La Grande Arche

I got a strong recommendation to head west of central Paris to a district called La Défense. I didn’t know much about it beyond the recommendation, but what the hell, I started walking a few hours before sunset, and before I knew it, had arrived.

I could see a few impressive looking glass buildings in the distance, but what I found turned out to be far better than a few mere pieces of modern architecture. Starting at the Esplanade de la Défense, the area opens up into a wide park and pedestrian promenade, and which continued on for kilometers.

Just as the sun was going down I arrived at the district’s singular feature, La Grande Arche de la Défense, a megalithic cube that gives the Eiffel Tower a run for its money in conspicous city landmarks. Part of Grands Projets of François Mitterrand (along with the Louvre Pyramid and Musée d’Orsay), it was one many architectural projects completed near the end of the 20th century (1989 in the Arche’s case), specifically built as a testament to France’s post-WWII role in the world’s art, politics, and economy, and meant to reshape Paris’ already impressive skyline.

Trying to take the Metro back home I found that my brand new Île-de-France Navigo Easy card wouldn’t let me through the fair gates. Apparently, I’d walked myself out of the Paris city limits.

Published May 9, 2023.

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