Hôtel des Invalides: Refuge for War Veterans
From the south side of the magnificent bridge Pont Alexandre III which was part of the architectural complex of the World Exhibition of 1900, the spacious Esplanade des Invalides leads to the Hôtel des Invalides. This monumental structure, the façade of which is 380 meters wide, was begun in 1670 and only three years later dedicated for its task: up to 6000 veterans and wardisabled could be accommodated here.
Around the central courtyard you find the main exhibition rooms of the Musée de l'Armée with an impressive collection on the theme of war and military. In the Musée d'Histoire Contemporaine, situated next-door, exhibitions are held, which cover various aspects of 20th century history. In the Musée des Plans-Reliefs historical models and city plans can be seen, which were originally produced under Louis XIV and XV, and were kept in the Louvre as state secrets until the Revolution. The entrance to the Church of Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, the "Soldiers' Church," in which the occupants still attend mass is on the south side of the main courtyard.
Dôme des Invalides: Splendid Church of the Sun King
The splendid continuation of the soldiers' church, Dôme des Invalides (dome of the disabled) was originally constructed by Louis XIV as a burial church – a magnificent building with a golden dome. The interior is full of light; around the open crypt chapels with the tombs of famous military commanders are grouped. In the center of the crypt the mortal remains of Napoleon I rest in a prophyry sarcophagus brought here in 1840 from St. Helena. Behind the crypt at the crossing to the Soldiers' Church, a splendid baldachin on spiral-shaped columns, is reminiscent of a similar feature St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
With the construction of the complex of the Invalides the faubourg (suburb) of Saint Germain began to develop into an elegant district. Many of the nobility built city palaces here, most of which today house various ministries. Just as the nobility did in past times, the civil servants of today hide their deeds behind high walls. It is only possible to get a glimpse of the Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of the prime minister, and the Hôtel de Villeroy, the Ministry of Agriculture if the huge entrance gates happen to be open when you are passing.
On the other hand, something not to be missed is the xHôtel Biron in which the sculptor, Auguste Rodin, once lived. After his death in 1917 the city of Paris, in its capacity as owner of the palais, set up the Musée Rodin. You can see not only the most important of Rodin's works such as The Kiss and The Burghers of Calais, but also works by his pupils, for example Camille Claudel – and all of this in the rooms of a typical 18th century palace of the nobility, set in a beautiful park which is itself a wonderful setting for the display of Rodin's sculptures.
Nearer to the city center in Rue de Grenelle you will find works by the sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944). In the Musée Maillol however only some of the exhibits are the work of the man for whom the museum is named. A large portion of the space is occupied by objects of the Parisian art scene from the first half of the 20th century – for example a toilet which Marcel Duchamps once declared to be a work of art.
A little farther to the east is the crossing of Rue de Grenelle with Rue du Bac, the luxurious shopping street of the quarter. Here window-shopping is really fun, strolling past old, long-established shops, quirky fashion boutiques and delicatessens.
Eiffel Tower: Symbol of Progress
The École Militaire, southwest of the Dôme des Invalides was built by Louis XV in 1751, primarily to provide an education for the sons of impoverished noble families. From the splendid building of the military academy a spacious park extends to the Seine: the Champ de Mars), named for the god of war. It was once the drill ground for junior officers, one of whom later became the Emperor Napoleon. In the 19th century it was also the site of several World Exhibitions.
It was not laid out as a public park until after 1900, when Paris was already overshadowed by its most typical feature, the Eiffel Tower. The Tour à 300 mètres, or "300-meter-tower" – as the structure was officially called in 1889 – was the highlight of the world exhibition of that year, which, like all events previously and many subsequently, had one goal, that of presenting the host nation as progressive and a technological leader. The Eiffel Tower was in this respect more successful than any other building. Even more impressive than its height was the perfect planning of the construction, carried out by Gustave Eiffel. Fifteen thousand sections of iron are held together by 2.5 million rivets. There are several elevators. The flights of steps reach only to the second platform. From the top (274 meters) you can see for 90 kilometers – in clear weather. You can also dine in the restaurant Jules Verne on the second platform at a height of 115 meters.
Palais de Chaillot and Jardins du Trocadéro
Since 1937 the axis École Militaire – Champ de Mars – Eiffel Tower has a grandiose culmination on the right bank of the Seine, the Palais de Chaillot, set high up on a hill also known by that name. The massive building with two wings contains the most important exhibition rooms of the lastWorld Exhibition in Paris. Here you can see the collection of the Musée de l’Homme or Ethnological Museum, which, among other things, has exhibits of research expeditions and a large collection of musical instruments. It is planned to move these collections in 2004 to the Quai Branly at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where a new museum is being built under the auspices of architect Jean Nouvel. Another museum here is the Musée de la Marine, which documents the history of seafaring. The Musée des Monuments Français is still closed for renovation following severe damage in a fire in 1997. In the basement level of the Palais de Chaillot the Cinémathèque Française presents French cinematic art. In the romantic Jardins du Trocadéro, surrounding the Palais, bronze sculptures by French artists are displayed.
Palais de Tokyo
The monumental building of the Palais de Tokyo , was erected for the world Exhibition in 1937. It houses the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. One of the high points of the collection is the painting in three parts, The Dance, by Matisse. The star-studded exhibition also hasworks by Chagall, Modigliani, Roualt and Lavier.
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