Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Strolling Down Champs Elysees

The Arc de Triomphe
With the main sights on my to-do list completed, it was time for a relatively leisurely jaunt through Paris on my last full day in the City of Lights.

Le Depart de 1792 or La Marseillaise
I started off at the Arc de Triomphe and again was pleased the metro system is so efficient and the exits take you right to the tourist spots.

When I emerged from the metro, the arch was a block away and I wondered how to get there when I saw an underpass nearby. In the tunnel there was a long lineup -- to get into the Arc de Triomphe and climb up to see the sights.

Again having been up the Eiffel Tower, going up the arch seemed redundant and felt I had more to do than wait in line. However the perspective from this point would be interesting as the place was originally known as Place de l'Etoile because a dozen streets emanate from it like a star.

The arch is beautiful, with its floral detailing on the ceiling and walls. The tribute to Napoleon's soldiers is extraordinary and successive leaders have used this monument to commemorate their generals in battle. In the middle lies the grave of the unknown soldier from World War I with the eternal flame and flowers around it.

Outside the Louis Vuitton boutique
What was also striking were the four main sculptures on each of the sides. They are titled: Le Depart de 1792 otherwise known as La Marseillaise by Francois Rude; Le Triomphe de 1810 by Jean-Pierre Cortot; La Resistance de 1814; and La Paix de 1815, both by Antoine Etex.

While Emperor Napoleon commissioned the arch in 1806 after his victory in Austerlitz, it wasn't completed until 1836 under the reign of King Louis-Philippe.

From there I walked east down Champs Elysees and passed by some famous restaurants including L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire's Pierre.

Pierre's menu seemed very exotic including langoustines with the foam of steamed dim sum? Wondered what that smelled like -- with enoki, radish and turnips with rice vinegar. Sounds intriguing.

And yes this is also where all the high-end fashion brands are situated. I walked into Louis Vuitton and was very surprised to see no line up outside nor the swarms of mainland Chinese I had read about months before who are all .

The original Guerlain store on Champs Elysees
Instead the situation inside was very civilized and people from Americans to Japanese were eager to buy wallets and bags. The store is designed such that you go up an escalator to the third floor and must wind your way back down through women's wear, men's wear, jewellery, and other accessories before making it back to the ground floor. Very clever.

However I was surprised not to find any historical links with the brand to the founder, but perhaps people come here to shop, not to look at a museum.

I saw a Marriott hotel and it seemed like some VIPs were in there with two rows of young people in uniform and adults dressed up in some kind of military parade gear. Perhaps US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? I'd seen her on the television news in the morning while eating breakfast as she was in Paris to discuss the situation in Syria.

However, after waiting for some time and not really knowing who we were waiting to come out, I gave up and looked around Sephora next door. When I came out, the crowd was still there, waiting.

Waiting for some VIPs to come out of the Marriott hotel
Also next to the hotel is Guerlain and I'm surprised to see Michelle Yeoh is the brand's new ambassador. However she's a good fit as she speaks perfect English, very stylish and can communicate the essence of Guerlain to Asia. It's heartening to see confidence in more mature women, but honestly could you see someone like Zhang Ziyi or Fan Bingbing pitching the brand?

Then further down the street there are the likes of Lacoste, Zara and Benetton.

By the time I reached the obelisk, which was originally from the tomb of Ramses III in Luxor, Champs Elysees seemed somewhat underwhelming. Nevertheless, an interesting fact is tat where the obelisk stands is where the guillotine was, and where Louis XVI was beheaded in January 1793.

The obelisk where the guillotine used to be
His last words?

"May my blood bring happiness to France".

Words to ruminate on...

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