Since I love to explore a city on foot, I often choose as my destination some well-known landmark. A church, a column, a monument, a park, a historical building are all very good places to see as well as nice orientation points for a person directionally challenged. Amazingly, I wake up feeling rested after my long treks, and the mood is light every morning. This is the effect Paris has on one I guess. Gazing out the window at the coming dawn, I drink my coffee and plan out the day’s campaign. Throughout the centuries, there is a pattern to human acts. Somebody gains a lot of power or becomes famous through acts of valour or as a leader of a revolution. Kings and queens used to erect monuments, tall columns, equestrian statues of themselves; sometimes they would try to emulate the celebrated wonders of the previous epochs like the Trayan Column in Rome, or simply have the largest palace ever built. Quite often after a brief period of time, after the victories and noble or ignoble deeds, the ungrateful contemporaries or descendants would exile, poison, burn or behead those who tried to change or conquer the world. Then Time would pass, the country would calm down after some atrocities, and the same people would erect a new monument to commemorate this or that event and the person or people who made the years memorable. What I love about Paris is that one can see these monuments, the reminders of both good and bad, amazing and terrifying epochs. Henri IV gazes serenely from one of his equestrian statues at the beautiful city which he helped build and beautify. Louis XIII is a popular subject for many statues. Jeanne d’Arc, the maid of Orleans, sits in her horse with a sword in her right hand near Le Louvre; the whole gilded group is a suitable decoration for the area. Not far from her one can see the tall Vendome Column and the surrounding square where lots of aristocrats including the King and Queen were guillotined to the gleeful yells of the assembled cheering crowds. Place de La Concorde is also close by. One can walk around and find lots of tall columns with statues on top which are so high up that people are not always sure anymore what they see. The Fountain of Victory located near Chatelet is often mistakenly thought to have an eagle on top, but this is Victory with her arms outspread towards the city. It commemorates one of Napoleon’s victories at the time when he still believed he could conquer the whole world.
Lots of places used to be demolished than rebuilt, their names changed many times. Not anymore it seems. What is the best known symbol of Paris? Perhaps it is the Eiffel Tower, which was regarded first as a folly and now as one of the city’s best known landmarks.