home previous Paris, Concorde place, fountains, Eiffel tower, rain Next  
photo: Eric Rougier for Clemence Serraz with the Lisa Fiernoir 's music in the ears

The Seine river

The Seine (pronounced "sen") is a major river of northern France, forming the country's chief commercial waterway. It is also a tourist attraction, particularly within the city of Paris.

The river is 780 km (485 miles) long, France's second longest (after the Loire which is 1020 km (634 miles) long). In ancient times the Seine was known by the Latin name Sequana.

The Seine's main tributaries are the Aube, Marne and Oise rivers from the north and the Yonne and Eure rivers from the south. It is connected with canals to the Scheldt (also called the Escaut), Meuse, Rhine, Saône and Loire rivers.

The Seine rises in the French région of Burgundy, in the département of Côte-d'Or, 30 km (18 miles) northwest of Dijon at a height of 471 metres (1545 feet). The river then flows through Troyes to Paris.
In Paris, narrowed between high stone embankments, the river carries commercial barges, waterbuses and large tourist boats (bateaux-mouches). From the water, fine views are seen of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay (housing Paris' collection of Impressionist art), the Conciergerie and the Eiffel Tower. The northern side of the river is described as the Right Bank (Rive Droite) and the southern side as the Left Bank (Rive Gauche).

Place de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde is one of the major squares in Paris, France. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.

History

The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon between the Champs-Élysées to the west and the Tuileries Gardens to the east. Filled with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honor the then king. The Place was showcasing an equestrian statue of the king, which had been commissioned in 1748 by the city of Paris, sculpted mostly by Edmé Bouchardon, and completed by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle after the death of the former.

At the north end, two magnificent identical stone buildings were constructed. Separated by the rue Royale, these structures remain among the best examples of that period's architecture. Initially they served as government offices, and the eastern one is the French Naval Ministry. Shortly after its construction, the western building was made into the luxurious Hôtel de Crillon (still operating today) where Marie Antoinette soon spent afternoons relaxing and taking piano lessons. The hôtel served as the headquarters of the occupying German army during World War II.
During the French Revolution the statue of King Louis was torn down and the area renamed "Place de la Révolution". In a grim reminder to the nobility of a gruesome past, when the "Place de Grève" was a site where the nobility and members of the bourgeoisie were entertained watching convicted criminals being dismembered alive, the new revolutionary government erected the guillotine there. The first notable to be executed at the Place de la Révolution was King Louis XVI, on January 21, 1793. Other important people guillotined there, often in front of cheering crowds, were Queen Marie Antoinette, Madame Élisabeth, Charlotte Corday, Madame du Barry, Danton, Desmoulins, Lavoisier, Robespierre and Saint Just.

The guillotine was most active during the "Reign of Terror", in the summer of 1794, when in a single month more than 1,300 people were executed. A year later, when the revolution was taking a more moderate course, the guillotine was removed from the square and its name was changed in token of national reconciliation.

Features

The upside down end of the Champs-Élysées is to the west of the Place.
The western end of the Tuileries Gardens is to the east of the Place. The Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume and the Musée de l'Orangerie, both in the Tuileries Gardens, border the Place
North of the Place: two identical stone buildings, separated by the Rue Royale. The eastern one houses the French Naval Ministry, and the western one is the Hôtel de Crillon. The Rue Royale leads to the Église de la Madeleine. The Embassy of the United States is located in the corner of the Place at the intersection of Avenue Gabriel and Rue Boissy d'Anglas
The northeastern corner of the Place is the western end of the Rue de Rivoli
South of the Place: the River Seine, crossed by the Pont de la Concorde, built by Jean-Rodolphe Perronnet between 1787-1790 and widened in 1930-1932. The Palais Bourbon, home of the French National Assembly, is across the bridge, on the opposite bank of the river
At each corner of the octagon formed by the Place are statues, created by Jacques Ignace Hittorff, representing the French cities of Lille, Strasbourg, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Brest and Rouen. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, when Alsace-Lorraine was lost to Germany, the Strasbourg statue was covered in black mourning crepe on state occasions, and was often decorated with wreaths; this practice did not end until France regained the region following World War I.

Obelisk

The Obelisk of Luxor stands on top on a pedestal that recounts the special machinery and maneuvers that were used to transport it.
The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II. It is one of three Cleopatra's Needles, the other two residing in New York and London.
The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. The viceroy of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, offered the 3,300-year-old Luxor Obelisk to France in 1831. The obelisk arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833. Three years later, on October 25, 1836, King Louis-Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde, where a guillotine used to stand during the Revolution.
The red granite column rises 23 metres (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tons (280 S/T). Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no easy feat — on the pedestal are drawn diagrams explaining the machinery that were used for the transportation. The obelisk is flanked on both sides by fountains constructed at the time of its erection on the Place.
Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.
Without warning, in 2000 French urban climber Alain "Spiderman" Robert, using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices, scaled the obelisk all the way to the top.

