Wednesday, October 15, 2008

France 2008 Day 3 Arch de Triumph, Ave Des Champs-Elysees, Eiffel Tower

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Some of the following is based on fact, and some is not.
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Had a great nights sleep need to assume the jet lag is over or walking
9 hours after a 5 mile run makes for a good nights sleep. Got up and ran some intervals 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,600 meters, 800 meters,
400 meters, with a 2 mile warm up and down. All part of my marathon training. This type of interval is called a ladder you go up 400 - 1,600 and then down 1,600 - 400.

We met for breakfast at 9:30am. The plan for the day was to take the metro to the Arch de Triumph (Arc de Triomphe) then sight see our way back to the hotel. Previously I had mentioned I felt “The Rock” had shady past, it got even more mysterious today. As we got on the subway myself, Bebe, Margarite, and behind me “The Rock”, all of a sudden as the subway doors close we hear a bang on the doors. The three of us look over, just three because “The Rock” is on the wrong side of the doors, yes “The Rock” did not make into the subway car. The bewildered look on his face as we pulled away was simply hilarious I do not think I have laughed so hard in my entire life. Though I did not know it at the time this is when I realized what a great actor “The Rock” is. Bebe was as calm as could be I would soon realize she knows a lot more then she lets on about “The Rock”. I later found out Margarite was not concerned since “The Rock” had bought the metro tickets, she figured he knew where we were heading.

I was the only one of the three of us worried, so I got off at the very next stop I figured “The Rock” would get on the next train after ours. The trains come every 5-8 minutes. So I would hop on the next train and find “The Rock” and make sure he knew where to get off. “The Rock’s” train was 6 minutes behind ours. When his train got to the station I boarded and snuck up behind and gave him a little pinch on his butt. He was having a conversation with a very attractive blonde. When they noticed me their conversation changed to the women helping “The Rock” with directions. Also a man joined in acting like the woman’s boyfriend. It was clear to me I had interrupted some type of clandestine meeting. At this point I realized why Bebe did not react to “The Rock” missing our train, she must have known about the meeting. Since “The Rock” acted like all was normal I acted the same, I did not want him to suspect I was on to him.

The couple said they were from Germany, although it was odd that they knew Paris like the back of their hand. I asked them how they knew Paris so well. Their answer was quick and sounded rehearsed. They claimed they spent an hour that morning studying the area so they would get the most out of their sight seeing. I did not buy their answer it was clear something was up.

“The Rock” and I finally met up with the ladies and they acted as if all was normal. This is when I realized Bebe was aware of “The Rock’s” rendezvous. Any other wife would have a conniption if her husband missed a subway train when he was only 18 inches behind her.

Our first stop for the day was the Arch de Triumph (Arc de Triomphe). The Arch de Triumph is a monument in Paris, which stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as the Place de l'Étoile. It is at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The triumphal arch honors those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside and the top of the arc there are all of the names of generals and wars fought. Underneath is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

The Arc is the linchpin of the historic axis (L'Axe historique) — a sequence of monuments and grand thoroughfares on a route which goes from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace to the outskirts of Paris. The monument was designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806, and its iconographic program pitted heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail and set the tone for public monuments, with triumphant nationalistic messages, until World War I.

The monument stands 49.5 metres (162 ft) in height, 45 metres (148 ft) wide and 22 meters (72 ft) deep. It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence. Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The Arc de Triomphe is so colossal that three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919, marking the end of hostilities in World War I, Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through it, with the event captured in a newsreel.

What an incredible structure! I had not realized it is also the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tomb looks down the avenue of Champs-Élysées which is a wide avenue the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is the most prestigious avenue in Paris. With its cinemas, cafés, and luxury specialty shops, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, and with rents as high as $1.50 million a year for 1000 square feet (92.9 square meters) of space, it remains the most expensive strip of real estate in Europe. The name is French for Elysian Fields, the place of the blessed in Greek mythology.

