"I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together on the damp ground of the catacombs ...."
You find yourself in a dank, dirt-floored space, stone vaults arching overhead. There are spiderwebs in the dim light that brush against your arm, your face. If you have a vivid imagination, you might
"observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls."
You pass through an arch into another chamber. The walls are fitted with shelves and compartments for some ancient purpose, now unknown. Portals open off the main chamber, into darkness.
Where are we? Some dark, sinister cavern, setting of ghouls and fearsome wraiths? Catacombs piled with the bones of human remains? Did we pass
"through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame..." ?
Well, not exactly. This is the wine cellar of our friend's house in the Rue de Petit-Potet, in the ancient city of Dijon, in Burgundy in France.
It's cool, even in the heat of summer, and has the right humidity to keep and mature wine. And, like anybody's basement, it's also a convenient place to keep surplus building supplies, scrap lumber, stocks of bulk foods, rubbermaid bins of winter clothes, and old foosball tables.
Our friend has a small but interesting collection of wines here. She chose a couple of bottles to take upstairs for our dinner.
Her landlady has a much larger collection, which we could see if we peeked into one of the chambers off to the side, behind a locked gate.
So, really, there's nothing much to fear, and much to envy. How many people do you know who have a Late Medieval French wine cellar?
But does she have a cask of Amontillado? Ah...I hearkened in vain for a reply.