Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bird's Eye View

I'm a huge fan of panoramic views. If there is a church or a castle or a monument or a building or a hill that you can climb to the top of in order to get a look at the world below, I want in. Undaunted by narrow spiral staircases or endless hillside paths, I've seen many a city and countryside from way up high. Lucky for me, one of my favorite panoramic views can be found right here in Paris. No, I'm not talking about the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, I'm talking about the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. This monument, commissioned by Napoleon I to honor French war heros, offers a phenomenal 360 degree view of Paris and its surrounding areas. And all you have to do to get a glimpse is climb 284 stairs.

In fact, that's exactly what I did this at about 10:30 this morning. It had a been a few years since I enjoyed that fabulous view of Paris and something just told me that today was the day to take another look. I chose correctly; it was a great day for hanging out up there. There were no clouds in the sky, there was a light breeze instead of a blow-you-over-the-side gale, and there were minimal crowds at the top. Standing 49.5 metres (165 ft) above the surrounding roundabout and its 12 connecting avenues, you can see the city from every possible angle. One of the long sides faces La Défense, the other the Champs-Elysées, and the smaller sides point towards such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur. You start to notice little things about this city that you never knew before: The Bois de Boulogne is really big! Some buildings have really sweet rooftop gardens! All of the main avenues are lined with trees! You'll eventually have to leave this amazing place and walk down those 284 steps back to reality, but I guarantee you'll never look at Paris in the same way again.

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