After a petit dejeuner consisting of two lovely fresh croissants and, for me, an omelette, together with excellent jus d'orange and a very good cup of coffee, Jean and I headed to the Champs Élysées. Out we came from the Metro, and there before us was the impressive structure of the Arc de Triomphe. It looked glorious under the summer sun, and throngs of tourists stood around us and did as we did, took photos, many tourists committing the action of the age we live in - the classic 'selfie', a photo of oneself in front of an auspicious object, while holding the camera. I'm really getting into the selfies.
The Arc de Triomphe stands on a huge roundabout. It serves as a junction for not one or two but 12 roads, which, from the sky above, must resemble the sun and its rays. After wasting some minutes trying to access the Arc, we found how to cross under the road. You don't want to cross on the road itself for this is seriously taking your life in your hands. We did this once in the 80s, and, fortunately, lived to tell the tale.
The Arc de Triomphe stands 49 metres high and 44 metres wide. It was built in the 19th century to commemorate, if I remember rightly, Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz. It has been both a symbol of triumph, for instance the ending of the two world wars, but also of humiliation. The French were defeated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871, and suffered the sight of Nazi boots goose-stepping through the cherished Arc in 1940. The Arc commemorates the return of Alsace and Lorraine, which have ping ponged their way back and forth from French and German ownership in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the Arc de Triomphe is, for the French, a deeply nationalistic symbol. The Unknown Soldier is buried here. The names of many battles are etched into the stone structure. The names of many prominent soldiers are also recorded, and those names underlined are those who died for France. One famous photograph, which I find stirring, shows Charles de Gaulle parading triumphantly under the Arch in 1944, following the Liberation of Paris.
While Jean did not climb the giant Burj Khalifa in Dubai nor the Eiffel Tower here in Paris, she did come to the top of the Arc de Triomphe this morning. Well, it's only 49 metres high! And that was high enough for Jean. If you're thinking of climbing the Arc, I must warn you. There are 271 steps. Near the top, the's a lower level, housing a gift shop, and then there is the very top, 'sommet' in French. We spent about 15 minutes admiring the view.