de Triomphe de l'Étoile
Charles de Gaulle Étoile
The Arc de Triomphe is
the world's largest traffic roundabout and the meeting point
of 12 avenues. It was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to
commemorate his imperial victories, but remained unfinished
until 1836. Since 1920, the body of an unknown soldier from
WWI taken from Verdun in Lorraine has lain beneath the arch,
his fate and that of countless others like him commemorated
by a memorial flame rekindled each evening around 6:30pm.
France's national remembrance service is held here annually
on Nov 11th. From the viewing platform on top of the arch
(284 steps), you can see the 12 avenues - many of them named
after illustrious generals - radiating toward every part of
Paris. Tickets are sold in the underground passageway - the
only sane way to reach the base of the arch - that surfaces
on the even-numbered side of Ave des Champs-Élysées.
des Champs Élysées
Franklin D. Roosevelt
The avenue des Champs-Elysees
is the most famous on the 12 symmetrical avenues radiating
from the huge rotary of Place Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. The
Champs is lined with chain stores and expensive cafes, both
of them frequented by throngs of strolling tourists but often
passed by the fast-walking french. Although it has been a
fashionable avenue since Marie de Médicis ploughed
its first incarnation, the Cours-la-Reine, through fields
and marshland in 1616, it remained unkempt until the early
19th century, when the city built sidewalks and installed
gas lighting. From that point on, the Champs flourished, and
where elegant houses, restaurants, and less subdued bars and
panoramas sprung up, the beau monde was guaranteed to see
and be seen. The infamous Bal Mabille opened in 1840 at n°
51. At n° 25, visitors have the rare chance of seeing
a true hotel particulier from the second Empire - here the
marquise de Paiva, adventuress, famous courtesan, and spy,
entertained the luminaries of the era. In recent years, the
Champs elysees has become thoroughly commercialized. But Jacques
Chirac has made a concerted effort to resurrect the avenue,
widening the sidewalks, planting more trees, and building
underground parking lots. Today, the avenue is an intriguing
mixture of old and new, inviting tourists to tramp through
the enormous superstores, while managing to preserve pockets
of greenery along with timeless glamour. The tree-lined streets
merge with park space just past avenue Franklin Roosevelt,
one of the sixth avenues that radiate from the Rond Point
Built for the 1889 Exposition
Universelle (World Fair), held to commemorate the centennial
of the Revolution, the Tour Eiffel was the world's tallest
structure at 320m (1050ft) until Manhattan's Chrysler Building
was completed. Initially opposed by the city's artistic and
literary elite - who were only affirming their right to disagree
with everything - the tower was almost torn down in 1909.
Salvation came when it proved an ideal platform for the antennas
needed for the new science of radiotelegraphy. Just southeast
of the tower is a grassy expanse that was once the site of
the world's first balloon flights and is now used by teens
as a skateboarding arena or by activists bad-mouthing Chirac.
When you're done peering upward through the girders, three
levels are open to the public. There are elevators to the
top but they have long queues. You can avoid the queues by
walking up the stairs in the south pillar to the 1st or 2nd
platforms. Guided visits are also available.
Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame indeed dates
back to the 13th century and is one of the masterpieces of
Gothic art in Western Europe. Its stainglasses and the huge
interior are really stunning artistic experiences of mystical
dimension. Located on the Cité island and surrounded
by the Seine river, Notre-Dame is a flagship in the Parisian
landscape and provides a magnificent view of the city from
the top of its towers. The appearance of the interior was
radically transformed in the mid-13th century when the small
clerestory windows typical of the Early Gothic style were
enlarged downward and filled with High Gothic tracery. The
enlargement caused the removal of the unusual triforium. Originally
the interior had the four-story elevation common to many Early
Gothic churches, and the triforium had large round openings
instead of the normal arcades. Starting in 1991, a 10 year
program of general maintenance and restoration was initiated.
While work continues, sections of the structure are likely
to be shrouded by scaffolds.
The Palais Royal began
as a small and private theater in the residence of Cardinal
Richelieu. It was designed by the architect, Jacques Lemercier.
This theater became known by the name of the residence, the
Palais Cardinal. It was the first theater in France with movable
scenery wings and a proscenium arch. Its first production
was Jean Desmeret's Mirame in 1641.
Following Richelieu's death, the palace became royal property.
It was then used for courtly entertainment. In 1660, Moliere
and his troupe used the theater for their productions until
the death of Moliere in 1673. After Moliere's death, Jean-Baptiste
Lully used the Palais Royal for his Academy of Music and their
opera productions. The theater burned down in 1763. It was
rebuilt but burned down again in 1781. The area was then redeveloped
into an amusement area by its owner the Duke de Chartres.
It contained a number of theaters, many called the Palais
Royal at various times.
Though it was a sacred
hill from the Roman Temples period to the Abbey of Montmartre
and the political tone of Henri the IV, Montmartre preserved
its cultural and artistic identity by offering a home to the
greatest painting movements of the XIX and XX centuries. Today,
Montmartre remains alive with six million visitors who like
to stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets of old Paris
while taking in the historical and cultural atmosphere.