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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Paris, at the Eiffel Tower

Arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris in a cool afternoon, I noticed how huge, busy and modern airport it is. Terminal 1 was built to an avant-garde design, comprising a ten-floor high circular building surrounded by seven satellite buildings, each with four gates. The main architect was Paul Andreu, he is famous for his work on various airports, including Dubai International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

After clearing my passport and collecting my bag, I head towards the shuttle train station. The ticket cost around 10 Euro, for a 35 minutes ride to Gare du Nord, nearby my hotel.

The next morning, after a good breakfast of bread, cheese, a benedict egg and orange juice, the first place to go is off course the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées avenue is 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arce de Triomphe is located.  The name is French for the Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology. The Champs-Élysées  is known for its theatres, cafés, luxury shops, and for the annual Bastille Day parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France bicycle race.

The monument at  the beginning of the avenue, The Arce 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. The Arc de Triomphe is the biggest arch in the world. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz, designed by Jean Chalgrin in 1806.  Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. 

From Champs-Élysées, riding the Hop-on Hop-Off Tourist bus, I go to the iconic Eiffel Tower. While in English it is pronounced sounding like “Aifel”, in French it is pronounced sounding like “E-fell”. The Eiffel Tower is a wrought iron lattice tower named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.

Constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, it was initially criticized by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognisable structures in the world.

The Eiffel Tower brings magic to Paris when the nights come. The sparkling lights are made up of 20,000 light bulbs, 5,000 per side.  Paris is called the City of Lights because of its dazzling landmark boulevards and bridges illuminated with thousands of light bulbs each night. Paris was also one of the first European cities to adopt gas street lighting.

However, the name actually stems from its cultural legacy. It used to be dubbed The City of Lights, because Paris was the birthplace of the Age of Enlightenment and was known as a centre of education and ideas throughout the whole of Europe. The city inspired many poets and philosophers, engineers and scientists.


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