Although Paris keeps its historic center sky-scraper free, this district affords tourists the view of Paris most don’t usually see: that of a modern-day economic superpower. La Defense was first conceived more than 60 years ago as a district that would accommodate the business needs of the modern world. Today, it is a thriving commercial and shopping center, home to 150,000 employees and 55,000 residents.
The centerpiece of the area is the huge La Grande Arche de la Fraternité.
The thing is huge. Notre-Dame Cathedral could fit under the arch. The four sided structure sits on enormous underground pillars and is covered with beautiful white Carrara marble. The arch is an office building, 38 stories high, for 30,000 people. The left side houses government ministries, the right side corporate offices.
The top is dedicated to human rights.
Inaugurated in 1989 on the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, it was dedicated to humans rights and brotherhood.
As you survey the area, you see EDF, which is France’s national gas company; SFR is the Verizon of France; and Areva is a global energy company.
When you’re standing on the top steps of the arch and you look out, you see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.
Le Quatre Temps is a giant shopping mall of 250 stores. There’s also the Center of New Industries and Technologies (better known as CNIT), built in 1958 and now a congress center.
And there’s L’Araignée Rouge by Alexander Calder (1974)
This was a fairly quick, somewhat smelly (really), and, well, only moderately interesting tour of a few hundred yards of water tunnels in the world’s first underground sewer system.
There were some well-organized displays, in French and English, explain gin the history of water distribution and collection in Paris, from Roman times to the present. More than 1500 miles of tunnels carry 317 million gallons of water daily through this underworld. It’s the world’s longest sewer system.
Victor Hugo was friends with the sewer inspector when he wrote Les Miserables, explaining Hugo’s vivid descriptions of Jean Valjean’s world of tunnels, rats and manhole covers.
We ran into a bunch of school kids on an excursion. Overall, it was pretty interesting, although I could have done without the stench.
We passed by many bridges… the weather was great.
We made our way to the Tuileries Gardens. Again, it was perfect weather and Parisians were out enjoying the day.
We ended our walk at the Louvre. We didn’t go in… we just hung out in the plaza and checked out the pyramid.
Ended the day on the Rue Cler, a great street with lots of restaurants, cheese shops, chocolate shops, and produce stands. Stopped at Cafe Central and had one hell of a BLT.