The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly named Place de l’Étoile, the étoile or “star” of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. The Arc is located on the right bank of the Seine at the centre of a dodecagonal configuration of twelve radiating avenues. It was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon at the peak of his fortunes. Laying the foundations alone took two years and, in 1810, when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, he had a wooden mock-up of the completed arch constructed. The architect, Jean Chalgrin, died in 1811 and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot. During the Bourbon Restoration, construction was halted and it would not be completed until the reign of King Louis-Philippe, between 1833 and 1836, by the architects Goust, then Huyot, under the direction of Héricart de Thury.
The Place de la Concorde was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Garden to the east. Decorated with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the king at that time. The square showcased an equestrian statue of the king, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city of Paris, sculpted mostly by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after the death of Bouchardon. During the French Revolution the statue of Louis XV of France was torn down and the area renamed Place de la Révolution or Place de la Guillotine. The new revolutionary government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed. In 1795, under the Directory, the square was renamed Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation after the turmoil of the French Revolution. During the reinstitution of the monarchy the name changed but after the the July Revolution of 1830 the name was returned to Place de la Concorde and has remained the same since. Measuring 8.64 hectares (21.3 acres) in area, it is the largest square in Paris.
Founded in 1379, the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel), whose construction started just before the death of Charles V in 1380, was inaugurated only in 1552 under the reign of Henry II, after a long interruption of the building work starting at the beginning of 15th century. The Collège de Chanoines was set up in February 1380. The Sainte-Chapelle of Vincennes was intended to house part of the relics of the Passion, like the chapel of the Palais de la Cité in Paris. Through the construction of the Sainte-Chapelle, Charles V wished to turn Vincennes into a second capital of the kingdom, alongside the Palais de la Cité in Paris. The traditional old Parisian palace remained but, at Vincennes, in an appropriate and grandiose setting boldly asserting the ideology of a triumphant monarchy through its quality, opulence and décor, a new capital was envisioned but unfortunately never really realized.
This is my second post on the Château de Vincennes, the first covered the history and grounds of the outer keep or Enciente. The Chateau de Vincennes was where both Philippe III and IV were married and three kings, namely Louis X, Philippe V and Charles IV, were born there. Henry V of England also passed away in the donjon tower in 1422 following the siege of Meaux. This really gave it a place in French history and made the Chateau more than just a hunting lodge and sometime home for kings. The Chateau boasts the tallest medieval fortified structure in not only France, but in all of Europe. It is a donjon tower that was added by Philip VI (1293-1350) in 1337. It was further fortified by the addition of a circuit of rectangular walls in the early 15th century. The Royal Keep which remains today and the fortified gate house were both completed in 1369 under the auspices of Charles V (1338-1380). The keep stands 160 feet high and is the only surviving medieval royal residence in France. Each side measures 50 feet and the walls are 10 feet thick. The château was built by Charles V in response to civil unrest during the Hundred Years War. The Hundred Years' War, a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453, pitted the Kingdom of England against the Valois Capetians for control of the French throne. Each side drew many allies into the fighting.
We had decided to come back to La Madeleine to visit the church and to go to Maille, the famous mustard shop. On the way, we discovered the Paris-London café right across from the flower shops of La Madeleine. This restaurant is particularly well known for cheeseburgers but the food is good for all the French classics. Not so long ago, burgers in Paris were not only few and far between, but (gasp!) shunned. Today, gourmet cheeseburgers are the latest craze in in Paris, not surprising as frites or French fries originated in France. The chef at Paris-London, Maurice Guillouët, spent ten years with Joël Robuchon and was a chef at the Ritz. “France has excellent bakers and exceptional breads, so she is able to offer the best burger.” The restaurant was packed, with efficient service, very friendly and helpful, with a good selection of beers and wines by the glass in red and white. Guillouët uses Iberian pork belly instead of bacon, with soft cheddar cheese for a delicious sauce tartare. The result is a great gourmet cheeseburger.
