Flâneries in Paris: Grandeur around the Pont Alexandre III

Flâneries in Paris: Grandeur around the Pont Alexandre III
This is the 17th in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. My walk from the Invalides metro station was a stunner: plenty of blockbuster vistas, a handful of Belle Époque beauties – including the city’s loveliest bridge – and some stirring reminders of the liberation of Paris. Just pick a nice sunny day and you can’t go wrong. Le dôme de l’hôtel des Invalides. Photo: Daniel Vorndran/ Wikimedia Commons The first thing I saw on climbing up the metro steps was the glistening dome of the glorious Invalides, set at the end of what must be the tidiest lawn in Paris (do the military mow it themselves?). But today, I’d planned to go in the opposite direction to the Pont Alexandre III. Crossing the river anywhere in central Paris is a treat, but nowhere more so than here. This majestic bridge was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 to link the Invalides to the Grand and Petit Palais and to celebrate Franco-Russian friendship. The Russian Tsar, Alexander III, for whom it was named, died in 1894 and so it was his son, Tsar Nicholas II who laid the first stone in 1896. Pont Alexandre III during the 1900 Universal Exposition/ Public Domain The design brief was daunting. The bridge should be low enough not to disrupt the views, high enough to let boats pass underneath and beautiful enough to be a worthy connection between the Invalides on one side and the two new exhibition halls on the other. I’ve seen it described in French as having a “debauchery of decoration,” and indeed there are four huge golden horses watching over the corners and a whole panoply of statues along its length – lions and cupids, sea monsters and cherubs. Nymphs of the Seine at the Alexander III Bridge, Paris. Photo credit: Zairon / Wikimedia Commons In the middle, the Nymphs of the Seine protect the Arms of the City of Paris, along with the Nymphs of the Neva, who are guarding the Arms of Imperial Russia, sending the message that, at least in 1900, all was well with the Franco-Russian Alliance. My favorite feature? The 32 bronze street-lamps, stately in their line-up, yet exuberant in their design. In 1900 they were the very latest thing, being electric. No wonder then, with all these stylish backdrops on offer, that I saw a wedding couple who had brought their photographer here to mark their big day.

Lead photo credit : Nighttime view of Pont Alexandre III. © Carlos Delgado/ Wikimedia Commons

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.