Exploring Les Invalides
The plan was to visit the catacombs first thing in the morning, but sleep got the best of us. By the time we arrived at the catacombs, the wait was nearly four hours long, so we decided to skip it (perhaps we'll visit on our next trip) and instead grabbed an early lunch at Café Daguerre on Rue Daguerre -- a great market street named after Louis Daguerre, who invented the daguerreotype photographic process.
After a couple of baguettes and Brandon's favorite Indian tonic water, we thought it would be a great day to explore Les Invalides, which is a veterans' hospital, military museum, and the home of Napoleon's tomb.
The walk up to Les Invalides is impressive. The cobblestone path and shaped shrubbery was quite palatial. The perimeter of the courtyard in the complex was lined with old cannons. We did a brief visit of the military museum (much of it was being renovated) and walked through the Église Saint-Louis des Invalides before walking to the other side to view Napoleon's tomb.
I don't know if we found some kind of shortcut between the museum and the entrance to Napoleon's tomb and the vaults, but we walked down an alleyway between the monuments and the hospital/retirement home -- and it was strange to see hoards of tourists on one side while patients and residents of the veterans' home were on the other side. Some of them in wheelchairs, and one being transported in a stretcher. It was an odd feeling.
Once inside the Dome des Invalides, I was surprised at the enormity of Napoleon's sarcophagus. You can view it from above, but there are steps to get down to the crypt level. I can't even describe how large the tomb is. I read that the sarcophagus is actually six nested coffins made of different materials, including iron, lead, mahogany, ebony, and oak. And it sits on top of a slab of green granite.
Other members of Napoleon's family also are interred here, as well as other French war heroes who are in vaults in chambers extending from Napoleon's tomb.