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On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank to the bed of the Atlantic Ocean. Now, 101 years later, a trip to the wreckage is only a few Métro stops away.
The Titanic Exhibition currently taking place at the Porte de Versailles (running through mid-September 2013) collects 280 objects rescued from the debris and brought back to the surface. Stroll the halls, see the rooms, stand in the grand stairway, enter the café, and meet the ghosts of the most infamous maritime disaster of all time.
The voyage begins in what could be the ship’s engine room and outer deck. On display are the nuts and bolts of the mighty vessel, including the mechanical workings, gears and moorings.
Crossing a gangplank and traversing a recreated corridor, the visitor accesses the first class section, where artifacts from the classiest accommodations of the ship are stored. A copy of the cabin reveals what only the wealthiest of passengers could access back then, for the price of a ticket worth $57,200 today. A replica of the Titanic’s Verandah Café follows, stocked with glassware and empty bottles of beer, wine or champagne delivered up from the Ocean’s floor. After a third class cabin, complete with bunks beds and White Star Line blankets, the visitor slides into a more somber past: the night of the shipwreck itself.
Among the most eerie artifacts are those with a link to the sinking of the Titanic. These vestiges include the actual ‘engine order telegraph’ Captain Edward J Smith himself manipulated, and the binoculars lookouts looked through, spotting only too late the iceberg looming dead ahead.
To make the experience all that more real, an ersatz iceberg stands in the room for visitors to touch, while keeping in mind that, as cold as the ice is, the water was even colder as salt water has a lower freezing point than fresh water. With a palm pressed to the frozen wall, it’s easy to feel firsthand why the majority of the people aboard the Titanic did not die from drowning, but hypothermia.
The final room is dedicated to the victims of the tragedy. Against the list of all the souls lost to the Atlantic, presented here are individuals’ possessions, made all that more real because they have been attributed to specific passengers—a brief bio over the mementos gives some insight to the person that went down with the mighty ship.
The Titanic Exposition is a very accessible tour for visitors of all ages. Audio guides are provided at no extra cost (English language available) and there are even specific guides provided for children. The photographs and artifacts bring an immediacy of the accident to the surface, and the attendees will be glad their voyage is round trip.
Until September 15, 2013
Porte de Versailles
Métro: Ligne 12 – Station Porte de Versailles
Tramway : T2 or T3 – Station Porte de Versailles
Full Price (includes audio guide): 15.90 €
Children 5 – 14 (includes audio guide): 12.90 €
Child under 5: Free
All photos ©Paul Prescott 2013