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is known in France as La plus belle avenue du monde ("The most beautiful avenue in the world"). The arrival of global chain stores in recent years has slightly changed its character, and in a first effort to stem these changes, the Paris City government decided in 2007 to bar the Swedish clothing chain H&M from opening a store on the avenue. Because of the high rents, few people live on the Champs-Élysées; the upper stories tend to be occupied by offices. Rents are particularly high on the north side of the avenue, because of better exposure to sunlight. The splendid architecture of the grandiose "Champs-Élysées" is admired by many people. The avenue is located right next to the Palais de l'Élysée, the presidential palace, with its rounded gate, and the Grand Palais that was erected in the late 19th century. While walking among the gardens and tree-lined promenades one could even encounter an open-air marionette theatre for children, a French tradition popular through the ages.

Finally, the avenue is one of the most famous streets for shopping in the world. Adidas, Benetton, the Disney Store, Nike, Zara,Cartier, Bel Air Fashion, continental Europe's largest Gap and Virgin Megastore as well as Sephora occupy major spaces. Traditionally home of luxury brands, the Avenue des Champs Elysées confirms its world-class appeal as a prime real estate location: it has lately seen the opening of new big upscale shops such as the biggest Louis Vuitton department store in the world, which even hosts an exhibition room.

For anybody that is into bicycle racing this is where the Tour de France ends. At the bottom of the Champs Elysées is the Seine River. We stopped for lunch at a sidewalk cafe. After a nice lunch we walked along the river toward the Eiffel tower.

At one point on this walk I drifted several meters away from the others as I was taking some pictures. As I caught back up Margarite and Bebe blocked me from walking over to “The Rock”. “The Rock” was speaking to a man that was dressed like a college student, but was much older then a person you would expect in this style of clothes. I could not hear the conversation, but I could tell the man had a Yugoslavian accent.

When the man saw me approaching, he quickly ended the conversation and rapidly walked away. I asked “The Rock”, “What was up with that?” He made up some cock and bull story about the guy asking “The Rock” if he lost his wedding band and wanted a finder’s fee for finding it. This was crazy since “The Rock” had his wedding band on his hand. I am now convinced “The Rock” has many international ties and maybe ties to the underworld. I believe Bebe is involved, though she might not know what she is involved with. What really surprised me is Margarite might also have a role in this plot, what ever the plot might be. I shall continue to keep my eyes and ears focused on “The Rock”.

As we continued along the Seine we came upon a monument that was plastered with all kinds of pictures and mementos of Princes Diana.
The monument was a replica of the flame from the statue of liberty (Flamme De La liberte) which coincidentally sits directly over the tunnel in which Princes Diana was killed, thus the conversion to a grass roots Princes Diana monument.

We continued along the Seine passing monuments and museums until we reached the Eiffel Tower. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, what a magnificent tower built over 100 years ago the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris. More than 200,000,000 people have visited the tower since its construction in 1889, making it the most visited paid monument in the world. Including the 24 m (79 ft) antenna, the structure is 325 m (1,063 ft) high, which is equivalent to about 81 levels in a conventional building.

When the tower was completed in 1889 it was the world's tallest tower — a title it retained until 1930 when New York City's Chrysler Building (319 m — 1,047 ft tall) was completed. The tower is now the fifth-tallest structure in France and the tallest structure in Paris, with the second-tallest being the Tour Montparnasse (210 m — 689 ft) (next to our hotel), although that will soon be surpassed by Tour AXA (225.11 m — 738.36 ft).

The metal structure of the Eiffel Tower weighs 7,300 tons while the entire structure including non-metal components is approximately 10,000 tons. Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the tower may shift away from the sun by up to 18 cm (7 in) because of thermal expansion of the metal on the side facing the sun. The tower also sways 6–7 cm (2–3 in) in the wind.

The first and second levels are accessible by stairways and lifts. A ticket booth at the south tower base sells tickets to access the stairs which begin at that location. At the first platform the stairs continue up from the east tower and the third level summit is only accessible by lift. From the first or second platform the stairs are open for anyone to ascend or descend regardless of whether they have purchased a lift ticket or stair ticket. The actual count of stairs includes 9 steps to the ticket booth at the base, 328 steps to the first level, 340 steps to the second level and 18 steps to the lift platform on the second level. When exiting the lift at the third level there are 15 more steps to ascend to the upper observation platform. The step count is printed periodically on the side of the stairs to give an indication of progress of ascent. The majority of the ascent allows for an unhindered view of the area directly beneath and around the tower although some short stretches of the stairway are enclosed.

