Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Paris: city of culture and beauty and really interesting sewers.

I’m working on another book about James Burke, this time set in Paris in 1814, so a weekend visit to Paris was in the way of another field trip.

We visited the Army Museum in Les Invalides, where I was able to look at weapons and uniforms from the period, including one of Napoleon’s famous bicorne hats. I took a photo, which, through glass and without flash, is far from impressive, but here it is.

Other Napoleonic relics include a uniform coat, spyglass and even his horse. Yes, the whole actual horse, stuffed and mounted in a corridor.

It’s easy to poke fun at the French obsession with Napoleon, but the English tend to downplay his achievements. He was not only a military genius, but he was an innovator, and enthusiastic about the administration of civil government as well. He identified the lack of a proper sewage system as one of Paris’s main problems and, under his rule, the first vaulted sewer network was built. It was only 30 km long, but it marked a major step forward in the disposal of Paris’s waste and he regarded it as the most important thing he did for the city. Of course, that meant we had to make a trip down the sewers as well.

Who says history can’t be fun?

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