- FRANCE - PART ONE -

Paris Miscellany Part I :
L'Opéra, Napoleon Monument, Arc de Triomphe
and the House of Dior.

LINKS to other pages in the FRANCE PART ONE site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

HOME PAGE : FRANCE PART ONE
PARIS HOME PAGE
GIVERNY
ROUEN
NORMANDY (Honfleur and Deauville)
NORMANDY (D Day Beaches and Bayeux)
MONT ST MICHEL
TOURAINE
LOCHES en TOURAINE
ORLEANS
FONTAINEBLEAU
LIST O' LINKS INDEX
GUEST BOOK
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Emperor Napoleon III requested that a new opera house be built in Paris. A covered side entrance should be included in the design by which royalty might enter discreetly and without fear of being accosted by violent protesters. Built between 1862-1875, the architect was 35 year old Charles Garnier who had been chosen from among 171 contestants.

The promulgation of a new opera house can be traced back as far as 1820. When construction was finally started, it became temporarily halted due to the discovery of an underground lake and spring. Although this problem was eventually overcome the lake still lies beneath the cellars of the building.

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The building, seating an audience of 2,200. has a total area of 11,000 square metres (118,404 square feet) and comprises seventeen storeys. The stage can accommodate up to 450 artists.

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A cut-away model of the opera house forms part of a special exhibition in the Musée d'Orsay on the left bank of the Seine (left).

Part of the mystique of the opera house are its underground levels which include dressing and chorus rooms, green rooms, ball rooms, and cellars for disused props.

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Legend has it that the Empress Eugénie asked Garnier whether the building was to be in Greek or Roman style to which he replied "It is in the Napoléon III style Madame!''

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The Grand Palais and Alexandre III Bridge, both built for the 1900 World Exhibition. The single hall of the Grand Palais was later remodelled and now contains conference rooms, library and an exhibition area.

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Lampost and figures on the Alexandre III Bridge (right).

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The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon shortly after his victory at Austerlitz but was not completed until 1836. It is 50 metres high and 45 metres wide.

There are four large relief sculptures at the base of each of the four pillars. These commemorate: 'The Triumph of 1810' (by Cortot), 'Resistance' and 'Peace' (both by Etex) and 'The Departure of the Volunteers', more commonly known by the name, 'La Marseillaise', (by Rude).

The day the Battle of Verdun started in 1916, the sword carried by the figure representing the Republic in 'La Marseillaise' (shown in the left hand photo) broke off. The relief was immediately hidden to conceal the accident and avoid any undesired associations or interpretations as a bad omen.

Twelve avenues (originally only five) radiate from the arch. From the roof of the Arch there are spectacular views of Paris. Looking eastwards down the Champs Elysées toward the Louvre there are the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries Gardens and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. In the opposite direction - i.e. westwards - in the distance can be seen the larger and newer La Grande Arche de la Défense.





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Engraved around the top of the Arch are the names of major victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. The names of less important victories, as well as those of 558 generals, are to found on the inside walls.

Beneath the Arch is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and eternal flame commemorating the dead of the two world wars. On 14 July - the French National Day (refered to as Bastille Day everywhere except in France) - a military parade down the Champs Elysées begins here. For important occasions of state, and national holidays, a huge French tricolor is unfurled and hung from the vaulted ceiling inside of the Arch.

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Colonne de Vendôme is situated in the Place Vendôme north of La Place de la Concorde.

The column is 44 metres high and has a stone core. The core is encased in the bronze of 1250 cannons captured at the Battle of Austerliz (1805). It was designed by Denon, Gondouin, and Lepère and modelled in the style of Trajan's Column in Rome. The column was built between 1806 and 1810. The spiral bronze bas-relief was created by Bergeret.

Originally a statue of Napoléon posing as Caesar was placed on top. This was later replaced by a statue of Henri IV which was removed in 1815 when Napoléon returned from Elba and attempted to regain power.

Although Louis XVIII later installed an enormous fleur-de-lys, Louis-Philippe subsequently replaced it with a figure of Napoléon dressed in military uniform.

During the Commune rising in 1871 a group of Communards led by Gustave Courbet tore down the column. During 1873 - 1874, the column was replaced in the center of Place Vendôme with a copy of the original statue on top. There is an inner staircase leading to the top but this is no longer open to the public.

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The square is surrounded by some chic restaurants.......


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.....and exclusive shops bearing some of the most famous names in fashion, as well as the Hotel Ritz.

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