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Catriona on the Champs Elysées.
Catriona on the Champs Elysées.
Beautiful Paris.
Notre Dame in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower.

Paris

Thursday, August 7, 2003
Known as the city of love, and aside from the beauty and romance it offers, it's arguably home to the best art, bread, coffee and shopping you'll ever find!

France is the world's most visited country. Its capital, Paris, is known as the City of love, and apart from the romance it offers, is arguably home to the best art, bread and coffee! It is also crammed with well-known landmarks and is a good city to see on foot, but the public transport combination of trains and buses is very efficient.

While Paris is quite small (just 9.5km x 11km), it is broken into 20 districts called "arrondissements". They start in the centre and spiral out in a clockwise motion, and because of the doubling up of some road names, it is important to have the code of the one you want.

A day in Paris begins with petit dejeuner, which is usually very milky coffee and a baguette or croissant. There are countless cafes for you to find something to get you going.

The Champs Elysses radiates for two kilometres from Place Charles de Gaulle to Place de la Concorde. It was once a place for the aristocracy to show off their wealth, but is now very touristy, with fast-food restaurants, cinemas and airline offices. President Chirac has had the footpaths widened and trees planted in an effort to return some glory to the grand old road.

At its end is Place de la Concorde, the infamous square where Louis XVI was guillotined, along with 1343 others. Its Egyptian obelisk is from the 13th century BC, and has been standing in the centre of the square since 1836.

The Centre Pompidou, amongst other things home of the National Museum of Modern Art, was built in the mid 1970s and its daring and strange architecture has been the cause of many a debate. For a while, it became Paris' most visited museum, but that honour has been returned to the Louvre. It is very colourful and surrounded on three sides by paving and the other by a road. There are beautiful fountains, a crowd-drawing clock and, weather permitting, talented street performers. The seven floors of modern art focus on painting, sculpture, books, cinema and music.

In complete contrast, a visit to Paris' favourite church, Notre Dame, sitting on the Île de la Cité is definitely recommended. This world-renowned masterpiece of Gothic architecture was going to be sold as scrap in the late 1800s, but thanks to some passionate lobbying by people such as Victor Hugo, it still stands in its glory, complete with towers and gargoyles.

To reach Notre Dame from Centre Pompidou, you need to cross the River Seine by the 233m Pont Neuf Bridge. Built between 1578 and 1607, its name, which means "new bridge" was once appropriate, but now it is the oldest bridge across the River. Henri III laid the first stone and it was opened by Henri IV. For centuries, it was filled with shops and traffic and was the centre of Paris life. When Napoleon III ruled, he had the foundations completely rebuilt and at the same time removed the shops from the roadway.

His predecessor, Napoleon I, was responsible for L'Arc de Triomphe being built in 1806 in honour of the French Army's triumphs. It is built on the model of ancient triumphal arches and stands 50m tall and 45m wide. It has four magnificent high reliefs depicting "the Departure of the Volunteers in 1792". The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is also there commemorating the 1.5 million French who lost their lives in World War I.

The Eiffel Tower opened in 1889 after more than two years of construction, and at 312m, was the world's tallest building until the Chrysler Building in New York took the title at 319m. An antenna was added in 1957 taking its height to 320m and recent work has taken it to 342m. The tower has 1665 steps, but there is a lift if you don't feel up to walking. Like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower had a second life. Parisians who opposed it were almost successful in having it dismantled in 1909.

It is lit from sunset to 1am each day, and lights glitter for 10 minutes each hour. A perfect view of the tower can be had from the Trocodero on the opposite side of the Seine. It opens at around 9am and it is strongly advisable to go there early — with 6.5 million visitors in 2000, the queues are very long and slow and if the standing doesn't get to you, maybe the throngs of hawkers will.

If you can't possibly go to a city without shopping, then you must go to the Clignancourt Market in Saint-Ouen in the 18th arrondissement. The biggest in the world, the dealers are authorised, and while you may not find super bargains, things are cheaper there than in Paris. The 3000 stalls are on 30 hectares, and they say if you can't find it there, it doesn't exist, but beware of pickpockets.

Location

The capital city of France.

Cost

Pompidou Centre Museum entry costs around $10 for adults.
Eiffel Tower elevator stops at all three levels. A trip to the top level costs around $18. If you prefer you can walk to the second level for around $6.
Qantas flies to Paris twice a week. Prices start at $2193 from Perth, $2265 from Melbourne, $2275 from Brisbane and Darwin, $2281 from Adelaide and $2286 from Sydney, per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing, but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.

More information

Maison de la France
(French Government Tourist Office)
Ph: (02) 9231 5244
Fax: (02) 9221 8682
www.franceguide.com
Paris Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.paris-touristoffice.com
Eiffel Tower: www.tour-eiffel.fr
Qantas: Ph 13 13 13

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