I think that everyone would agree that when it comes to Paris with all that this city has to offer – the excitement, the sights, the romance and so much more no one can possibly write about it all. I have chosen just some of the well-known places in Paris to write about and I have included three videos which I think sort of set a certain mood. One is from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” where Quasimodo so longs to get out into the streets of Paris instead of always staying in Notre Dame, the second is a song with French and English subtitles about the city’s most popular boulevard Champs Elysee and Frank Sinatra singing “I Love Paris”.
The capital of France, Paris is a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. It has wide boulevards that crisscross the city and of course the lovely River Seine dividing the city into two banks. It is well-known for landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral. Visitors to the city enjoy its sidewalk cafes and vibrant nightlife.
The one landmark you cannot miss in Paris is of course, the Eiffel Tower. This large structure can be seen from all points in the city. It is 300 meters tall and when it was completed at the end of the 19th century it was two times higher than the Washington Monument in the U.S., which at this time was the tallest structure in the world. Originally the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World Exhibition, held in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. It was meant to stand only for the exhibition but since then has become the symbol of the City of Light. The man behind the construction of the Eiffel Tower is Gustave Eiffel. The tower took two years to complete during which time around 12,000 iron pieces were designed and then put together with about 7,000 nails. It was inaugurated on March 31, 1889 and was the tallest structure in the world until the Chrysler Building was built in New York City in 1930. Take a ride to the very top for a most fascinating bird’s eye view of Paris.
Construction on the Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1163 and was built in the new Gothic style. This was the first cathedral to be built in a monumental scale and it became the prototype for future cathedrals in France. The cathedral was finally completed in 1345 and this huge impressive building is 128 meters long with two 69 meter tall towers. The spire over the crossing reaches 90 meters and it was added in the 19th century by Viollet-le-Duc. The Notre Dame Cathedral has several large rose windows of which the northern 13th century window is the most interesting.
Notre Dame’s frontal facade has three wide portals; above the portals is the Gallery of Kings – 28 statues of Judean Kings – and higher up are the famous gargoyles and grotesques. The fantastic eastern flying buttresses at the east side of the building are 15m wide. Unfortunately during the Revolution a great many of the cathedral’s sculptures, gargoyles and interior were removed or destroyed. Even the Gallery of Kings suffered much damage. Finally in the 19th century the Notre Dame Cathedral was fully restored. Much thanks can be given to writer Victor Hugo, who came out with his book, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and made all Parisians realize that this cathedral was worth saving. When Disney came out with their animated movie about Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame I’m sure a great many people visiting the cathedral could imagine him being up there inside with his many gargoyle friends ringing the bells of Notre Dame.
Napoleon commissioned to have the Arc de Triomphe built in 1806 in commemoration of his victories. Napoleon wasn’t around to see its completion. The arc was completed during the reign of Louis-Philippe in 1836. It is engraved with the names of generals who commanded French troops during Napoleon’s regime. The design for the arch was created by Jean Chalgrin, who used the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy as his inspiration. The Arc de Triomphe has the same dimensions but is much higher. It is adorned with many reliefs mostly commemorating the emperor’s battles. The relief, which is best known is the Departure of the Volunteers in 1792, also known as the Marseillaise. At the very top of the arch are thirty shields, each of them bears the name of one of Napoleon’s successful battles. Below the arch is the Grave of the Unknown Soldiers, honoring those who died during WWI. The Arc de Triomphe stands proudly at the end of the Champ-Elysees in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle. From this large, circular square twelve streets stretch out all of them named after French military leaders.
Head on up the 234 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for awesome views of La Defense, the Champs-Elysees and the Sacre-Coeur.
Palace of Versailles is located in the town of Versailles some 20 kilometers from Paris. The Gondi family became rulers of Versailles in the 16th century at which time the future King Louis XIII came to visit and fell in love with this place. Ten years later he became the lord of Versailles. After his death came the reign of Louis XIV – The Sun King in 1662. He also took an interest in Versailles wanting to get away from the city. He hired architect Louis Le Vau to work with artist Charles Le Brun to make the Palace of Versailles into a Baroque masterpiece. Famed gardener Andre le Notre created the magnificent Versailles Garden. Many later additions to the palace included the northern and southern wings, the Orangerie, the Grand Trianon and the Royal Chapel.
Rooms to be seen in the interior include The Hall of Mirrors. The main feature here is the seventeen mirrored arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows which look out onto the magnificent gardens. Each arch contains 21 mirrors. Along the walls are statues and busts.
The Chapel of Versailles architecture is a combination of Gothic and Baroque. Much of it resembles cathedrals in medieval times along with gargoyles and a pointed roof.
The Grand Apartment which was originally called the Apartment of the Planets due to the fact that the seven salons of this apartment had a painting of a planet. Notable are the ceilings painted by artist Charles Le Brun with his assistants.