The Eiffel tower

The Eiffel Tower is the most recognizable landmark in Paris and is known worldwide as a symbol of France. Named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, it is a premier tourist destination, with over 5.5 million visitors per year.

The structure was built from 1887-1889 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle (1889), a World's fair marking the centennial celebration of the French revolution. It was inaugurated on March 31, 1889, and opened on May 6. 300 steel workers joined together 18,038 pieces of steel, using two and a half million rivets. Considering the safety standards in place at the time, it is remarkable that only one worker died in the construction of the tower (during the installation of Otis Elevator's lifts (elevators)).
The tower is 300 metres (986 feet) tall, not including the television antenna on top, which adds another 20 meters, and weighs over 10,000 tons (over 21,000,000 pounds). It was the tallest structure in the world for forty years. Maintenance on the tower includes 50 tons of three graded tones of brown paint every 7 years. Depending on the ambient temperature, the top of the Eiffel Tower will shift away from the sun by eight centimetres because of expansion of the sun-warmed metal.
Perhaps predictably, the tower met with resistance from the public when it was first built, many thought it would be an eyesore. Today it is widely considered to be one of the most striking pieces of architectural art in the world.
One of the great Hollywood movie clichés is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the Eiffel Tower.
Originally, Eiffel had a permit to leave the tower standing for 20 years, more than recouping his expenses, but as it proved valuable for communication purposes, it was allowed to stay after the end of the permit.

Events

On January 12, 1908, the first long-distance radio message was sent from the tower.
View from the Tower across the River Seine, showing the Trocadero gardens and the Palais de Chaillot. A pleasure boat cruises on the river.Father Theodor Wulf in 1910 took observations of radiant energy radiation at the top and bottom of the Eiffel Tower, discovering more than was expected at the top, and thereby detecting what are today known as cosmic rays.
In 1925, the con artist Victor Lustig twice "sold" the Eiffel Tower for scrap.
In 1929, the Tower lost the title of the World's tallest structure when the Chrysler Building was completed in New York.
When Adolf Hitler visited occupied Paris in 1940, the lift cables were cut by the French so that he would have to climb the 1792 steps to the summit - the part to repair them was allegedly impossible to obtain because of the war, though it was working again within hours of the departure of the Nazis. He chose to stay on the ground.
On January 3, 1956 a fire damaged the top of the tower.
In 1959 the present radio antenna was added to the top.
In the 1980s an old restaurant and its supporting iron scaffolding midway up the tower was dismantled; this was purchased and reconstructed in New Orleans, Louisiana, originally as the Tour Eiffel Restaurant, more recently known as the Red Room.
In the year 2000, flashing lights and several high power searchlights were installed on the tower. Since then the light show has become a nightly event. The searchlights on top of the tower make it a beacon in Paris' night sky.
The tower received its 200,000,000th guest on November 28, 2002.
At 19:20 on July 22, 2003, a fire occurred at the top of the tower in the broadcasting equipment room. The entire tower was evacuated; the fire was extinguished after forty minutes, and there were no reports of injuries.

Reproductions and Imitations

Several reproductions of the Eiffel Tower (often smaller-scale) are found in:
• Tokyo, Japan called the Tokyo Tower (13 meters higher than the original, scale 1.04:1)
• Blackpool, England - Blackpool Tower 158 meters (519 feet) tall is not quite a free-standing structure; it stands above the Tower Circus complex, where the four "legs" can be seen.
• Guatemala City, Guatemala - Torre del Reformador, 75 meters tall
• Paradise, Nevada, near Las Vegas, USA (scale 1:2)
• Prague, Czech Republic (scale 1:5), Petrinska rozhledna, built in 1891
• Shenzhen, China (scale 1:3)
• King's Island theme park, Ohio (scale 1:3)
• an imitation in front of Paris Hotel, Las Vegas, 165 meters (540 feet) high (scale 1:2).
• Wembley Park, London - Watkins' Tower
• Woodwards Building, Vancouver, Canada. A small reproduction on the roof of the building is topped by a signature neon "W". This building is now being converted into social housing.
• Paramount Park's Kings Dominion, Virginia. A 84 m (275-ft) reproduction is available for the amusement of visitors. (scale 1:3.59)