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Step into Paris's Secret Cathedral of Water

Step into Paris's Secret Cathedral of Water

File this one under 'magical.' While the reservoir hidden beneath Paris's picturesque Parc Montsouris remains sealed-off to the public, here's what we know: first, construction began in 1869, just at the end of France's Second (and final) Empire. With its stone walls and vaulted arches, many liken it to a kind of watery cathedral-meets-enchanted grotto.

Photo © Éole Wind / Wikipedia
Why the insistence on aesthetics for something that is, essentially, a giant water tank? We like to think it's because the architect, Eugène Belgrand, led a thrilling double-life in which the reservoir served as his underground bachelor's lair, uniquely accessible via a custom-built gondola emblazoned with the name of his long-lost love, Juliette, though please note that literally all of that information is false.

Construction begins on the reservoir in 1869. (Photo via public domain)

Second, it was the largest reservoir in the world at the time, and holds up to 200,000 cubic meters of water at any given moment—the equivalent of nearly 267 million bottles of wine. (Just a thought.)
Photo © Alain Bali

Third, 20% of all Parisian drinking water passes through here before exiting le tap. Despite local legend, authorities insist the water is trout-free. Drink up.

Photo © Suez Environnement
Fourth, remember what we said about it being sealed-off to the public? Not always true. Your next chance to peek into the Reservoir de Montsouris will likely come next September 15th and 16th during the nationwide Journées du Patrimoine, when many of France's municipal buildings are exceptionally opened to the public for visits. We'll keep you posted.

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