If the Left Bank is best described as bohemian, the Rive Droite (Right Bank) is decidedly more bourgeois, where glitz and glamour are the order of the day. Formerly home to the French aristocracy, the area is littered with grand edifices, palaces and monuments, including Elysee Palace which is the official home of the French president.
The backbone of the Right Bank is the Axe Historique (Historic Axis) stretching from the Arc de Triomphe in the west to the Musee du Louvre in the east. Much of this axis is along the grand dame of boulevards, the Champs Elysees, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world and home to fashion houses such as Chanel, Dior, Hermes and Louis Vitton.
At the eastern end of the Champs Elysees stands Place de la Concorde, previously known as Place de la Revolution, where many of the French aristocracy were guillotined during the French Revolution. Today, the guillotines have been replaced by the Obelisque and magnificantly ornamented fountains. Sandwiched between Place de la Concorde and the Louvre stand the peaceful Jardins des Tuileries (Tulerie Gardens) with their numerous fountains and pools.
To the west of the Arc de Triomphe lies La Defense. With the construction of office towers forbidden in central Paris, La Defense was constructed as the city’s glitzy business district outside of the downtown but still along the Historic Axis. Another axis is formed between La Defense and the Eiffel Tower, with the gigantic Palais du Chaillot (also known as Trocadero) along the same line. This complex houses numerous museums and provides excellent views of the Eiffel Tower from its esplanade (including one included in my previous post).
By far the most charming location on the Right Bank is Place des Vosges, previously known as Place Royale. A peaceful enclave offering some of the city’s most desirable real estate, Place des Vosges is a true square in every sense of the word with identical housefronts on all sides. Entrance to the square is through inauspicious archways, giving a sense of calm in the midst of one of the world’s most densely populated cities. Arcades surround the square at street-level with stores and art galleries set back in the recess so as to not influence the tranquility of the square.
North of the Right Bank, one begins to climb towards Monmartre, the highest point in Paris. While the image of the Right Bank is one of aristocracy and wealth, Monmartre is decidedly more down-at-heels, home to the infamous Pigalle red-light district and Moulin Rouge. Numerous artists have called this district home, including household names such as Dali, Monet, Picasso and van Gogh. By far the most famous attraction in the district (apart from Pigalle…) is the Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Basilica) situated at the top of the hill with spectacular views out over the congested Parisian skyline.
For our stay, we were lucky enough to find an apartment in the heart of the Right Bank, just off the pedestrian-only Rue Montorgueil and a short walk from the Louvre. North American’s simply don’t understand how pedestrian-only streets influence human psychology. People love to walk, shop and just people-watch in the absence of vehicular traffic. It was great fun shopping for groceries or eating out along this street and watching how the dynamic of the street evolves throughout the day.