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Arc de Triomphe The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most memorable sights in Paris. The monument is noted for its impressive size, which focuses attention on both the Place Charles de Gaulle and the Champs-Elysées. It was erected in honor of the victories of the armies of Napoleon

The Louvre The buildings of the Louvre house one of the world's great museums and a visit to this treasure trove of history is a must for any tourist lucky enough to be in Paris. The Musée du Louvre contains many of civilization's greatest artistic triumphs and most important antiquities. See the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Be sure to see the stunning collection of Egyptian antiquities. The Louvre can be overwhelming due to its physical size and the complexity of its collections. Do yourself a favor: either join a tour or decide what you want to see before you go. If you do not have an agenda when you enter the Louvre, it is likely that you will miss the most important attractions simply because you will not be able to find them in this massive museum. (Bring your best walking shoes, as touring the Louvre is a hike.) As you might suspect, DaVinci's Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) is the Louvre's most popular attraction. Mona may have been moved since the last time you visited. She is now hung on her own wall in the museum's Salle des Etats. The mid-sized painting, which dates from the 16th century, is approximately 30 inches by 20 and painted directly on a panel made from poplar. The picture is protected by security glass and other countermeasures to deter theft and damage. The painting was stolen in the early 20th century and returned several years later. The Mona Lisa was also damaged on two occasions. in the 1950's, one irate visitor tried to douse the famous picture with acid, damaging the bottom of the painting. Another patron caused minor damage by bruising the artwork with a thrown rock. The physical museum is comprised of different architectural styles (for example, the New Louvre, the Sully Wing, and the Old Louvre) that are worthy of note. Recently, the controversial newer entrance (the glass pyramid) designed by I. M. Pei has attracted even more attention due to its role in the best selling novel "The Da Vinci Code". PLACE DE LA CONCORDE The Obelisk at the center of this square came from the Egyptian temple at Luxor and was installed in the center of the Place de la Concorde in the 19th century. The obelisk and fountains have come to be landmarks of Paris. It was in the Place de la Concorde that Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, Robespierre and many others from the French royalty were guillotined in the center of the square at the end of the 18th century. The Place has been renamed many times and is now used to host large gatherings. The Place de la Concorde separates the Tuileries Gardens on the east from the Avenue des Champs Elysées to the west. The Place de la Concorde is not an end destination but a waypoint on a visit to the Tuileries, Orangerie, or Louvre. If you are in the mood for shopping, follow Rue Royale north from the Place de la Concorde for the delightful shopping area around the Place de la Madeline, an area known for its gourmet quality food shops. While on Rue Royale keep and eye out for Ladurée Royale, a tea salon, and its famous pastries at number 16 Rue Royal.

The Eiffel Tower Constructed between 1887-1889 by Gustav Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower is a world landmark known for its graceful structure and wonderful views. Access to the viewing floors is possible by elevators, for a fee that escalates as you aspire to see Paris from greater heights. A look at the Eiffel Tower from the Jardins du Trocadero (below the Palais de Chaillot) is a delight for the first-timer. The Eiffel tower is even more impressive at night when it is illuminated. Just looking at it resplendent in the night sky is an uplifting experience and assures you that you are not in Kansas (or Las Vegas) anymore.

Notre Dame The grand Cathedral of Paris was commissioned by Bishop Maurice de Sully in 1160. It is still in use as Roman Catholic Cathedral of Paris. The Cathedral's unique look was heavily influenced by a restoration in the 1860's. Notre Dame is an impressive building and one of the “must see� attractions of Paris. The exterior and the interior of Notre Dame are endowed with numerous spectacular features, so do not make this a quick walk-by. The exterior has many interesting features (particularly the stone carvings representing events from the Bible), but it is important to note that Notre Dame was one of first great cathedrals to employ flying buttresses (visible along the east end of the cathedral). The wing-like elevated arches transferred the load from the vault of the cathedral to a buttress (or pier) outside the building proper. This innovation allowed the building of taller structures, including openings in exterior walls for large windows (which would, without the presence of the flying buttresses, make the wall too weak to support the load). The Cathedral's stained glass is a treasure, especially the famous West Rose Window (above the entrance) and North Rose Window. Some of the glass in these frames and most of the designs are original and date from the early 13th century. If you have the stamina and interest, you can climb to the top of Notre Dame for a grand view of Paris that you will share with fearsome gargoyles. (Although we have never seen Victor Hugo's Hunchback there, were are sure he must be skulking around somewhere close by.)


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