Photo Essay: Paris, Part II: Le Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre III

First posted in February, 2005

[ Click here to view the previous Paris photography essay. ]

February 8, 2005, 7.20 PM
Top floor, l'Arc de Triomphe

It's been a long day of taking in the sights.

I am presently seated in the photographic exhibit at the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I came here first this morning - well, not first. I was going to come here first, but was distracted by a few things en route. Paris appears to be bad that way, as even wandering aimlessly takes you past a number of famous sites, and when you're not passing things you've heard of at some point or another, you're passing things you can't believe you hadn't already heard of somewhere along the line.

Paris, at least thus far, has been an amazing and fantastic place to see and experience, and I have no doubt that it would continue to be such were I to remain here weeks, months, or years rather than what amounts to but a few hours spread over two days.

My first distraction this morning was le Grand Palais.

It was this sculpture on the roof
that first caught my eye and forced me
to dig the camera out of my bag.

The sunlight pouring through the glass roof of le Grand Palais
on a day like today must create an amazing effect inside.
Perhaps next visit I shall see for myself.

Le Grand Palais is gorgeous from the outside, and I've no doubt that it contains a great deal that would interest me, but I'm only here two days. Consequently I decided to be content with a few photographs of the exterior of the museum before pressing on toward l'Arc de Triomphe.

However, I was distracted again before so much as finding les Champs-Elysées (only a few feet away from le Grand Palais, actually):

It's a bit early to speculate, but I think this bridge may well be my favorite thing about Paris.

As a whole it's eye catching, almost too lavish to be tasteful, and yet it fits its surroundings perfectly, is appropriate for its purpose, and though magnificent when viewed from afar, it's perhaps even more interesting just to walk along it, taking in each of its many wonderful sculptures, each designed by a different artist, each filled with seemingly endless and intricate detail.


The bridge was constructed just over a century ago, the first brick laid by Tsar Nicholas II. Named for the tsar's father, it was built as a symbol of friendship and cooperation between the peoples of France and Russia.

Though countries continue to work together and express friendship in tangible ways, say, for example, the Channel Tunnel, it seems like it's been a long time since any country has given another country something beautiful and symbolic. Something on the scale of this bridge or, say, the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps it's that they're putting their money to more functional (or seemingly functional) use, but I wonder if these gifts are a thing of the past. Part of me detests the immense amount of money that's unnecessarily put toward such items when those funds could, say, feed the poor or provide vaccines, but then again, I experienced something really wondrous when examining this bridge. Something I won't soon forget, and surely it affects others to a similar or greater degree. Then again, to some it's probably a total eye sore. It's such a fine line between need and desire for beauty, and what one may find beautiful another may not, and why should a bridge be beautiful and not merely functional? Is this bridge a bridge or is it art or is it a bit of both? Do you abandon public art for the sake of more prudent expenditures? Does that decrease in new art make those who don't receive the benefits of welfare-oriented expenditures less happy and affect their lives in some negative way? Why should they be happy when others suffer, or, conversely, why shouldn't they be happy if they work hard and are successful? Why are things like this bridge even here? Is it to make us forget the bad in the world? Should we do that? Have we seen the last of great works of art like this bridge, or is it merely that I don't appreciate modern architecture as much as I appreciate turn of the century works?

Hm. Sorry about that completely indecisive and total stream of consciousness paragraph, but it was on my mind.

I eventually was able to tear myself away from the bridge and, despite being able to spot the Eiffel Tower for the first time from this vantage point, I held true to my admittedly arbitrary decision that I was headed for l'Arc de Triomphe.

[ Click here to view the next Paris photography essay. ]