Centre of France, Paris has more tourist visitors than any other city in the world, and
for good reason. The city contains some of the world's most emblematic sights, not to mention museums
with some of the most famous works of art, and it is of course a centre for culture and fashion (not
that I know anything about that). It's a great city to walk around in, you don't have to go far to
find another attraction, or just a nice pavement café.
I've been to France many times, but to Paris only in 1993 on a family holiday, and during
a long stopover at CDG in 2007, where I decided to go into the city rather than sit about
in the airport. I had a very pleasant day but didn't have time to see quite all of the sights
I wanted to, so another reason to go back again soon.
The Eiffel Tower, probably the most famous attraction in Paris, and symbol of France, it was only
meant to stand for a short while following the 1889 World's Fair for which it was built. However
after an initial frosty reception, the Parisians grew to like it and it became a permanent part of
the city. It was the tallest structure in the world until the Chrysler Building was completed in
New York in 1930.
The cathedral of Notre Dame, on the Île de la Cité in the River Seine. It was built over
a relatively short period for a cathedral, about 100 years, and has excellent examples of flying
buttress supports, which keep engineers like me happy.
The modern glass pyramid of the Louvre, considered by many purist Parisians to be a blight
on their city. However, that's what they said about the Eiffel Tower when it first went up, so
I'm sure they'll get over it eventually.
Again the Louvre pyramid, showing the concourse below reaching underneath the old buildings.
The queues weren't too bad, it was a Friday lunchtime, but unfortunately I didn't have time
to dash in and check out the Mona Lisa. Next time, I guess.
Paris's main commercial street, the Champs-Élysées, stretches from the Louvre all the way
out to La Defense. Not a place to pick up a bargain, however.
Halfway up the Champs-Élysées you come across the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by
Napoleon to celebrate one of his victories. During construction however, he met his Waterloo
and was dead before he had the chance to see it through. Not to miss out on another monument,
the Parisians continued construction and it was finished in the 1830s.
Detail of the underside of the Arc de Triomphe, showing the carvings. It was inspired by
the Arch of Constantine in
and there are similar triumphal arches in
and North Korea.
After hauling myself up the steps inside the Arc de Triomphe, I was presented with a great
view back down the Champs-Élysées.
Looking away from the city centre, up towards the commercial district of La Defénse.
The Grande Arche of La Defénse is built on the same line as the Champs-Élysées, the
of Paris, and was constructed to be wide enough such that the avenue Champs-Élysées could
pass right through it. Indeed
there is a highway running in a tunnel right underneath it.
Detail of the underside of the Grande Arche, showing the lift shafts disappearing into
the top. The walls of the arch contain offices, and the upper tier is used for exhibitions and
as a viewing gallery.
Another view of the Eiffel Tower, this time from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
La Tour Montparnasse is the only skyscraper in the centre of Paris, as once it was completed
in the '70s everyone thought it was so hideous that all skyscrapers were banished to La Defénse. There
is an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower from the top, but I didn't have time to check it out
Back to the Eiffel Tower, a more traditional shot taken from near the base. The Eiffel
construction company is still in operation today, it was responsible for the Millau Viaduct roadway
in the south of France, the world's tallest bridge.
The tower from a distance in the gardens. The white object in the central gap is a giant
rugby ball, as it was rugger world cup time.
Charles de Gaulle is the largest of Paris's airports, I pass through it quite a lot.
Architecturally it is very interesting (albeit affected by the slight problem of the roof falling
down a few years ago), however the airport itself is fairly dull to hang around in - they don't
even have a Burger King.