Put your foot down for a short walk in Paris that’s ut­terly chic

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION FRANCE - JOHN COR­BETT

Some say it’s the Eif­fel Tower. Some the Left Bank. Oth­ers swear by the view across the city from Mont­martre. But no one place or thing can cap­ture the essence of the City of Light. For­tu­nately, Paris is de­signed for walk­ing and this 4km stroll through the aris­to­cratic quar­ter just north of the Seine shows the city’s match­less el­e­gance and grandeur.


De­signed in the style of a Ro­man tem­ple to hon­our the Great Army of Napoleon I, the im­pos­ing Ro­man Catholic Church of Sainte-MarieMadeleine, pop­u­larly known as La Madeleine, stands in the square of the same name in the city’s 8th ar­rondisse­ment (dis­trict). While not as fa­mous as Notre-Dame cathe­dral across the river, La Madeleine is known as “the Church of Paris” and fu­neral ser­vices for the city’s great and good are tra­di­tion­ally held in its lav­ishly gilded in­te­rior.

The sur­round­ing square boasts the Miche­lin-starred restau­rant Lu­cas Car­ton and a branch of Fau­chon, the French luxury food em­po­rium. A fives­tar Fau­chon bou­tique ho­tel and a Fau­chon cafe are set to open in the square later this year.


The re­form­ing hand of Napoleon’s nephew, Napoleon III, is ev­i­dent just to the east in the Boule­vard des Ca­pucines. Named for a Ca­puchin con­vent that once stood in the area, the boule­vard is one of the great av­enues cre­ated dur­ing the em­peror’s trans­for­ma­tion of cen­tral Paris and is steeped in his­tory and cul­ture. In 1874, a group of young artists held a show across the road from the Ho­tel Scribe and were dubbed the Impressionists. Monet painted the street in 1873 and Pis­sarro de­picted the nearby Av­enue de L’Opéra in 1898. Speak­ing of which, the square fac­ing the gor­geous Beaux-Arts style fa­cade of the Opéra Garnier (the fic­tional home of the Phan­tom of the Opera) is a per­fect place to ob­serve the French art of strolling, es­pe­cially at l’heure bleu (the blue hour) when the evening lights come on and crowds of el­e­gant Parisians make their way to­wards the area’s cafes and bars.


Re­trace your steps and turn left into Rue Cam­bon. Although it looks un­re­mark­able, here in 1910 the great fash­ion de­signer, Coco Chanel, set up

her first bou­tique (a hat shop) at No. 21. She later ex­panded into five ad­join­ing prop­er­ties in­clud­ing No. 31, where Karl Lager­feld works on the Chanel haute cou­ture col­lec­tions to this day. For full-on French de­signer shop­ping, head to nearby Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré where you’ll find Chanel, Givenchy, Saint Lau­rent, Her­mès and Chris­tian Louboutin bou­tiques and many more.


From Rue Cam­bon, turn left into Rue Saint-Honoré, ad­mire the smart store­fronts (Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo, Coach) and turn left into Place Vendôme. Billed as the posh­est square in Paris, it is also one of the old­est (1702) and is dom­i­nated by a bronze-plated col­umn com­mem­o­rat­ing Napoleon’s vic­tory at the Bat­tle of Auster­litz in 1805.

Among the gov­ern­ment min­istries and in­vest­ment banks oc­cu­py­ing the grand old aris­to­cratic town­houses around the square are world-lead­ing jewellers (Van Cleef & Ar­pels, Chaumet, Bul­gari, Boucheron) and Charvet, the men’s shirt-maker, at num­ber 28. The star at­trac­tion on the western side of the square is the Hô­tel Ritz Paris. Be very well dressed if you want to go in­side be­cause the door­men wear thou­sand-dol­lar suits.


Prom­e­nades of white gravel. Al­lées (av­enues) of man­i­cured trees. Grand vis­tas and for­mal sym­me­tries. The supremely el­e­gant 25ha Tui­leries Gar­dens (head di­rectly south from Place Vendôme along Rue de Castiglione) em­bod­ies clas­sic French gar­den style and is one of the great pub­lic spa­ces of Paris. Book-ended by the Lou­vre to the east and the Place de la Con­corde on the west, the gar­dens were laid out in 1664 by An­dré le Nôtre, who also cre­ated the gar­dens at the Palace of Ver­sailles for Louis XIV. Two re­flect­ing ponds, one oc­tag­o­nal and one round, are beloved by gen­er­a­tions of French boys (and their fa­thers) as places to sail toy-sized voiliers (sail boats). The ponds are sur­rounded by seat­ing and are a favoured spot for lo­cals to meet for a chat. And yes, the Impressionists painted many scenes here. Half-close your eyes and it could be a cen­tury ago.


Although it is now largely a fo­rum for the city’s law­less traf­fic, the Place de la Con­corde at the western end of the Tui­leries Gar­dens could make a fair claim to be the cen­tre of Paris. At 8.6ha it’s the city’s largest square with views of the ad­ja­cent Orangerie and Jeu de Paume art mu­se­ums, the Champs El­y­sees and Arc de Tri­om­phe, and the Eif­fel Tower across the river. It didn’t al­ways have such a peace­ful name: in 1789 dur­ing the French Revo­lu­tion it was re­named Place de la Révo­lu­tion and be­came the site of “Madame La Guil­lo­tine”: Louis XVI, Queen Marie An­toinette and hun­dreds of other op­po­nents of the regime met their fates here. To­day the oc­tag­o­nal-shaped square is no­table for its beau­ti­ful 19th-cen­tury foun­tains and the 23m gran­ite Luxor Obelisk given to the French by the Egyp­tian gov­ern­ment in 1829.


A walk through Paris is prob­a­bly in­com­plete without cross­ing the Seine and while the Neo­clas­si­cal­style Pont de la Con­corde isn’t the showiest bridge in the city (that hon­our goes to the Pont Alexan­dre III just down­stream with its swanky im­pe­rial col­umns, gilded sculp­tures and or­nate Art Nou­veau lamps) it has its share of his­tory, be­ing built with stone from the in­fa­mous Bastille prison that was de­mol­ished in 1789.

A walk over the Pont de la Con­corde takes you to the Musée d’Or­say art mu­seum, home of the world’s great­est col­lec­tion of Im­pres­sion­ist art, and the pic­ture-post­card av­enues and cafes of the Left Bank.

But that, as the French say, is une autre his­toire (an­other story).



Paris is de­signed for walk­ing, so lace up your sneak­ers for a 4km stroll to ex­pe­ri­ence the city’s el­e­gance and grandeur.

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