the travels & travails of an escaped lab rat

Paris: Arc de Triomphe

Officially the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, this triumphal arch was commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napoleon after his victory at Austerlitz to commemorate those who fought for France. A second smaller arch (the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel) was commissioned at the same time, but was erected and completed earlier due to the vast difference in size and complexity.

Napoleon never actually passed under the completed arch while he was alive. When he entered Paris from the west in 1810, he and his bride passed under a wooden mock-up he had built for the occasion. The great arch was only completed in 1836 (well after the fall of Napoleon), but his body did pass under it in 1840 on its way to its final resting place at the Invalides.

The arch stands at the center of Place de l’Étoile, anchoring the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It took me longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize there’s no pedestrian access to the arch from the surface. I stood for a while, waiting for some light to change (or a break to come in the non-stop traffic so I could dash across) before noticing the pedestrian underpass. D’oh!

As a point of trivia: The three arches of Paris — the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and the Grande Arche of La Défense — align in a straight line stretching across the city.

You think maybe Napoleon was compensating for something?

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Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Inside Arch (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Pillar Detail (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Pillar Detail (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Pillar Detail (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Pillar Detail (2008)++Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile - Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (2008)++Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (2008)++

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Paris: Eiffel Tower

Undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and iconic structures in the world, the Eiffel Tower was originally built as a temporary edifice.

It began its life as the entrance arch to the Exposition Universelle 1889 (the World’s Fair, which also marked the centennial celebration of the French Revolution), and was granted a permit to stand for 20 years. When the time came for its scheduled demolition in 1909, the tower had proved itself useful for communications purposes and was allowed to remain past the expiry of its permit.

One hundred twenty-one years later, the Eiffel Tower has played host to over 200 million tourists —  making it the most visited paid-attraction in the world.

The Tower has become so synonymous with Paris that one really can’t say they’ve visited the city until they’ve gone to pay obligatory homage at the great Erector Set of the gods.

It’s quite a marvel, and possessed of an almost mathematical elegance in its economy of design. Gustave Eiffel originally planned for the use of steel in its construction, but ended up having to use puddled iron instead. At 324 metres tall, it held the record for tallest structure in the world until 1930 (when it was beaten by the Chrysler Building), and remained the tallest structure in France until 2004 (when the Viaduc de Millau was completed).

That took a lot of Meccano sets.

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Eiffel Tower (2008)++Eiffel Tower (2008)++Eiffel Tower (2008)++Eiffel Tower - Girder Detail (2008)++Eiffel Tower - Girder Detail (2007)++Eiffel Tower - Girder Detail (2007)++Eiffel Tower - Gustave's Bust (2007)++

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