There are a few things that blow my mind: headphones that manage to produce a pocket-tangle in two minutes that takes 4 hours to undo, why anyone would deep-fry a Twinkie, and how amazing structures ever get built. I’m convinced that there must be a different branch of Elves that specialize in Monument Making (you know, how there are Santa’s Elves, and then the Elves who make all our shoes…and then the Elves who fight the Orcs of Mordor…there has to be some wiggle room in there). But I guess if you’re Napoleon Bonaparte, when you want an arc, you get an arc. I mean, you don’t just go out and conquer most of Europe and then hire a celebratory Taco Truck.
The Arc de Triomphe stands an impressive 162 feet (or approximately 21.6 Yao Ming’s) high. It cost about 9.3 million French francs to create, which is around $101,473,230.00 US dollars–roughly how much a bottle of water in France costs today (just pay for it in Euros. It’s a lot cheaper that way). It sits on the western end of the Champs-Elysees, and it looks magnificent for a 177 year old monument (admittedly, it might have had some Botox since 1836. It’s facade was a little stiff). The Arc emanates such strong elegance that it’s hard not to be a little bit excited when you first catch a glimpse of it.
The twisty stairs on the inside were a wonderful addition; the architect, Jean-Francois Chalgrin, had a great vision. Though I wish the banisters were a little thicker so they were better for sliding on the way down. However, from the top the Arc’s potential is fully realized as you can see much of what Paris has to offer: the Eiffel Tower, quaint French Cafe’s, terrifyingly daring motorcyclists speeding through roundabouts. I personally enjoyed looking out over the Champs-Elysees with the people already rushing past the red awnings of the shops and the distant view of the Louvre that sat all the way at the other end.
While you certainly have your choice of monuments in Paris that offer you a great view of the city, a visit to the Arc de Triomphe should definitely be on your list. With significantly shorter lines (albeit a slightly lower altitude) than the Eiffel Tower and a more central location than Sacre Couer, the Arc is perfect for a quick visit or while you’re still fighting some jet-lag. It’s also a wonderful place to buy a Museum Pass, which if you’re planning on seeing even one or two other museums is completely worth it (more on this later). Even if you can’t climb it, seeing it from the Champs-Elysees or walking underneath it are both great ways to experience this well-known monument.