Champs Elysees ~ The Heart of Paris

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Travel Features >> Champs Elysees ~ The Heart of Paris

Champs Elysees ~ The Heart of Paris

January 24, 2012

It is often said Paris is like a lady - chic and sophisticated, temperamental and moody, sultry and mysterious. If this be true, then the Champs-Elysees is most certainly the heart of the lady. With the Arc de Triomphe on one end and the Place de la Concorde on the other end, this vibrant and busy avenue full of life and people at all times of the day and most of the night, is something special.

A long time ago, aristocracy promenaded its wealth on the Champs-Elysees, genteel madams and mademoiselles strolled along, protecting their delicate complexions against the sun under frilly parasols. Present day Champs-Elysees has been taken over by fast-food restaurants and cinema halls, overpriced cafés serving Middle-Eastern fare but it still retains its character and draws people from all over the globe.

Strolling down the avenue in the evenings, one can see people of all nationalities rub shoulders with each other. On the sidewalks, vendors sell cheap souvenirs and plastic toys made in Africa, India, East Europe or the Arab countries. Paris is a little like New York, many come here with dreams of a better life. And for those who depend on them for their livelihood, the tourists are lifelines.

Standing at the Arc de Triomphe, one is struck by the magnificence of this imposing ‘quartier de Paris’. Also called the Place de l’Etoile, the Arc de Triomphe is at the meeting of 12 avenues and a very busy roundabout indeed. Every evening, a memorial flame is lit under the arch to remember the Unknown Soldier who lies buried there, killed in the First World War. The Etoile was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his imperial victories, but was finally completed only in the 1830s. One can climb up to the top of the arch and can view this part of the city.

Paris is a city of imposing design, its grandeur, wide boulevards, the style and elegance of its buildings have been planned to perfection to fit into a comprehensive whole. One of the biggest and most famous perfume chains, Sephora, have a store on this avenue and stock some of the best perfumes in the world. One of the most interesting parts of the street is the Petit Palais, where one can see Renaissance clocks, tapestries and 19th century French art. The Grand Palais has temporary exhibitions open to the public.

The best thing about Paris is the ease with which a tourist can travel from place to place on the extremely organized transport system. Buy a one-day bus pass on the ‘Cars Rouge’ and travel around the city but take time off to walk to really get the feel of the place. Savour crepes and wine at roadside cafes near the Louvre and amble along the Champs Elysees.

Bohemians, art students, shoppers, actors and musicians, fashion models, poets and writers find their muse in Paris. Paris has a soul and a heart and it captures the hearts and souls of its visitors. Dine at cafes and elegant restaurants, sail down the River Sienne, soak in the nightlife at the Pigalle, walk down the Bois de Bologne – experiences that etch deep into memory; never forgotten, just stored away to travel back to again and again.

Making your way here…
The options for flying in are many as Air France and a vast number of other airlines have regular flights to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) and Orly International Airports; and a massive number of trains (both the high-speed TGV and the SNCF) connect the city to almost every other big city in Europe- including London, via the Chunnel. Gare du Nord is the railway station where all international trains come in. Alternately, you can get to Paris by road- coaches from across the border come in at Gare Routiere Internationale du Paris-Gallieni, or you could drive into the city from just about anywhere in Europe.

…and getting around
Paris’ metro and the RER (also a train system which actually links Paris to its suburbs) are just about the cheapest- and easiest- way of getting around this sprawling city. Buy a daily pass (which will allow you travel on the metro, the RER and the city’s buses) and you can get around pretty economically. Taxis are a more expensive alternative; and the many cruises down the Seine, though not strictly a `way of getting around’ are great for seeing Paris from a different angle. Some parts of the city, including Montmartre and the area around Champs-Elyseés, are best seen on foot.

A Roof over Your Head
-Depends very much on how much you’re willing to spend. Paris is inundated by so many tourists, it’s not surprising how many options this city offers for accommodation. For the glitterati, of course, the Ritz, the Le Crillon and their like are the obvious choices. But for those looking a little lower down the range, there’s a vast range of hotels, inns, hostels and student dorms (some of the most interesting in the Latin Quarter).

a Sumptuous Meal, Shopping and more.
You won’t go hungry in Paris- that’s a guarantee. All the way from haute cuisine to around-the-corner bistros, brasseries, cafes and creperies where you can get just about what you want- Paris has it. Eateries spread out across the entire city, but Montmartre, Marais, the Latin Quarter and Les Halles are some of the best places to go prospecting!

Ever the shopper’s paradise, Paris is also where all the best boutiques, the big brands and the most fashionable tags can be found- check out Montaigne, Place des Victoires, Les Halles and Place Vendome. If your budget’s limited, go bargaining in the flea markets (the marches aux puces) which spring up in virtually every neighbourhood.

and one last Tip.
Paris is expensive- so if you’re watching those euros, here’s a tip. Shop around for hotels before making a booking, and buy yourself a Paris Visite pass as soon as you get there. It’s a tourist card, easily available at the city’s international terminals and stations. It allows travel on the metro, the RER and the city’s bus system, besides entry to some of Paris’ most popular sights.

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