The auditorium of The Royal Opera is made entirely from wood, making it one of the most acoustically “live” theaters in the world. It can seat over 700 people. Its decor features lots of gold, pink and green. The first time it was used was for the wedding ball of the future King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Among its interesting features is a unique mechanical system that raised the floor to stage level. Today it is still used for concerts and operas.
Step out into the wonderful Versailles garden. This is Europe’s largest palace garden created in the 17th century by landscape gardener Andre Le Notre. He designed the formal French garden with a geometric pattern of paths, bushes, flowerbeds and trees. There are also a series of basins and a large canal known as the Grand Canal. There are several fountains with the most famous being the Latona Fountain with a statue of the goddess Latona and the Apollo Fountain named after the sun god and depicting him riding a chariot. You’ll also find some smaller palaces in the garden – the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.
Right in the heart of Paris you’ll find one of the largest and most important museums in the world – The Louvre Museum. It was established in the 16th century as the private collection of King Francis I. He purchased the famous Mona Lisa. It was during the French Revolution that the Louvre became a national art museum and the private collection was opened to the public. The museum contains a collection of more than a million works of art of which around 35,000 are on display spread out over three wings of this former palace. The museum also has a diverse collection that ranges from the Antiquity up to the 19th century. Among the most famous works of art here are Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus of Milo, the Nike of Samothrake and the Dying Slave by Michelangelo. Entering the museum through the Louvre Pyramid or through the Carrousel du Louvre you have access to the three large wings known as Sully, Richelieu and Denon. There is a brief description of the highlights of each wing.
The most famous avenue in all of Paris is the Champs-Elysee which stretches from the Place de la Concorde to the Place Charles de Gaulle.
The Champs-Elysees is almost two kilometers long and seventy meters wide. The western end of the avenue is lined with cinemas, theaters, cafes and luxury shops. At the opposite end near the Place de la Concorde you’ll find the Jardins des Champs-Elysees. These are beautifully designed gardens with fountains and such grand buildings as the Grand and Petit Palaces at the southern end and the Elysee Palace at the north end. The Elysee has been the residence of the French Presidents since 1873.
The way the Champs-Elysee looks today is the creation of Bernard Huet in 1994. The side lanes became pedestrian zones, an underground parking lot was created and new trees were planted. Cars now only occupy half the width of this spectacular avenue.
The Champs-Elysee is used for all major celebrations such as New Year’s Eve and for the military parades held on July 14th. It is also used for historic national events, such as the Liberation at the end of WW II and for sporting victories such as the win in the World Cup football.
One of the most popular parks in Paris is the Jardin du Luxembourg located near the Latin Quarter. This is the park most sun seekers head for when the temperatures rise. A large octagonal pond called the Grand Basin is found right in the middle of the park where children can rent small boats. Other attractions for children in the park include a puppet theater, pony rides, a merry-go-round and a large playground.
The pond area is most popular as it includes nice lawns, paths and lovely flower beds all set in a geometrical pattern and enclosed by a balustrade. There are many statues in the park. People can grab onto one of the many chairs available and place it at the spot they find the most inspirational. The park is also a favorite among chess players and jeu de boules players. There is a tennis court, a music pavilion and an orangery. Behind the orangery is the Musee du Luxembourg which is only open for temporary exhibitions.
The parks also has many fountains of which the most famous is the Fountain Medicis, a romantic Baroque fountain designed in the early 17th century. Located at the end of a small pond on the northeast side of the park the fountain features a central sculpture group showing the Greek mythological figure of Polyphemus observing the lovers Acis and Galatea. It is flanked by allegorical figures depicting the Seine and Rhone Rivers.
At the back of this fountain is the Fountain de Leda, created in 1806 with a relief showing the mythical scene with Leda and Zeus disguised as a swan.
A third fountain honors French painter Eugene Delacroix and consists of a rectangular basin with six jets. In the very center is a bust of the painter. Sensual allegorical statues of Time, Glory and Genius stretch from a plinth towards the bust.
At the south side of the park in an extension called the Jardins de l’Observatorie is The Fountain de l’Observatoire created by Davioud, Carpaux and Fremiet in 1873. The centerpiece of this fountain features a globe that is supported by four women each representing a continent.
All throughout the park a around seventy statues and monuments. Twenty of the statues are dedicated to French Queens. Other statues honor politicians, scientists, sculptors, painters, poets and composers. There are also statues featuring animals or inspired by mythology. One thing that capture’s the visitors’ attention is a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty created by Auguste-Bartholdi. At the northern end of the park is the Luxembourg Palace where the French Senate sits.
Paris the City of Light has so much to offer, so much to delight. Visit to capture the culture, to find the fun and just enjoy the romance of the city.