Monday, August 20, 2012

Paris Day One: Arc de Triomphe

After spending a week in Italy's HOT weather (upper 90s-100 degrees), the low 70s in Paris felt soooooooooo good. We arrived late in the afternoon, dumped our stuff at the hotel, then set out on foot to see what we could find. This building was directly across the street from our hotel. You can see the cafe on the bottom floor. We grabbed breakfast there every morning except for one when we walked a few blocks in search of the scrumptious chocolate eclairs Christy told me I simply had to try, and she was right. (Christy was recently in Paris and stayed at the same hotel where we stayed. She is the best travel guide EVER! One of these days I am going to travel somewhere with her.) Anyway, we kept going to this particular cafe because they had "To Go" cups for our cappuccinos. You would not believe how rare that was~nobody in Italy or France takes anything "To Go." Everybody sits or stands at the coffee bar and eats there. That's pretty much what we did in Italy, but we wanted to cram a lot of sightseeing into our days in Paris, and we needed to take trains to get to our destinations. So we'd stop and get our cappuccinos and chocolate croissants at this cafe as we headed to the subway station. 
This is the Parc Monceau across from our hotel. We never walked through it, but it was very pretty. It dates back to the late 1770s and has gone through several restorations. Apparently, the first ever parachute landing happened somewhere in this park. 
This building is not too far away on the same street. It's an Asian art museum. We never went inside, but it served us well. One afternoon, Brittany, Emma, and Brennan decided to go back to the hotel for a bit but had a difficult time communicating with the taxi driver (which seems so odd to me because we were staying at a huge Hilton that I assumed every taxi driver would know). Finally, Brittany mentioned this pagoda and then the taxi driver knew exactly where to take them. So yea for the big red pagoda near the Hilton!
These are just a few photos taken along the street as we walked towards the Arc de Triomphe.
This was my first glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe. I was so happy to be able to take my artsy photos through some tree branches. Weird preference, I know, but I love to take them anyway.
So here's the scoop on the Arc de Triomphe: "After his greatest victory, the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, Napoleon promised his men, 'You shall go home beneath triumphal arches.' The first stone of what was to become the world's most famous triumphal arch was laid the following year. But disruptions to architect Jean Chalgrin's plans and the demise of Napoleonic power delayed the completion of this monumental building until 1836. Standing 164 ft (50 m) high, the Arc is now the customary starting point for victory celebrations and parades." 

Now for a few details about what's portrayed on the Arc. In the lower left corner,  you see the Triumph of Napoleon which "celebrates the Treaty of Vienna peace agreement of 1810." The rectangle directly above this depicted the Battle of Aboukir, "a scene of Napoleon's victory over the Turkish army in 1799." In the lower right corner, the Departure of the Volunteers in 1792 "shows citizens leaving to defend the nation." The rectangle directly above this is called General Marceau's Funeral. This general "defeated the Austrians in 1795, only to be killed the following year, still fighting them." Directly above the arch, "This east facade shows the departure of the French armies for new campaigns. The west side [not shown here] shows their return." Above this, you can see thirty round shields each of which "bear the name of a victorious Napoleonic battle fought in either Europe or Africa." The viewing platform is on the top. Here are a few more interesting tidbits about the Arc de Triomphe. "Napoleon divorced Josephine in 1809 because she was unable to bear him children. A diplomatic marriage was arranged in 1810 with Marie-Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor. Napoleon was determined to impress his bride by going through the Arc on the way to their wedding at the Louvre, but work had barely been started. So Chalgrin built a full-scale mock-up of the arch on the site for the couple to pass beneath." And lastly, "Twelve avenues radiate from the Arc at the center. Some bear the names of important French military leaders, such as Avenues Marceau and Foch." So think of a bike wheel, with the Arc de Triomphe being the hub and the twelve avenues being the spokes. That would have been cool to see, but we decided not to go up as it was cloudy and raining. We hoped to wait for a day with better weather but that never happened. Oh well. (All quotes taken from DK Eyewitness Travel: Paris, pages 210-211.)
This is a closer look at the top. You can see people atop the viewing platform. 
This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier belonging to an unknown French soldier from World War I. The fire remains lit.
Then we strolled along Champs-Elysees. I took this photo for my purse-loving friends. It's a humongous Louis Vuitton store, occupying an entire block. It must house their corporate headquarters. 
This cafe was near our hotel. I wish we had more of these in the U.S. as I find them very charming.
Then we turned in for the night. It was hard to get to sleep, as it stayed light until nearly 10 PM. I know, I know~roughing it in Paris elicits no sympathy, huh?

1 comment:

Christy Lynn said...

So you post about all the history about the Arc de Triomphe, and I wrote about how many stairs it was to the top :) Kind of tickles me to see how different our blog posts are for the same cities, ha!