We first came across La Madeleine after the Beach Boys concert, it appeared like a Roman mirage in central Paris. Madeleine Church (more formally, L'église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine; less formally, just La Madeleine) is in the 8th arrondissement, centered at the end of rue Royale. This is on a line-of-sight between Gabriel's twin hôtels in the Place de la Concorde to the square established in 1755, as Place Louis XV. The Eglise de la Madeleine is situated between Place de la Concorde and the Palais Garnier opera house, in Haussmannian Paris. Its construction started in 1764 and was finished in 1842. Its appearance is not typical of a religious building, in the form of a Greek temple without any crosses or bell-towers. Its 52 Corinthian columns, each 20 meters (66 feet) high, are carried around the entire building. Napoleon wanted it to be a pantheon in honor of his armies. Inside, there are sculpture, paintings and the famous neo-Byzantine mosaic created by Charles-Joseph Lameire. The magnificent church organ was designed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Throughout the year, both day and night, the church holds quality classical music concerts.
Last summer the Petit Palais hosted a retrospective exhibition of Slovenian Impressionists who were influenced by the French Impressionist movement which we were fortunate to visit. I thought it was a good subject to share. Their style, however, drew less on the original Impressionism born in France in 1860–1870 than on the form it was given by Monet in his Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral series, Van Gogh and his gestural Expressionism, and Giovanni Segantini, whose symbolism-inflected landscapes were a potent influence in this part of Europe. Their ambition was to transcend landscape painting’s anecdotal realism in favor of an emotional power some of them strove for in compositions verging on the abstract. Of the four, Ivan Grohar was the one closest to Symbolism in his spiritual conception of landscape. His Sower (seen above from 1907) was immediately taken up as the emblem of the emerging Slovenian nation. Matija Jama set out to capture the intense luminosity of tranquil landscapes, while Matej Sternen focused more on the human figure. Rihard Jakopič was the driving force behind the art scene in Ljubljana, where in 1909 he built, at his own expense, a pavilion that became an avant-garde exhibition venue. His bold, ardent paintings cover a wide range of themes, including spirited images of figures merging with the natural setting.
The Hôtel de Cluny is partially constructed on the remains of Gallo-Roman baths dating from the third century (known as the Thermes de Cluny), which are famous in their own right and which may still be visited. In fact, the museum itself actually consists of two buildings: the frigidarium (“cooling room”), where the remains of the Thermes de Cluny are, and the Hôtel de Cluny itself, which houses its impressive collections. The small 15th century medieval alabaster statues seen above are the mourners from the tomb of John the Fearless which have been traveling internationally during the renovation of the Musée des Beaux-Art de Dijon. These unique sculptures, known as “pleurants” or “mourners,” decorate the tomb of John the Fearless, second Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, Margaret of Bavaria.
This is part of my series on the six restaurants of the Place du Trocadéro. They include Le Wilson, Le Coq, Kléber, Pâtisserie Carette and Le Malakov. We happened to be down at the Trocadéro for a change of pace and because in our neighborhood, in August, everything is very quiet. This is going to be a fairly short post since Le Malakoff and Le Wilson are owned by the same people, share the same menu and prices and even have the same business cards. If you choose between these two very good restaurants, it should be on the basis of seating and perhaps a slightly better view of the Eiffel Tower.
We have been in Paris for over five months now and we had not eaten at the Alain Ducasse restaurant, Le Jules Verne, in the second stage of the Eiffel Tower. We decided to remedy the situation and booked for lunch. The Jules Verne is the gourmet restaurant of the Eiffel Tower. Located on the second floor, it has an exceptional view of Paris. Taken over in 2007, after being closed for a while, by Alain Ducasse, it was renovated in a high tech setting dreamt up by Patrick Jouin, overlooking the City of Lights. With chef Pascal Féraud (formerly of Louis XV in Monaco and London’s Spoon), Alain Ducasse has created a resolutely modern French menu, devoid of all pretension, focused exclusively on pleasure. Sauces and pastries are prepared in a kitchen below the Champ de Mars before being whisked up the elevator to the kitchen, which is overseen by the young chef Féraud.