On the Nose – The Paris Sewer Tour

Beneath Paris is an amazing network of tunnels and channels that supports a whole life of its own. It was featured in Victor Hugo’s, Les Miserables and H L Humes novel, The Underground City, so I acknowledge that I’m not the first author to  include the Paris sewers as a story device.

But finding out about it has been fascinating.

The underground sewer system is an incredible feat of engineering which goes under the Seine in no less than 9 places … perfect for a story where characters have to get from one side of the river to the other without detection.

The first system was constructed under Montmartre in 1370. As the country’s population continued to grow, so did the sewer network … now there’s foresight for you. Shame today’s governments aren’t thinking so far ahead. (At least in Australia where I come from).

My French language skills are quite frankly as ‘on the nose’ as the Paris sewers so I wrote in advance to the Sewer tour operators to tell them I was coming in the hope they might be able to assist me. (You can find out more about the tours here.)

They have been amazing. Lionel answered my every email question and I was met on the day by Laetitia who gave me the royal treatment, personally introducing me to all the experts, and answering all my additional questions.

I’m told that I visited on a good day, but let’s be honest, the first thing you notice when you step into that tunnel is the smell … although strangely enough, after a while I got used to it.I highly recommend exploring the world of your story no matter where it takes you … although my tip for this experience … sometimes it pays not to eat first.

Have you ever done strange things for the sake of research?

I’d love to hear from you if you feel like sharing.

Happy writing 🙂


This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria 



8 thoughts on “On the Nose – The Paris Sewer Tour

  1. Fascinating Dee. Have just done a little bit of research for my weekly piece in Sheryl Gwyther’s 52 Week flash fiction challenge. The prompt word was ‘corrosive’. I discovered that thousands of pounds are spent in the UK each year replacing metal lamp posts as the perpetual ring of dog urine around them corrodes them and makes them unsafe. The things we discover!!

  2. I toured Seattle Underground for a story I plan to write. it doesn’t go as far as it used to (the underground, not the story), so I’m doing some research by history book and old newspapers, too.

  3. Yes, I thought it would be cool to use this place in a mystery. Someone gets chased down there by…who knows what? You could do Urban Fantasy, or Sci Fi with it too!

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