Posts Tagged ‘arc de triomphe’

On the Champs-Élysées

May 27, 2012

The legendary Avenue des Champs-Élysées where chestnut trees shade the wide sidewalks

The Experienced Travelers confess that the vast Champs-Élysées is not a favorite destination in Paris. But despite our personal preferences, we felt we owed it to the dear Readership to investigate the legendary avenue.  This way you are fully informed when you loiter there on a café terrace and spend twice as much money for the dubious pleasure of doing so.  There.  Have we made our feelings known?

Melinda outside Restaurant Fouquet, where 30 euro buys you a smoked salmon starter and you can rub elbows with the elite. Fouquet is an historical monument.

Extending 1.8 miles from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Champs-Élysées begins peacefully with lovely gardens.  Then just beyond the Grand Palais, it bursts into the frenzied madness that gives the ETs a case of vertigo.  But the Champs-Élysées has it’s fans and you may well become one of them if you have energy to spare and a penchant for shopping and clubbing.

The Champs-Élysées decked out for Christmas. Perhaps the ETs could be persuaded to love the avenue if they got a ride on that ferris wheel. Photo by David Monniaux

A walk down the avenue lit by fairy lights for Christmas might soften the ETs feelings.  Or maybe we should wake early to catch a morning vista that highlights the Historical Axis, a miracle of urban planning with the perfect alignment of the Petit Carrousel, Tuilleries gardens, Luxor Obelisk, Arc de Triomphe and La Grande Arch at La Défense.

Louis Vuitton’s store window. This talented zebra tosses exquisite handbags with aplomb. You can take one home, but the zebra stays…

I recently read an article that described the Champs-Élysées as a the urban equivalent of an airport duty-free mall. (I wish I could remember where I read that…).  Several high-end stores are there – Cartier, Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton – but so is Disney, Gap and Nike.  We suppose it’s an egalitarian mix, but the French government is taking steps to limit the encroachment of chain-style retail in an effort to restore the old girl’s reputation.

See and be seen in 1903 on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

With a little imagination,  the grandeur that recalls her proud and elegant history is still there.  As the city expanded westward through the late 1800s, the wealthy built fashionable town homes with elaborate gardens along the avenue and it was the perfect promenade for the elite.  The Élysée Palace, home today to the  new French President Hollande, was once owned by the Marquise de Pompadour.  Were she alive today, we suppose she would gleefully drop Louis XVs Found Money down the street at Benetton. (Alas things didn’t work out for La Pomp, but that’s another post)

A relatively quiet moment at the Place de l’Étoile. Buckle up and prepare for a crazy ride. Barbara and Christine took this picture on our last visit.

Napoleon commissioned the crowning glory of the avenue, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe.  It now serves as a giant traffic roundabout that Parisian drivers regard as a eight-lane NASCAR track.  On a clear day, the trip to the top is rewarded by the excellent view.

In the dark days of the Occcupation, the Nazis staged regular military parades.  Four years later, the Free French and Liberation forces took back the avenue with triumphant marches of their own.  Now, Bastille Day celebrations on the Champs-Élysées are a riotous time and a legitimate reason for champagne before noon.

Risking personal safety for the sake of a photo. It only took one valium to prepare me for my mission.

Today the triumphant marches down the avenue are Manolo Blahnik-shod  troops of shoppers liberating handbags, clothing and glittering bling from locked display cases in stores. If your exchange rate against the euro is better than our dollar, you can help free France from the daunting European financial crisis. Do your part and shop for the good of la belle France!

Resting at the Cafe Roma. Would Mme. de Pompadour care to join me?

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City of Lights; City of Romance

February 12, 2011

Montmartre is replete with romance. Have a glass of wine at the house of artist Maurice Utrillo.

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Readership.  The Experienced Travelers wish you hearts, flowers and those hard, chalky candies that say “will you be mine”.

Paris embodies romance, from the grand monuments to a moonlight walk along the Seine.  The spirit of romanticism is everywhere; the dramatic gesture, the poignant word,  the duel to the death.  The ETs have selected a few Romantic sights that will make every day seem like Valentine’s Day in Paris.  

La gloire! Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe at the head of the Champs Elysees. Photo by Associate ET Miss Joanne Felzer

The ETs aren’t fans of the frantic Champs-Élysées, but the Arc de Triomphe that crowns the avenue screams Romanticism We think this dramatic symbol of Napoleon’s conquests is best appreciated from a distance.  Slow-moving ETs are no match for rogue Renaults that circle the étoile like it’s the last lap of the Indy 500.  I caught Nurse taking architectural measurements and expect to see a facsimile Arc over the driveway soon.  

L’église de la Madeleine, former temple of glory, rang with the romantic music of Saint-Saëns and later, Gabriel Fauré

La Madeleine, another of Napoleon’s monuments, is the namesake of a favourite ET square, home to the food stores Fauchon and Hédiard.  There is an affordable café next to Maille that makes a perfectly romantic post for observing shoppers.  Who are these well-heeled habituées with sacks of Found Euros that frequent the rue Saint-Honoré? Our idea of romance is to be French trophy wives with hired help, who tutoyer headwaiters. 

The Île St.-Louis is most romantic in the evening

What could be more romantic than a walk around the Île St.-Louis? It’s best at night when tourists (like us!) go elsewhere, leaving silent cobblestone streets under lamplight shadows.  It’s the perfect place for a stylishly late dinner in smashing new clothes.  We read about the restaurant Au Gourmet de l’Ile which specializes in andouillette. It sounded good until I learned what’s *in* andouillette. Suffice it to say that Nurse, with her passion for parts, will have proper enthusiasm. 

The art of leisure is just one romantic aspect of Parisian life

Daily life in Paris can be a romantic feast.  A leisurely afternoon on a café terrace goes perfectly with flutes of champagne – the most romantic aperitif.  The ETs like Le Bonaparte in the Place St.-Germain.  It’s not famously existentialist like the Deux Magots or Café de Flore but we get the same inspiring view for less money!

The vibrant colors of fresh food makes every market a Monet.  The French tenets of high quality and artful presentation turn an onerous task into a romantic adventure.  Nurse is loathe to push a cart through Wegmans, but in Paris, she relishes the opportunity to look, sniff, squeeze and choose.

Another romantic excursion - a sunset boatride on the Seine

Although we can’t be in Paris this Valentine’s Day, the ETs will open a bottle of vin rouge and a ripe camembert and toast Paris – the most romantic of cities.  In the spirit of the day, here’s 1:17 seconds of ET Virtual Cafe to bring the romance of Paris to your computer.


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