanted to make a cross reference to, and recalled having caught a glimpse of it before in my copy of Metrostop Paris : History from the City’s Heart by Gregor Dallas. I had started the book about two years ago perhaps, and had not made it past the first chapter, always thinking of and waiting for the right time to pick it up again.
Now is the time.
The best time to visit Metro stop No.1, Denfert-Rochereau, is in the morning of Paris’s first day at work, which for most people in Paris is on a Tuesday. Except for bankers, nobody in Paris works on Mondays because its citizens have been too busy enjoying themselves over the weekend. Throughout the provinces of France bankers work on Saturdays, but Paris has for the last thousand years always wanted to be different from the provinces – which is why bankers in Paris work on Mondays instead of Saturdays. Civil servants, on the other hand, do not like to work on the first day of the week – which is why all the National Museums, to the annoyance of foreign travellers, are always closed on Tuesdays. So pick a Wednesday. Everything will be open at Denfert-Rochereau on Wednesday.
A visit to the Catacombs of Paris awaits; that is, if you do not get lost. The map in the underground is based on a terror-control theory designed to mislead an enemy alien; following those directions will lead you to two locked green doors marked ‘prive’. The two oldest buildings in the square date back to mid-1780s, just when everything happened here at Place Denfert-Rochereau. The only piece of decor is in the architraves below the roof, full of dancing Greek maidens, save the central figure. Who is that? An allegory of Life or Death? This place was once called Hell.