Convinced this "alterantive tour" would tempt the kids we trotted off to the Flame of Victory, meeting point for the Paris Walks tour. Turns out I was not the only Mum with this idea. We were three families from the same school ready to venture into Paris' underworld.
After a hilariously disgusting introduction by our guide Chris - which utterly put the children off and grossed them out completely - we were ready to dive in... so to speak!
We learnt about water sellers offering glasses of Seine water out of copper tins in the 1800's. Today, half of Paris' water supply springs from as far as 100 km outside the city. The other half comes from the river Seine. How can you tell where yours comes from? If your tap water warms up in summer it originates from the river. Should your water remain fresh all year round the reservoirs are the source.
"Le Zouave" of the Pont de l'Alma is a statue of Georges Diebolt, one of four sculptures representing troops who participated in the Crimean War. It is represented in the uniform of Zouave: a fez, a short jacket and adjusted without buttons, a broad canvas belt, bloomers, the spats and leggings.
According to the Parisian tradition, when "the Zouave's feet in the water", the Seine is raw. During the historic flood of 1910, water reached the shoulders of the Zouave.
When we finally entered the 2400 km of sewer system below Paris, we were hit by a semitropical humid climat. I was expecting very cold and damp conditions.
No matter how hard I try, I honestly cannot say I get excited about sewers. So I will spare you the technical details. I will however forward some juicy facts our guide provided us with:
Sewer workers have a six-hour workday. The waiting list to become a sewer worker is four years. Apparently it is considerably well paid, therfore on payday they come out feeling quite flush ..... eventhough the environment is not enticing.
We did not have the pleasure of meeting Ratatouille, although there are two rats to every inhabitant of Paris!
In 1984 sewer workers found one-meter long Nile crocodile. Once caught, it was given to a zoo north of France where his enclosure is painted like a Parisian sewer. He is three meters long today!
The most unusual item ever found in Paris sewers: a skeleton of an Orangutan.
What is the biggest sanitation concern of the Parisians? Dog poop, of course! Did you know there are over 250'000 dogs in Paris? Well, the current mayor has decided to take up this fight by employing a brigade of 70 security police patrolling the streets to catch the offenders who do not clean up after their pets. A fine will cost you 457 Euros if you decide to ignore your dogs' droppings. So next time you see a transgressor feel free to speak up like my French friend says so nonchalantly: "Vous allez quand même ramasser cela, n'est pas?"