Can You Really See a City unless You’ve Been beneath It?

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The ferris wheel in Paris Photo credit: L. Tripoli

The ferris wheel in Paris
Photo credit: L. Tripoli

No matter how fantastical the artwork, the Youthful Adventurer can only appreciate so much of it before being obligated to run, jump, shout, and—as has happened more than once—set off museum alarms.

Sightseeing from a ferris wheel, Paris Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Sightseeing from a ferris wheel, Paris
Photo credit: L. Tripoli

We were fortunate to find alternatives in Paris that could keep the young set amused: the elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower, a shifting view of the city from a ferris wheel, a slow march up the cramped stairs of Notre Dame to see the gargoyles. When we descended to the Paris sewers, I opted not to tell him we’d be getting a bit of an education on environmentalism and the role of urban pollution in history. We’d already had a good giggle learning how women would give a shout before dumping the slop buckets from their homes’ upper stories into the streets of Rouen. Why spoil the fun now? We’ll just be looking for some rats in those cool tunnels. No learning need be involved.

Searching for rats while touring Parisian sewers Photo credit: V. Laino

Searching for rats while touring Parisian sewers
Photo credit: V. Laino

Some wonder, why would you waste the time? Doesn’t every city have sewers? Well, how many have you actually been in? I work in the environmental field in my day job, so I’ve actually seen my fair share of waste disposal. What’s interesting to me is learning about how pollution problems have impacted history. What I liked about the Paris Sewer Museum  (AKA Musée des Égouts) is that the Youthful Adventurer learned a bit about this while exploring underground tunnels and looking for rats.

—Lori Tripoli

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