“Paris is a holiday that is always with you”, so wrote Ernest Hemingway. Well, he is surely hard to argue with! This regular of Parisian cafes knew a lot about life. After all, Paris is not all about buildings, castles, cathedrals, bridges and barges cruising down the Seine. This is the atmosphere of la vie en rose, a glass of midday champagne, the blooming sakura-trees of Notre Dame, and the elusive spirit of Parisian chic and luxury. The latter is particularly notable at the most famous field in the world – the Champs Elysees.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Getting closer to luxury has become easier for Ukrainian citizens since 2017. This is when the visa-free regime between Ukraine and France was introduced, which means that the owners of a biometric passport will need no visa for travelling.
The fastest way to get to Paris is travelling by air. A direct flight from Kiev will take you about 3.5 hours. Most of the flights arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport. Even if you don’t know a word of French, you will manage the navigation with the help of numerous pointers and inscriptions duplicated in English.
The cheapest and fastest way to get to Paris from the airport is to take the RER train line. The direct railway line will rush you to the downtown in about 40 minutes. And from there, you may change to subway, take a taxi or do a bit of walking – whatever you like.
A taxi to Paris from the airport will cost you from 50 (for 1-2 people) to 95 euro (for the company of 7-8 people). The city rate varies from 1.06 to 1.56 euro/km depending on the time of day and week.
In order to get to the Avenue des Champs Elysees, you need to get off at one of the following metro stations: near Charles de Gaulle Square – stations Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau and Georges-V; in the Place de la Concorde there is Concorde station. And if you need to get to the center of the avenue, your choice is Franklin-D. Roosevelt station.
“IN THE SUN, UNDER THE RAIN, AT NOON OR AT MIDNIGHT, THERE IS EVERYTHING YOU WANT AT THE CHAMPS-ELYSEES”
This place has literally everything! The most luxurious Parisian street, which is 71 m wide and 1,915 m long, hosts numerous fancy stores, greatest restaurants, theaters, cinemas and even the residence of French presidents. Every day thousands of people stroll along this fabulous street. But it has not always been so nice and crowded. 700 years ago there was a marshland here, where monarchs together with their entourage enjoyed duck hunting. Nowadays, the area is still occupied with hunting – but solely for discounts and regular customers. As it always happens, there came a woman to interfere in the destiny of one of the most well-known shopping streets in the world. In the early XVII century, Marie de Medici decided to expand her Tuileries gardens and ordered to create Queen’s boulevard. Three alleys got planted with limes and elms, and in 1667 Louis XIV had the walking territory decorated the same way. The project was entrusted to not just anyone but to Andre Le Notre, the landscapist of Versailles and the Tuileries Gardens. Thus, the area was drained and densely gentrified with trees. Despite all this, the Champs Elysees still remained a place of dubious reputation. There started to appear cheap eateries which became a Mecca for murky characters.
Then there came the French Revolution and bestowed the Champs-Elysees region with popularity and honour. The Square of Concord transformed into a place for executions. Expensive restaurants would open on the main avenue now and then. The public enjoyed both bread and circuses. In addition to this, popular cafes started attracting celebrities. Gradually, the Champs Elysees was expanding, buildings were getting higher, private mansions were appearing all around; in 1855, during the Universal Exhibition, the avenue became a truly fashionable place.
The name of the street has changed not once over the centuries. It was once Royal Gate Avenue, and some time later –Tuileries Palace Avenue, and it got its world-renowned name only in 1694. It denoted the mythological Elysium – a part of the netherworld where eternal spring reigns and where the privileged heroes rest in peace without a care or a worry in their minds. Well, it should be admitted that the Champs Elysees handles its mythological task perfectly.
Nowadays, the Champs Elysees (or Chance Elise, as the locals like to call it) crowns the list of favorites of all the French people. It is here that the annual marches in honor of Bastille day (July 14th) and the Remembrance Day are held, and here people celebrate the country’s triumph in the World Cup or Tour de France. From November through January the avenue is busy with the Christmas fair. Apart from all this, French people enjoy going to cinemas, because there always exists a chance that you will meet a world-famous movie star at another premiere. And of course, the Avenue is a place for the most famous shops. Stroll around the dizzyingly expensive boutiques. Pop in to Lido, the biggest European cabaret. Dine in the restaurants that breathe history. All the stores are open until very late, and the night illumination of the Champs-Elysees transforms this street into a romantic fairy-tale.
The left (southern) side of the Champs Elysees is considered to be the most expensive. More democratic shops are to be found on the right side. Moreover, in the afternoon this side of the Avenue usually bathes in sunlight. It is not that easy to rent an apartment on the Champs Elysees. All the buildings are occupied by shops, restaurants, hotels and offices. Prices for the room start from 150 euro per room, but if you walk back from the famous street for about a kilometer, you will most probably find a room 100 euro cheaper. You see, life in Elysium is quite an expensive pleasure.
The Champs-Elysées begins at the Place de la Concorde and ends at Charles de Gaulle Square, or the Place de l’Etoile (the Star Square), as it is also called for its twelve streets spreading all around like beams of a huge star. You will not miss this square, because the famous landmark towers right from its heart – the Arc de Triomphe. Built by Napoleon in honor of Austerlitz victory, it is also one of the most well-known attributes of the capital. There is a Tomb of the Unknown Warrior under the Arc, preserved since the times of World War I, and near it the Eternal Flame is burning. Less than 10 euro – and you may climb up right to the observation deck. The height of 49 meters will assure you a spectacular panoramic view, and for a moment you will feel like a conqueror of the entire world. Inside of the Arc there is also a museum.
The greatest attraction of the Avenue is the Elysee Palace. Built in the 18th century, it once belonged to Madame de Pompadour. After her death, it passed into the possession of Louis XV. Nowadays the palace is the residence of the French president. It is heavily guarded, and tourists are not allowed into the palace. Another thing worth seeing is the Grand Palace (“Grand Palais des Beaux-Arts”), built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. It is the favorite location of prestigious exhibitions and salons. In winter, the largest indoor skating rink in the world works here. Opposite the Great Palace stands the Small (“Petit Palais“), which houses an art museum. They like to chant something about “seeing Paris and dying.” But why dying, does death have any sense at all when such strive for living awakens after visiting the Champs Elysees? Living an easy, nice, beautiful life in luxury and splendor, this is the hottest desire this area of Paris brings to your mind.
This is what Paris is in its heart: the sweetest triumph of wealth and nonchalance!