A Discursive Post on Parisian Sewers

Warning: This blog contains a 4-letter word beginning with P.

Sometimes when we’re faced with a panorama of a large city, perhaps on a bridge or at a high lookout, my husband will turn to me with wonder, “What does this city do with all these people’s poop?!”

Admit it – you’ve wondered that yourself….

We got a small glimpse into what Paris does with all the poop when we visited the Museum of the Sewers a few days ago.

Right near the Pont De L’Alma, a bridge over the Seine, is a small kiosk marked “Musee des Egouts de Paris.” We showed them our museum passes and proceeded down a winding flight of stairs at the side of the kiosk. Now we were actually under the street, beneath the Branly Quai and the Place de la Resistance, in the romantic sewers of Paris where the Phantom of the Opera took refuge and Jean Valjean carries Marius to safety (in Les Miserables).


In the dark underground, exhibits explained the history of the sewers. Of course, it all started with the Romans (see my post from 2015, “A Discursive Post on British Plumbing”). In medieval times, a channel was made for sewage down the center of the street. After a few bouts of plague, these channels were dug deeper and covered. Progress was now unstoppable until we reach the 21st century.

We walked along on grids of a catwalk with the water of the storm sewers rushing beneath our feet while we read the information. Above our heads, large black pipes dripped occasionally, smelling like they were the sanitary sewers. We took a few twists and turns, looking into  a smaller channel off to our left (entrance forbidden), when Dan spied them: “Rats. Those are rats. And not the Disney animatronic kind.”

Indeed. The little guys looked right at us (we were the visitors after all), switched their long tails and scuttled away from us down their tunnel.

This post follows my theme of water. Emerging again into the sunlight, I longed for the murky springs of Bath, England, or the holy wells of St. Winifried. No rats in sight there.

Since our foray into the sewers, I’ve been drinking only bottled water. Although I’m sure the stuff out of the taps here in Paris is just fine….



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