Les Égouts, Paris

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  • Dredge for cleaning large tunnels
    Dredge for cleaning large tunnels
    by Nemorino
  • Staircase in the sewers
    Staircase in the sewers
    by Nemorino
  • Wagon for cleaning the side tunnels
    Wagon for cleaning the side tunnels
    by Nemorino
  • Nemorino's Profile Photo

    Museum of the Sewers

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 5, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This inconspicuous kiosk at the south end of Alma Bridge looks as though it might be the secret entrance to some underground world – which in fact it is, since it is the entrance to the Museum of the Sewers.

    From here you go down some steps (not wheelchair accessible) to some parts of the Paris sewers that have been fixed up as a museum. The cost (as of 2014) is € 4.30 per person, or € 3.50 for those who get a discount, such as children and students.

    The Sewer Museum is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 11 am. It closes at 4 pm in the winter months and 5 pm in the summer. It is closed on Thursdays and Fridays, but is open on Mondays and Tuesdays when many of the other museums are closed.

    In earlier years this was advertised as “the world’s smelliest museum”, but when I went in February 2014 the smells were not particularly strong.

    Before visiting this museum I assumed that I would have to go back to my hotel afterwards and change clothes, but this turned out to be unnecessary. They do suggest that you avoid contact with the waste water, and of course you should not eat anything while you are in the sewers. And you should wash your hands when you leave, which is no problem because there are public toilets at the exit.

    http://www.forteantimes.com/features/fortean_traveller/2/underground_paris.html.

    Second photo: Some of the side tunnels are too small for people to walk through, so they are cleaned by special wagons pulled by chains.

    Third photo: Some of the exhibits show how people work in the tunnels, and what kind of clothing and equipment they use.

    Fourth photo: Huge dredges are used for cleaning the larger tunnels.

    Fifth photo: A small staircase in the sewers, leading up to the street called Rue Cognacq-Jay. This staircase is not open to the public. The street Cognacq-Jay was named after Ernest Cognacq and his wife, Louise Jay, the founders of the old Samaritaine department store and of the Cognacq-Jay Museum. A nephew of theirs, Gabriel Cognacq, inherited some of their money and made a large donation to the Bourdelle Museum.

    Address: Museum of the Sewers, opposite 93 quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris
    Directions: Pont de l'Alma, left bank.
    Location on the Vélib' map. The nearest Vélib’ station is number 7022 at 3 Avenue Bosquet.
    Métro Alma-Marceau, line 9 (cross the bridge)
    RER C - station: Pont de l'Alma
    Phone: 00 33 1 53 68 27 81
    Website: http://www.paris.fr/english/heritage-and-sights/main-sights/visit-the-paris-sewer-system-duplique/rub_8275_stand_132295_port_19140

    Next Paris review from March 2014: History of the Sewers

    Entrance to the Museum of the Sewers Wagon for cleaning the side tunnels Working in the tunnels Dredge for cleaning large tunnels Staircase in the sewers
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    History of the Sewers

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 5, 2014

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    In March 1855 the civil engineer Eugène Belgrand (1810-1878) was appointed the Director of Water and Sewers of Paris, a post he held until 1869. While his boss Baron Haussmann was busy rearranging the surface of Paris, Belgrand was doing the same down below.

    In the 1850s and 60s, Belgrand greatly enlarged and extended the Paris sewer system and also constructed a system of aqueducts to bring large amounts of fresh water to the city.

    This bust of Belgrand (first photo) is on display in the main gallery of the Sewer Museum, known appropriately as Galerie Belgrand. (There is also a street named after him, Rue Belgrand in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.)

    Second photo: The Galerie Belgrand provides an overview of the history of the Paris sewer system, starting with the building of the first vaulted sewer in 1370 and going up to the present day. The text panel in my second photo shows the development of the sewers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, “from the Renaissance to the Revolution”.

    Like all cities and towns worldwide, Paris was a stinky, filthy and unsanitary place before the building of the sewers. For an overview of the world history of sewers, see the website www.sewerhistory.org, and for the world’s earliest reference to sanitation, see the admonition in Deuteronomy 23:13.

    Third photo: The Galerie Turgot was named after Michel-Étienne Turgot (1690–1751), who constructed a large ring of sewers in the eighteenth century.

    Fourth photo: This panel in the Galerie Turgot shows how used water is cleaned in several stages before being returned to the Seine River quite a ways downstream from Paris.

