Rick Steves’ Europe: Champs-Elysées - The Parisian promenade
The nouvelle Champs-Elysées, revitalized in 1994, has new street benches, lamps, and an army of green-suited workers armed with high-tech pooper scoopers. Two lanes of traffic were traded away to make broader sidewalks. And plane trees (a kind of sycamore that thrives despite big-city pollution) provide a leafy ambience.
As I stroll, I notice the French appetite for a good time. The foyer of the famous Lido, Paris’ largest cabaret, comes with leggy photos and a perky R-rated promo video.
The nearby Club Med building is a reminder of the French commitment to vacation. Since 1936, France’s employees, by law, have enjoyed one month of paid vacation. The French, who now have five weeks of paid vacation, make sure they have plenty of time for leisure.
On the Champ-Elysées, the shopping ends and the park begins at a big traffic circle called RondPoint. From here, it’s a straight shot down the last stretch of the boulevard to Place de la Concorde. Its centerpiece was once the bloody guillotine but is now the 3,300yearold Obelisk of Luxor. It was shipped here from Egypt in the 1830s, a gift to the French king.
I stand in the shadow of that obelisk with my back to the Louvre, once Europe’s grandest palace, and now its grandest museum. Looking up this ultimate boulevard to the Arc de Triomphe, I can’t help but think of the sweep of French history . . . and the taste of those delightful macarons.
(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts travel shows on public TV and radio, and organizes European tours. This article was adapted from his new book, For the Love of Europe. You can email Rick at email@example.com and follow his blog on Facebook..)
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