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Avenue des Champs d'Elysees: Things to Do in Paris, France
The Avenue des Champs d'Elysees is one of the most famous streets in the world. Located in Paris, France, this street begins at the Arc de Triomphe and runs east, ending at Place de la Concorde, about 1 1/4 miles away. It is quintessential Paris. Cafes line the street, famous hotels, theaters, cabarets, and upscale stores are everywhere. No tourist can leave the city without strolling down the Champs d'Elysees.
The origin of the street's name is the Elysian Fields , a fictional place in Greek Mythology, where relatives of Greek gods were allowed to live an afterlife of immortality. Today, if you wish to rent property along the Champs d'Elysees, you'd better have an ungodly amount of money. Rents are the highest in the city here. Stores like Louis Vuitton, Virgin Megastore and Nike all have locations within this prime real estate.
Ironically, there was a big backlash when the clothing store H&M tried to locate an outlet along the famous street. Apparently, it was not "highbrow" enough for the tony address. This has not stopped one of the major imports from American culture, McDonald's, however. You can still find a cheap cheeseburger along the Champs d'Elysees, tucked in among other more expensive fares. After a few french fries (which most certainly do not originate from France) tourists can enjoy window shopping along the avenue. You may have to go home without a souvenier though, given that the cost of purchasing an item within these stores is often exorbitant.
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What to See on the Champs d'Elysees
I first had my exposure to the Champs d'Elysees at the age of 16. As with the rest of Paris, there is really no way to adequately describe the experience in words.
One truly has to visit, to get a full appreciation of the splendor, excitement and glory of this historic city.
When I visited in August, the biggest celebrations of the season had already passed. Each year, on Bastille Day , the Champs d'Elysees hosts a large military parade to celebrate the French Independence Day on July 14. When the United States liberated France after World War II, American soldiers marched down the Champs d'Elysees. In addition, the last stage of the Tour de France ends on the streets of the Champs d'Elysees in late July each year.
Although the anchors of the Champs d'Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, were not constructed until the 18th and 19th centuries, the avenue itself was conceived in the late 1600s. The project to build this famous street started in 1667 by the designer of Versailles park. The name, Champs d'Elysees, was bestowed in 1709.
The Place de la Concord is one of the world's most beautiful public squares, and the largest in Paris. Its hard to believe that, during the French Revolution, nearly 3000 people were beheaded there. The French guillotine was employed for the dirty work. "Off with their heads," is a phrase that comes to mind.
The obelisk in the middle of the Place de la Concord dates to the 13th century B.C. and is from a temple of Ramses II at Thebes. The Place de la Concord is right between the Seine River and is a break between the Tuilerie Gardens and the Champs d'Elysees. It was fashioned by Louis XV's architect. In the early 1800s, "La fontaine des Mers", a bronze fountain, was added to the Place de la Concord. A second fountain, the "Elevation of the Maritime" took place at the square about 30 years later.
At the opposite end of the avenue is the Arc du Triomphe. Phenomonal views can be seen from the top, with lines much shorter than at the Eiffel Tower. Vantage points allow you to see the star-shaped lay-out of Paris. The Arc de Triomphe honors soldiers who fought for France, and also houses the tomb of the unknown soldier. It was built during the Napoleanic era, in the 1700s, and is modeled after the Arch of Titus in Rome, Italy.
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Enjoy the Champs d'Elysees
There is so much to see and do along the Avenue de la Champs d'Elysees. Probably one of the best ways to enjoy the experience is to get a seat at an outdoor cafe, buy lunch (so much to choose from, including the classic baguettes with ham and cheese) and watch Paris pass you by as you enjoy the scenery.
Of course, because you're in France, you can be like the locals. Remember - French Women Don't Get Fat!
Bon Voyage and Bon Appetite!
© 2008 Stephanie Hicks