Spokes of major boulevard traffic stretch out from the Tour Montparnasse, golden streaks across the city. The Eiffel Tower makes a perfect vertical accompaniment to the earthbound light channels.
Though the symmetry of Notre Dame de Paris stands out from the mere mortal constructs around it, I enjoy playing the game of identifying the breaks in its symmetry. Some of those are small, like the different statues around the building. Others are more significant, like the triangle in place or an arch above the left-most set of doors.
Though additional cemeteries in Paris were banned in the late 18th century, the Montparnasse Cemetery was opened in 1824 because the area had not yet been incorporated into the city. Today, it’s an odd dark space in the otherwise bright city. The idea of adjacent blocks belonging to graves and apartments has a polite kind of symmetry.
The homogeneity of Parisian streets seemed a little bit anomalous to me until I visited the Catacombs and came to realize that much of the stone making up the city had been quarried from directly beneath it. The cave-ins and collapses that this eventually produced demanded the project of stabilizing these artificial caverns and ultimately made room for the human remains that now occupy them.
After nightfall, the Eiffel Tower puts on an hourly strobe light show that transforms the tower into a sparkly pillar in the city skyline. Much as a flash can brighten a photograph, this effect also means that long-exposure photographs of the tower make it the brightest object in the skyline by an order of magnitude.
A certain anthropologist encouraged us to visit the Catacombs of Paris, and we were stunned by the walls of bones. In a decades-long project, more than six million remains were moved to caverns under the city.
I’m not sure I was really prepared to come face-to-face with so many skulls.