The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is nicknamed “La Plus Belle Avenue du Monde” (the most beautiful avenue in the world). It is home to many exclusive stores, although in recent years the likes of H&M have been allowed a place on the block. Also, along with Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Hugo Boss, and Cartier, you will find a Disney Store, Gap, and Nike.
As we strolled along the avenue, we stopped for an impromptu meal at Café George V, and were offered the table by the cat. Yes, indeed, there was a nook above a corner table, upon which was a cat all nestled in her bed. She lazily lifted her head as though she could barely be bothered to see who would deign to decline dining near her. But for me, an alternate table meant that I didn’t have to sneeze my way through grilled steak and frites. Apparently the French take their pets seriously because a few nights later we dined in a very nice restaurant next to a woman who had her little white poodle at the table with her.
For the holiday season, from the end of November through early January, the Champs-Élysées is famous for its lights. On one of our earlier trips (I think in 1994, with Kristen and Courtney), the trees were filled with white lights. This year the lights are in tubes and change color throughout the evening.
Also during the holidays, street merchants are set up in temporary huts or kiosks, selling food, drinks, souvenirs, and all manner of cadeaux (gifts) from kitchen items to clothing. Not just during the holidays, in the center of the Place de la Concorde, stands an Egyptian obelisk that once was at the entrance of the Luxor Temple, with hieroglyphics praising Ramses II. It is stunning at night when lit. Near the obelisk is a Ferris wheel set up for holiday visitors and Parisians alike, the view from which is amazing. The cost to ride it probably accounts for the short queue we encountered.
Apparently the Champs-Élysées is a favored spot for French celebrations and parades, impromptu and planned. I read somewhere that German troops marched down it in 1940 to celebrate France’s fall, and, similarly, American troops marched down it some four years later to celebrate France’s liberation. The Tour de France has ended on the Champs-Élysées every year since 1975. Fewer and fewer residents live on the avenue due to high real estate prices, although the president of France lives there in Palais de l’Élysée. Today it is mostly comprised of luxury retail, dining, and office space.
From various spots along the Champs-Élysées, the Eiffel Tower can be seen, and it is particularly lovely at night. On the hour, the Tower sparkles and twinkles for about five minutes. Here is a thirty second or so video of the Eiffel Tower aglitter taken from the Place de la Concorde:
The Champs-Élysées is over a mile long and stretches from Place de la Concorde at the Louvre, home of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (the smallest of the three arches), to Place Charles de Gaulle, where the more well-known Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile sits. It is possible to purchase a billet (ticket) and climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to take in the view. This means climbing a total of 284 steps, most of which are spiral and in a very narrow well. Holy claustrophobia and aerobic exercise! On the particular day that we did this, the reward at the top was wind, rain, and clouds. But still. I thought it was pretty awesome once I’d been resuscitated.
The smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the larger (and modern) La Grande Arche de La Défense can be seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, by looking one way and then the opposite. In other words, the three arches line up in size across the city. During our 2004 visit, Laura wanted to start at the small one and work her way up, which we did. This trip, having already visited the first two arches in size, Laura wants to go see the Grande Arche and take the elevator to the top. Shout out for elevators! More on this, Christmas Day in Paris, and our trip to Disneyland Paris to come.