The wonderful thing about cities, whether they are old or new, or home or away, is that there is so much to explore and learn. When you happen to be in a beautiful city like Paris; the culture and the history is multiplied and magnified by a million. I have said it many times before but I will say it again- I retain a small percentage of all the informative stories and facts my personal tour guide Elliot throws at me, but it is still interesting hearing it all the same. One such stop on my grand tour of Paris was the Panthéon.
Sitting pretty atop the 5eme arrondissement, you simply have to take a moment to look out over the front steps at the city beneath your feet. The Jardin du Luxembourg that dominates the area; and the Eiffel Tower peeping out to say bonjour. It really is something. In places like these, time seems to slow down and a hush befalls you. When a place like this is impressive, there is no need for words.
Footsteps echoing, our trio wandered around the grand halls of the previous church. The enviably high ceilings and intricate architecture were a lot to take in. Deciding to make the most of the moment, I put my camera away. I let myself breathe in awe at the cold air and tried to pay attention to what Elliot was saying. I’m ashamed to say I remember very little of it- sorry Elliot!
I do remember him explaining about burials- the Panthéon is home to the remains of some of France’s most iconic citizens. And you can indeed pay your respects at their final resting places- simply follow the steps to the crypt. Now, as stupid as admitting this is going to make me feel, I will tell you anyway because it was actually a very important moment for me. I hate crypts. And graveyards. Anywhere there are dead bodies- they creep me out and I can’t stand it. I did not say this to Elliot or Beth. Instead, I screamed internally as I was led down the iron steps.
It was as silent as a grave down there (pardon the cheap pun) but not actually as cold as I expected to be. I tried not to stray far from my friends, until they ventured inside a little chamber to read the name plates of the dead. But, I wanted to overcome my fear, so adjusting my big girl knickers (metaphorically), I stepped inside and held my breath. And I lived to tell the tale! I didn’t feel scared as much anymore. It was actually one of those weirdly moving moments; because I was stunned at the fact that there were so many names I recognised. Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Zola, Louis Braille and Marie Curie to name the most known.
Naturally, I was breathing far more freely when we remerged out of the crypt. (Give me a break!). But I am grateful to have been able to experience the Panthéon. Originally, I intended for this piece to recount the history of the Panthéon and marvel at the architecture, but it seems to have turned into some sort of journey of my fear of the dead. Yet, isn’t that what all the great historical monuments are about? Aren’t they meant to overwhelm you and change your inner self? I suppose that’s what happened to me at the Panthéon; only a Parisian landmark could affect me so deeply. While you may have not gained any historical knowledge from me, I hope this will encourage you to see the monuments of the world as more than just a tourist trap.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is only down the road, waiting to be explored!