Friday, 30 December 2011

Breathless at Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is probably the most popular monument in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. And just like its superior sister monument, visitors can climb to the top of Arch de Triomphe for a birds eye view of Paris.

I successfully completed the climb to the top of Arch de Triomphe, albeit having to catch my breath numerous times. This climb was even tougher compared to climbing St Paul's Cathedral in London which I did in 2009.

The Arc de Triomphe is situated in the middle of a roundabout called Place Charles de Gaulle, as you may have seen in numerous photos and on television. Because the French drive like they don't value their lives, you should value yours by using the underground tunnel to get to the arch.

The tunnel that leads to the arch is located opposite it. There are other tunnels around the arch which leads to underground Metro stations instead. So you'd need to look carefully, otherwise you'd be walking around in circles like I did.

Underground tunnel that leads to Arc de Triomphe.

After flashing my Paris Museum Pass to the security personnel (€ 9.50 if you buy an individual adult ticket), I started climbing and what a climb it was. A narrow steel staircase lead the way in a winding fashion to the first level where there were some exhibits explaining the history and significance of the arch:

There's also a souvenir shop on that level, where I bought cloth figurines of Napolean & Josephine (his wife) for Pat's sister who collects X'mas tree deco from different countries. I thought these figurines of France's most popular son and wifey are more unique compared to baubles painted with images of the Eiffel Tower.

After that slight shopping 'interruption', it was time to resume the climb.

The huffing, panting and bouts of fainting spell continued (has my fitness level gone down the drain?) until I saw first signs of sunlight which means I had arrived at the top of the arch: 

It was indeed a cloudy day.

After climbing Arc de Triomphe, I was planning to climb the Eiffel Tower on the same day. But after seeing this ... 

... I changed my mind.

I was not going to pay € 13.70 to get my arse to the top of the Eiffel Tower and stand in a cloud with no view. Heck, I could do that on any airplane. 

Some of my friends said I was dumb not to climb the tower since I was already in Paris, but well ... I don't control the weather; I'm not Storm (X-Men).

Now Ladies, let me introduce you to Champs-Elysees where the world of fashion congregates. It's all here ... Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Lancel, Gucci (ok this is Italian, but they do have boutiques in Champs-Elysees), etc. Stop drooling, ladies  ... 

Champs-Elysees as seen from the Arc de Triomphe.

After walking around the arch and looking at the magnificent, albeit cloudy view, it was time for the descent.

This is how winding and narrow the steel staircase is. Visitors must walk in a single file and if someone stops to catch his/her breath, everyone behind will be held up. Someone asked me if someone fainted in there, with a long row of people behind and in front, how are paramedics going to get the victim out? He/She would have probably died by the time help arrives. 

This is what Arc de Triomphe looks like when you stand directly underneath it:

An angle of Arc de Triomphe which you have probably never seen before.

And to conclude this post about Arc de Triomphe, here is a grave at the foot of the arch:

Translation of the words on the grave: Here lies a French soldier who died for his country.

And this my friend, is the significance of the Arc de Triomphe - it is a monument to the departed, to the fallen soldiers who died for the country. You can read more about the history of the arch here.


khengsiong said...

If you find the climb of Arc de Triomphe to be harder than that or St Paul's Cathedral, it could be due to health...

Happy New Year; Don't drink & drive :-)

Julie Lim said...

Hi Kheng Siong,

I think it also depends on the state I was at that time, e.g. not enough sleep, hungry, feeling too cold, etc.

Happy New Year to you too!

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