    Fifth photo: This one shows the cost of fresh water. It says that tap water costs the same all over Paris, and that a liter of bottled water costs three hundred times as much as a liter of tap water, which is just as good.

    Address: Opposite 93 quai d'Orsay 75007 Paris
    Directions: Pont de l'Alma, left bank.
    Location on the Vélib’ map. The nearest Vélib’ station is number 7022 at 3 Avenue Bosquet.
    Métro Alma-Marceau, line 9 (cross the bridge)
    RER C - station: Pont de l'Alma
    Phone: 00 33 1 53 68 27 81
    Website: http://goparis.about.com/od/parismuseums/p/musee-des-egouts-Paris.htm

    Next Paris review from March 2014: Jean Valjean in the Sewers

    Eug��ne Belgrand (1810-1878) From the Renaissance to the Revolution Galerie Turgot How used water is cleaned Cost of fresh water
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    Jean Valjean in the Sewers

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 5, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The sewer museum of course includes some information on the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, with explanations in both French and English.

    In this first text panel, the English translation reads:

    “In this ten-volume novel, Victor Hugo (1802-1885), a French author, has written passages that are of real historical value. The description of the sewers is an example.”

    Though Les Misérables was originally published in ten volumes (as were many novels in the nineteenth century), most modern editions manage to pack the text into two or three volumes. I have a two-volume paperback edition from Gallimard (folio classique), which consists of 1800 pages plus notes.

    Of the 1800 pages of the novel, 59 take place in the sewers of Paris.

    Second photo: This text panel explains: “During the riots that took place in June 1832, Marius, Cosette’s boyfriend, was wounded on the barricades. While he was unconscious, he was carried by Valjean through the sewers to his grandfather’s house.”

    In smaller print there is a sentence about the writing of Les Misérables: “It was during his period of exile on Guernsey that Victor Hugo wrote the ten volumes of his historical panorama. Les Misérables, which took several years to write, was published in 1862 and very soon became a popular success.”

    Third photo: This panel shows the route followed by Jean Valjean through the sewers of Paris. The text explains: “Victor Hugo knew Emmanuel Bruneseau, the sewer inspector, who was bold enough to penetrate the underground maze of sewers and map them. The author’s tale of Jean Valjean’s adventures in the sewers was thus based on concrete information.”

    The drawing on the right shows Emmanuel Bruneseau going down into one of the sewers. In Les Misérables there is a chapter called ‘Bruneseau’ which ends with a gathering of war heroes in the courtyard of the Tuileries to greet the Emperor Napoléon I in 1805. “Sire, said the Minister of the Interior to Napoleon, yesterday I saw the most intrepid man in your Empire. - What man is that? said the Emperor brusquely, and what has he done? - He wants to do something, Sire. - What is it? – He wants to visit the sewers of Paris.” And the chapter ends: “This man existed and his name was Bruneseau.” (This is from volume 2, page 656 of the folio classique edition.)

    In the next chapter Hugo explains that Bruneseau’s “entire visit to the subterranean stream of filth of Paris lasted seven years, from 1805 to 1812.” On the first day, eight of the twenty workers who were with him refused to go any further because they found it too dangerous.

    During his seven years of exploration, Bruneseau not only mapped the sewer system but also stabilized and extended it, and tried to disinfect it with the rudimentary means that were available at the time.

    By the way, I am not at all sure that Hugo was personally acquainted with Bruneseau, considering that Bruneseau died in 1819 when Hugo was only seventeen years old. But Hugo had access to Bruneseau’s official reports, and he claimed to have known “one of the survivors of this exploration, an intelligent worker, very young at the time,” who later recounted some bizarre details.

    Fourth photo: In the sewers today, visitors can walk along narrow walkways at the sides of the tunnel, while the sewage water flows very loudly in the center of the tunnel below the wire mesh.

    Fifth photo: In the last ‘room’ (or tunnel) of the museum there is – oddly enough – a Wallace Fountain and behind that is a ‘kiosk’ where they have a small selection of books and souvenirs for sale. This reminded me of the great street artist Banksy, who once made a film with the brilliant title Exit through the gift shop.

