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European Road Trip: Paris (pt 2)

Thursday, November 5, 2009
No trip to Europe would be complete without a visit to the most romantic city of all: Paris! It's full of world-class art galleries, museums, parks and gardens. You can visit the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, Mickey Mouse at Disneyland Paris and a million things in between and our four travellers chose a few favourite attractions.

Arc de Triomphe

This grand monument stands in the centre of the Place du Général de Gaulle, also known as Place de l'Étoile. It surmounts the Hill of Chaillot at the centre of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues.

It honours those who have fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside and top of the arc are the names of generals and wars France has been involved in. Underneath is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, along with an eternal flame.

The monument was designed in 1806, inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. It stands 49.5m high, 45m wide and 22m deep. At the top of the 234 steps all of Paris lies before you. It is so huge that during the victory parade at the end of World War I, Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through it.

Eiffel Tower

The 19th century iron lattice tower on Paris' Champ de Mars was designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Exposition of 1889. While it is now much-loved, it did initiate strong reactions by Parisians at the time. A petition including the protests of Guy de Maupassant, Émile Zola, Charles Garnier architect of the Opéra Garnier and Alexandre Dumas, was unsuccessful after being submitted to the government. It has become one of the most recognisable and most visited structures in the world.

The tower is Paris' tallest building and it stands at 324m and has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to take the stairs or lifts to the first and second levels. The walk to the first level has more than 300 steps, and another 300 to the second level. There are restaurants on both levels. The third level is reached by lift.

To celebrate the tower's 120th anniversary, 400 tri-colour LED spotlights have been installed to illuminate the Trocadero facade. It will sparkle for five minutes four times each evening, followed by a 12-minute lighting sequence using incredible technology. It will run until New Year's Eve.

Our reporter CJ has always had a dream to see the Eiffel Tower. The other three reporters bought Champagne and talked a handsome stranger into kissing her, right there under the tower. For her it was perfect!

Père-Lachaise Cemetery

On the eastern edge of the city, the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is perhaps the most famous cemetery in all of Europe. Covering 44 hectares, it is named after the Jesuit Father Lachaise, King Louis XIV's confessor.

Cobbled avenues, rows of trees and 19th-century sculptures abound as each family tried to outdo others in ostentation. More than 70,000 funeral monuments dominate the landscape.

Many famous people are buried at 'the grandest address in Paris', including Chopin, Molière, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, Balzac and rock star Jim Morrison. Monuments honour Frenchmen who died in the Resistance or in Nazi concentrations camps.

The most famous religious figures buried in Père-Lachaise are the unlucky lovers Héloïse and Abélard. Much has been written about their secret love which produced a son. Unfortunately Héloïse's uncle, Canon Fulbert of Paris, discovered the secret and had Abélard castrated and Héloïse sent to a convent. They rarely saw one another again, but continued to exchange soulful love letters which have become famous.

Champs-Elysées shopping

Certainly a far more cheerful activity than making your way around a cemetery is to visit haute couture shops in the eighth arrondissement. Rue du Fabourg Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne are home to Cartier, Celine, Chanel, Chaumet, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Top-quality shoes, bags and leather goods are to be found on Rue du Cherch-Midi and rue de Grenelle in the sixth arrondissement. The first and second arrondissements have trend-setting fashions on Rue Etienne Marcel and Place des Victoires.

Sadly, the Champs-Elysées, once the bastion of fashion and class, has degenerated into a neon strip of fast-food chains, banks, airline offices, malls and cinemas aimed at tourists. Some of the up-market boutiques are still there, but the grand street isn't quite so grand any longer.

Le Moulin Rouge

Close to Montmartre, Paris' red-light district of Pigalle, Le Moulin Rouge was built in 1889. It's market by the red windmill on its roof and is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the cancan. It's where every long-legged dancer dreams of being swathed in feathers and sequins and performing in the most famous club in Paris.

Once the scene of seductive dance by courtesans, who operated from the site, today it is a tourist destination offering entertainment in the turn-of-last-century French décor.

Location

Paris, the capital of France.

Cost

Arc de Triomphe entry is about $15 for adults, $9 for people between 18 and 25 years of age and free for children. It is open from 10am to 11pm.

Eiffel Tower entry has three levels of pricing: adults, 12- to 24-year-olds, four- to 11-year-olds. The lift to the second floor is around $13, $10 and $7 respectively. The lift to the top floor is around $21, $16 and $12. Access to the stairs to the second floor costs around $7, $6 and $5.

Le Moulin Rouge dinner and show costs around $245 for French Can Can, $270 for Toulouse-Lautrec and $295 for Belle Epoque. A half-bottle of Champagne is included. Dinner is served at 7pm and the shows begin at 9pm.

Prices correct at November 5, 2009.

For further information

Arc de Triomphe
Place du Général de Gaulle
Paris 75008
France
Ph: +33 1 5537 7377
www.arc-de-triomphe.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/

Eiffel Tower
Champs-de-Mars
Paris 75007
France
Ph: +33 1 4555 9111
www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk

Père-Lachaise Cemetery
16 rue du Repos, 20e
Paris 75020
France
Ph: +33 1 5525 8210
www.pere-lachaise.com

Le Moulin Rouge
82 Boulevard de Clichy
Paris 75018
France
Ph: +33 1 5309 8282
www.moulinrouge.fr

Visas: No visas are required for stays up to three months.

Electricity: 220V at 50Hz and European two-pin plugs are standard.

Time zone: GMT +2.

Currency: The euro.

International dialling code: +33.

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