instead of taking the elevator and going up in the Eiffel Tower, Becca and I climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
totally worth it. again.
I first climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at the age of 16, while visiting Paris at the beginning of a three-week tour with classmates from West. following the organized morning activity, Leah and I spent our afternoon at liberty walking from the Place de la Concorde, up the Champs Elysee, to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where we met up with the remainder of the group several hours later. a pair of American teenagers (and looking very much the part) meandering along the most famous boulevard in France, window shopping and commenting on the locals. the sun was setting as we reached the top, and I’ve got a fun picture of a group of us with the Tour Eiffel in the background, the sky fading to indigo at the horizon. (but not scanned onto my computer.)
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(really, what did we do before google maps?! my mental map of Paris would be even better than it already is …)
the Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and is the linchpin of the axis historique, a sequence of monuments and thoroughfares that runs from the heart of the Louvre to the outskirts of the city. it stands 50m high (160ft) and is the second highest triumphal arch in existence. after the victory parade following the end of World War I, a pilot flew his biplane through the center of the arch. it was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon following his success at Austerlitz. during the Bourbon Restoration, construction on the Arc was halted, and it was not completed until the reign of Louis-Philippe in 1836.
the body of Victor Hugo lay out overnight in 1885 before he was buried in the Panteon. beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War, inscribed with the phrase ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”), which is also the site of the first eternal flame lit in Europe since the Vestal Virgin’s flame was extinguished in 394 CE.
the second time I visited the Arc de Triomphe, Becca and I climbed to the top as night fell. as it was mid-November, it grew dark well before the laser show put on at the Tour Eiffel, but we enjoyed all the lights offered by the City of Light. we climbed the 294 steps to the top and thoroughly enjoyed the panoramic view of nighttime Paris.
more, including information about the art and architecture from Wikipedia