2013: Paris

Arc de Triomphe

Apr. 29


Good weather today; time to hit some more outdoor icons, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. The Seine looked amazing in the morning sunlight, and as we made our way to the Métro station, I stopped on a bridge to snap a picture.

Yes, I took too many pictures of the Arc; it's really hard not to. It's also hard to grasp the sheer size of this world-famous landmark without being there.

Interesting fact from the internet: in 1919 a French aviator actually flew his biplane underneath the arch. And no, he didn't roll so the wings were vertical -- he flew it through straight and level. Unbelievable.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier. Say 'Fromage'!

A Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WW-I is set into the walkway in front of the Arc. Even on this ordinary day in April, it was generously decorated with fresh flowers.

It was really something to stand on the edge of probably the most famous traffic circle in the world, watching the cars go around, watching the tourists watch the cars. In addition to snapping plenty of my own photos, I did an international favor and took a pic of a fellow tourist proudly posing beneath the Arc.

The wheels go 'round... ...and 'round...  ...and the tourists snap.
  Not again!

As I strolled underneath the Arc, I noted the beautiful detailing on the underside of the interior, and the engravings of hundreds of names of military leaders from French history. And then up we went, inside yet another spiral staircase! This one, though, is about 100 steps shorter than the Notre Dame bell tower.

At the top of the spiral but still inside is a small art exhibition, including an impressive cast of the head of winged Liberty; the original is atop one of the four reliefs on the outside, leading the French troops into battle. A final short staircase leads to the viewing platform, with a 360-degree panoramic view of all Paris -- the Eiffel Tower, the downtown area, and the twelve avenues radiating out from the base.

Of course, we had to take a stroll along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. What an impressive boulevard, especially considering it was conceived and built over 300 years ago. How did they know they'd need all eight traffic lanes?

Tons of shopping along the boulevard; I thought the enormous Louis Vuitton store on a corner was pretty representative. Since I'm neither a shopaholic nor a purseaholic, it wasn't that tempting.

You'd expect a lot of lunch choices here, so I'm embarrassed to admit we ended up at McDonald's. But even there I found something new -- an automated system called EasyOrder, where customers can place their order at an automated kiosk similar to an ATM, then collect the food at the window.

Outside the opera house. Grand foyer.

After lunch, we boarded the Métro to visit one more landmark: the Palais Garnier, home of the Paris opera. As was happening all too often, there were disappointments in store there. The entire front of the building was blocked by some sort of scaffolding, so I couldn't take a photo outside; and we weren't allowed entry into the theater itself. But fortunately, the lobby and other parts of the building were so gorgeously ornate, it was worth the visit.

On our Métro ride home, we encountered one of the local musician panhandlers. Unlike New York, where they are limited to working in the subway stations, in Paris they actually board the trains. I had to act like a tourist and encourage him. When we got back to Ile St. Louis, the Seine was putting on its pretty again.

We patronized another small restaurant near the apartment for a nice early dinner. Afterward, we caught the river and lady Notre Dame sporting their best twilight duds. What a beautiful city this can be.