One of the top tourist sites in Paris is the Catacombs underground tour. By way of background, hundreds of years ago, in order to access stone for building, scores of tunnels were dug under the city. Then, a couple of hundred years later, when the city wanted to recover land that had been used for cemeteries, they needed to relocate several million bones. Someone suggested putting the bones into the abandoned tunnels and caverns, which they did. Et voila. Today, it’s possible to visit this bizarre and creepy place.
In fact, every day hundreds of tourists take the tour. You go underground in one place, and pop up a few blocks away 40-50 minutes later. The cost is 10 euros for adults and free for kids, and I’d say they can put 200+ people an hour through the place. With no operating costs other than electricity for lights, 3 staff at the entrance, 2 at the exit, and maybe 10 more underground, this must be a huge money maker for the city.
Having said that, every visitor to Paris has heard the lineups are legendary. We almost didn’t go because I had read online that people often wait in a slow moving line for 2-3 hours to get in. This inevitably means that, in addition to the people who actually take the tour each day, there must be hundreds more who are scared off by the horror stories they’ve heard.
So what do the Paris authorities do? They maintain their hours of 10 am to 7 pm.
When we arrived at 8:35, there was already 50 people in line. (I know, I know, we’re crazy, but George said this was the one thing he most wanted to see in Paris.) By 10 am, there must have been 500 people lined up around the block. The staff were there about 9:30, but we all waited, and waited, and waited. With an attitude that would have made Soviet authorities proud, the man at the door held back all these people (waving 10 euro notes) until the official opening time. Then, believe it or not, the admission clerk got into a big argument with the third person in line, and everything ground to a halt. No kidding - we all stood there waiting another 10 minutes for that to finish.
Here’s my point. Why don’t they open at 7 am and stay open until midnight? By creating a second shift (even if it’s only for 3 or 4 months in the busy season) they could instantly create another 10 or 15 jobs for students and generate thousands in revenue for the city each day. If this had been the case, we would have been happy to visit early in the morning, and I'm sure many of our zombie-obsessed youth would gladly visit this mass graveyard at midnight!
Only a bureaucracy would create a system that forces hundreds of tourists to needlessly stand in line for hours (instead of spending money elsewhere in the city), convince others to skip a sight they’d like to see, avoid creating summer jobs for students, and miss out on millions in revenue every year - a classic lose, lose, lose, lose situation.
Anyway, that's my rant. I feel better now.