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d’Orsay, Les Invalides, and the Arc de Triomphe

After a hearty breakfast of croissants and coffee, we traveled along the Seine’s left bank until we reached the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a beautifully converted train station, the d’Orsay is best known for having the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. Among its many impressive works is Starry Night over Rhone Arles, a personal favorite of mine, by Vincent Van Gogh. The d’Orsay is meant to bridge the gap between the eminent collections of the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art.

After leaving the d’Orsay, we proceeded along to Les Invalides, a mausoleum highlighting France’s military history and the burial site for many French war heroes. Traveling along the beaten path of the museum will lead you under a large golden dome where the remains of France’s most beloved general, Napoleon Bonaparte, are laid to rest. His sarcophagus is prominently displayed within the tomb and is made of a brilliant red quartzite on a green marble base. His body is accompanied by several members of his family, along with other men who mort pour la France.

Continuing along, we found our footsteps traversing the Champs de L’Elysées. Appropriately named the “Elysian Fields,” this stretch of land has often been labeled “the most beautiful avenue in the world.” Besides high-end shopping, cafés, and cinemas, the street is also the sight of several monuments, the most noteworthy being the colossal Arc de Triomphe.

Towering over 160 feet, the Arc de Triomphe was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon in dedication to all the soldiers lost during the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. Inscribed along its walls are the names of major French victories and the generals who participated in the battles. The arch takes much of its design from similar arches created by Rome to honor their victories. Napoleon wanted to send a message however, and when his arch was finally constructed several years later it completely dwarfed all those that came before it. Strolling around the base of the arch, we decided quite unanimously that we wanted to see the view from the top. Undaunted by its height, we scaled up through the arch’s inner staircase to its summit in order to catch another astonishing view of the city. From the top, it becomes immediately apparent how centrally located the arch is, with twelve street avenues radiating from its base.

Tomorrow we follow the trail of French aristocracy as we make our way towards the beautiful site of Versailles. Until then, Adieu.

-Jamie Lansdowne

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