Right Bank: Hidden Treasures of Paris in Plain Sight, Part 2

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Right Bank: Hidden Treasures of Paris in Plain Sight, Part 2
Your first trip to Paris is most likely filled with a must-see list of all the big sites– Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur, Musée du Louvre— and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, your whole life has been filled with images of these iconic monuments and the chance to see them up close is a dream come true. However, the beauty of Paris comes from the in-between moments. The walk through the Jardin des Tuileries on the way to the Louvre and the leisurely lunch sitting on a terrace watching Paris walk past… these are some of the very best things to do in the city. Slow down and savor the cobbled streets where famous authors and historical figures lived and keep an eye out for a hidden treasure. We shall stay on the right bank on this little voyage, uncovering more of the little details with a big story that many will walk right past. We’ll start at the Place de la Concorde, sitting between the Jardin des Tuileries and the Champs Élysées where a large chapter of the bloody history of Paris once took place. It was called the Place de la Revolution when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads in the guillotine alongside 2,000 other people during the Reign of Terror. Have no fear; a quick name change in 1795 to the Place de la Concorde would hopefully wipe that image from people’s mind. In 1833, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Ottoman Egypt, gifted France with the 3000 year old Obelisk that once stood in front of the Luxor Temple. Pasha asked for only one thing in return: a clock. The obelisk itself is not the hidden treasure, but it plays a role in it. If you walk around the Place de la Concorde, as far as to the statues of the great cities of France, and look down, you may notice some Roman numerals on the ground. In 1913, the founder of the Société Astronomique de France and astronomer Camille Flammarion wanted to create the largest sundial in the world at this very spot. Plans were put in place using the 108 foot high Obelisk as a gnomon but postponed twice due to the World Wars. Flammarion would never see his vision come to life. In 1999, on the advent of the millennium, Philippe de la Cotardière and Denis Savoie– members of the Société Astronomique– presented the idea to the city of Paris. Mayor Jean Tiberi enthusiastically agreed and on June 21, 1999 he was present as the finished sundial was inaugurated. It was to remain until 2001, but just like the Eiffel Tower, it has fought past the hands of time. A few of the Roman numerals can still be seen, and on a clear sunny day, the Obelisk will help you find the time. Walk up to the north corner of the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Jeu du Paume. On the corner of the Terrasse de Jeu de Paume, overlooking the busy traffic of rue de Rivoli, stands a majestic lion. Placed in 1819, the neoclassical lion by Giuseppe Franchi has seen a thing or two in his time. It stands in front of the Jeu du Paume, today a museum but during WWII it was the warehouse for looted art that was sent to Germany. In August 1945 as the Liberation of Paris began, and the fighting intensified in the Place de la Concorde, the lion was struck by a German tank and tumbled down. If you look closely, you can see the cracks on his legs and tale where he was reassembled. At the base of where he stands, you can still see the bullet holes that riddled the Place de la Concorde: tangible history you can touch. Walking through the Tuileries, imagine the Queen mother Catherine de’ Medici looking out the windows of the Palais des Tuileries at the changing leaves. The palace she had built after the death of her husband King Henri II would open in 1564. The Renaissance palace was covered in regal symbolism on the columns and above the windows. It was Catherine’s way of rewriting the love story with her husband, emphasizing its significance over his true great love, his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Three hundred years of royalty would use the palace including Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette who would spend their final years of semi-freedom before prison. Napoleon Bonaparte would use the Palais des Tuileries as his official residence and would spend each night with a certain lady of the Louvre in his bedroom, the Mona Lisa. However, the grandness of the palace would end on 23 May 1871. It was the days of the Paris Commune and a dozen men set out, torches and gas in hand and set the Tuileries on fire. The ruins of the palace would stand for over 12 years– finally torn down in 1883. Although, we can still find a bit of the palace sprinkled throughout the city. You may never even know you walked past or sat on a bench on a lovely summer day in front of these historic remnants. On the southern side of the Jardin des Tuileries is a former arch, partially rebuilt that rises over the terrace that few people even notice. Other remains can be found inside the Musée du Louvre in the Cour Marly, in the Square Georges Cain, Académie des Beaux Arts and the Trocadero, far away…

Lead photo credit : Place de la Concorde (at night). Photo: Esteban Chiner/ Flickr

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Claudine Hemingway had a deep love of Paris instilled in her at an early age from her beloved grandparents. Following in their footsteps, she is happiest strolling the historic cobblestones soaking in the architecture, art and history. Highly sought after to plan your Parisian adventure that ventures off the beaten path and digs deeper into the historic and secret Paris. Contact her at [email protected] to plan your trip. You can follow her adventure and daily Paris history lesson on Instagram @claudinebleublonderouge


  • Claudine Hemingway
    2019-08-09 16:56:36
    Claudine Hemingway
    Thank you so much Phyllis!!!


  • Kim Evasic Godby
    2019-08-09 06:17:06
    Kim Evasic Godby
    Claudine is quickly becoming my new source of beloved information. I’ve loved Paris since I heard the word “Paris” and have been fortunate enough to travel there monthly for 30 years. I’ve learned more about my adopted city from Claudine in a few months than I’ve known in three decades. Kudos!


  • Phyllis Cartwright
    2019-08-07 09:25:45
    Phyllis Cartwright
    Fascinating! One of the best things I've read about hidden Paris. Bravo Claudine! I love your passion for Paris and that you are willing to share it!