    Address: Opposite 93 quai d'Orsay 75007 Paris
    Directions: Pont de l'Alma, left bank.
    Location on the Vélib' map. The nearest Vélib’ station is number 7022 at 3 Avenue Bosquet.
    Métro Alma-Marceau, line 9 (cross the bridge)
    RER C - station: Pont de l'Alma
    Phone: 00 33 1 53 68 27 81
    Website: http://jlbkpro.free.fr/shduhdfromatoz/bruneseau.pdf

    Next Paris review from March 2014: Vélib’ after six and a half years

    Les Mis��rables by Victor Hugo The sewers by Victor Hugo The route of Jean Valjean in the sewers In the sewers today Exit through the gift shop
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    • Museum Visits
    • Arts and Culture

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    The sewers of Paris, egouts

    by gwened Updated Jan 25, 2013

    yes a place to go, i went once, years back, something for everybody!

    The égouts de Paris, came in their actual self in the 19C alongside the great works going on by Baron Haussmann. This network of water evacuation is the work of Engineer Belgrand. They have a total of 2100 kms!!, and takes the treated waters of the sewers of Paris to the treatment plant of Achère in the Yvelines dept 78 and then to the river Seine. You get there by Quai d’Orsay Kiosque face au 93 with metro Alma Marceau line 9, admission is 4,30€.

    nice webpage with lots of info on the place managed by the city of Paris
    http://www.egouts.tenebres.eu/visite.php

    going up or down to the sewers of Paris a display of workers down in the sewers of Paris
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  • Not As Smelly As You Would Think

    by rckaisler Written Jan 7, 2006

    While not everyone's cup of tea, the guided tour of the Sewers is informational (and free!). The museum has a unique odor that is not is as unpleasant as you would initially presume. The exhibits are rather interesting as well.

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  • Dabs's Profile Photo

    Underground Paris, a tour of the sewers

    by Dabs Updated Feb 23, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This is really off the beaten path and not top on my list of things to visit in Paris, I imagine it would have been much cooler to visit back in the days when you could take a boat ride through the sewers (look for the attached picture in the exhibits) but it was interesting to see. There are quite a few miles of sewers beneath Paris, the section you get to see is just a very small part of it.

    Unfortunately we were not there when there was an English tour being conducted so we wandered through on our own, I think it would have been much more interesting if we knew some of the history and what we were looking at.

    The guidebooks all say that it is smelly, perhaps this is so during the summer months but I don't think it was that bad in the winter. And you don't get dirty while down there either :-)

    The sewers by boat-old photo

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  • ptitetoile's Profile Photo

    The sewers of Paris

    by ptitetoile Written Sep 7, 2004

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    The visit to the museum and the sewers of Paris is is very original way to learn the history of the building of Paris! You will learn there how sewers are so important in a big city to enable life together! The museum is situated in a cleaned part of the sewers and still contains differents canals...so altough the museum is desinfected, the odour can be somewhat "typical" but the descriptions on the board are so interesting that you do'nt care anymore :-) The guided tour is free, so don't hesitate to follow it!!!!!

    Address:
    Musée des Egouts de Paris (Museum of the Sewers of Paris); Pont de l'Alma (Place de la Resistance); facing 93 Quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris;

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  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo

    If It Stinks, Check Your Soles

    by mrclay2000 Updated Oct 22, 2003

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    Though your visit will not quite be as dramatic as that by Jean Valjean in Hugo's immortal Les Miserables, you can tour the city's sewers with remarkably little disgust. Hugo described these manmade catacombs extensively in his novel, saying that the history of a city is the history of its sewers. Today, those of Paris are second in size only to those in Chicago.

    Les Egouts
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  • kucha's Profile Photo

    The sewar 'cruise.' Take a...

    by kucha Written Sep 7, 2002

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    The sewar 'cruise.' Take a tour of the fascinating old sewars running beneath Paris and learn about the famous heros and villains who used the elaborate network as refuge. The smell is not nearly as bad as one might expect.

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  • will-care's Profile Photo

    New Page...

    by will-care Written Aug 24, 2002

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    New Page 1




    Underground Paris
    The notorious sewers.Say hello to the Phantom of the Opera as you tour this marvel of pre-modern plumbing.
    The picture is an exhibit in the Egouts-The Paris Sewers.



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  • Maline's Profile Photo

    Well off the beaten path is...

    by Maline Written Aug 25, 2002

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Well off the beaten path is Paris’ most hidden attraction: the city’s Sewers, ”les Égouts”!!
    Beware of the smell!!

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