Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde Fountain

The Place de la Concorde is the heart of Paris. At first glance, it is a drab field of cobbles clogged with traffic, but after some time, it begins to feel more intimate.

We arrived here on our first night, well after dark but, first, we walked down the Boulevard Malesherbes, where we stumbled upon a magnificent church. In any other place, this would be a major cathedral and is certainly deserving of a place in any guide. Here, it is a lowly church and apparently is not prestigious enough to make our guide books. I'm speaking of the Église Saint-Augustin de Paris (Church of St. Augustine). We were not able to venture inside, but the façade is splendid.

Saint-Augustin Church

Saint-Augustin Church

Saint-Augustin

Saint-Augustin

Everything was new and exciting as we walked that night. Mel's pent-up, decades-old dream was finally a reality—he was high on Paris.

We arrived in the Place de la Concorde to a wide expanse, where the city at large made its first impression on our fresh eyes. By now, it was about 10 p.m. and the square felt relatively calm. We began exploring its fountains and monuments. It is sparse, and in the dark it almost feels as though nothing is there. But, the gems began to present themselves as we ventured toward them.

Concorde Fountain

Concorde Fountain

Place de la Concorde Light

Place de la Concorde Light

Concorde Statue

Concorde Statue

Of course, the square on the Seine has not always lived up to its peaceful name. Many lost their heads here during the Reign of Terror. Most notable among the thousands were King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. Today, like all cities, it has surrendered to the car and, sadly, nearly resembles a large traffic island with some fancy fountains.

Adjacent to the plaza is the famed Champs-Elysées which stretches to the Arc de Triomphe. The first half is a glorious tree-lined avenue surrounded by parks and beautiful buildings. The second half is a tourist mall. Not quite as bad as something you'd see in the States, but not a great thing for Paris either. It is not a place where we intend to dwell.

Champs-Élysées

Champs-Élysées

Grand Palais

Grand Palais

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Paris is a city of hubs, and the Arc de Triomphe is perhaps the most important of them. An icon of the city, and copied around the world, the arch was designed in 1806 and is dedicated to those who fought in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

We were growing tired and this time zone was catching up to us. But, we've had our introduction, and now the excitement of that meeting will diminish and allow us to explore Paris with more deliberation.