on May 2, 2008
Easier, quicker, and cheaper to access than the Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's "arch of victory" erected to the glory of his army was on our list of must-see things to show our son because my husband's grandfather has often told us that he put a bullet hole in it when shooting at a German during World War II. Without this personal connection, the Arc de Triomphe has long served as a symbol of France's greatness, and it is worth the time to visit. It was, after all, conceived by their greatest general. The modest entrance fee is covered by the Paris Museum Pass, and, since we already had this, we didn't have to wait in line. The first thing for us to notice was the gigantic tri-colour flag hung between the columns of the arch. A magnificent sight with golden sunlight filtering through the fabric, this served as the perfect backdrop for the veterans' group carrying out the daily rekindling of the flame of remembrance at 6:30 PM. This is always a solemn moment as France has their Unknown Soldier buried beneath the arch to stand for all of those men who have lost their lives fighting for French ideals. The arch is really quite impressive to view from underneath as it's easy to see the detailed friezes that depict highlights of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.Then it's time to go into the Arch itself. Climb the 284 steps (taking a rest in a small gift-shop and mediocre museum on the way) to the platform roof from which you have an amazing view of Paris. Look down the Champs-Elysees to the modern La Defense arch (built in 1989) in Paris's business district where high-rise buildings cluster. Take a picture with the Eiffel Tower behind you. Think about the Allied Troops as they marched into Paris so many years ago to liberate this lovely city from the Nazis. You can just imagine Charles-de-Gaulle waving at the soldiers, the women with flowers, the joyful sounds of soldiers whooping, even as their boots clattered in rhythm as they stayed in line, marching in the parade. Bottom line? If you want to climb something, but you don't have a lot of time, this is the place for you. The wait is tiny compared to the Towers of Notre Dame or the erector-set-looking Eiffel Tower. Keep in mind that the architects Chalgrin and Raymond were inspired partly by the Arch of Titus in Rome as Napoleon was a student (and admirer who took the thought of "world domination" close to heart!) of the Roman Empire.
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