The skies above Paris
You couldn’t wish for a better seat in the house than a
Stephanie grumbled a little before the trip. “Nothing against Paris,” she said. “But you have such a great convertible—why don’t you drive to the Côte d’Azur with me?” To which I responded, “Have you forgotten Lucy Jordan? The ballad Marianne Faithfull sings about a woman who dreams of driving through Paris in a sports car?” Stephanie considers this for a second, and then says, “Well, alright.”
I retract the top in the Bois de Boulogne park. Venerable trees line both sides of the road. The branches build a shady roof above us as the Carmine Red
The outside temperature display reads 30 degrees Celsius. The Arc de Triomphe comes into sight, and we drive up to this landmark. It exemplifies the scale in which Paris thinks—preferably very large. Between the two pylons of the monumental arc, an enormous tri-colored flag blows in the wind. We enter the roundabout, which itself has large dimensions, and hear the voice from the
And the Parisians have apparently agreed that it would not be sporting to use their turn signals. A tour bus wants to exit the roundabout. It cuts in and builds a diagonal wall in front of our low sports car. A bicycle rickshaw with two tourists on its backseat struggles through the throng. We succeed in exiting onto the Champs-Élysées without a mishap and feel the paving stones of this magnificent boulevard under our taut sports suspension. Like the final stretch of the Tour de France.
Before starting our tour of the city, I had carefully warned my companion about traffic conditions in Paris. When the mighty opera house appears in front of us against the backdrop of the blue sky, she remarks, “You were right—this is no festival of speed.” Yet she quickly discovers what a
The extraordinary Beaux Arts architecture of the old palaces on the Champs-Élysées, the caryatids, and the ornaments cut in stone. Facades like vertical landscapes. The sun sparkles on its beauty. We pass a balcony covered with ivy, and a time-honored Art Nouveau cinema. Because we are driving without a top, the city presents itself as if in a 3-D film. Two horseshoes suddenly appear above the sunshield. They belong to the equestrian statue of Louis XIV.
Shortly after the Moulin Rouge we hear a rumbling directly overhead and look up again: Ah, it’s the Métro, which has surfaced from underground and is rattling along the elevated platform. It is supported by sturdy columns whose cast-iron ornaments recall the elements of Greek temples. Finally there is a gap in the traffic, which we seize with an impressive six-cylinder roar amplified by the wall of buildings. The power of the mid-mounted engine helps us to break free. Traffic flows chaotically through the streets of this cosmopolitan city, but the chaos too has its charm. Everyone is looking for a way to move forward. Astonishingly, horns are seldom heard. Nobody stops at a pedestrian crossing where a father waits with two children, the larger one on a bicycle and the smaller one with a kickboard. As if by magic, however, they suddenly make it to the other side.
We hear a voice behind us: “Monsieur, un petit peu.” In the rearview mirror we see a woman on a large motorcycle. She motions that the
A group of schoolchildren is out walking through the Jardin du Luxembourg. Two boys pull out their cell phones and take pictures of the red
At some point in the evening we will need to put up the top on the
By Johannes Schweikle
Photos by Steffen Jahn
What to do in Paris
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is the epitome of a resplendent boulevard, 70 meters wide and 1,910 meters long, connecting Place de la Concorde in the east with Place Charles-de-Gaulle and the Arc de Triomphe in the west.
The contemporary art exhibitions on the top floor of the Louis Vuitton building (101, Avenue des Champs-Élysées) are something special. They are free, while a side entrance takes you to Espace Louis Vuitton.
If you fly to Paris for a brief shopping trip, you’ll find all of the major (luxury) brands concentrated on the Champs-Élysées, with the addition in recent years of worldwide retail chains.