Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mind the Merde

In London, the Tube announcers warn you to “Mind the Gap” between the train and platform. In France they should have similar announcements broadcast over sidewalk speakers to “Mind the Merde”. While there is technically a pooper-scooper law in France, many French ignore this, so take note - there is dog shit all over the sidewalks and you really have to pay attention to avoid it – really really - “mind the merde”.
On the subject of Merde, I was wondering why none of the guidebooks mentioned the Paris Sewer museum – well now I know☺ The Paris Sewer museum is along the Seine between the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides. On street level all you see is a modest ticket booth and sign because the actual museum is underground. My vision was out of a picture book I had read to my children years ago about a crocodile from Egypt who ended up living in the Paris sewers. I imagined them to be clean and tiled, and that the museum would be just that – a museum, not a working window into the daily sewer system. So my first words of advice are, unless you have a total fascination with shit or the underground infrastructure of a city – you can pass on the sewer museum. That said, it did provide for countless jokes for the remainder of my trip. If you do go, be prepared with a gas mask or scarf – it stinks – it is, after all, a sewer. You cross bridges over white water rapids of sewage, and through puddles of condensation (hopefully not leaks) – the signs warn you to wash your hands after leaving and not to touch anything – thanks.
My friend and I were laughing so hard when we emerged. We snitched a jasmine blossom from a plant at a florist shop we passed as we had gone completely unprepared and could not get the stench from our nostrils. We pictured the French, with cigarettes in hand, muttering “Ahh, we will get you Americans back for putting your Disney here – we will make a Sewer Museum and make you smell our shit, ha, ha, ha.” My friend couldn’t believe it, “How can that be legal?” We were reminded of our favorite line from the movie The Banger Sisters, when Goldie Hawn says to her traveling companion, “Harry, you may never shit again.”
If your curiosity gets the better of you, Paris Sewer Museum/ Les Egouts, opposite 93 Quai d’Orsay, 11-4, closed Thursdays and Fridays, near the Alma-Marceau metro.

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