Two Towers

Today we visited the Arc de Triomphe first, then the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes it’s good to get an overhead view of a place, and with Notre Dame off limits now, these are the two go-to places in Paris for getting that angle on things.

Yesterday I showed you a full-on view of the Arc de Triomphe as seen from the middle of the Champs Elysées. Here’s a closeup of one of its commemorative friezes.

Frieze

It doesn’t take a historical expert to see all the sculpture and lists of battles on the walls to get the name: this was created as a commemoration of France’s military triumphs. But at the end of World War I, with the interment of the Unknown Soldier, it was changed into a place of honoring the fallen. The inscription reads “Here lies a French soldier, died for the homeland, 1914-1918”. By placing it on the axis of the Champs Elysées, the government intended that no more would conquering armies march through the Arc in triumph. According to the museum, this was honored even by the Germans when they paraded down the Champs Elysées–they went around the Arc, not through it.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Standing in the geometrical center of the Arc on the ground and looking straight up, one can see the geometrical stonework overhead. Notice the one in the center. And smile–you’re on camera. In the museum is a monitor showing activity on the ground. I suspect a similar view, along with others I don’t know about, is also in the security center.

Overhead

There are two ways to get to the rooftop–stairs and elevator. At least that’s what I understand. I intended to take the elevator, but I zigged when I should have zagged, and walked up the entire way, all 284 steps worth. I think next time I’ll take someone who knows how to get to the elevator. But I’ll miss this view:

Stairwell

From the Arc de Triomphe, we headed to the Eiffel Tower, passing over my wife’s favorite bridge in Paris, the Alexander III, so named to honor the alliance between France and Russia in 1892. There are four corner towers on the bridge, each topped with a gilded statue. Here’s one of them:

Alexander III Bridge

We’ll have to return later to get some distant views of the tower. For today, I’ll just give a couple of views of the neighborhood as seen from the tower. Looking west, across the river, is the Trocadero. In the distance is visible the La Defense area. This is where to go if you want to see 21st-century Paris. Maybe someday we’ll do just that.

Trocadero

And just opposite the Trocadero is the Champs de Mars, site of a historic battle between the Romans and the local Gaulois who, though seriously out-numbered and out-armed gave the Romans a serious enough fight that when it was over, the Romans preserved this field in their honor. Today it is still used when huge numbers of people must be accommodated.

Champs de Mars

Tomorrow is art day. We’ll learn as much about Impressionism as we can in the time available to us.

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