Champs-Élysées in Paris. Photo: Christian Scheja/ Flickr

The road to paradise, where dreams are lived

In Greek mythology, the Elysian Fields was a paradise reserved for the immortal souls of the heroic and virtuous. The name is given to one of the most famous avenues in the world, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, which stretches just short of two kilometres between the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde.

In the 17th century the avenue was mainly fields, until it was landscaped by none other than André Le Nôtre, of Versailles fame. It came into its own when the Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in 1836 and with Baron Haussmann’s transformation of the great boulevards in the 1860s. The upper part, toward the Arc de Triomphe, is home to upscale shops, big brand showrooms and hotels, and has been more recently peppered with a more prosaic mix of cinemas, cafés and fast-food restaurants. As the song goes, “In the sun, in the rain, at noon or midnight, there’s everything you want on the Champs-Elysées”.

The avenue is now sparklier than ever, with six new fountains featuring more than 6,000 Swarovski crystals, and at Christmas time it puts on its best party face with its rows of trees draped in twinkling lights.

In the words of Anatole France: “To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe”.

From France Today magazine

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