No, this isn’t some gruesome tale about an ancient axe murder having taken place in the streets of Paris. Actually, it is a bit of history and I know it’s summer vacation and brains have been turned off but I think you are going to like this. When you are in Paris, you can amaze those in your traveling party with this bit of information.
The Axe Historique is a line of monuments that slices through the center of Paris, east to west. It had its beginnings with the Champs Elysée, created in the 17th century. It extended the the central axis of the Tuileries, enhancing the vista one comes upon as they walk through this beautiful garden. At the western most point of the gardens is a magnificent gate and beyond that, lined up perfectly is Place de la Concorde, with the Obélisque taking your eye forward.
Looking east, the Tuileries faced a large square, the Place de Carrousel, which stands in front of the inner courtyard of the Louvre. It is here that Napoleon ordered the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel be built in honor of his military triumphs of 1805. Although built before the Arc de Triomphe, it was his original hope to create a monument as large as the latter, but thankfully, wiser minds surrounding him were able to keep his ego in check. The result is a beautifully done arc, patterned after the Arch of Septius Severus in Rome. This is the farthest eastern point of the axe.
Facing west again, strolling along the Champs Elysée, you will come upon the Arc de Triomphe, completed in 1836 in the Place de L’Etoile, honoring all those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic wars. It is home to France’s Unknown Soldier and it is here that former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, saw the eternal flame during a trip to Paris with her husband, President Kennedy. After his assassination, this memory was the inspiration for the eternal flame next to her husband’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery. We are linked to France in more ways than we realize!!
Finally, the farthest point west on the Axe Historique, beyond the Avenue de la Grande Armée and outside Paris proper, is the contemporary cousin to the Arc de Triomphe, La Grande Arche. François Mitterand was responsible for this stylized arch, a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals as opposed to military victories. You have to love that!
OK, people. That was a lot of information. We covered a lot of history and geography and now its time to go forth and see it for yourself. You can easily walk most of it. Starting at the Arc de la Carrousel, you can spend a leisurely afternoon strolling towards the Arc de Triomphe. From there you can hop on the metro, taking the 1 line to La Defense. Or you can just sit in the Tuileries, order a glass of wine, gaze westward and say you did all that. To each his own.
Photo credit: Wikipedia