Plotting a new walking circuit is a pre-trip indulgence
that this Paris pioneer can't resist.
Sketching out a new walk fills me with anticipation and longing.
"It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters, in the end."
There are many faces of Paris - artistic, intellectual, fashionable, historic,
and every wander is filled with energy and creativity.
Paris Past, Paris Present and Paris Future fill your days with pleasure.
From grandest of the grand to little peeks at the more mundane,
the Paris map is a walker's dream come true.
It's probably safe to say that everyone who visits Paris
stops to study and admire the Arc de Triomphe, one of
the iconic monuments that put the P in Paris.
It simply can't be missed.
Always near the top of every travelers' list, it doesn't disappoint.
On the other side of the coin, you'll find a different giant,
La Grande Arche, the new face of monumental Paris.
Both sites are legendary, each an epic piece of the Paris narrative.
The big idea strikes!
As I study the map, searching for my next great Paris odyssey, I realize,
though I've been to both landmarks, I've never walked from one to the other.
It's a straight shot -- slightly less than three miles, an easy morning stroll.
How many times have I walked from the Arc de Triomphe,
down the Champs-Elysées, past Place de la Concorde and
on to the Louvre at the opposite end of the Historical Axis of Paris.
That stroll, too, is about a three mile trek.
The Triumphal Way.
Even though I've sashayed down every other grand avenue that
make up the famous spokes emanating from the Arc de Triomphe,
the one street I've somehow missed is the Avenue de la Grande Armée.
It's the broad boulevard (directly opposite the Champs-Elysées)
that leads to La Défense, the skyscraper-filled
business quarter that features La Grande Arche.
Such a simple plan, my mission is clear.
Follow the Axe Historique, the grand concept of what makes
Paris the one destination we can't get enough of.
Don't just see the sites, experience them.
Pursue the undiscovered places in-between.
From the past to the present and on to the future,
seek the transition, the progressive gallop we call history.
And it doesn't hurt to burn off some buttery croissant calories along the way.
The Arc de Triomphe seems like a perfect place to start.
Gazing up at the majesty of Napoleon's triumphal arch always
makes me feel as if I have finally arrived.
Its gigantic scale serves as an anchor to not just the Champs-Elysées,
the grandest avenue in Paris, but also as the welcome mat to this great city.
Built to commemorate Napoleon's victories,
the Arc de Triomphe also serves as starting point and
backdrop to parades, sporting events, ceremonies and too many cars.
Planning and construction began in 1806, masterminded
by successful French architect Jean Chalgrin.
The masterpiece took 30 years (two years just to "plant" the foundation)
passing through a lot of different hands and political regimes.
Conceived by Napoleon to honor those who had given their lives
during his many bloody battles, the emperor himself didn't live
to see its completion although his remains passed through
its famous arched threshold in 1840.
Engraved with the names of 558 generals who died in combat under
his command, the monument speaks volumes about the glory of the
brave at the same time it reminds us of the tragic consequences of war.
Artful reliefs decorating the exterior mark the emperor's many campaigns,
the most famous being the Departure of the Volunteers by Francois Rude.
Below the famous arch stands the moving Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,
a tribute to unidentified soldiers who gave their lives to France in WWI and WWII.
On Armistice Day 1920, officials lit the first eternal flame in Europe
since the fires of the Vestal Virgins were extinguished in the 4th Century.
In 1961, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy visited,
paying tribute to a captivated and grateful France.
Several years later, Mrs. Kennedy asked that an eternal flame be placed
next to her assassinated husband's grave, inspired by her visit to Paris.
Look up and see the 21 sculpted roses on the arched ceiling,
a fitting tribute to the sorrows of war.
The viewing platform on top is fantastic.
Look for La Défense and La Grande Arche to catch a whiff
of the historical perspective of the Axis Historique.
Then turn and gaze in the opposite direction at the Louvre
and the alternate universe that makes up the axis of the past.
An amazing transition.
From the platform, try to recall the iconic WWII photo of the patriotic Frenchman
as he tearfully watched the Nazis parade down his boulevard.
Then picture the joy of the Allies as they freed Paris from the chains of tyranny, parading past the preeminent monument dedicated to the glory of France.
On your way out, check out the exhibits featuring
the design and building of this tour de force.
Built on the outskirts of Paris, center-stage of the business quarter
dubbed La Défense, La Grande Arche is a new symbol for Paris,
one that stands more for its future than its past.
Puteaux, the suburb with the skyscraper horizon, hosts this far-fetched wonder where fresh ideas and progressive ideals promote the new face of France.
In 1982, the city of Paris launched a grand contest to build
a 20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe.
Danish architect Johann Otto and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel bested
the challenge with a bold design and a peaceful theme.
La Grande Arche, so different from Napoleon's triumphal victory arch,
was to be designed with humanitarian ideals in mind.
Make peace, not war.
Building began in 1986 and finished by 1989.
The cube shaped arch (large enough to hold Notre-Dame Cathedral!)
is composed of concrete, glass and marble.
Views from the top provide a fantastic perspective on Paris staring straight
into the heart of the Arc de Triomphe and much of Classic Paris that follows.
The area surrounding the monument is worth a look as well.
Huge multinational corporations call this home, presenting a tone
that's both artistic and capitalistic, an intriguing balance of
modern art mixed with the smell of money.
The history of La Défense began in the '60's when President de Gaulle
and city developers sought a new way to keep skyscrapers
from altering the distinctly Parisian roof-lines, hoping to
preserve the classic beauty of The City of Light.
Keeping standards high, their goal put forward a balance of brains and beauty.
They succeeded in building a city of business, a French Manhattan.
Most of us seek out the historical side of Paris and its classic architecture.
But taking a different view is not a bad thing to do.
And I promise you this -- if the thought of taking time to see a
business district doesn't exactly inspire, at the very least
you'll be impressed with the symmetry that welcomes you
to what I call The Paris Hall of Fame.
From the top of La Grande Arche all the way to the Arc de Triomphe
and beyond, feast your eyes on consummate Paris and the Axis Historique.
The walk from one arch to the other may not be the most exciting promenade
you've ever taken in Paris, but it surely suits any passionate traveler
determined to learn the city forwards and backwards.
The map shows a couple of interesting looking sights along the way,
including Place de la Porte Maillot, very near the Palais de Congress
which hosts many big trade shows, concerts and events.
Avenue Charles de Gaulle takes over with a nearby cemetery and theatre
but the big draw is La Grande Arche drawing closer and closer, its
towering palaces of steel and glass fronting a distinctly new Paris.
My motto: Save the best for last.
After viewing La Grande Arche and the contemporary plaza
and art installations, we plan to head to La Apogé,
where 100 wines are available by the glass.
I'm not sure if it's what Lewis & Clark or Marco Polo would have done,
but we world explorers need to quench a different type of thirst from time to time.
I believe the name La Apogé comes from the same word apogee,
which means climax, culmination -- quite appropriate after our
brave adventure today, don't you think?
Keep it balanced.
Walk a little, drink a little, walk a little, eat a little, walk a little, drink a little .....
Enjoy every breath you take in Paris!