Maintenance of the tower includes applying 50 to 60 tons of paint every seven years to protect it from rust. In order to maintain a uniform appearance to an observer on the ground, three separate colors of paint are used on the tower, with the darkest on the bottom and the lightest at the top. On occasion the color of the paint is changed; the tower is currently painted a shade of brownish-grey. On the first floor there are interactive consoles hosting a poll for the color to use for a future session of painting. The co-architects of the Eiffel Tower are Emile Nouguier, Maurice Koechlin and Stephen Sauvestre.

The structure was built between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Eiffel originally planned to build the tower in Barcelona, for the Universal Exposition of 1888, but those responsible at the Barcelona city hall thought it was a strange and expensive construction, which did not fit into the design of the city. After the refusal of the Consistory of Barcelona, Eiffel submitted his draft to those responsible for the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where he would build his tower a year later, in 1889. The tower was inaugurated on March 31, 1889, and opened on May 6. Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of puddled iron (a very pure form of structural iron), using two and a half million rivets, in a structural design by Maurice Koechlin. The risk of accident was great, for unlike modern skyscrapers the tower is an open frame without any intermediate floors except the two platforms. However, because Eiffel took safety precautions, including the use of movable staging’s, guard-rails and screens, only one man died.

The tower was met with much criticism from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch in the Tower's restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where one could not see the structure. Today, the Tower is widely considered to be a striking piece of structural art.

One of the great Hollywood movie clichés is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the tower. In reality, since zoning restrictions limit the height of most buildings in Paris to 7 stories, only a very few of the taller buildings have a clear view of the tower.

Eiffel had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years, meaning it would have had to be dismantled in 1909, when its ownership would revert to the City of Paris. The City had planned to tear it down (part of the original contest rules for designing a tower was that it could be easily demolished) but as the tower proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to remain after the expiration of the permit. The military used it to dispatch Parisian taxis to the front line during the First Battle of the Marne, and it therefore became a victory statue of that battle.

At the time the tower was built many people were shocked by its daring shape. Eiffel was criticized for the design and accused of trying to create something artistic, or inartistic according to the viewer, without regard to engineering. Eiffel and his engineers, as renowned bridge builders however, understood the importance of wind forces and knew that if they were going to build the tallest structure in the world they had to be certain it would withstand the wind.

Margarite had some issues with the height and got anxious in the elevator as it was climbing to the top well over 1,000 feet high. Up to this point I had not been that impressed with Paris compared to other European cities I had visited I could not put my finger on the reason why until at the top of the Eiffel Tower. As I looked at over Paris seeing as far as one could see it hit me. Most European cities have a vast array of architecture each building giving you a different era in European history and culture. Paris has an area with modern buildings other then that 90-95% of the architecture was the same, not very spectacular except for the churches, most building were even the same color, an off white.

We stopped at each observation deck on the way down from the second to the first we took the steps down so when we reached the first level we stopped and rewarded ourselves with a beer and rest. As it approached 6:00pm we continued our sight seeing the ladies wanted to visit a small museum it was located along the Seine to the East 3km away so we took the metro. This time “The Rock” stayed with us. When we arrived at the museum it was closed for the day. Our next stop ice cream, there was a famous French ice cream shop not too far away, or at least that is what the ladies thought. An hour later we arrived 7:15pm the shopped closed at 7:00 pm. Strike 2. We decided it was time for dinner even with the subway rides we had done a lot of walking, we were all starting to have aches and pains. Guess what, another great sidewalk café. After dinner we walked back to the hotel 2km we arrived at 9:45pm. I guess our jet lag was long gone. We retired for the night and decided to meet at 9:30am the next morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is the spot where Ed and I got engaged almost 9 years ago :)